Weaver's Week 2004-07-31

Weaver's Week Index

31 July 2004

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

In the box - Weaver's Week

Those of you expecting a review will find it at the start of the BIG BROTHER section, allowing those who wish to avoid everything to do with the show to skip it.


David Jones, Vaughan Williams. Thanks to an unwelcome visit from double glazing salespeople, we missed this contestant's opening round. What part of "go away" don't they understand? Anyway, David scored 6 and an unknown number of passes.

Bill Smith, Sir George Cayley. He was an engineer, active in the early 19th century. Bill doesn't say "pass", even when he doesn't know, a curious tactic. 7 (1) is his final score.

Janet French, Legends of King Arthur. She knows more than your average movie maker but the questioning does reveal some gaps. 8 (3) is the total.

John Tallon, "M*A*S*H". A more narrow subject than any other on offer this week, John still stumbles rather, finishing on 8 (4).

A good general knowledge performance will win the game for someone. David doesn't have that round - he even misses the standard question about SCUBA. He advances to 13 (4+). Bill gets off to a good start, mishears lots of questions, but does get the "quercus rubor" question from Millionaire, and ends up on 13 (4).

John has the good general knowledge round we're seeking, taking his score to 22 (5). Janet knows what she has to tilt at, she tries well, but five passes kill her attempt. 17 (8) is a fair reflection.

Not a classic week, though John may be able to impress with a better choice of subject in the next round.


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

  • Steve Enright, a community warden from Kent. He gets three on his own, and starts buying at £200. This way lies trouble, especially when no-one can remember who was PM before Mrs Margaret Thatcher. He got four from the brokers, and takes home £800.
  • Jane Osmus, a teacher from Inverness. She gets six on her own in barely a minute, and strikes up a useful working relationship with the Antiques Dealer. The final question - which Scottish Labour politician resigned in 2003 as Leader of the Commons - is a complete panel beater, which is rather unfortunate, as she has 80 seconds to fill. Thankfully, Jane keeps guessing, which is more than anyone else does, and gets Robin Cook with 30 seconds to wait. She's leaving with at least £6,400, and probably a lot more.
  • Andrew Eadie, a painter. He gets three on his own, and adds two later. Andrew does have the good idea of dealing for £150, eventually reaching nine answers and taking home £1100.
  • Barbara Venner, a carer from Birmingham. She doesn't guess much, and has just one on her first run through. She deals for £200 an answer from the start, but stalls when no-one knows from which musical comes "Big Spender." She buys four answers, and leaves with £700.
  • Tony Sharpe, a cabbie from Bournemouth. He can't be bothered waiting for Gabby to finish the questions, and knocks them down almost without error. He gets eight on his own, a situation where dealing for £200 is sensible and the remaining two go with a minute on the clock. He has £6,550 in the bank, with more to come.

Jane and Tony, then, through to the second round, and Tony just has the edge. Some of the home brokers haven't quite got the hang of this - one shouts "Bar billiards, £300," which isn't quite the right way round. Tony has a one- question lead, and defends that lead well. However, he's £400 behind on the totals when Jane is level on questions, and that would put him out. Tony seems to pause on a question to which he knows the answer, to run down the clock and secure the £5000 bonus for himself. Very clever tactical play - he has £13,450 in the Million Pound Final.

Daft answers of the week

Q: Which insects are housed in an apiary?
A: Apes.

Answers: Jim Callaghan, "Sweet Charity," bees.

Tony Sharpe, the million pound stack:

1/250: Litmus paper turns red...

2/500: Beluga - which food
3/750: England goalkeeper
4/1000: Kevin Federline - whose fiance
5/2000: Shah Jahan - which building
6/5000: Dickens' first novel? Bought for £500.
7/8000: Maidenhair - which ornamental Chinese tree? Bought for £1000.

8/15,000: Archbishop of York?

Acid, caviare, David James, Britney Spears, Taj Mahal, Pickwick Papers, Ginko beloba, David Hope.

Question seven brought Tony to a grinding halt - he still takes away a very respectable £19,950.

So, who gets the home call? Claire White, near Welshpool.

1: Rollinmops - which fish?
2: King of the huns?
3: La Marseillaise - which country
4: Priscilla White - which singer
5: William Golding - which novel won the Booker Prize

Herring, Atilla, France, Cilla Black, Rites of Passage.

So, next week, it'll be one million. Again. That's six hundred grand down the back of the ITV sofa.


More games on INTERVILLES UK:

The "Walking across a plank carrying a bucket of water while not being hit by thrown things" game. Most water wins.

The "Flipping pancakes via a trebuchet over a wall to your team-mate" game. Most pancakes wins.

The "Get bricks to build a bridge across a spinning turntable while being shouted at by a pedantic, picky referee who is clearly more blind than a bat" game. First team to build their bridge wins; first team to punch the lights out of the referee may lose.

The "Saw through a log while your opponent's sitting on it" game. First person to fall in the water loses.

The "Slide along a track that's been soaked in washing up liquid while wearing a coloured condom" game. Longest slide wins.

This week's show crammed in more games than last week's effort, and was a far more coherent spectacle. It's still desperately loud, though, and is perhaps best watched with the sound on mute and with subtitles turned on.

Next week's highlight is either the new timeslot for WEAKEST LINK (6pm, since you ask) or the return to Challenge of BULLSEYE and CATCHPHRASE (please let it be imperial-phase Roy Walker, and not Mark Curry.)


(Dean O'Loughlin, The Gameford Files, £4.99)

This column had to move hell and high water to obtain a copy of Dean From BB2's book. We created accounts at ebay and its transaction partner, filled out more forms than are required for a passport, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when the confirmation message appeared over half an hour after we started.

The hard work was worth it - within 36 hours, a copy of the tome had turned up at Chateau Weaver, and within about half an hour, we realised that this was a stunningly good book. It's obviously not a big corporate book, there are more than a few typos and non-standard sentence formations, but these are infrequent enough to add to the book's charm. Besides, if we criticised too much on this front, it would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Rather than a standard autobiography, Dean O'Loughlin has started with a straightforward narrative of his time in the house, and interspersed details about his past, and what happened after he left the infamous house. This approach works remarkably well, as he seduces us with details of the application process before really explaining who he is, or what drove him to apply in the first place. Indeed, the latter question is never fully answered in the text of the book, and readers will draw their own conclusions.

It would be an interesting exercise to compare Dean's book with The Official Unseen Story, as penned by Jean Ritchie and released shortly after the series ended. There are contradictions from the start - in the two-day quarantine before entering the house, Ritchie claims "the televisions in their hotel rooms were disconnected" (p19.) Yet Dean reports "Valencia were playing Bayern Munich in the biggest game in Europe that season and I switched on in time to catch the last half hour" (p50.) If the two accounts differ on such a trivial point, what other discrepancies might there be between the contestant's view and the official production account?

Dean offers another shining example of the way history is re-written to suit the producers - a kitchen tennis tournament occupied the contestants far more than did the producer's tasks, yet it didn't make the Channel 4 show, and merits just a few lines in the official book. He's also scathing about the medical treatment his friend Bubble got when he hurt his leg, and the tabloid headlines shown to Bubble during his post-march interview come in for serious criticism.

Dean is clearly very annoyed with what he sees as the unreasonable demands the producers put upon his friends and family. He recounts one time when his companion (now wife) Vanessa had to drop everything and journey down the M40 in order to argue his corner on the nascent BBLB. Half-way down, she received a call to say that they'd dropped the item, and she needn't bother coming.

The main argument Dean advances is the dislocation between his experience in the house, and the way it was reported in the world outside. For instance, Endemol employs a PR company, yet they don't actually put out any defences to the more lurid claims of the tabloid press. Whose interests does that company represent? Is their job to garner as much press coverage for the show, hence increase viewing and voting figures and make the programme more attractive to broadcasters? Was this column correct to declare Nush the winner of BB4, on the grounds that she had received more press coverage than any other contestant?

The argument generalises: whose interests does Endemol as a whole put first? Dean's case seems to be that Endemol is concerned about Endemol's profits first, Endemol's image second, and matters like fairness and accuracy are a long way down the list.

These are tricky questions for any company to face. Whether by accident or design, they come during a series where Endemol's manipulation of the broadcast programme has become absolutely blatant and impossible to ignore. To the best of our knowledge, Endemol has not responded to the charges carefully and politely laid out in Dean's book, so we are free to draw our own conclusions.

Does the company think the evidence is not worthy of answering; in our opinion, it is. Does it believe Dean's book will have such little circulation that it can ignore the criticism. Perhaps it just sees Dean as someone who has had his fifteen minutes of fame, and will been seen as an insignificant nobody. Certainly the press attention for this publication has been minimal, with only a couple of articles in the Independent, showing that the mass-market tabloids have, once again, preferred to be seduced by the tawdry thrills Endemol has to offer.

Which other former contestants might contribute to the debate? In due course, we'll no doubt hear Brian Dowling and Jade Goody's stories, albeit varnished in their celeb (auto)biographies. Anna Nolan and Jon Tickle certainly have good books in them, as might Dan from the current run. Perhaps the best perspective would come from a contestant's close family, and who could be better than Alex Sibley and his parents? They expected to bring Alex home on at least two occasions, and racked up more appearances on BBLB and BB Breakfast than anyone else.


Celebdaq: Top dividend for the week ending 23 July was Michelle (£6.11, 40% yield) ahead of Ahmed (£5.90, 134%) and Stuart (£5.04, 102%). Investment of the week was Ahmed, who would have provided a return of just over 200% on the week.

It is evident that Endemol is not raking in enough cash from the eviction votes - only one week's vote has been above the corresponding figure from last year. In a last, desperate, roll of the dice, Endemol has opened the phone lines to evict any of the remaining contestants, and left them open all week. This should produce more than the 1.45 million votes in the penultimate week last time. Had nominations run their normal course, then Jason would have faced Nadia and/or Daniel, a contest that might have inspired almost half a million votes.

A hardened conspiracy theorist might suggest that Jason versus Daniel was the most likely outcome of the nominations. Coupled with Daniel's repeated threats to walk late in the series, Endemol clearly saw the small but non-zero risk of Daniel forcing his way out immediately after hearing the nomination results, and forcing the number of votes cast this week to reduce to almost exactly nil.

It is also evident that the regular "nominate on Monday, evict on Friday" routine has become a thing of the past. Kat and Emma were removed on an Endemol whim, Vanessa after ten days' voting, Bekki after an incomplete set of nominations, Ahmed after Endemol re-wrote history to generate a six-up vote, and someone goes after an all-up vote now. Only Marco and Victor have left after the "normal" procedure.

As we pointed out at the time, if there had been any consistency and logic behind this series, both Jason and Victor would have been removed after the pitched battle. Instead, 1.5 million people had to pay to do Endemol's dirty work last week. That'll be about a quarter of a million pounds to the company, and we can't help but feel that money is tainted. Blood money, if you insist.

If there had been an attempt at innovation, then voting to keep someone in the contest would have fitted that bill. Instead, we may be set up for a "vote to evict" final week, which would have confirmed this column's initial reactions: this show won't find the person the Great British Public likes the most, but the one it dislikes the least. In the event, the final vote is a normal, vote to win, one, albeit with the straggler leaving on Wednesday.

The Saturday Taped task involved a game of Ten Questions; the Food Task was a direct rip-off of Melanie Hill's CHAINED, and evoked the moment when the BB1 contestants plastered themselves in clay and decorated their house.

In the betting, Nadia has become a silly money favourite, trading at 1.46 (less than 1/2) by mid-week in a six-horse race. Dan at 6 and Stuart at 13 both looked like decent bets, while Michelle had fallen from 9 to 90 in the space of ten days, as press reports circulated that she would be out this Friday.

Thanks to some editing that made the coverage of Adele Roberts look fair and balanced, Michelle was duly engineered out. By Friday night, her Celebdaq price had risen to £22.60, a rise of over a third on the week.

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