Weaver's Week 2005-08-07

Weaver's Week Index

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


Watching Watching - 7 August 2005

We hear that Witanhurst Manor, home to the BBC's Star Academy, is to be put up for sale. Twenty-five bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, three kitchens, four tennis courts, five and a half acres of grounds. The building requires some work, not least to exorcise the spirit of Dogsby. According to the estate agents, it's a bargain at the price of £32 million. We can buy this house, people, so long as each of the readers of this column chips in (er) £16 million...

Watching the Detectives

(Ludus for ITV, 1435 weekdays)

We rather got the idea behind this wrong from the previews. It's actually a quiz about television crime programmes, hosted by the apparently-gruff newsreader Nicholas Owen. Actually, he's a bit of a chocolate, with a soft centre beneath the crisp exterior. The show's filmed on location at Arley Hall, a stately home in Cheshire. (Not up for sale, don't even bother asking.) There's also what appears to be some canned crowd.

Five rounds comprise this show, and three contestants are gunning for the daily prize. The opening round is ten (or so) questions on the buzzer, with (er) six points for a correct answer, and no penalties for an incorrect interruption. Round two, an observation round, has two questions to each player.

The contestants fly solo in the third round, with seven questions on a subject they've been given by the producers. Again, there are six points for a correct answer, but a ten-point bonus for getting all seven correct. The fourth round is also on the buzzers, but now with ten points for a correct answer. After this round, a winner is determined.

We particularly like the set design of this show, a well-decorated study. Host and contestants are able to relax in over-sized armchairs, and the buzzers turn on small table lamps just by the contestant. It's a cute touch, and one that fits the show well. Perhaps a little less impressive is Nicholas Owen's buzzer discipline, he often continues to read a question after someone has pressed their button. Of more concern is his poor interaction with the contestants - a bit of clearly-forced bandinage at the start, and that's about yer lot.

The final round is the identity parade, and provides the obligatory viewer phone-in competition. We see a short clip of film from a crime show, and the challenge is to identify one of the people featured in it. Viewers have 30 seconds to SMS to the programme with the name of the possible person before the contestant has their go. One by one, they try to eliminate the incorrect people, with prizes increasing to £1000 when just two remain - the correct answer, and an incorrect one. The contestant has the option of leaving with a grand (and that is a tremendous anti-climax to the show), but if they go for broke and are wrong, they leave with nothing. Nothing, that is, except for the Watching The Detectives magnifying glass, and it's very good to see that the slightly comedic consolation prize is still alive.

Why an SMS quiz - is the landline obsolete already? ITV must have done the maths, and worked out that the number of calls they'll get in 30 seconds will be small. The number of SMS entries they'll get will be smaller, but perhaps by only a factor of two or three. The market suggests a telephone call would cost the viewer 25p, of which ITV would see perhaps 15p. The charge for the SMS is £1, of which we suggest ITV will see something around 65p. Snap SMS polls have been a feature of Big Brother's Little Brother for many years, and they've now crossed the generation gap to the older viewer.

It's not a ground-breaking quiz, in fact there's very little novel about the quiz at all. Watching The Detectives is professionally done, and there is a coherent theme running through it. We've not seen a decent identity parade since The Krypton Factor did away with it in the mid-80s, and an observation round has an excellent play-along factor. The one-by-one elimination builds natural tension, providing a good daytime show. That said, the subject matter - television detectives - is strictly limited, and the series as it stands probably can't bear much more than the ten-programme run. The format, however, is somewhat more flexible.


First round, heat eighteen

Philip Green is taking the Life and Work of Raymond Chandler, a crime novelist. He does decently well, scoring 11 (2).

Chris Wills has been researching The Go-Betweens, an Australian pop group of the late-70s and early-80s. He seems to lose it a little towards the middle of the round, but regains composure to finish on 8 (4).

Andrew McLuskey will talk about the Life of Hugh Gaitskill, a Labour party leader of the 50s and 60s. It's a good round, neither outstanding nor spectacularly poor, also finishing on 11 (2).

Brian Pearce offers the Films of Bruce Willis, an actor. A slow start, but this contender finishes in the lead with 13 (4).

Mr Wills explains how critical acclaim and public success went in inverse proportion during the 80s. He then gives a bravura general knowledge performance, putting himself right back in the game on 23 (6).

Mr Green talks about how Raymond Chandler never quite knew his stories as well as he might. He also scores more in this round than on his specialist subject, finishing on 26 (5).

Mr McLuskey discusses the modern way of teaching religion, philosophy, and ethics. His general knowledge round is a little more stuttering than the others, but quite reasonable for the series as a whole. 21 (6) is his final score.

Mr Pearce confirms that Mr Willis has only ever done one film, the Save The World plot. He suggests that the lettering on the letterbox at 10 Downing Street says "Round the back, please", causing John to chortle. That, and a spluttering over the definition of "fratricide," means that he finishes on 25 (4). Missing the win by one point.

The next episode of Mastermind will air in two weeks, on 16 August. Can we get that job in the BBC2 Continuity booth now?

Big Brother 6

Here's the Celebdaq scores for the seventeen BB contestants. In the first column, the approximate return on 100 Celebdaq pounds; in the second, the number of times the contestant has doubled their original investment.

17 (nc) Kinga 810 9.7
16 (nc) Mary 968 9.9
15 (nc) Lesley 1040 10.0
14 (nc) Doctor 1380 10.4
13 (nc) Eugene 4930 12.3
12 (nc) Roberto 6900 12.8
11 (nc) Sam 9240 13.2
10 (nc) Vanessa 15200 13.9
9 (nc) Orlaith 55100 15.8
8 (nc) Derek 137000 17.1
7 (nc) Saskia 218000 17.7
6 (-2) Science 262000 18.0
5 (nc) Maxwell 274000 18.1
4 (+2) Kemal 621000 19.2
3 (nc) Craig 1440000 20.5
2 (nc) Anthony1720000 20.7
1 (nc) Makosi 2000000 20.9

You don't suppose this contest is beginning to peter out, do you? Kemal climbs two places, Science slips two, and while some of the gaps have closed, no-one else has moved station at all. Final results in two weeks, apparently.

This Week And Next

Bad news for fans of Beg, Borrow or Steal, which is still the best cheap show BBC2 has tried in its troubled 6pm slot. Host Jamie Theakston has defected to ITV, for their show The Wire. According to the press release, contestants will "face a series of challenges that require them to put their dexterity and agility to the test," and "the final challenge they will face will be worth an infinite amount of money." The Wire is still at the pilot stage, and probably won't be on screen until the new year.

(No, Treasure Hunt does not count as a cheap show at 6, and in retrospect should have had a proper prime-time slot.)

We were hoping to include a brief review of the 45-minute series of Eggheads, but as the show is merely the 30-minute version padded out to fit, we fell asleep. Into our bowl of spaghetti bolognese, and that's just messy. Five questions in the final is the one concession to the longer slot, apparently

Even messier was the mess that Red Letter Day fell into this week. The company, which offers once-in-a-lifetime events, like a hot air balloon ride, motor racing, and gardening with Charlie Dimmock, ran out of money last weekend. Happily, salvation was at hand - Rachel Elnaugh (the token woman from business proposition show Dragons' Den) was bought out by Peter Jones, the bloke who sits on the right in business proposition show Dragons' Den.

The score from this fortnight's Ofcom Moaning Minnies Report, of programmes that people have complained about and had those complaints rejected: Big Brother 23, Man v Beast USA 3. Vorderman's Sudoku Live 1, the Weather Forecast 2.

To the surprise of all its viewers (ie no-one), Rock Around the Block has been axed from ITV's peak-time schedule. And, indeed, axed from ITV totally. The series, hosted by Doctor "Neil" Fox, encouraged two tone-deaf neighbourhoods to become pop-stars for a day. In the space of about five minutes, the good doctor has gone from two Saturday night prime-time ITV shows to no Saturday night prime-time shows.

Next week, the third series of Raven begins a welcome repeat on CBBC. This column will have the annual game-by-game guide to the series, which will contain spoilers for any terrestrial-only viewers out there. We'll also have a review of Cash Cab, which returns for a week on 15 August. Before then, the television phase of Big Brother comes to an end, Scary Sleepover wakes everyone, and Robert Robinson returns to Brain of Britain. Hurrah!

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, 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