Weaver's Week 2006-09-24

Weaver's Week Index

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


Is this entertainment?

"I'm a big geek and I like my comic books."

Let Me Entertain You

BBC2, 1630 weekdays, 21 August to 15 September

The last time Brian Conley featured in this column, it was with his oh-so-successful show Judgement Day. He almost popped up last year as the host of Deal or No Deal, but Endemol didn't like his pilot episode, preferring Noel Edmonds's approach. More fools them. His latest show is a return to the talent shows of yore.

People with a talent - singing, dancing, playing the spoons, being able to chat about yo-yos - are invited to strut their stuff on national television, and in front of a studio audience. Each member of the audience has been issued with an electronic keypad containing exactly one button. When the member of the audience has had enough, they push their button. As soon as half the audience has pushed their buttons, the act is over. A hundred quid for those who survive one minute - and just about everyone passes that bar. There's two hundred pounds for those lasting two minutes, and a full thousand pounds for those who make three minutes in front of the audience. The two best performances each day come back for the Friday final, and thence to a grand final.

It really is that simple. Keep the audience interested for three minutes, and they'll make you rich. Bore them - and the audience seems to have the attention span of a gnat these days - and you'll be off the stage faster than a Bruce Forsyth tee shot. The programme works on a couple of levels - one can enjoy the talent on display, and some of it really is of a high quality. One can also watch the bore-o-meter creep ever upwards, either because the act is boring, or because you don't want them to press so you can keep watching.

There's a backstage interviewer, Christine somebody, and her role is slightly superfluous to proceedings. On the one hand, it's good to hear what the act thinks of the crowd this week, and they do need to leave when they're buttoned off; on the other hand, Brian Conley does this kind of thing rather well.

It's quite clear that this format has the potential to transfer to prime-time television. If they're being really ambitious, it could work as a completely live programme, with viewers calling or sending SMSs to vote someone off - or keep them on. It would be an interesting experiment, perhaps as a climax to a next series.


Final Eliminator 1

After what feels like a million years of heats - though it's "only" been 24 - we're down to the second round. Six final eliminators, only the winners will make the grand final at the end of next month.

Geoff Thomas won with Edith Piaf on 7 August. In his quest to add Mastermind to Brain of Britain, Mr Thomas will take William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw. We find that the nickname "Desert Rats" came from the subject's tongue, the contender doesn't make one slip and has 17 (0).

Nick Duffy made the two-horned sign of the Lordi during the show's opening. Blackadder was his specialist subject in the series opener, back on 30 March; he's now taking the Sandman graphic novels of Neil Gaiman. Never knew they had the same publisher as Dennis The Menace. The contender can't wait to spit out the answers, almost in a sneer; he also records a 17 (0) score.

Barry Simmons moves from Robert Fitzroy (3 August) to the Nobel Prizes, a significantly larger subject. This round doesn't quite run at the same breakneck pace as the others, but 15 (0) is still grand.

Gillian Ledwick won with The Marlow Family on 20 April; she now takes the writer Jilly Cooper. Was that an error we detected? It was; and 11 (0) puts this contender at a slight disadvantage. Mrs Ledwick defends Mrs Cooper from charges of being predictable, and goes to finish on 22 (3).

Mr Simmons tells us that Mr Nobel managed to read his own obituary, and changed his life to avoid the label "angel of death". He has a few blanks in his general knowledge round, finishing on 24 (4).

Mr Thomas points out that Mr Joyce was hanged purely because he made a false declaration to get a passport; the usual fine, according to historian A. J. P. Taylor, was two pounds. Mr Thomas doesn't know how much force he needs to crack the nut of this contest, so goes hell-for-leather, and finishes on 33 (0).

Mr Duffy cuts a remarkable figure, in an almost comic-book like suit and tie outfit. He discusses the metatextual philosophy behind the Sandman works, but that goes completely over John Humphrys' head. Mr Duffy tries very hard indeed, but it's not quite enough - 28 (0) is the final score.

University Challenge

First Round, Heat 6: Girton Cambridge v Sussex

Girton has been a mixed college since 1979. Though based in Brighton, twice-winners Sussex should not be confused with last time's contestants Brighton, for only Brighton teaches in Eastbourne, Sussex, from where one of this week's Sussex team hails. Glad we've got that clear.

This column was rather surprised to hear a series of questions on pop mavericks the K Foundation, which completely evades Sussex. Girton was unlucky in a round of Name That German University, but does better on the first visual round, Name That Sports Racket, and leads 50-25.

Neologisms are always good for a round, so long as they've not fallen into disuse between setting the question and it appearing on television - a fate that's befallen "squeaky bum time" and "bouncebackability". After a very long time without a single correct answer, Sussex finally comes back just before the music round, but misses Starter of the Week:

Q: In 1967, a British government minister said that a suffixed "e" stood for "excellence, England, Europe, and entente" when it was agreed to add it to the name of which aircraft?

The audio round is on film music, which Girton gets almost before the first note has started, and leads 100-35 after it finishes. Sussex begins to come back into the contest, getting two starters in a row and cutting the gap to just 25. The second visual round is on works of art created in various media, it goes to Sussex, and the score is now 110-105.

Girton gets the starter, and would - again - have done better by repeating their wrong answer for question two for question three. Sussex briefly takes the lead, but only for as long as it takes Calum Aikman to spell "broccoli". Girton takes the next starter as well, but Sussex pulls up. Girton pulls away again, and probably needs only one bonus to secure the match - they get two, and the next starter just to make sure. Girton finishes ahead, 190-140.

The repechage board:

  1. Bristol 195
  2. Pembroke Cambridge 160
  3. Manchester 150
  4. Sussex 140

Calum Aikman top-scored for Girton, six successful starters - including the Concorde question, a quotation of Mr Benn - in a personal score of 76. Sally Gates and Rosemary Rimmer-Clay both made three starters for the Sussex side; their personal scores are 43 and 45, as Mrs Rimmer-Clay's answers led to one more correct bonus. In a week when missignals were absent, Sussex secured 10/27 bonuses, Girton 12/37. No set of bonuses was answered correctly by either side; Girton did not score just one correct answer from any of their sets.

Next match: Newcastle v Royal Holloway

Countdown Update

There are those who believe that Channel 4's main attraction of the afternoon is presented at 4.15, and that the programme before is nothing more than a warm-up act. Others believe that the channel goes downhill shortly after the conundrum is revealed. The two programmes return to their back-to-back scheduling from this week, and here's the current state of play. On Countdown, that is - the state of play on Deal or No Deal remains uncertain between one new penny and a quarter of a million quid.

Ian Hilton was the defending champion when we last wrote, he went on to win four games (481 at +9 to Par), before falling in a titanic struggle to Sheri Evans. She looked set for a long run, but was outpointed by Sarah Duncan in her sixth match - Sheri had 551 at +46. After two wins (247 at +23), Sarah lost the championship to Richard Brittain, and he went on to become the first octochamp entirely in this series. There were four centuries in Richard's run, but his lowest was 94, and a total of 820 (at -15) makes him the number one seed, at least for the moment:

  1. Richard Brittain 8 wins, 820 pts
  2. Tony Warren 8 wins, 712 pts
  3. Joy Longworth 7 wins, 699 pts
  4. Phil Watson 6 wins, 574 pts
  5. Sheri Evans 5 wins, 551 pts
  6. Andrew Laycock 5 wins, 506 pts
  7. Ian Hilton 4 wins, 481 pts
  8. Rosemary Emanuel 4 wins, 435 pts

After Richard came Ian Mellor, who only had one win, but his 154 points made him the second-best of ten one-game winners this season. Gordon Dimmack won a titanic struggle on Friday, and will defend on Monday.

This Week And Next

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? has reached its conclusion. Connie Fisher, a drama school graduate, has won the public vote. She will perform in all eight shows each week, following the resignation of Emma Williams as an alternate. The programme remained slight and unabashed fun to the very end, quite the best thing Graham Norton has done in a very long time.

Another week, another report into Big Brother. A mere 272 complaints this year, approximately three per complete day of transmission. In summary, people complained that some of the contestants - one who appeared utterly ill-suited, another with Tourette's Syndrome - should not have appeared. Complaints came in from people who believed there was explicit or implicit racism, and an awful lot of bullying. In keeping with the ritual nature of proceedings, OFCOM has decided that there's nothing particularly out of order in these matters, and that the broadcasting code has not been flouted. OFCOM does not consider Channel 4's decision to hand over most of its prime-time schedule in one week to various Endemol productions is for the good of television as a whole, because the broadcasting code only covers what's actually put out, and the regulator is notoriously uncomfortable if asked to discuss matters of actual policy.

On the ratings front, BARB reports that the top-rated show in the week to 10 September was X Factor (7.95 million), with In It To Win It (6.6m) and Maria (6.4m for the results, 4.75m for the performance) remaining in their top three places. Millionaire took 4.25m. Dragons' Den (3.35m) continues to beat all on the minority channels, with Deal (2.95m) coming under fire from University Challenge (2.6m) and Mastermind (2.4m). Link and Come Dine With Me both recorded 1.85m, Old News 1.55m.

Channel 5 has its first game show entry of the year - Interior Rivalry, which we're assured had a win/lose condition, won 1.1m on Thursday evening, barely twice the audience for The Two Ronnies on ITV3. And there's more! The completely misnamed All-Star Talent Show took 800,000 viewers on Friday night, enough damage to knock Best Of The Worst out of the top 30 for Channel 4.

190,000 saw a 1973 edition of Face The Music on BBC-4, starring Joyce Grenfell and Patrick Moore - we'll have a little more to say on this topic next week. Best Of Friends moves into the Raven Island slot on CBBC, and gets 185,000 a day. ITV2's Xtra Factor pulled in 1.25 million, a full million more than More 4's repeat of Deal. QI night on G2 had 120,000 viewers, a great result for a relatively obscure channel.

Next week's highlights include the new series of QI (Friday 10pm BBC2), Miss World (all week, Challenge), and One Against One Hundred (7.40 Saturday, BBC1)

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