Weaver's Week 2014-06-08
"Hello! Welcome to Connect-o-Spot. If you didn't know that 'only connect' was an EM Forster quote, congratulations, you are the future. Representing the past, we've got two teams vying to demonstrate knowledge rendered obsolete."
BBC Scotland and LTV, 6 May — 5 June 2014
Magical people have a problem with quizzes. It's terribly easy for someone to create a small temporal distortion so that they give the answer before the question is asked. Not only is it possible to do this, but most non-magical people will be unable to see the effects.
Of course, delaying time like this is cheating. When they're detected – and offenders are always detected – these secret magic users will be disqualified and sent to do community service. Such as, appear on little daytime shows that no-one watches.
You'll doubtless remember the scandal from last year, when one contestant tried to distort time in his favour on the Numbers and Letters programme. It didn't work: not only was he soundly thrashed by the six-year-old reigning champion, but he was spotted within three rounds. Host Nick Hower is able to time his naps to precisely 28 seconds, and wondered why he was waking so early.
As part of his penance to society, Arthur Weasley is hosting this daytime programme. Three pairs of contestants join Arthur in the studio. They don't have to be muggles, but it helps. Each pair introduces themselves, and explains the link between them. Swiftly, we're into the opening round, Twenty One Connect-O-Spot Points.
Six pods of money appear on the screen. The smallest, containing £125, is suspended by a single thread. The next, £300, has two threads. Other pods – of £500, £750, £1000, and £2000 – are kept up by between three and six threads. To cut these threads, Weasley (appearing here under his non-magical alias "Mark Williams") asks some general knowledge questions. Players buzz on their own behalf, if they get the question wrong, their playing partner is frozen out.
A correct response – usually a single word, occasionally a short phrase – is entered onto the playing board. The team giving the right answer is allowed a moment to confer, then tries to link the answers. See four clues, get to cut one thread. See three clues, cut two threads. See two clues, cut three threads. And, just to dismiss the flittering spectre of Victoria Coren, see one clue, cut four threads.
Players can only spot the common thread if they can correctly answer the previous question, so only one side will ever have a chance to progress.
As we mentioned, each of the money pods is held up by different numbers of threads. Early in the round, players might choose to free up some of the large value pods. When the pod runs out of threads, it falls to the bottom of the screen and splatters open. The magical money fairies inside it fly around for a moment, but are sucked into a gap at the bottom of the screen and into the team's account.
Later in the round, players must cut some of the threads on the larger pods. Even with the maximum four threads, it's not possible to snip six threads in one go. The big prizes are nibbled at and left dangling. Weasley uses a small amount of magic so that the pods always appear level, however many threads have been cut. We just hope that this has been cleared by his probation warlock.
Now, this opening round drags on terribly. General knowledge question, phrased in a way to avoid the connection (astute teams will spot this). Answer, or answers. Pause to confer about the link. Weasley asks if the link is right. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat.
We should briefly discuss the quality of the connections, probably along the lines of "Only Connect spoils us". While Victoria and her teams deal in Prime Ministers of Australia, Arthur Weasley asks "Murray", "Newcastle", and "Oz" to get Australia. Other people have seen editions where teams have been specific – answering, say, "Rivers in Australia" – and been marked wrong.
The subject matter on The Link tends to the typical quiz fare – lots of geography, chunks of history and sport. There's little effort to throw in questions from all across culture, to have Little Billy Shakespeare rubbing shoulders with Reggie Gigas and Lou Gia.
And this opening round drags on? Have we said this? We have, but it needs to be said again. Eventually, mercifully, the teams have scored the required Twenty One Connect-o-Spot Points, and they've got various amounts of money. Whichever team has the least money is off the show. They might not be the worst performers, they could have given 30 right answers across the round, but got beaten by teams leaping in at the last minute to claim the cash.
The money fairies are now trapped in pods of their own. The two remaining teams have their pods removed from their podium, and put up on screen. Here, they're suspended by seven threads. Whichever team can release their money first will progress to the final.
Why, yes, this is just a way of dressing up a round that is first to seven points. To score points, Weasley will give clues. The players nominate how many points they wish to score — er, er, threads they wish to cut — with more clues meaning fewer threads. It's a bit of a lottery, sometimes the first clue is a giveaway, sometimes it takes three clues to be reasonably sure of the connection. Wrong answers here can be passed across – all the clues are revealed and there's a one-thread bonus.
Usually, this round will complete a bit more quickly, it needn't detain us for more than about eight minutes. The winning team's money fairies go into the final round, a tree of six money amounts. £125, £300, £500, £750, £1000, and then the amount the team brought with them from round one. "But what if they only brought £425 with them?" Er, yes, the producers had this planned all along, honest and have put a further £2000 at the top of the tree. Our example team plays for a possible jackpot of £2425.
The final round is a solo effort. One player from the pair sees up to ten clues, all of them are a single word. All of these clues have a single connection. The player is to stop the clues appearing and give the connection. Get it right and the team progresses up the money tree; get it wrong, that player must do it again. The team can stop after every right answer. When they continue, the playing partner takes the next link.
Jeopardy? They got jeopardy. A limit of one minute for this final round, go over it and the team will leave with nothing. With clues appearing every one-and-a-bit seconds, it's necessary to make some bold guesses just to play for the top prize.
Even the greatest of hosts would have difficulty turning this programme into high-quality television, and Arthur Weasley doesn't manage it. He's bubbly, he's got good banter, but he's hamstrung by a plodding game. And an impossible final.
The first 40 minutes of this show are to work out which of three teams is to play, and to put an amount of Game Show Orichalcum at the top. The only way to win this "jackpot" is through massive amounts of luck, or some sneaky time dilation magic. And that's how we got into this mess in the first place!
This Week and Next
Phase C of Only Connect concluded with the Welsh Learners taking on the Record Collectors. The latter team are not to be confused with regular broadcasters on BBC Midlands radio; the former are not to be confused with people who can tell their cerbydau from their loriau.
Or, indeed, a team that's going to gamble. They see three clues, reckon it's Scandinavian dramas in translation, but take an extra clue to find it's something else entirely. Record Collectors suggest "books within books", but this is Only Connect. It's a cross-genre quiz, cluing a more general art within art. Good one for adaptation on Round Britain Quiz, we reckon.
The music question involves three resurrections and a zombie. "Complaints to BBC religion in Manchester," says the host. Surely that should be BBC Religion and Essex in Ethics. Welsh Learners storm the game open with meteorological isopleths, which they get from "hyet" and "hel" for three points. Record Collectors respond with capital cities that are the same as their countries, and it's 4-4.
One For The Dads looks like a crucial point for the Record Collectors: faced with a set of Top of the Pops dance troupes, they think long and hard before going for three points. Three other questions go for two points each, one question evades both sides, and the Welsh Collectors pick up a bonus point on Jane Austen heroines. All of which means the scores are level at 9-9.
Record Collectors take Wall 453, the Petrolhead Wall in memory of former BBC4 controller Richard Klein-Bottle. Posh cars, jewellers, and two more groups in there. None of them come out until the final twenty seconds. Then suddenly, bang, bang, two groups, and the final two groups also come out – even though the team can't define them. Six points! Wall 454 goes to the Welsh Learners, it's Teacakes and Whisky, being some Scottish companies. There are also Aussie prime ministers and characters by Charlie "Fingers" Dickens. Four points!
There is daylight between the sides, the Record Collectors lead by 15-13. Rachel Neiman, being unable to see the clues, has them read out by a voice in an earpiece. Perhaps it's a disadvantage: the Collectors level up with people whose names are card games, and take a couple of good points in "lasts". All of which means the Welsh Learners have come from behind, winning 20-18.
There's a plan to have a trip to Mars, and we heard this week that it'll be filmed for television. Producers Endemol have a history of out-of-this-world television stunts involving eager young Space Cadets. BBC3 has commissioned Escape from Zombies In a Shopping Mall, in which players – oh, you guessed.
Not all television casting shows are successful. A proposed US tour of Jesus Christ Superstar has been cancelled. The cast – Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child, Brandon Boyd from Incubus, John Lydon from I'm a Celebrity, and R Ben from Britain's Got a Brand New Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice II + 1!! – are reported to be "devastated".
And remember BBC The Voice of Holland of UK? One of the team captains, Kylie Minogue, has met with a level of success similar to that found by most of the contestants. Her catalogue went unrecognised on The Link, and her new album "Kiss Me Once" has sold about 60,000 copies, so only one copy for every 150,000 viewers.
BARB ratings in the week to 25 May.
- Britain's Got Talent moved to Sunday, where it brought 7.7m viewers, so The Eastenders regains top spot (8.8m).
- Have I Got News for You (4.65m) and Pointless Celebrities (4.6m) led the BBC's charge, with In It to Win It (3.75) showing respectably.
- Great British Menu (2m) inched towards a conclusion. The fact that Let Me Entertain You (1.55m) makes ITV's top 30 shows tells us how poor the rest of the channel's line-up was. Need more Harry Potter films.
- 1.18m for a Celebrity Juice clip show, it still ranks ahead of 8/10/Cats/Countdown and Come Dine With Me (both 900,000).
- Only Connect (650,000) had a bad week. Britain's Got More Talent (585,000) had a worse week. Win Lose or Draw on The Disney Channel had 81,000 viewers, which we think is a good week.
Clip shows are the last embers of Britain's Got Talent (ITV2, 8pm Mo-Th), alongside the Us version (ITV2, 12.50 Sun). We've also got the resumption of Pop Idle Us (5*, 4pm weekdays). New runs of Celebrity Masterchef (BBC1, 9pm Tue), All-Star Mr and Mrs (ITV, 8pm Wed), and Mock the Week (BBC2, 10pm Thu). Next Saturday has a Pointless repeat, a new In It to Win It, and a bunch of men chasing a windbag around a field. You'll have more fun at Puzzled Pint (London, Seattle, Missoula, Portland, Chicago, and now Phoenix, Tuesday evening).
Photo credits: BBC Scotland / LTV. And yes, that was Hywel Carver, reigning Only Connect champion. Not all the contestants are muggles...
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