Weaver's Week 2005-03-20

Weaver's Week Index


20 March 2005

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

Later: Around the World with Mr Blobby.

It's The Annual University Challenge Statistical Analysis

The standard of competition this year feels a little higher than last year. The median aggregate score is still below 300 points per game, just 2.5 points higher than at this stage in 2004.

Starting with the team statistics,

First, the percentage of questions correctly answered by the team from those correctly answered by either team (the Starter Spot Rate), and the number of missignals:

  • Manchester 71% SSR, 1 missignal
  • UCL 71%, 2
  • Lancaster 68%, 3
  • Corpus Christi Oxford 65%, 2
  • Edinburgh 56%, 3
  • Balliol Oxford 56%, 5
  • St Hilda's Oxford 54%, 3
  • Jesus Cambridge 51%, 1

Next, the percentage of bonus questions correctly answered (the Bonus Conversion Rate):

  • Manchester 64% BCR
  • Corpus Christi Oxford 55%
  • UCL 51%
  • Lancaster 47%
  • Balliol Oxford 44%
  • Jesus Cambridge 40%
  • St Hilda's Oxford 36%
  • Edinburgh 35%

And finally, the percentage of questions asked of the team that resulted in correct answers, the Strike Rate:

  • Manchester 67%
  • UCL 59%
  • Corpus Christi Oxford 59%
  • Lancaster 55%
  • Balliol Oxford 48%
  • Jesus Cambridge 45%
  • Edinburgh 44%
  • St Hilda's Oxford 44%

After this review, Edinburgh will play Balliol Oxford. Edinburgh has taken low-scoring wins against Glasgow and Royal Holloway, and the side hasn't been tested just yet. Balliol were not stretched in their first round win over Downing Cambridge, but had to battle hard - and have more than a little help from the host - to defeat Durham. The two sides have almost identical Starter Spot Rates, but Balliol has a clear edge on the bonuses, and we must remember that their SSR will be depressed by the strong Durham side. Both sides have been collegiate teams, everyone getting starters. This feels like a Balliol win.

Next week, Corpus Christi Oxford plays Lancaster. CCO beat a decent Trinity Cambridge side and Sheffield; Lancaster overcame York and Reading. Neither side's had a difficult match yet, the statistics are inconclusive, and much will depend on the team's strengths. Anderson and Canovan have led on the buzzers for Lancaster, CCO has been far more even. We're not going to call this match, nor the resulting semi-final.

At this point, we'd like to preview the remaining quarter finals, but details of who plays whom are not available at this time. The competing sides are:

  • Manchester, who beat St Andrews and Newcastle by uncomfortably large margins. They're led by Nick Mills, and are surely the team to beat.
  • University College London, who took out Warwick and UEA. All-round strength on the buzzer is the side's forte, and we really hope they play Manchester in the semis.
  • St Hilda's Oxford beat Portsmouth and Leicester, but a bonus conversion rate in the mid-30s isn't going to win many games.
  • Jesus Cambridge came through the repechage; a loss to Leicester led to a thumping victory over Queen's Belfast, and a more sedate win over Univ Oxford. They'll beat St Hilda's easily, and could provide stern opposition for either of the other sides.

Finally, the lists that generate more correspondence than any: the most valuable players so far. Taking proficiency on the buzzers as the main metric, and points from the resulting bonuses as a more minor one, we see the leaders:

  • Mills, Manchester 294.8
  • Polancec, UCL 216.8
  • Birkwood, Jesus Cambridge 178.1
  • Anderson, Lancaster 158.4
  • Canovan, Lancaster 158.4

In terms of percentage of their team score:

  • Birkwood, Jesus Cambridge 57%
  • Mills, Manchester 52%
  • Polancec, UCL 43%
  • Warnakulas, St Hilda's 40%
  • Roskelly, St Hilda's 40%

University Challenge

Quarter-finals, match 1: Balliol Oxford -v- Edinburgh

If it's going to be a one-man show this week, it's going to be Balliol Baker, after he gets the first two starters before Thumper's even finished them. Edinburgh, meanwhile, muse about the English king George VII. As early as the first picture round - Name That Wine-Producing Region Of The Antipodes - it's already a completely one-sided affair. Not helped by the teams' collective and complete lack of knowledge about wines from down under. They're too cultured. It says here.

"Why you should be expected to know Iain Duncan-Smith's novel, I don't know," says Thumper as yet another starter is dropped. This week's questions really are a level harder than earlier weeks' - rather than our usual 70% success rate, we're scoring at about 25% of the combined scores. The teams are also finding it slow going - we barely pass 100 points before Name That Animal From Peter And The Wolf.

Listeners to X Marks The Spot will have rubbed their hands in glee at the connection between Darwin and Wedgwood. In a rather dull week, every ten points is very welcome. The second picture round is Name That Regiment From Its Picture On A Cigarette Card.

"Your bonuses, Balliol, are on windows." It's not particularly fair to say that Edinburgh is a boring team, we're quite certain that they're gripping people in person. They do, however, seem to participate in the most boring of matches. This particular programme fell asleep sometime around the first picture round, and never remotely threatened to wake up. Even a mention of the milk-loving Humphreys of our youth (ancient history for these teams) can't raise anything more than a faint raise of an eyebrow.

Edinburgh finally get a starter about the day of the week named after the moon. It's the least they deserve. Balliol win easily, 215-75.

For Balliol, Marshall Steinbaum led with 72.8 points, closely followed by Peter Baker's 66.4 and Jamie Lee's 61.4. Candice Donnelly was the big buzzer for Edinburgh, scoring 49.2.

The box score:

BOX 50 30 75 60 [215] BC 16/42, 1 X
EDI 10 30  0 35 [ 75] BC  4/15, 1 X

Edinburgh leave us with a bonus conversion rate of exactly 1/3, and an overall strike rate of 46%.


First Round, Show 1

"The gold standard of quiz shows," claims host John Humphrys. We still reckon that honour goes to Fifteen-to-One, but Channel 4 has decided to debase the currency in recent years. Anyway, we don't know how long this series will run for, or if there will be a repechage. For reasons that will become abundantly clear, we do hope so.

Tony Rennick starts the series with British Steam Locomotives. He knows his onions, and has 14 points and no passes.

Howard Pizzey is offering The Beach Boys. He's a bit of a regular on quiz shows, appearing in at least one FTO final, and popping up on Mastermind in 1988. It's good to hear John reading out classic lyrics. 16 points and no passes is his score.

Anthony Martin takes the history of Exeter. Anthony is amongst the greatest FTO contestants ever, winning three series and appearing in numerous finals. He also made the final 12 of Discovery Mastermind a few years ago. Unusually, he falls into error during the round, finishing on 13 points and one pass.

Patrick Gibson tells us about Films Directed by Quentin Tarantino. He's the man who won the top prize on Millionaire almost a year ago. Short questions, and snappy answers, means that he's taking the lead, with 18 (0 passes).

Lest we forget, most first round games in the last series had winning scores of somewhere around 25. There's every chance that all four contestants will top that tonight.

Anthony Martin is in the unusual position of playing catch-up, and he's a little more hesitant than Mr Gibson. He finishes on 26 (3).

Tony Rennick says he's not an anorak for appreciating the steam engine. No, he's a ferroequinologist. Obvious, really. He's not quite so hot on his general knowledge, making more errors than anyone, and finishing on 24 (3). In fairness, three errors were more than anyone else.

Howard Pizzey pays tribute to the close harmonies of the Beach Boys. He finishes on 28 (3), a winning score in most weeks.

But will it beat Patrick Gibson? John mentions the million in the cosy chat, before Patrick storms to the highest score of John's reign, 33 (0).

First Round, Show 2

Unlike last week's spectacular opening, we don't instantly recognise any of this week's contestants.

Mark Grant offers the Life and Works of Benjamin Britten. We don't know much about this composer, and we're slightly embarrassed about that, but we do know a good Mastermind when we see one. This was one, finishing on 16 (1).

Follow that, Steve Farrington, on British Fighter Aircraft of the First World War. He scores 9 (1).

Melanie Martyn may share her name with the winner of Belgium's Star Academy, but it's someone else, telling us about Sylvia Plath. She starts off well, but falters late in the round, finishing on 12 (4).

Finally, Glenn Rose is taking the Travels of Michael Palin. For those not familiar, these would be a series of journeys made by the former Python Mr Palin, and turned into lavish travelogues for BBC television. Again, it's a good start that tails off, Glenn scores 11 (4).

John is awfully kind to start an extra question for Steve just as the buzzer goes. It won't help, he's only made it to 18 (3) and surely won't win.

Glenn makes the surprising point that one of the people approached to go round the world instead of Mr Palin was Noel Edmunds. The mind boggles. He doesn't quite get a bonus question, finishing on 19 (5).

Melanie has a strong round, and finishes on 22 (6).

Mark needs seven to win, and that's not quite a foregone conclusion, especially if he confuses Manchester City and United. He gets to 22, but then falls into pass hell, before pulling away for the last few questions. He finishes on 25 (4), and there's no argument that he's a worthy winner.

This Week And Next

Polly Cochrane is head of marketing for Channel 4. Blinking through egg-stained eyelids this week, she confirmed that her network had spent over £1 million promoting Boys and Girls, the short-lived Chris Evans-produced show that crashed and burned in 2003. She told a conference, "We should never have spent over £1m promoting it. We hadn't seen it. We were told it was going to be important and it had Chris Evans in it, but it was a confused proposition." That's the problem - it wasn't a confused show, it was a very simple show.

The BBC's latest promotional vehicle was Test The Nation The National Know Your BBC Test. Well, they called it an Entertainment test, but half the questions required knowledge of BBC productions.

None of them required knowledge of the various lottery shows. Press reports last weekend suggested that the BBC might lose rights to screen the lottery, because its shows are "too downmarket" for The Lottery Corp.

Still in the Pot and Kettle arena, Richard "Dogsby" Park was in the national press last weekend, calling for the head of Patrick Kielty. "I'm not alone in finding Patrick annoying. He just keeps saying the same things on the show over and over again like 'Come here fella' and that's irritating. We don't need Patrick. I've had it up to here with the bloke. Every night he goes out on live TV he advertises the fact he has no talent. There's no place for him on TV." We still don't think that there will ever be another Star Academy, but should it come back, we would welcome someone to replace Mr Kielty. And someone else to replace Mr Park.

We had one of the Hostage episodes of Crisis Command this week. Only it wasn't called Crisis Command any more, but Can You Run The Country? The contestants - a lawyer, a business consultant, and a cab driver - were invited to handle a hostage-taking situation in central London. They played a very good hand until the final moments, but were too eager to send in the SAS, and ended up having about half their hostages fail to exit the game alive. We wanted to hit the contestants with something large and heavy about five times, and told Amanda Platell to shut up nine times, but most of our ire was directed towards the Mythical Dirty Bomb. Scientific evidence suggests that this probably does not have the advertised effects; could the presence of this device here be linked to the BBC's expensive drama last autumn? Another run through the Hostage episode was made, as were two Hurricane episodes, but these don't appear on the schedule.

Lebanon has withdrawn from this year's Eurovision Song Contest. The official reason is that the broadcasters don't want to show the Israeli entry; we wonder if the recent upsurge in protests has changed minds at Lebanese broadcasting.

Next week's biggie is the return of The Games, from Friday on C4. In next week's Week, we have the monthly Countdown catch-up, and some reflections on ITV's new shows.

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