Weaver's Week 2017-10-29

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Jigsaw (1): An Origin Story

Jigsaw (1)

We were surprised to see that Jigsaw had taken out a contract on ITV2, and billed itself as "the sponsor for showtime". That little orange piece has come a long way since he hopped out of the box.

Jigsaw (1) Jiggxit means Jiggxit.

The history of Jigsaw began a generation before Jigg hopped out of the box. Vision On (1964-76) was produced by Patrick Dowling, ostensibly for deaf children. It lived in a surreal world of grand action and visual entertainment. Like Horrible Histories, it entertained and educated, and eventually became too big for children's television. Vision On split into two parts: Tony Hart took the art and the animation. The surreal elements fell to Clive Doig.

Jigsaw popped into the world fully-formed in summer 1979. We'll look at the first episode, and see if we can see what's happening.

Jigsaw (1) Jigg and Adrian, with Janet in the background.

The staff is Jigg, a talking jigsaw piece; Janet Ellis, a normal person; and Adrian Hedley, a mime. Jigg explains the concept: we're going to see clues to a six-letter word. And then we're straight into the first letter, with a montage from Grandstand. What do these things have in common? What are they all doing?

On a later viewing, we see the activities run from archery through boxing, cricket, diving, and so on to yachting. That's clever. The A-Z of sport is straight over the head of almost every viewer, but we really appreciate it on this viewing. And it shows that Clive Doig took great care with his show.

Then we see Adrian miming something from his top hat, and then Adrian miming something to eat. It's almost five minutes before we hear Janet speak, she's eating her words, having formed them with alphabetical spaghetti. In three minutes, we've had this montage, two food clues, and we've had a good introduction to Adrian's character – expression through art.

Jigsaw (1)

Adrian rose to fame in summer 1978, on Noel Edmonds' show Lucky Numbers (1). Booked for a one-off performance, he impressed the producers and came back for the rest of the series. Adrian's visual style is a nod to the Vision On heritage.

Jigg is a rubber construction, he can be manipulated from behind. Colour separation allows him to be projected into shot later. Adrian's expertise in mime allowed him to react to things that aren't there, and make the show even more realistic. Jigg wasn't a computer animation: at this early date, computers couldn't animate anything. The set is made up from jigsaw pieces, even the answer letters are displayed on rotating jigsaw pieces. Chris Robilliard, the set designer, took his work seriously.

Jigsaw (1) Pterry talks with Janet.

But nothing was as serious as Pterry, a type of pterodactyl who only spoke in proverbs. Janet found him at a dinosaur museum (played here by the Natural History Museum in London), and he asked to leave the building with her.

We see another montage: Prince Philip, Peter Purves, Pope Paul, Pinky and Perky, Patch from Blue Peter. And then there's a quiet bit, while Janet pins patches to Adrian's coat. The letter finishes with a heliograph giving Morse code for P, and a semaphore for the same letter.

"I want you to open your mouth and say..." says the doctor to Adrian. He'll go on to mime a rabbit coming out of his hat, and then falling from a great height. Fireworks, a yawn, and then an animation – the Little Green Train is going to a foreign country. The letter's in all of these animals on film. Another film montage, another vam-vam-vam of quick intercuts. In later years, people will blame MTV for a short attention span. But Jigsaw was skittish two years earlier.

Jigsaw (1) Who lives in a Kremlin like this?

More heliographs, semaphore, naval flags, and sign language introduce the next letter. It's the same upside down as the right way up, so we'll see Adrian upside down. And a "dissected map" – one of the original jigsaws, remarks Janet, as she places Iceland.

The remaining clues to this letter are provided by Cid Sleuth, a private eye who appears in a live-action cartoon. Hiding behind trees, whacking the thief over the head with a giant hammer, it's comedy straight out of the Beezer. David Cleveland and David Wyatt made these short films. "If you have your own ideas for clues, write in. Or if you can put together a 100-piece jigsaw in less than ten minutes..." That'll turn into a competition at the end of the series.

Jigsaw (1) Cid Sleuth.

Letter 5 is clued by Adrian, and a sketch about a nut. They're running short on time, and the clue for letter 6 is little more than an animation of the title music. Adrian is jumping up and down to confirm the whole answer is "spring". No, we're still not sure how to get "G" out of that. Guess we'll have to write in for the answers. Where'd we leave a stamped self-addressed envelope..?

Jigsaw isn't just about the clues, it includes some red herrings and fillers. Art that started from letters, such as a "T" turning into a Viking's helmet. Bing-bong! At the door are a pair of sandals, covering tartan socks, covering some hairy legs. With them is a loud Scottish voice, Biggum. He's asked for "Jiggy", and there are few things certain to turn Jigg unhappy than someone getting his name wrong.

Biggum is played by John Leeson, who also provides the voices of Jigg, Pterry, and appeared as the doctor. Joe Barton made Jigg and Pterry as puppets, Richard Denton and Martin Cooke the signature tune. It's a male world, Janet is one of only two women in the closing credits.

Jigsaw (1) There's somebody at the door!

We don't recall who won the Great Puttertogetherer Championship of 1979 (and if you remember, or if you won, do let us know).

'Saw 2: Nose and O's

(Top 'V'cret clue: Nan 'G' and Per 'D' look for 'T'weed 'B'ds in the 'P'!) Who is the three-legged shepherd Stephen?)

Jigsaw returned in 1980, with an expanded cast. Wilf Lunn, a madcap inventor, had been floating about the Children's Department since Vision On ended, and made his home in the Jigsaw studio. The young comedian Chris Emmett added his many voices while 3-2-1 was on a break. At some point in 1980, Adrian started to talk. (By which we mean, Adrian talked on camera. We're sure he talked in real life before.)

Sylvester McCoy was another Vision On alumnus, and teamed up with David Rappaport as The O-Men. These incompetent superheroes could be summoned by saying six words with a double-O in them, and would always repeat everything you said – unless you blew a raspberry first.

Jigsaw (1) They'd repeat everything you said, unless you blew a raspberry first.

This is a surreal environment, it could be frightening if it's not handled well. They handled it well, and played for comedy. The O-Men were incompetent in a silly way, Cid Sleuth still acted like a print comic, Wilf Lunn was in the same county as sensible. Janet Ellis was serene in her inscrutability, nothing could put her off her stride.

The 1980 series also introduced the Big Baddie of the franchise. Played by Adrian Hedley in a mask, Noseybonk was actually scary to some viewers. It's the mask, surely. Staring eyes, a hugemungous nose, that fixed grin, and the fact it's a mask means there's never any expression. Noseybonk's jaunty soundtrack, "A Hippo called Hubert" may have sounded innocent, but the scares were far from composer Joe Griffiths' idea.

'Saw 3: Faster Than a Flying Pterodactyl

Who is Ray Cathode? What threat does he pose to the Jigsaw team? Who saves everyone? Why is it Monday? What does Pterry use braces for? These and other questions may or may not be answered in this week's programme. But can you answer the Jigword?

For 1981, Tommy Boyd replaced Chris Emmett, still playing a variety of bit parts. Hector was on a one-hedgehog crusade against articulated lorries, and other highlights were shown in Pig of the Week. After introducing many characters last series, this run was a little more familiar. It was also the longest, a slog of 13 episodes. We're reviewing episode 6, from this week in 1981.

Jigsaw (1) The studio keeps a jigsaw theme.

This show begins with the answer to last week's word: akimbo. Janet demonstrates and explains the Middle English derivations.

The first letter is introduced with a set of items and some mimes. Then it's through the keyhole with Cid Sleuth. Very simple. The next two letters – ID – end all of the words we see.

Next up is a skit where Janet plays a woman with a cold, her "N" turns into a "D". She wants to go to Loddod, does Dancy from Dudeatod, but Dick is catching the same nisease and won't be able to catch the train to Nincot.

So, five minutes in, and we're almost at the end of the world. What could possibly go wrong?

Jigsaw (1) An unexpected visitor.

Oh. Ray Cathode, a man who wants to put everyone on television. And by "on television" he means "inside a little television box". Zap! Adrian's inside a tellybox. Zap! So's Wilf. These days, we'd call it a scene of Mild Peril, trapping Adrian and Wilf and Janet inside television sets as though they were Evil Edna.

Good news! The day is saved by The O Men, who reflect Ray Cathode's ray back at him, trapping him in his own little box. Bad news! The O Men now want to sing their song, which would instantly get the film banned by the BBFC.

Ahem. Back at the show, Wilf demonstrates his machine, by taking a nap. And that's the word: KIDNAP. End of the show? No. It's only just begun.

Jigsaw (1) Pterry with a really old plane.

There's a serial in this series, about Pterry learning to fly. This week, he's at an airfield, and though he is propelled through the air, it might not be flight under his own power. In this way, Jigsaw establishes itself as a show to watch each week: even if you don't stand a chance with the words, you might enjoy Pterry's adventures, or Wilf's inventions, or get to hear The O Men sing.

Onwards! There's a second word in this show, and it begins with a four-letter word, demonstrated by Adrian in a maze. Except "maze" is not the answer, it's "line", for reasons never made clear. A skit in class 1A involves the teacher calling the register: Albert, Alexander, Alphonse, Andrew, Anthony.

Zachariah from Smells Fargo is looking for Ma and Pa Carr of the Lazy R Ranch. Janet and Tommy Boyd play the Carrs, whose Rs are far less pronounced than Zac's. The chickens are not credited, and the word is LINEAR. Wilf demonstrates with his "linear machine", which inevitably blows up. It's a Wilf Lunn machine, of course it does.

Jigsaw (1) This will end in tears.

There's another story, The Incredible Adventures of Jigg, where he explores other planets. Guess they couldn't afford the rights to call "Jiiiiiiiig's Iiiiiin Spaaaaaaaaaaaaceeeeeee!"

A third word? A competition word? Really, you spoil us. Actually, yes, you do spoil us: this show has gone vam-vam-vam, cramming more ideas into 25 minutes than MTV has in a day. Somehow it's less satisfying than the 1979 series, because nothing is explored in any depth.

For the competition word, the first letter is the first letter of the last circus act. The circus here is an animation. Noseybonk gives the second letter, something to do with a golf course. Great news for all viewers: he's not in close-up.

Jigsaw (1)

"The third letter is the eleventh consonant of the alphabet", says Adrian. The fourth letter can also mean "five". The fifth letter ends some objects, and the last letter is twice the fourth letter, according to the Romans. If you know the answer, send it on a postcard to BBC TV Centre, Wood Lane, by 30 October 1981. Sylvester McCoy is appearing in "Can't Pay Won't Pay" at the Criterium Theatre Loddod.

This column is wondering how we understood all of that? We didn't: there's too much for anyone to take in at one sitting. Not that Jigsaw is wrong for cramming in ideas: we can take the things that amuse us, our friends can take the things that they like, and we'll all say in the playground tomorrow how much we enjoyed Jigsaw. We enjoyed it for different reasons, we liked different aspects.

'Saw 4 and More: Now in Threed

Dot, the electronic microdot, bursts out of a videogame to splat Adrian! Jigg starts his new adventures, and Wilf attempts to combat Hector the hedgehog. Baron Barnabus Barker, the Baritone Bard, visits a bar where they don't sell drinks. Could this be a clue to a word or are you barking up the wrong tree?

Jigsaw continued for three more series, albeit without Pterry, who learned to fly and flew off into the sunset. In 1983, a welcome return to one word per show, but now the letters are presented as an anagram. They're not in the right order. Julia Binsted joined the crew playing Dot, the digital device at the top corner of the screen. Paul Shearer replaced Tommy Boyd as the odd-character actor.

Jigsaw (1) "Jigg's in space"? It's a Muppet Show reference.

After this series, Janet Ellis left Jigsaw to work on Blue Peter. The show lost something, the viewers no longer had a representative on screen. Six episodes in early 1984 saw Wilf Lunn help Hector the Hedgehog to fly, and The O Men got themselves trapped in Jigg's jigsaw.

Jigg thinks this week's competition word is rather tricky so if you know it, send it in immediately and you may win a Jigsaw certificate, badge and stickers.

Only two months later, another series began, now with Howard Stableford keeping the programme together. We'd seen him on Beat the Teacher and he would join Tomorrow's World before the year was out. Jigsaw ended on the BBC in June 1984.

Jigsaw (1) And if you know this week's word...

For this column, Jigsaw was a formative experience. Gentle puzzles, lots of laughs, and though the world may not make much sense, it's a fun place to visit. Yes, we sent in answers every week. No, we never won one of Jigg's certificates.

What became of the regulars? Janet Ellis spent four years on Blue Peter, and paved the way for Radzi Chinyanganya to freefall from a great height (and break his body in the process). Adrian Hedley produced and directed such shows as Big Cook Little Cook and Zzzzzap!. Sylvester McCoy earned his pension playing Doctor Who. David Rappaport played in Time Bandits and Robin of Sherwood, but took his own life in 1990. Wilf Lunn still invents, Julia Binsted appears to have left showbiz around the turn of the century.

Hector continues his one-hedgehog campaign against unnecessary road development. Pterry finds work hard now that drones have taken over his flying business, though none of them quote proverbs. Biggum has gone to ground. And Jigg has teamed up with Noseybonk to make movies, the latest of which has sponsored ITV2, and is coming soon to a DVD remainder bin near you.

Jigsaw (1) Noseybonk takes over the world. Run to the hills!

This Week and Next

We had hoped to bring the latest format ideas from MIPCOM, but our correspondent heard we were discussing Noseybonk, and is still hiding behind the sofa. Maybe next week.

This week, we've been wowed by Lindsey Stirling. Our favourite violinist has been branching out into other entertainment activities. No, not a Crystal Maze-master, but a contender on Dancing With the Stars. With partner Mark Ballas, this week's routine was a mad scientist and cyborg. It's breathtaking, quite the best we've seen on this or any other series. Judge for yourself.

Tonight, I'm hosting in the Future Zone.

BAFTA Children's award nominees are out, and what a slate of goodies. Horrible Histories, So Awkward, Shaun the Sheep, Bear Grylls' Survival School, Peppa Pig, Sarah and Duck, Morph, Hacker T Dog from Mastermind. Nothing for Wolfblood, guess they're keeping that for the senior BAFTAs.

Some games are nominated, too. We're likely to take the Entertainment award – against Bear Grylls from CITV goes The Dog Ate My Homework, Sam and Mark's Big Friday Wind Up, and television's toughest quiz, Cbeebies' Swashbuckle. The Video Game award is between Monument Valley 2, The Playroom VR, Pokémon Go, and Pokémon Sun & Pokémon Moon.

Presenter is between Sam and Mark, Gemma Hunt of Swashbuckle, Dr Chris and Dr Xand from Operation Ouch!, and Maddie Moate from Do You Know on Cbeebies. Awards will be handed out on 26 November, same day as the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

Last of the new teams on University Challenge, where Merton Oxford (Edward Thomas, Alexander Peplow, Leonie Woodland, Akira Wiberg) were all over King's London (Marta Varela, Richard Senior, Caroline Spearing, Lochlan Pryer). 285-110 the final score, eliminating a strong King's side.

Richard Chaney won this week's Mastermind, taking the sitcom Porridge. He scored 24 points, and thanks to there being very few passes, had time for a quick chat with the host afterwards. Derek Moody (Warlord Chronicles) finished second on 21, followed by Sophie Starkey (Peggy Guggenheim) and Eddie Alexander (Deep Purple).

Gladiators Awooga!

Some ace questions on Only Connect; Fibonacci dates was genius, and the Gladiators Eliminator put in an unexpected appearance. Snake Charmers looked easy winners, leading 9-1 late in the second round. But then came a dropped bonus, a near miss on the walls, and the opposition's captain got a subject he knew. The Eco-Warriors pulled victory from the jaws of defeat, emerging ahead by 17-16.

We fear that the Eco-Warriors will be easy prey in their side of the group phase, but the Snake Charmers get a second chance in the Second Chance First Round.

No Only Connect next week, because they're showing coverage of the men's FA Cup, First Chance Seventh Round. Mastermind will be at the earlier time of 7pm; that's except for viewers in Wales, where Mastermind will be at the usual time of 7pm.

BARB ratings in the week to 15 October.

  1. Strictly Come Dancing remains top (BBC1, Sat, 11.25m; results, Sun, 10.1m). Coronation Street the top non-game (ITV, Mon, 8.25m).
  2. The Grate Breadxit Burn Out recovered most of its lost ground (C4, Tue, 8.45m) – the highest figure in six weeks. The X Factor (ITV, Sat, 6.55m) holds up well, Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat, 5.05m) and Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri, 4.9m) were also strong.
  3. Celebrity Hunted benefited from a Burn Out lead-in (C4, Tue, 2.8m). Doing well on BBC2: University Challenge (Mon, 2.55m) and Dragons' Den (Sun, 2.4m). Mastermind (Fri) topped 2m on a rare whole-network show. Dancing on Two also hit 2m (Mon).
  4. The Crystal Maze closed with 1.25m (C4, Fri). Celebrity Juice led the new channels (ITV2, Thu, 1.05m), from A League of Their Own (The Satellite Channel, Thu, 580,000) and Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 560,000).
  5. Next three new shows: Masterchef Antipodes (W, Fri, 300,000), Duck Quacks Don't Echo (The Satellite Channel, Thu, 240,000) and My Kitchen Rules Down Under (UK Living, Thu, 160,000). New Project Runway brought 140,000 to Lifetime (Thu).

Our long wait is over, Warwick Davis returns with Tenable (ITV, weekdays). Miles Jupp celebrates 40 Years of The News Quiz (Radio 4 Extra, Sun), and Matt Edmondson takes over Release the Hounds (ITV2, Tue). Some viewers may appreciate Irish sports quiz Know the Score (RTE1, Sun).

Finishing this week: The Grate Breadxit Burn-Out and Celebrity Hunted (C4, Tue), Taskmaster (Dave, Wed), The Big Family Cooking Showdown (BBC2, Thu), and Bromans (ITV2, Thu). Next Saturday has the return of Partners in Rhyme (BBC1), and there's a mixed bag on Pointless Celebrities.

Photo credits: BBC Bristol, BBC Worldwide, LWT.

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