Weaver's Week 2004-08-07

Weaver's Week Index


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

Big sigh of relief - Weaver's Week

"Where there lacks creativity, you'll find sex."


Stewart Cross, Titian. The red-haired artist may be hundreds of years old, but it's a concise subject for Stewart. He makes 13 (1).

Andrew Burrows, Alan Partridge. For those readers from overseas, or Daily Telegraph land, Alan Partridge is the fictional sports reporter-turned chat show host-turned failed DJ created by Steve Coogan. All of the character's series are covered, though no-one listened to "On The Hour." Fools. Andrew knows his subject alarmingly well, scoring 18 (0).

Eleanor Macnair, Boswell & Johnson's Tour of the Hebrides. Another concise subject, but one slip up and long questions leave Eleanor with a mountain to climb. This round, regrettably, is going to go down in history for all the wrong reasons. 2 (5).

David Morgan, Football World Cup. Another decently concise subject, another good performance. 10 (2).

Eleanor's final score is 12 (7). David gets the old question about the cricket match on the back of the old tenner, and finishes on 21 (4).

Stewart gets the one about the Martians who came all the way to the Earth to take over Surrey, and finishes on 24 (2). Andrew doesn't have to do too much for the win, but makes surprisingly heavy weather of his general knowledge questions. He finishes on 27 (4), but has dangerously weak general knowledge.


This week's target: One Million Pounds Sterling, Tax Free. Who are tonight's futile five?

Paul Dillon, a scientist from Belfast. He's right to guess at each question, and then to move on once he's run out of ideas. He gets three on his own, and refuses to deal for more than £200. Paul finishes with seven correct, and £1150. Very good dealing.

Julie Turton, a prison officer from Birmingham. She seems familiar from somewhere, but we don't quite know where. She gets six on her own, and starts dealing at £150. Winning tactics, if they know the answers. They know the answers - Julie clears the board with 53 seconds in hand, and has £6400. If that doesn't take her through, I'll eat my lunch.

Martin Pellets, a promoter. We have no objection to him not knowing Peter Mandelson's new job, but no root vegetables? No Spice Girls singles? Not even a solitary guess? Three on his own, and he starts dealing at £150. That's unusual. Anyway, Martin finishes on eight correct and £850.

Polly Owen, a rural executive. An unusually tricky set of questions, as if they didn't want Polly to progress; she gets two unaided, progresses to eight, and finishes on £700.

Alan Halbrow, an electrician. Going slowly, Alan makes six on his own, and starts dealing for £200. With a minute to play, none of the thirteen people know who resigned as director of the CIA in June. Alan guesses like a good 'un, but none of the brokers are prepared to hazard a guess. George Tenet is the answer that evaded everyone, but Alan finishes with £1350, enough to take him through.

Julie and Alan are back for round two, four minutes of rapid-fire questions. A minute in, both contestants have two correct, enough to put Julie through. We get this oh-so-sensible line:

Caller: Deal for 250.
Contestant: Deal for 300.
Caller: Deal for 300.

Alan takes the question, and eventually a two-question lead, which he slowly extends. However, Alan's dealing with far too much money - he has to make £50 more than Julie to force a tie. Alan finishes of £550 and seven correct, Julie on £900 and four right. With the bonuses and money brought through, Alan's heavy dealing has cost him. He finishes on £6900, Julie on £7300, and poor tactics have their own (lack-of-) reward.

Odd answers:

Q: In which city is the regional UK passport office for Wales based?
A: Liverpool? London? Birmingham?
Q: Elizabeth I was the daughter of which British queen?
A: Victoria?

Answers: Newport (Gwent), Anne Boleyn,

Julie Turton faced this stack for a million:

1/250: Rachel Stevens - which band?

2/500: Steel city in the UK?
3/750: U in "UCAS"? Bought for £500, took 20s.
4/1000: Runner-up in the Copa America? Bought for £500 in 20s.
5/2000: La Cosa Nostra - better known as.
6/5000: Poet Laureate before Andrew Motion? Bought for £1000 in 30s, just 15s remain.

7/8000: Iceland - independent from? Bought for £4000.
8/15,000: Marvin Lee Aday's stage name? Time expires

S Club (7), Sheffield, University, Argentina, Mafia, Ted Hughes, Denmark, Meat Loaf. Julie leaves with £9,300.

Hot broker is Chris Good, an IT consultant, who wins £5950.

Who is the home caller? Karen Shand, a nurse from Kirkcaldy in Fife.

1: Most expensive on Monopoly board?
2: Nigel Kennedy's instrument?
3: Boxer lost to Danny Williams?
4: Europe's highest active volcano?

5: "Smiley's People," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" by whom?

Second week a literary question has stopped our home player in her tracks. Mayfair, violin, Mike Tyson, Etna, "John le Carre".

Hang on, that was the telly, not me. We have twelve seconds to continue.

6: Jacqueline Kennedy's maiden name?

Blow up the set! Shower Gabby in glitter and aluminium confetti! Karen Shand joins the rarefied ranks of television millionaires, and is the first person to win the cash without actually appearing on screen.

So, next week, we start all over again at £100,000.


A decently entertaining 90s WEAKEST LINK on Wednesday, in which Tony Slattery returned to primetime BBC1. Not a moment before time.

On COUNTDOWN, all have hailed Jack Welsby as the greatest player of the week. And of last week. As of Friday, he had seven wins in a row, scoring centuries on all but one occasion, and beating par on all but one game. Just like his fastest circumnavigation of the London Underground system, it looks like nothing can stop Jack. We shall see in December.

Over on BRAIN OF BRITAIN, the UKGS mailing list's favourite question popped up. How many acres are there in a square mile? No-one got it, which should make the contestants on THE VAULT last year feel a little better.

For those who aren't keeping track, classic MILLIONAIRE is into February 2001, and we should see Thirteen Club entrants John Sexton and Tony Emans this week, and may see Mike Pomfrey's run to the half-million.

Highlight of next week has to be the second series of RAVEN, which finally gets a second airing from 0830 on weekdays. We've seen the first series twice while waiting for this one, and it's worth the wait. HERCULES will air at 2000, and the University Challenge episode of THE YOUNG ONES goes out on ParaCom2 at 2240 Monday.


Celebdaq: Top dividend yield in the week to July 30 was Victor (154%), which should surprise no-one, as it was his week after eviction. Stuart paid 91%, Jason 78%, while five eliminated contestants returned zero coverage.

Full voting figures for the penultimate week weren't released, as they would clearly prejudice the final week's vote. We do know that about 2.8 million votes were cast, with Michelle scooping slightly more than half of them.

Has Endemol learned anything for its Friday night eviction shows? Well, they didn't make a big play out of Nadia's history, and not before time. "Did you, um, do it with Stuart?" asked Davina. Michelle refused to comment, and said she would leave the set if they played clips. The erstwhile contestant called Endemol's bias in the editing - jokes in the house were carefully edited into snide comments for the nightly show-reel.

Perhaps the most depressing moment came when Michelle was shown some of the more hyperbolic tabloid headlines. "We thought we should prepare you for what people on the outside have been saying," claimed the host. That's nonsense, and everyone knows it. A truer statement - if slightly longer - would have been "As you'll see over the coming days, we've deliberately tweaked the clips to show you in a particularly bad light, our friends in the tabloid press have fallen for this strategy, and they've printed this load of cobblers. And, yes, we do have a PR company involved with the show, but they work in Endemol's interests, not those of the contestants. Do you want to sign up with my agent?"

The competition finally limped to its conclusion this week, with some bizarre antics from the producers. One contestant was kept in the diary room for an hour without being spoken to, all were asked to pack their bags on Monday, and there was a fake newspaper through the glass on Tuesday, clearly showing that no-one has got anything better to do.

It's a good time to wonder where BIG BROTHER 5 stopped being an entertaining show with a prize, and became a predictable show with a prize. In part, this year's failure can be put down to high expectations. Last year's show was intelligent, polite, and carried a strong public service television element. Perhaps the best examples came in one amazing day, just about a month in. Cameron and the rest of the contestants were genuinely gutted when they had to leave out Nush from their dinner party reward, and the replacement of Cameron with Gaetaeno showed that BB contestants are the same the world over. This was television to inspire thought.

By comparison, Endemol has forced this year's show down a trivial and mean path, and has consciously avoided the public service messages on offer. A refugee from an Islamic country could have been encouraged to show he's no different from anyone else, but by portraying Ahmed as an isolated loaner, Endemol has perpetuated the stereotypes of "asylum-seekers", and played directly into the cruellest excess of the tabloid press. A post-operative transsexual is completely comfortable in herself, perhaps for the first time in her life, but Endemol has consistently and repeatedly sniggered at Nadia behind her back, and marked her out as some sort of freak.

It appears that the producers have fallen into the fatal trap of believing their own hype, and have made the format so large that no contestants can possibly shine through. BIG BROTHER is a large format, and it needs some larger- than-life, almost cartoon-like characters to keep it in check. Nick Bateman filled that role admirably, so did Brian Dowling, Paul and Helen, Alex and Jade, Jon and Fed. Every year has had some players to concentrate on, and the resulting show has been character-led.

This year, the cartoon character of Kitten lasted slightly less than seven days before the producers found her too hot to handle. She left a void in the house, and while Emma and Stuart tried their best, there was a long period - perhaps half the run - where no contestant was able to hold the viewer's attention. The format expanded to fill the space available. Only editing could turn Michelle into a predator; only re-writing history could remove Ahmed.

Two years ago, the physical divide into sides A and AA caused some tension and conflict, but that split only reinforced the existing social divide within the group, and hence had limited success. Last year's reward room tried to divide the group in a similar way, but the arbitrary nature of rewards couldn't compete with the group's mutual respect.

This year, by contrast, everything has been done with malice in mind. To remove people, exposing them to an uninterrupted feed of their fellow contestants, then reintroduce them to the group while providing lashings of alcohol is wrong on so many levels as to be ludicrous. Stinging nettles don't appear on tasks by accident. No one should be asked to be blindfolded and have a cattle prod used on them, least of all someone who left a country for precisely that reason. Nothing on either series of SURVIVOR ever attempted or threatened to hurt or humiliate the contestants. Without contestants, there can be no show. The phrase "you're going to reap what you sow" springs to mind for our producers. So does a carrot stick for each of them.

In the final analysis, the tabloid press has got what it always wanted. We've had the BIG BROTHER Bonk. We've had the refugee, we've had the asylum seekers, and we've had the biggest pile of press since last year. The viewing figures have improved on last year's, but the voting has held at last year's level, so we're not convinced that viewers are engaging with the show as fully as in previous years. Can anyone truly say that BB5 was their favourite series of the run?

Every year, it seems that this column politely requests that BIG BROTHER not be renewed. We reckoned that nothing could top series two, we found that series three was too exhausting, we thought that series four marked the end of the magic. This year, we're saving our breath. We know that Channel 4 and Endemol will spin out their grab for summer ratings again next year. We don't know if we'll be bothered to join those ratings.

And finally, joining Dean's book on an online auction site is - Emma's suitcase. The pink plastic thing with a hollow interior is suitable for carrying clothes, and the last time we looked, some fool was prepared to pay £99,300 for it. That's (whips out calculator) somewhat more than the winner picked up in prize money.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day (usually Saturday), receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in