Weaver's Week 2015-02-22

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Jacob or Edward? Hermione or Luna? Harry and Zayn? Cara and Kahlan? Jordan or Brian or Rayanne? Willy Fogg and Take That? Join us for a dive into the mad world of fan fiction...

What, it's not that sort of Shipping Wars? You mean we can't cheer for Fifty Shades of Socialist Feminism? We slogged through My Immortal for nothing? We suffered the slings and arrows of the most badly-written Potter fanfic in history on a misunderstanding?

Shipping Wars


Shipping Wars

Megalomedia for Channel 4, from 2 February

Six professional hauliers bid to move some very unusual loads. The loads are selected by the producers to be unusual, and make decent television.

The show's basic conceit: the internet allows people to buy and sell anything. Some of these anythings need specialist transport. And that's where the contestants here make their living: moving anything, anywhere, anyhow.

Shipping Wars Move these things? You must be joking!

In each programme, there are at least two of these unusual and bizarre loads in progress; at some points, as many as four. Let's take the first week as an example.

The first job might be some bee-hives full of live bees. So we'll see all of the drivers given a chance to bid for the job, and the cheapest is likely to win the contract. Well, actually, we won't see the Dutch auction, but a reconstruction, slimmed down for time. Then we'll see the driver collect the bee-hives. There will be a lot of footage about loading up the crates, and what to do with the bees flying around.

This will be intercut with the next bidding round, moving a wrestling ring to the south of France. See the ring constructed, see it demolished, and loaded into the van. Then spend a day travelling to the south of France, and another day trying to reconstruct the ring. This segment can run all week, and it will do.

And while this is going on, we'll see another bidding opportunity. Formule First demonstration cars need to get out of Milton Keynes and join the high-flyers in London. While this is bidding, the bee-hives are just about to reach their destination, so we'll cut to the arriving apiary, and see if their owner's happy.

Then it's back to check up on the cars, and a final bidding round to move vintage military vehicles from Oxfordshire to the Cotswolds. This is being done in little more than a day. It can go anywhere in the week, and they chose to put this run on Friday.

Shipping Wars Shipping Wars wants to be all about the glamorous loads.

Stars of the show are the truckers, and their assistants. They've been selected to appear on this programme, they're personable and characters. We find their presentation a bit flat, we barely scratch the skin of the people. Maybe if we'd watched every episode in full, we'd know the teams better, but we haven't found the show to be that good.

High-energy presentation on this show, fast cutting with music behind the action. The other competitors, whether they won a bid or not, get to view footage and heckle. With three hours of footage each week – and the same competitors each week through the series – viewers are able to find their favourites, form relationships, cheer and jeer as they see fit.

Shipping Wars cannot get away from this: it's all about moving stuff. Get item from here to there. Regular viewers will become experts in the turning circle of a lorry, the capacities of a flatbed and a tipper-truck, and the prospect of "sideloads". This is an additional item taken on the same run: don't just take a steel horse from Sussex to Kensington, but add in some model cars to Chiswick.

One problem is the pace. Each edition starts off with a twenty-second profile of each trucker, and shots of the lorries driving down a runway to stirring music. The rest of the programme continues in that manner, cocky and sure of itself. Craig Kelly plays the role to perfection.

Shipping Wars Mundane moments were rare, and played for drama.

We found that the programme was a bit dizzyating, it moved just too fast. And, to paraphrase the Queen of Hearts, there was jam now, and jam a minute ago, and jam in a minute. Too heavy on the treats. Yes, trucking is a pacy business, but there must be fast and slow moments. Not every load is a priceless artwork or some massive beach huts. Some have to be simple, and we never see the simple things. This show picks a gear, and sticks in it for the duration.

Perhaps the problem is that it's a formatted programme. Shipping Wars is licensed from the Arts and Entertainment network in North America, and it feels like an incomplete translation into British English. All of the geography has changed, the casting (drivers and loads) hits the right tone, but there's something missing. We're not sure what it is.

Our best guess: the show tells a story, but the narrative lacks flow. We start watching something, then cut to something else, go to back to the original thing, and part way through the last section they introduce something new. The British tradition is to have a clear beginning, a clear middle, a clear end to each show. Deal or No Deal is a perfect example: each show begins in the same way, and finishes somewhere. It's got a strong and linear narrative. Too often, Shipping Wars felt like we were cutting between documentaries made on the same subject, zapping between Trucker Channels 1 through 4. Too often, the programme just ends at a point convenient for the producers, with no pay-off for the viewer.

Even without the structural problems, three hours a week is a huge commitment. Channel 4's pilot programme went out at 7pm on Sunday evening, and we might have been able to commit to an hour in shoulder-prime. Like we did with Scrapheap Challenge: there, teams mixed up their approaches to the same challenge, with a clear conclusion. The viewer had a reward at the end: testing to destruction.

Shipping Wars enjoys a sympathetic cast, and there's a good programme in there. Sadly, we fear it's buried under too much formatting.

Pointless We say this picture of Xander and Richard is shipping. Created by @jimllpaintit

University Challenge

Actual Achtelfinalrunde 1: Liverpool vs St Peter's Oxford

For reasons best known to themselves, the producers are starting with the bottom half of the draw, we reckon the weaker side. St Peter's — sorry, let's pretend this is in some way a contest where the result is in doubt. Winners here will go to the semi-finals, losers will appear in a later Achtelfinalrunde match, where they'll doubtless lose. Here's Question One!

Q: Designed by the architect Luigi Moretti and partially funded by the Vatican, which five building apartment and business complex in Washington DC was the scene of a burglary...?

Straight away, there's controversy, as Liverpool are fined for saying "Watergate hotel" when the producers wanted "Watergate complex". We did the research. It's true that the "Watergate" estate was more than a hotel. And that its original name was "Watergate". We expect that a correct answer will not be rendered incorrect by adding more information.

And if they are going to mark this wrong, everything else in the rest of the show needs to have no leeway. Later in the show, St Peters' will buzz and say "Gorilla" (large mammal) when the answer was "Guerilla" (soldier). St Peter's got the benefit of the doubt. We say that "Watergate hotel" was sufficient for the points, and deem this an incorrect call by the producers.

Sheesh, less than one question into our renewed coverage, and we're already picking holes. St Peter's benefited from a 25-point swing from the producers, and lead 70-35 after the first visual round. By the time Taylor Swift popped up in the music round, Liverpool had pegged them back to fifteen, the Oxford side led 95-80. Yes, Tumblr melted down at the combination of attractive students and pop world's answer to Richard Osman.

St Peter's moved into a huge lead in the third quarter, 180-80 after the second visual round, and 245-100 at the gong. There was only ever one side in this. As a quiz, St Peter's were barely stretched: as an entertainment, it wasn't.

Only Connect

Semi-final X: Orienteers vs Gamesmasters

These sides met in match R (or was it S?) much earlier in the series, when the Orienteers won.

Controversy at the start, as "posthumous pardons" isn't accepted, when "they received pardons" is the model answer. In this case, the producers have a case, as one of the clues was not actually dead when pardoned, and Victoria invited the players to reconsider their answer. The responses from call-and-response songs (such as the "doo-dah" from Camptown Races) gives a point to the Gamesmasters, and a 1-0 lead.

Goodness, gracious, great fires of cities in these years is worth a point to the Orienteers. Were they not around in 64AD for the Great Fire of Rome Incorporating Nero's Violin Concert? The Gamesmasters go for three on details from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which is a brilliant spot. 4-1.

Types of auction are worth a point to the Orienteers, and the music is a tough little poser: waterfall, bubble, pie, line: all types of chart. That evades both sides, so the Gamesmasters lead 4-2.

Sequences! Two-letter words in Scrabble beginning D-C-B-A, and the top-scoring word beginning with A is AX (9 pts). For the Orienteers, (AX (9pts)) (3pts). *illion prefixes with the number of zeroes afterwards heads to 18 Quint, and two points. 6-5.

Pictures for the Orienteers: March hare, April O'Neill, so that's a pretty easy three points if you remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Which the Orienteers do. BBC news website gets this week's self-referential question: news from England, UK, World, but not News nor Europe, but Home: they're going backwards. No points, and the Os lead 8-6.

The 1991 GB 4x400m squad is another question from the early 1990s, ending in Kriss Akabusi and three points for the Orienteers. Where was Justin Oilwelsby the bishop of, before he moved to Canterbury? The Gamesmasters spend twenty seconds thinking about that before getting it wrong: the Orienteers get that it was Durham, but are One Year Out! 11-6 to the Orienteers.

Walls for the Gamesmasters prove simple: Jeeves characters, battles of the English civil war, horse races, makes of porcelain. Simples. Except! The horse races are actually psephologists (Bob Worcester, Peter Kellner, George Gallup, and Frank Luntz), and the last two groups remain scrambled. Five points!

For the Orienteers, royal buildings called "House" and the Angry Young Men come out quickly. The last two groups remain scrambled, they are horse-drawn vehicles and fire____ words. Last of those comes out in the wash. Five points!

As we were: 16-11 to the Orienteers going into Missing Vowels. Greek cuisine goes straight to the O's stomach, winning the round 4-(-1). Three numbers in ascending order is a 3-1 run to the G's, while noun and verb pronounced differently is a 4-0 run to them. Physics laureates ends 1-1, and the bell tolls.

The Orienteers progress, the Greek dishes won it for them. 22-18 the final score, as the Gamesmasters bow out.

Deal or No Deal

It's Debateable

Rather than have politicians at podiums, we cast them in game shows.

4) Deal or No Deal

The post-election negotiations will be long, tedious, and fractious. They'll also take place out of the public view. Live on Channel 4, opposite Tipping Point and The Link.


Semi-final 2

Once more into the semi-finals, with the almost painfully short specialist rounds. Again, we'll cover the contenders in the order they returned for the general knowledge round.

Alice Meynell (Life of C B Fry) scored steadily on the sportsman, diplomat, and politician, to 7 (1). There's a runner-up this week, Alice came second on 8 August, taking J M Barrie. In the general knowledge segment, she starts strongly, but then falls into a run of errors. She's better than 14 (1).

Mel Kinsey (Life and Career of Jack Johnson) the boxer, starts strongly but fell away towards the end, finishing on 7 (2). He won on 2 January, taking the First Ladies of USA, and begins the second segment with a pass. It foreshadows a round of passes and correct answers, ending with 14 (7).

Will Howells (tv series Inspector Morse) starts off with a slight wobble, and that's enough to derail these micro-rounds: 8 (0). Will won on 14 November, taking the pop group Suede, but the difference was a strong general knowledge round. He almost does it here, but we think there might be one error too many. 18 (1) sets the target.

Nigel Tomlinson (Life of Reinhard Heydrich) took the Nazi criminal, and made 8 (0). Mastermind takes all subjects, without regard to their internal merits. The last two contenders answered on battles in their heats: Nigel won on 7 Nov with the Gettysburg. His final of 16 (2) isn't a winning score, but it is jolly good. Sixteen more than most contenders make in the semis.

Gareth Williams (Gospel according to Mark) managed to include an answer in ancient Greek, en route to 10 (0). His battle was the Somme, the victory came just two weeks ago on 6 February. Nine to win, and he clears the target with questions to spare. 23 (0) is a commanding score in the semi-final – it would have won about a third of the heats, where players have a minute more.

Gareth was unstoppable this week. He'll be strong in the final.

This Week and Next

On Brain of Britain, the maximum possible score in a round is 9 points. Five of your own questions gets a bonus mark, plus a bonus from each other contender's error. Nigel Jones began this week's edition with just such a perfect round. His final score was OVER NINE!!!!

ITV's new weekend schedule has been met with General Apathy, sending viewers away in their droves. Stars in Their Eyes finished last weekend, Let Me Entertain You concludes tonight, and no-one will notice. Perhaps they might notice Ninja Warrior, a UK version of the Japanese show. Players hope to complete a demanding obstacle course within a strict time limit. ITV are billing it as the successor to Total Wipeout, we reckon it's closer to the Surely Impossible Way of the Warrior from CBBC's Raven.

To the BARB viewing figures for the week to 8 February.

  1. Someone said "General apathy" was for BBC The Voice? The General joins 9.75 million people watching this show, behind only Call the Midwife (10.4m).
  2. Win Your Wish List hits a new peak with 5.25m viewers. University Challenge and Take Me Out tie for third, on 3.05m.
  3. The Great British Sewing Bee returned with 2.95m viewers, beating the final of Celebrity Big Brother (2.8m).
  4. The Chase (2.55m) is level with Only Connect (2.45m), and ahead of The Jump (2.15m).
  5. 615,000 for Take Me Out The Gossip on ITV2.

Numbers are all the rage this week. Four Rooms (C4, Sun), 1000 Heartbeats (ITV, weekdays), and The Hit List (@hitlistquiz, Tue), the show formerly known as First Person. Loveliness in The Big Painting Challenge (BBC1, Sun) and The People's Strictly (BBC1, Wed), and the people of Ireland choose their Eurovision entry in The Late Late Show Eurosong Special (RTE1 and eurovision.tv, Fri). Sort out earplugs and a sleeping bag, because BBC The Voice of UK goes into the battle round stage (BBC1, 7.15 Sat), and bangs on for two hours.

Photo credits: Megalomedia / Jimllpaintit / Endemol West and UKGameshows

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