Weaver's Week 2004-07-24

Weaver's Week Index

24 July 2004

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

Good enough? - Weaver's Week

"There are very few new ideas in entertainment, and even fewer new ideas in Saturday night television." - Weaver's week, last week

"They were expecting glitter to come out of the set" - Bruce Forsyth, on his BIG NIGHT, 1978.

SIMPLY THE BEST (Carlton / Channel / Mistral Productions for ITV, 1930 Saturday)

In the early 1990s, this column decamped to a small town on a Dutch polder for a two-week holiday. Amongst the televisual treats we saw and didn't quite understand was a game show featuring teams from various towns playing silly games. "A bit like IT'S A KNOCKOUT," we thought at the time. The format, we later learned, was European summer filler Intercities, in which teams from various towns and cities play silly games, with the best coming back for an end- of-summer final. And, yes, it's the show that spawned JEUX SANS FRONTIERS, and hence Knockabout.

Fast forward twelve years, and look what's turned up on ITV: a version of Intercities, a summer filler in which teams from various cities play silly games, with the best coming back for an end-of-series final. In the UK, "Inter City" was the branding of trains that ran between the main towns and cities of the country. Giving a game show that name would be too confusing, and would bring to mind journeys that took twice as long as they ought. Teams of eight - five gentlemen, three ladies, plus two substitutes - compete.

This show has summer filler written all over it. The hosts are Kirsty Gallagher, who used to present a football programme on an obscure satellite sport channel; and Phil Tufnell, who used to be an international cricketer but is now best known for winning IBES2. The sports connection continues with event umpire Paul Durkin, who used to be a Premier League football referee, but is now "Dirks," the evil pantomime villain who is roundly booed for, er, upholding each game's rules. He's trying to be John Anderson from GLADIATORS, but Ulrika and Fash respected John. The final regular is Howard Hughes, not the reclusive zillionaire but the gravel-voiced newsreader on Chris Tarrant's radio show. They're joined by some minor celebs from the cities in competition - this week, someone out of a pop band, someone off of WHY DON'T YOU?, someone off of BLUE PETER, and her off of the weather forecast.

Anyway, there's a lot of filler on the show. Short films from the team's cities, and of the team training around Jersey (where the events take place,) then there are "musical" performances from the likes of Lionel Richie. Given that this is a game show column, let's concentrate on the actual games.

  • The "Coming Down a Chute On a Dinghy And Standing On A Small Raft" Game. In this game, people come down a chute, in a dinghy, and have to haul themselves and the dinghy on to a small raft. Most people standing in the fastest time wins.
  • The "Catch Flying Balls Released By People Flying Through The Air" Game. In this game, some people are thrown through the air, and they throw balls at their team-mate, who is equipped with a fishing net in which to catch the ball, and a pair of flippers, for comedy value. Most balls at the end of the game wins.
  • The "Put A Cherry On Your Cake And Navigate A Revolving Turntable" Game. In this game, people take a cake across a revolving turntable to their celebrity, who puts a cherry on it, then it's got to come back. Most cakes with cherries on top at the end of the time wins.
  • The "Make Celebs Answer Questions While They Go Round A Rollercoaster" Game. In this game, two of the celebs are taken on a rollercoaster (in Blackpool, nowhere near Jersey, says international rollercoaster expert Nick Gates) and asked questions. Most correct answers wins.
  • The "Are You Quite Sure They Didn't Play This On Knockout?" Game. In this game, contestants walk with two buckets of water down a long rubberised catwalk. Underneath, the opposing team is kicking for all their worth, hoping that the team spills water. The team with the most water in their container at the end wins.
  • The "People Dressed Up As Giant Plugs" Game. In this game, some people are dressed up as giant (European style) plugs, and are guided by their celebs to plug themselves in at the centre of the stadium. First team to plug themselves in wins.
  • The "Don't Hold The Balloon When It Bursts" Game. In this game, two of the celebs are asked questions with a numerical answer, and exchange an inflating weather balloon when they get an answer correct. The person holding the balloon when it bursts loses. The game is notable primarily because there's glitter in the balloon. Clearly ITV has learned something in the last twenty-five years, and that's that you can't have too much glitter coming out of the set.

Now, each game is worth three points to the winning team. These points provide a small advantage in the "Champions' Wall" final round. It's an inclined plane, across which are stretched wooden poles. The nominated contestants (they don't have to be from the gentlemen, but they'd be mad not to) must race up the wall, ratcheting up their wooden poles as they go. In a relay race, the first team to put three contestants at the top wins.

This game wasn't explained at all well: the contestants use the strength in their arms alone, which explains why Mr Durkin was shouting for competitors to cross their legs. Also, the advantage gained in the first seven rounds is far smaller than it appears - the contestants must climb 300% of the wall, each point is worth about 2% of the wall, so effectively the whole game turns on this final round. Very David Young, and that's not a compliment.

Digging around a little further, we find that the French version - INTERVILLES - came back after a five-year absence at the start of July. A 60-minute show featuring four games, "Le Mur des Champions," an all-or-nothing quiz, and (er) a bull running around the arena is stripped in the 7pm slot - immediately before the national news - for four days a week. It'll run until mid-August. Games there include something involving giant hamster wheels, and the series is filmed near Strasbourg. An Anglo-French battle of the cities is possible, though whether Ms Gallagher will prove a match for the gentleman cow remains to be seen.

So, what are we to make of this one? There are strong elements of Gladiators in some of the games, and not surprisingly elements of Knockout in others. The whole package reminded this column of ICE WARRIORS, a show that took itself far too seriously. We're also reminded of ITV's last attempt to run a game show on Saturday night - JUDGEMENT DAY - and that fell off air after just two episodes and attracted about two viewers. Perhaps the strongest impression is of a show that would work brilliantly as a one-hour format, but is padded too much for 90 minutes.


Frank Potter, the Second World War. It's a big subject, and Frank acquits himself well, though he winced at one of the passes. He scores 14 (2).

Mary Willmot, films of Gregory Peck. She does decently well, making 10 (5).

David Green, Plymouth Argyle. A pass on the first question doesn't help, but David recovers well. 10 (2)

Peter Biddlecombe, the instruments of the symphony orchestra. The questions owe more to classical composition than is perhaps fair, but Peter does well. 12 (3) is about fair.

In general knowledge, Mary advances to 20 (6), David to 17 (5). Peter's round is like a circle of pass hell for the first ninety seconds, then he shoots in the final moments, finishing on 17 (9). Frank needs just seven to win, and knocks them off in nine questions. He finishes on 24 (4).


This week's target: One Million Pounds Sterling, Tax Free.

A quick word on last week's show, where two contestants guessed the same number in the opening Vault Combination round. This has never happened before "What are the chances of that?" asked someone. It depends on whether the producers repeat a number or not in the winning code. We don't think they do, so crunching the numbers gives a 4% chance that two contestants on the same show will give the same code by this point in the series. It's unlikely, but not particularly suspicious.

First up is Adam Horsman, a gardener from Brighton. He knows a fair bit, six on his own. Adam opens by dealing for £250, but has the misfortune to come across not one but two panel beaters - questions to which no-one has the answer. He gets one on his own, but no-one knows who founded Lindisfarne. Still, £1450 is not a bad return.

Elizabeth Endsleigh, an auditor from Leeds. She gets two, but passes on the physicist who won the Nobel prize in 1921. How many famous physicists can you name? She can't identify popular beat combo McFly from its members, which has to tell us something. Elizabeth buys for £200 a pop, an easy set of questions means she gets all ten, and will be walking out of the studio with at least


Chris Read, a farmer. He guesses at most questions, and gets four on his own. Driving a hard bargain, he spends no more than £200 per correct answer. He's unfortunate to get three panel beaters, including a type of flower. £1200 won't put him through, but it's been a profitable three minutes.

Justine Oakley, delivers post in Oxford. She guesses football clubs and US states with gusto, but doesn't bother with US presidents or authors. Three on her own, buys five for £150 each, but there are two panel beaters in the mix. One goes with moments on the clock, and Justine finishes with £900. We've seen far, far worse.

Clive Barham, binman. Again, a good run through, getting five on his own, and some decent guesses. He starts dealing for £200, and it's very rare for any one to go down in their deals. One panel beater proves his undoing, and he finishes with £950.

Which means Adam and Elizabeth are back to play round two. Unusually, the first round seems to have turned out the best candidate. It's level-pegging after six questions, they've both bought two for £600 and one on their own. Elizabeth drops one about the new Harry Potter book title, but Adam begins to run away with the game. He wins on cash, £1600 to £1100, and 9-5 on questions.

The answers left hanging: Aiden, Einstein, "Half Blood Prince."

Adam Horsman, therefore, goes into the final with £8050. His stack:

1/250) "Faster, Higher, Stronger" - which sporting event. Bought for £200.
2/500) DVLA - which city.<br 3/750) Moby Dick - what animal.
4/1000) Damson and greengage - which family.
5/2000) "Ride of the Valkyries" - who composed. Bought for £500.

6/5000) Ceremony of the Keys - where? Bought for £500.
7/8000) Wall of Sound - whose?
8/15000) Who killed Duncan in battle in 1040 to become king of Scotland? Bought for £2000.
9/25000) President of the European Commission? Time runs out.

The answers: Olympics, Swansea, whale, plum, Wagner, Tower of London, Phil Spector, Macbeth, Romano Prodi. He lost too much time on question one, but leaves with a very respectable £19,850. Top home broker was Ruth Barratt, whose two grand coup took her to £3,450.

We need a home caller. Step forward - a gentleman! Steven in Liverpool, with his girlfriend and one of his daughters. His stack:
1) Flinstones - Fred's pet dinosaur?

2) President of France in 1995?
3) Juice mixed with vodka to make Bloody Mary?
4) Won Wimbledon women's singles this year?
5) Who wrote "Dr Zhivago."

And stop. Dino, Jacques Chirac, tomato, Maria Sharapova, Boris Pasternak (not given on the show.)

Next week: once again, one million pounds. That'll be the fourth wodge of money to vanish down the back of the ITV sofa, then.


Ian Wright's I'D DO ANYTHING has been sold into the USA. A local version of the show, which invites people to face their worst fears to win prizes, will air on entertainment and sport network ESPN. The host will be George Gray, already known for his work on Junkyard Wars and Weakest Link Daily.

Ken Jennings Watch: the Jeopardy! champ-in-residence notched up another five wins, including a one-day record of 75 grand, taking his grand cash total to a syndicated record of USD 1,321,660. Jeopardy now takes a break for the summer, so KJ Watch will return in September.

Next week's highlight: second time around for the abbreviated, half-hour version of HERCULES. It's still on BBC3, when it deserves a showing on BBC2, but 2030 is your nightly appointment.


Celebdaq: Bekki's eviction dividend was only 110% of her share price, Shell's 104% and Ahmed's 96% were strong, while Nadia and Stuart both scored above 70%. Michelle only scored the house average 53%, but the underlying stock rose by 135%.

With six people up for removal last week, voting finally began in earnest. 1,688,101 votes were registered, almost exactly double the corresponding week last year, in spite of the extra day from the bomb scare. Ahmed secured 56%, Victor 29%, no-one else got much.

Faves Nadia (2.5 to win last weekend, 34 to leave) and Daniel (5.0 and 34) were up for the chop, along with Victor (15 and 8) and Jason (60 and 1.06). The bookies barely managed to make a book on the eviction, where Victor upset the odds and left, but did pay out on a couple having sex. This week's voting total was about 1.85 million, up from 1.1 million for eviction last year, but then another 860,000 called to put Jon back in. Victor took 47.15% of the vote, Jason 40.57%.

Saturday's Taped Task used the Revised Wipeout Scoring System, in which the first few questions are almost pointless, and only the questions at the end counts for anything. We didn't like this on HAVE A GO earlier in the year, but then no one tipped Nicky Campbell into a vat of fish guts, as happened here to questions answered incorrectly. Actually, that would be more entertaining than this sterile and unimaginative task, one that even SIMPLY THE BEST would reject as old hat. The prize fund is somewhere in the range £21,500 to £36,500.

Did we just use "sterile and unimaginative" about BIG BROTHER? You bet we did, the show has now become even less entertaining than the tortuous opening episode to SURVIVOR 1.

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