Weaver's Week 2004-04-24

Weaver's Week Index

24 April 2004

Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.

Playing Games

"Yet another crap reality tv show" - Alistair Campbell.

THE GAMES 2 (Endemol for C4, all week)

As this column pointed out when the first series aired, the former Eastern block made minor celebrities out of their sportspeople, reserving the main glory for the country. In the decadent West, we make minor celebrities into sportspeople, reserving the main glory for the broadcasters. So turns the wheel of revolution, eh, Karl.

The casting for Games 2 is a terribly obvious amalgam of three years spent watching ITV's Ich Bin Ein Star, plus some people Endemol got to appear under contract. For instance, amongst the ladies:

Isabella Hervey - a close personal friend of IBES1 runner-up Tara Palmer Tompkinson.
Jodie Marsh - the former model, cf Catalina Geewhoshe from IBES2.
Charlie Dimmock - an obvious nod to fellow BBC Improve Your House star Linda Barker, also of IBES2.
Linda Lusardi - a faded star whose career needs relaunching, like Peter Andre.

Katy Hill - a former kiddies' star who never quite grew up, like Kerry Katonia.

And the IBES identification continues for the gentlemen:

Jamie Theakston. Sorry, Pat Sharp. Got a bit confused because the two gentlemen do look remarkably similar. Anyway, Pat is a faded DJ, like Mike Read.
Charles Ingram - notorious for being a bit of a rubbish crook, like Charlie Brocket.
Mr Gay UK (Jarrod Batchelor) - the token queer, like Rhona Cameron, though his inclusion probably owes more to last year's winner, Miss Miss World.
Shane Lynch - the former cabaret and karaoke singer, like Darren Day. (Is this the first time anyone anywhere has ever said "like Darren Day"?)
Romeo - the exception that proves the rule, he's a bandmate of last year's Games winner, Harvey.

The opening night included a nice long documentary about how the months of training have been for the contestants, and a test on some automated rowing machines. That's machines on which one pulls a long reel of cotton, not on which one has a violent disagreement. First blood went to Ms Lusardi and Mr Sharpe, and there were pointless cuts back to Jamie in his studio to introduce co-host Jayne Middlemiss back at the arena. Hmm. Something not quite right there.

Monday night saw the ladies race on bicycles. "They're bikes - with no brakes!"

said host Pa -- Jamie Theakston. Repeatedly. That's because brakes are not needed for regular track cycles. Only last week, Eurosport spent a week covering the world track cycling championships in Manchester, just down the road. Could C4 borrow an expert who knows what they're talking about? Er, no. It showed. We also had some wrestling; thanks to an elimination system, exactly one bout made it to prime-time television, meaning that three of the gentlemen were reduced to (literal) walk-on parts.

Tuesday was the day in the pool, giving co-host Jayne Middlemiss an excuse to wear a very low-cut top, and Jamie Theakston an excuse to leer at Ms Marsh. Not that either needed much of an excuse to do that. The start was a shambles, no- one at home (and some of the contestants) couldn't hear the whistle. The gentlemen's diving was a revelation, finally proving that Mr Lynch really is good for something.

Wednesday was track and lift day. The ladies did the track work, running 70m over hurdles in 14.20 seconds, a decent score for the best in the world to cover 100m. The gents did the lifting, Mr Ingram proving unable to lift 70kg - he claims to have been put off by a shout from the crowd, which makes a change, but Mr Lynch won the contest. He's used to carrying dead weight, he was in Boyzone.

Thursday was gym night. Mr Theakston - sorry, Mr Sharp - did a leapfrog, his fans turned up in mullet wigs, Mr Ingram a bit of a flop, and Mr Lynch won at a canter. Again. The night was rather spoiled by that bloke off of The Race and three balding karaoke singers turning up to leer into the camera. The ladies pranced about on the floor to some music. Let's be honest, this isn't sport, this is just an excuse to see E-list celebs making fools of themselves.

Friday saw our remaining contestants - all ten had lasted the course, which is more than they managed last time out - take their places on the ice. Were they going to be frozen out once again? "It's slippy out there," said our oh-so- observant host icily. Mr Lynch, Mr Romeo, and Mr Mr GUK all tasted the ice at the Sheffield Arena, Mr Ingram finished fourth, and Mr Sharp finished some time after the commercial break. The ladies took part in some curling. Last year, this finished in a 0-0 draw that had the C4 schedulers tearing their hair out as the programme ran over time. This time, all five contestants curled, and the one who threw first won.

Saturday saw people throwing some large metal objects about. Ms Hill, throwing the hammer, and Mr Lynch, throwing the big pointy stick thing, won their events, setting up a tolerably tight finish. For the ladies, Ms Hill led by only a couple of points over Ms Hervey, while Mr Lynch's lead over Mr Mr GUK was equally tight, and Mr Romeo could force a three-way tie under extreme circumstances, and that would mess up Sunday's best two from this series against the best two from last series challenge because there would be three best from this series.

In the ladies' 100m sprint, Ms Hervey beat Ms Lusardi by approximately 19cm, and both competitors picked up a bonus point for a personal best. Ms Hill finished third, didn't make a PB, allowing Ms Hervey to take the series championship by one point. Ms Dimmock finished third, ahead of Ms Lusardi and Ms Marsh.

For the gentlemen, Mr GUK won, Mr Lynch came third, but with both setting personal bests in the race, the series was tied. Mr Romeo came third, with Mr Sharp beating Mr Ingram for fourth by one point.

Of the hosts, Pat Sh - sorry, Jamie Theakston - must pick up the gold for Stating the Blindingly Obvious but Not Asking the Question We're All Asking. Trackside reporter Jayne Middlemiss wins the Impossible Question medal for "Shane, you need to finish in the top four to progress and a win will give you a win," which not only doesn't make any sort of sense, but isn't even a question. E4 reporters Jamie Atiko and Darren Malcolm made scarcely more sense in their reports, and while we welcome the daily Heats Live programme, E4's scheduling was so inflexible that many events were cut off in their prime. Finally, commentator David Goldstrom is the loud commentary voice of choice, but was too often fighting against the uncredited stadium announcer.

Sunday was the Championship of Champions. Could this year's winners - working as a team - beat last year's leaders? Returning: gentlemen's top two Harvey and James Hewitt; ladies' joint winner Terri Dwyer and third placed Josie D'Arby. Last year's other joint winner, Miss Miss World, was unavailable.

The ladies threw the hammer, and both Ms D'Arby and Ms Dwyer went a long way past 20m. but Ms Hill went even further. With a 4-3-2-1 scoring system, the first event ended up in a 5-5 draw.

The gentlemen lifted weights, with Mr Lynch coming out on top (again) ahead of Mr Harvey. Mr Mr GUK beat Mr Hewitt for third, giving the class of 2004 a 6-4 win, and an 11-9 lead.

Controversy was the winner in the final relay - as the commentator was pointing out that the runners had to remain in their lanes, Ms D'Arby was clearly running out of hers. However, we're not entirely sure that the 2004 side's final handover was legal, and the post-race analysis truncated to the point of not being any, so we may as well give the win to the 2003 quartet.

Press reaction was mixed. Scotland on Sunday called this show "the most risible series since It's A Knockout." Clearly no-one at the paper has seen Distraction, far more "cheap, cheesy, and exploitative."

In the bitter rival Sunday Herald, we read "The Games is a true sporting occasion." And, er, "The Games has refused to resemble the worst of It's A Knockout." Well, that told their rivals.

"Just look at their faces when an event is over and you'll see nobody is laughing." And, just for good measure, "I don't recall any competitors in the recently-screened Superstars getting angry. All I can remember from that show was unfit and overweight athletes laughing their way through a few odd games. That was not sport."

The all-important ratings were up over last year, and grew through the week, so the chances of a Games 3 in the autumn must be pretty high. Minor celebs should apply directly to Endemol, indicating which Games stereotype they are. Alternatively, we could have a Columnists edition, featuring That Bloke from Scotland On Sunday, That Bloke from the Herald, A A Gill, Johan Hari, and yours truly. Er, maybe not.


For the last couple of years, this column has reported half-hearted suggestions that the Pop Idle format might transfer to politics. This time, the flagging format might actually make the screen. In a desperate attempt to combine Antan Dec with Mike Antony (Ancharles, and all the other party leaders), ITV has commissioned VOTE FOR ME. Only it's not desperate at all, it's an attempt to get people "engaged in politics." Of course it is, yes, we believe Steve Anderson, controller of current affairs for the channel.

"The last general election saw the lowest voter turnout in 80 years. Politicians and broadcasters have recognised that the challenge is to try to get people involved in the political process. It's enriching democracy. What we are trying to do is come up with a new political format, to get people engaged in politics."

"You will win if you are a good candidate with strong ideas and strong views. People will be asked searching questions about their beliefs. But they will be judged on their performance as well. Politicians have got to be able to perform on TV."

Further proof, as if proof were needed, that the message is subservient to the spin. Do spin doctors such as Ali Campbell or Amanda Platell feature on the panel? We don't know yet. Actually, we do, but more from him later.

Vote for Me is to be presented by former Watchdog presenter Jonathan Maitland, with a judging panel led by the former BBC political editor and HIGNFY host John Sergeant. Hang on, wasn't Jonathan Maitland involved with an unsuccessful Song For Europe in 2002, in which Star Academy's Ali Griffin made the final eight, and Pop Idle's Jessica Garlick won? It's a fine line!

Newspaper ads appeared this week inviting people to apply to be on the show and there will also be a website for the programme. Those excluded from the show include members of a registered political party, ordained members of the church of England, life peers, criminals, and under-18s. Thankfully, that excludes HIGNFY favourite "Lord" Jeffy Archer on at least three counts.

The judges - including former BBC journalist and MP Martin Bell, and possibly including the well-known political commentator Christine Hamilton - will travel around the country later this year, auditioning candidates for a final shortlist of ten. Viewers will then be able to vote on which of the 10 finalists they believe would make the best choice to stand as a candidate in the next general election.

"It's not Pop Idle," said Steve Anderson. Glad we've cleared that up, and the similarities in the format - open auditions, travelling judges with some tenuous connection to the subject in hand, and people voting for the winner - must be purely coincidental. Of course they must be.

Vote for Me - a Mentorn Films production - would be broadcast in the coveted 11pm slot early next year and will be finished before the next general election, which could come as early as this October, but will probably be in May. Very strict rules apply to political programming during a formal election campaign, and VFM would never make it through.

Not that the show has seen plain sailing: Alistair Campbell, the former UB 40 singer, has branded the show "crass," "exploitative," and predicted that it would "further undermine the public's faith in the political system."

"If ITV were serious about engaging young people in politics they would start covering politics properly - saying it matters more than yet another crap reality TV show. I think it's about exploiting cynicism and disillusionment. What's the message from it? You turn it into a game show. It's not a game show. It's about big, serious issues." Such as, whether the government's spin doctor is better on a rowing machine (that's not a machine with a big cotton reel, but on which one has disagreements) than anyone at the BBC.

"The people who are doing this programme have written to the political parties saying 'we can't have anyone who is associated with a political party'. Well, if they are interested in politics, in our country the system is through the political parties - so you've excluded a vast tract of the population who might be interested. How TV executives can continue to pretend that TV is not dumbing down is beyond me," said Mr Campbell, whose whirlwind promotional tour takes him next to the "How High Can A Thing Go?" round on Tiny and Mr Dyke's Huge Show (CBBC 1700 today.)


Speaking - as we almost were - of HIGNFY presenters, ITV has signed Angus Deayton to present a topical news quiz. Hmm. That's a novel idea.

The annual Rose D'Or awards were handed out this week in Lucerne. The best new game show in the world last year was, apparently, Channel 4's "My New Best Friend," in which someone is given silly things to do with the show's pet stooge. The winning show has already been axed, and we're wondering if the BBC forgot to enter "Raven" for this category or something. The Variety show award went to Antan Dec for their "Saturday Night Takeaway," and the duo also won the Best Game Show Performance accolade for the same show. Harry Hill won an award for his work on "TV Burp," the Paper Format award went to "From Rust to Riches"

from Sweden. It sounds like it could be a game show. Former "Run the Risk" host Shane Richie won a rose for his "acting" in "Eastenders," and there was a special rose for John de Mol of Endemol productions.

This week: a promising situation on Millionaire (2005 ITV), Greg Duk hosts HIGNFY (BBC2 2230 tonight), Davina McCall's back with Love on a Saturday Night (ITV 1905, er, tonight), and G2 has a HIGNFY night tomorrow.

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