Weaver's Week 2004-06-19

Weaver's Week Index

19 June 2004

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

Ask me another - Weaver's Week

"It wasn't a game show, it was appalling" - Dan Bryan.


These two people don't know each other. Investigative journalist Paul Kenyon has given them ten grand, and the freedom of Glasgow to hide the money. After three hours, they'll be taken from the streets, write their account of what happened in the hours. After spending the night apart, the pair are quizzed by four detectives. If the detectives can work out where the money's been hidden within eight hours, the contestants win nothing. Should the contestants persuade them that the money's somewhere it's not, they get five thousand pounds each.

At least, that's the theory. The show freely admits that the contestants can only hide the money in one of about ten specified locales. These are broad areas - a hospital, a waste ground, an art museum, a car park - but the contestants are somewhat circumscribed in their choice of locations. Additionally, the list of places seems to be quite some distance apart, so much of the three hours will be spent travelling between them.

The preamble takes up about five minutes of an hour-long programme; the eight hour interrogation will occupy fifty minutes of screen time. The first stage of the game proper involves footage of the two contestants telling their story to the investigators. There appear to be some unspoken ground rules: no physical violence is obvious, no contact at all might not be. It also seems that the contestants aren't allowed to refuse to answer any question. This makes good television, and ensures that there will be some evidence to work on.

After the first round of questioning - taking a couple of hours - the detectives withdraw to their operations room, to discuss matters, and to request evidence from the scenes. We're not told how real is the evidence - much of the cited information appears to come from cameras at the location, and could easily be faked.

The second phase takes perhaps three hours, and involves the detectives covering the story again, looking for falsehoods and inconsistencies. After their phase, some evidence comes out of the machine, to indicate where the pair may have been, but not where they've hidden it. A third phase, during which the investigators challenge specific details, follows.

At the end of the eight hours, the detectives have to choose which of the ten places they should look into. They decamp, followed by the contestants. Perhaps the biggest unanswered question is how long the detectives have at their scene to find the exact finding place. Five minutes? Ten minutes? An hour? We don't know.

In many ways, The Interrogators owes a little to seminal mid 90s show WANTED. We have teams of two running around, we have authority figures trying to find them, and we have rules that aren't explained to the viewer. Unlike Wanted, there's no reason for the viewer to side with the investigators; indeed, the detectives come across as quite the nasty piece of work, people who will bend the rules as far as they can without breaking them.

The investigators have the added advantage of the evidence, produced as a deus ex machina throughout the show, and of voice and body language experts. The suspects may have a limit to their total questioning time, as only one is spoken to at any time.

Host Paul Kenyon sits in a commentary booth, with someone providing additional commentary. It's perfectly possible that he records all these inserts after the event.

A possible development could be along the lines of TRUST ME. At the end of the eight hours, a contestant may opt to confirm the interrogators' suspicion and provide an exact location in that locale, or tell them that they're wrong. Should one contestant do this, and the detectives find the cash, they will get (say) two grand; if both take the offer, they get nothing.

As it stands, THE INTERROGATORS is good for a short series, and is decent but not outstanding summer filler. We'd be surprised if it comes back in this format.


Tonight's target is almost enough to be sung by a large choir: Siiiix. Huuuuundred. Thoooouusandpounds. We've had far too few daft answers recently, and some silliness would be more than welcome.

Contestant one gets her first three questions correct, and seven on her own. She can probably sit tight and qualify, but pays £200 for the knowledge that Westminster Abbey is dedicated to St Peter. A freebie at the end means she finishes on £6500. Wow! Contestant two gets the question "Who was the first woman MP to sit in the Commons," which is surely a shoo-in for Daft Answers. He gets five on his own, another hint from a broker's error, and buys the rest for

£200 each.

Contestant three can't guess any classical composers, or US presidents, and finds Pass Hell welcoming. Just one on her own, she may as well shut up or sell for a hundred. She buys seven answers. Contestant four gets just one on his own, but spends like there's no tomorrow, and looks very downcast. Contestant five doesn't guess one football club, indeed, she doesn't get one question correct unaided. It's perhaps politer to draw a veil across their final scores.

Round two is an exercise in pulling teeth, with three questions going unanswered, and contestant two winning 4-2.

Round three features perhaps the highest bids ever - the £1000 question is about gardening, and is sold to a gardener for three times face value. No one knows than the state capital of Florida is Tallahassee, so question six stops the finalist in his tracks.

Home contestant number (what are we up to) twenty one is -- female! All but two have been female. She has been watching carefully, and repeats the same "sheep - goats - rabbits" answer as the original contestant. However, she wastes so much time on that question that she runs out of time on question five.

Daft Answers:

Q: Who was the first woman MP to sit in the Commons?
A: Lady Astor. Which is correct. No fun!
Q: The Clockwork Orange is the nickname of which city's underground system?
A: Birmingham. 

It doesn't even have an underground system, just a train station with a shopping centre plonked on top.

Q: Who did the artwork for the Winnie The Pooh books?
A: Enid Blyton? Beatrix Potter?

Vaultwatch is back in two weeks, with seven hundred grand in the kitty. Next week has no Vault because of football, but we do have the usual extended coverage of the Countdown finals phase.


In It to Win It tries to be a standalone programme at 1800 tonight. There's a tennis Weakest Link at 1755 Sunday, and Mastermind returns at 2100 weeknights on BBC2.

The next show is scheduled to continue all week.


Regular viewers of Big Brother will, no doubt, have become accustomed to watching people on going about their everyday business on television. Cooking, eating, sleeping, having sex (oops), but there's one thing that Big Brother has never been able to show.

Until now. Big Brother Productions proudly presents: People Watching Television!

Yes, two carefully-chosen people (Michelle Bass and Emma Greenwood) have been put in a room with a television. And they've been shown watching other carefully-chosen people go about their normal everyday lives while other people watch them watching other people. We tried to get a quote from the people watching the people watching the people watching the people, but only got this disclaimer: "Care may not be evident."

Yes, we knew that. On the first Friday show, the house continued to hear host Davina after she'd informed them that two people would be leaving. The house heard the word "bedsit", and didn't take too long to realise that the two weren't going to be leaving at all. It didn't make good television, but would have done had Endemol taken the most basic care.

Apparently, after entering the bedsit, Emma flashed her assets at the camera no less than four times in as many minutes. For some inexplicable reason, we're reminded of Andy and Randy Pig, Miss Piggy's nephews from MUPPETS TONIGHT, catchphrase "It's too hard!"?

The Saturday prize task was a bit cruel. The contestants were invited to change into swimwear, which apparently means wear as little as one dares. In the preamble, four of them did human wheelbarrows to retrieve quoits down the garden. In the main event, the other five had to hang above a bed of stinging nettles for 90 seconds. If they'd all made it, the show would have over-run by almost three minutes, showing that someone hadn't thought about their timing. Shell clung on, Ahmed came close, Victor and Nadia never really got going. Marco spotted a hole in the rules, and wrapped his legs around a supporting pole. The task producer refused to believe that he had been so stupid as to let that one through, and disqualified the contestant anyway. The prize fund currently stands at £7000, or about three days' WEAKEST LINKs.

We've already pointed out the folly of allowing Kat into the house, in full knowledge of her volatile nature. In an interview with Worker's Liberty, she claimed to have told Endemol "that I was going to argue politics, break the rules and try to get thrown out, but either they thought it was funny or they didn't care." We've not covered the falsehoods that Jason told on his application; he claimed to have won various titles like "Strathclyde's Mr Best Bum 1998" - no such titles exist, and this goes to Jason's and Endemol's credibility. Now the loophole in the Saturday task rules show Endemol just isn't doing its homework, isn't planning correctly, and - judging by Daniel's naming of various popular brands on the live broadcast - could be creating a very difficult situation for itself. A little organisation of the contestants - and Dan is in a far, far better position to persuade people than Kat ever could - and the whole show could fall over on its backside.

Indeed, Dan has already clocked that the eviction voting is announced live into Tuesday's BBLB at 6pm, and used some rather fruity language to ensure the sound was cut, and the viewers didn't hear who had been nominated. "...been nominated. They are, in alphabetical order, [birdsong] (Ooh from the contestants) [birdsong]." Protest watch also featured Victor stage the fourth (count 'em!) rooftop protest in twenty days. Would any sensible channel renew a programme that's falling to bits in this way? On the other hand, would any sensible channel not renew a programme that has chanced upon a viewer-friendly formula - the bedsit lark has given BIG BROTHER its best ratings in a couple of years, and C4 won't be too unhappy that the week's delay means these ratings arrived during the opening week of the football European Nations' Cup.

Press coverage is approximated by the Celebdaq dividends: the Top Divi for the second week was Victor, his dividend yields 166% of his price on the previous Friday - if you'd invested £100 in Victor on Friday, the dividend alone would be worth £166, and his stock will also have increased. Michelle yielded 148%, Stuart and Kat around 130%. Most of the contestants secured a dividend yield between 80 and 100%, but the house average of 101% hides very poor performances from Jason (52%) and Marco (a mere 44%.)

In the game proper (what, there's a game going on?) Victor and Jason have made offers to the more isolated Stuart, but he's spurned them. A surefire way to get yourself nominated towards the end of the show, and Stuart isn't looking like a winner from here.

According to Dermot, Dan and Vanessa are up for the chop; Vanessa had already been jumping down Jason's throat, while Dan was the bookies' fave to win. The vote was partially tactical - Ahmed dropped off the scale - but mostly because the parental figures in the house have encountered the wrath of the fun-loving youngsters. Victor, in particular, targeted the sensible pair, though this looks like bad tactics, as he's melded with neither group, and will now be exposed. Jason, who is also semi-detached, looks a little safer. The disparate rainbow coalition (Ahmed, Victor, Jason, the survivor, and Shell) needs to target its votes carefully, as the other five will surely go for the strong Victor and Jason. If they don't, they'll be picked off one by one, and the

"harem" of Marco, Michelle, Emma, Nadia, and Stuart will survive intact until the final six. It'll be as predictable as Survivor Panama, and probably less entertaining.

After the nomination news was announced, Shell took over as favourite, Emma and Stuart moved ahead of Daniel, with Jason and Marco close behind. Immediately after the lines opened, Vanessa was 1.24 to be evicted - that's 4/1 on in old money. By the end of the week, Stuart had regained his position, Daniel had moved back level with Shell, Marco moved in, Emma and Jason right out, while Vanessa was briefly rivalling Ahmed for unpopularity. By Friday evening, the odds on next to leave were Vanessa 1/3, Daniel 9/1, Victor 18/1, Emma not quoted.

Overseas, Big Brother Australia has been running once more, this time without the UK's first evictee to create havoc. However, the spirit of Kat has been alive and well. Contestant Merlin Luck was evicted in the normal manner on Sunday to finish tenth, and arrived for the usual post-march interview with his mouth taped shut and holding a slogan: "Free the refugees." His silent protest against the Australian government's detention of all seeking political asylum continued as he refused to speak to host Gretel Killeen. With the host quietly panicking, Merlin walked back up the eviction walkway, and displayed an iconic hand gesture to the crowd. At the door, he was stopped by security guards, show staff, and his father, and eventually left of his own accord. As protests go, that knocks spots off anything Kat managed. Apparently, she made some sort of protest on Wednesday's E4um, but we gave up watching that for the far superior THE CRAM.

And that, we thought, was going to be this week's column. Add in a quick note of who left on Friday, and send. Then it all blew up.


The bedsit pair came back on Wednesday night, by hiding themselves under a dinner table. Within two hours, things rather kicked off, in the sense of "they might as well call this show BIG BRAWLING and be done with it." The events of Wednesday night will briefly be recapped here for the record.

It took half an hour for Emma and Michelle to tell the rest of their posse - Marco, Nadia, and Stuart - exactly what had happened. The five staged a large food fight, and generally bugged Victor and Jason. A couple of hours of this was enough for Jason to quite literally flip. Over went one of the tables, and a loud screaming match followed. Victor poured white wine over Emma, slammed a metal tray against her head, and made threats against her life. Nadia and Vanessa had an unscreened brawl in the bathroom, and there are reports that Nadia may press charges.

Channel 4 found all this far too hot to handle, and took live feeds of the house off the main station, off E4, and off the Internet for an hour from 2am. To the best of our knowledge, this complete blackout hasn't happened since Craig discovered the truth about Nick halfway through season 1. Security guards were seen on BB footage, and we understand a friend of Shell's came in to comfort her. Emma didn't re-appear during the night; she eventually turned up, back into the bedsit, on Thursday evening. By then, the Hertfordshire Constabulary had become involved, and were watching video footage of the entire incident. At some point, Victor spoke with the psychiatrist, and indicated to Jason that he might be pulled out.

Two weeks ago, Kat was thrown out of the house for ongoing rule breaking. She broke eight of the nine commandments of BIG BROTHER, respecting only "Thou shalt not use physical violence." Now we know that Victor and Emma have all used physical violence, and Jason (and possibly others) may have used it off- camera. All those responsible need to leave, and leave now. Treat one as this week's evictee, and replace the others.

These last two days, and the next few, are crucial for the BIG BROTHER format here. Violence, or even the threat of violence, constitutes assault. Physical intervention should not be required. Endemol and Channel 4 have the choice. They could keep things going more or less as is, with the distinct chance of harm coming to the contestants, and the fair possibility of being held negligently liable. They could end the show now, and leave a hole in the schedules. Or they could steer a middle way and try to rescue something from the remains of the house.

There was no eviction last night, and - in spite of their violence - no one has been thrown out. Alcohol has left the house, an admission by Endemol that they have taken things too far; the phrase "as young things who have been plied with far too much to drink by a television company chasing ratings are wont to do" springs to mind. The only person leaving the show is one of the talking heads - David Wilson, a criminal psychologist, reckons it would be "inappropriate" for him to appear on a show where criminal charges are looming.

As there was no eviction yesterday, so there can be no nominations next week, and the contestants will have to bottle up their tensions for twelve days until they can feel masters of their own destiny. Yet again, Endemol is not thinking things through.

In the game -- oh, stuff the game. There is no game. There can be no game while people fear for their physical safety. There is no game.

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