Weaver's Week 2023-04-02

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Loaded in Paradise

As the great philosopher Hippo Crates once said, "Party on, dude!"


Loaded in Paradise

TwoFour (part of ITV Studios) for ITV Player Or Whatever They're Calling It This Week, last December; shown on ITV2, 14-31 March

Take five pairs of young people. Fly them to Athens. Tell them that, somewhere in the city, there's a gold card loaded with € 50.000. Whoever gets to it first can use it for their two weeks in Greece – so long as they can keep it. Whoever gets the card is loaded, in paradise.

The other pairs of young people can take control of the gold card; all they've got to do is lay hands on the spenders. The chasers are told every time the spenders use the card, both the amount and where they are. But can the chasers use this information to their advantage? Hijinks ensue.

Loaded in Paradise The key to all sorts of riches.

We do love a show with a very simple premise, and few are simpler than Loaded in Paradise. Go run, go hide, go spend. The format is far from original – in the first episode, we got a lot of Channel 4's Hunted (or Wanted, if you remember 1996), more than a bit of Mad Brits In The Med circa 2002, and a debt to Made in Chelsea.

Loaded in Paradise is all about its tech. The teams are issued with smart watches and phones, which go "poing" every time there's a message from Plutus. He's the Greek deity credited with inspiring the game; he loaded the card with 50 grand, acts as concierge to the spenders, informs the chasers of every spend, and acts a benevolent referee. The show also has some very clear maps, the teams' locations are shown on little models of the area – far clearer than the OS maps of Wanted and Treasure Hunt (2).

Loaded in Paradise The initial contestants.

Plutus also has his own social media website, where the spenders post photos of themselves enjoying themselves. Anything to stir the pot. Let's be honest, every wannabe deity has their own social media website. Bet he'd charge us € 8 a month to show pictures to other people... or charge € 1 to not show pictures.

The show starts in Athens, and the chasers start with very limited funds. Just € 30 per day, and they've got to cover any public transport as well as as any fun they have while on the chase. "It's a five hour walk!" "There are blisters on my blisters!" By the end of episode two, some of the teams are having so little fun that they're on the verge of giving up. The spenders drop thousands on a night on a yacht, or in five-star luxury accommodation; the chasers have a hostel or campsite for literally a few euro.

Loaded in Paradise The chasers power their own boat.

From time to time, the show passes through some "safe houses", just prior to a hop from one island to the next. (Through the series, they'll play in Athens, Mykanos, Ios, and Rhodes.) No catches while the teams are at the safe houses, of course. And no drama, it's a lot of yakking and chat amongst the teams. These "safe house" segments might be a way to spin out the show budget, make 15 episodes where they might otherwise have had 10. While they're on, they sap the energy from the programme – but as soon as the chase resumes, we're back to full-on entertainment.

You could hear a pin drop

It feels like there were some changes to the rules as the series went on. Once the teams left Athens and moved to islands, they were all given cars. Little white cars for the chasers, a massive 4x4 for the spenders. Naturally, these cars were filled with cameras – although it's clear that a camera person followed the teams around, it looks like they travelled in a separate vehicle.

From time to time, the producers – er, er, Plutus – gave a "spender location reveal" to help out teams. As the name suggests, this allowed the teams to ask for the current location of the spenders. When to use this help was a matter of tactics: do you play it when you've just missed them? Do you play when you've absolutely no clue and could be half an island away? A little while after you've heard about a spend so you know you're in the area?

Loaded in Paradise A team wait to capture the card.

As the series progressed, the teams became smarter and savvier. Pay the bill and exit, that's obvious. Pay the bill, exit, get straight into your car and lock the doors, that's a quick idea, because chasers cannot pass through locked doors. Tactics become smarter, but the spending is a bit cliched – masses on five-star accommodation, a couple of big meals, plenty of alcohol, maybe something like yoga on the beach or jetskiing, and more alcohol. But mostly alcohol.

Halfway through the series, there's a massive change from the producers. At the end of the series, there's going to be a prize. € 25.000 will go to one of the teams at the end of the series. While it's been all about the experience so far, now there's some money to take away at the end. It becomes an undercurrent, something at the back of people's minds. And it changes the complexion of the show: is it about the experience today, or the prize for the next few years?

Loaded in Paradise The spenders enjoy life at sea.

Eliminations are a fact of life, though standby couples drop in to replace those who leave. Not entirely convinced that we want to replace 40% of the cast in the last week, we lose many of the players we've come to know and like. Would it be better to do a Race Across Canada and drop couples without replacement?

There are probably some extra rules we're never actually told – chasers can't move for some time after the spenders leave, or after they've lost the gold card. Many of the most dramatic moments are clearly re-filmed, with drones and steadicams we don't see in shot. We don't have a big problem with this: it doesn't massively affect the game, and makes for a much better show.

"It's literally Where's Wally"

Only Connect (2)

Loaded in Paradise tries to lean heavily into its Greek roots. The teams have difficulty sight-reading scripts from their watches (as would anyone except the most professional actor).

These problems combine to obvious effect when teams read out quotes from great philosophers. They're crowbarred into the show with all the subtlety of BOB'S CAR WASH IS GREAT!! an advertising flyer in the middle of a wedding bouquet.

Loaded in Paradise Concern at the safe house.

Much better, Kae Kurd's narration. Sharp and witty, tells us what we need to know about the show, cheers for the teams, snarks at the teams, vocalises what we'd like to say. It's like having a properly funny wag talk through the footage. Shows like this stand and fall on their casting, and TwoFour managed to get some big personalities and some likeable personalities. We warmed to all the pairs.

Watch more

The whole series is on the ITV Hub. Free registration required, .gb only, strong language and some adult humour.

The final episodes were a low-key Treasure Hunt remake, finding various locations around a town. But the sense of pace and urgency was squeezed out by "now you've got to eliminate a team" interludes, which were all milked for the maximum emotion possible.

Loaded in Paradise New contestants Paige and Rianna walk in.

We watched the whole series of Loaded in Paradise, though must confess that it was mostly background viewing. When it's great, Loaded in Paradise is superb – Alex and Jamie's attempt to escape from a yacht is as tense as Victoria Fay staking out Tracie and Anthony in a Peterborough hotel thirty years ago. When it's tedious, it's tedious. Mercifully, the boring bits can work as background viewing, and we never quite know what will happen in the next episode.

Paul O'Grady

Paul O'Grady

How to ruin a Wednesday morning.

You are waking up to the sad news that television and radio presenter Paul O'Grady has died aged 67. — TV Live

Paul O'Grady died "unexpectedly but peacefully" on Tuesday evening, according to a statement. He was 67.

Born in Birkenhead to an Irish-English Catholic family, Paul was the youngest of three children – and almost a decade younger than his siblings. He got a painting shown on the BBC children's programme Vision On, but only by pretending to be deaf and mute; when his mother found out she made him go to confession. Paul was an altar boy until he laughed during a funeral service, attended the Blessed Edmund Campion Secondary Modern and later the Corpus Christi High School. He had a variety of jobs after leaving school – as a DHSS clerical assistant, a barman in a gay bar, and in an abattoir. Eventually he moved to London to be a care worker in a home for disabled children.

Paul O'Grady Lily Savage.

Paul O'Grady rose to fame via his drag character Lily Savage. Taking his mother's maiden name, Lily was inspired by her and the other sharp-tongued women of his childhood, such as his aunt Chris, who had "a mouth like a bee's arse – it stung".

We've got help with the washing up!

Lily got her first outing in 1978 after the compère at a pub cabaret evening failed to turn up. Lily stepped in and Paul O'Grady took her on tour as part of a drag duo called the Playgirls. He was working solo in the 1980s, with a residence at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a popular gay club in south London. Lily – or was it Paul – was abrasive and sarcastic, tearing a strip off everything from the miners' strike to the AIDS crisis, and the increasingly draconian crackdowns on LGBT people condoned by the Thatcher government.

One signature moment came during a police raid at one of Lily's shows in 1987. The police were so paranoid and so ill-informed about HIV that the two dozen intruders were all wearing rubber gloves. Paul wrote, "I was doing the late show, and within seconds the place was heaving with coppers, all wearing rubber gloves. I remember saying something like, 'Well well, it looks like we’ve got help with the washing up!'"

Paul O'Grady Paul O'Grady circa 2009.

Perhaps we can draw a lot about the Lily Savage character. She was defiant, a ball of rage expressed by punching up viciously, and always at the people in power at the time. Paul O'Grady would keep that spirit alive: in the early 2010s, he delivered a polemic on live television criticising the then-government for cuts on social services. "I bet when they were children they laughed at Bambi when the mother got shot." It's a clear message, delivered with righteous fury and venom spitting in every word.

Greater recognition followed in 1988 when Lily made her Edinburgh Fringe debut. She became a hit at the Fringe, shortlisted alongside Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard, and Frank Skinner as the festival's funniest act of 1991.

As Lily Savage, Paul became a fixture on television in the early 1990s. He filled in for Paula Yates on The Big Breakfast, and was eventually asked to host the early morning celebrity interview segment permanently. Lily did variety shows Live from the Lilydrome and Lily Live!, then primetime chatfest The Lily Savage Show in 1997. Lily also hosted a revival of Blankety Blank, which ran on BBC1 and later on ITV until 2002.

Blankety Blank Lily Savage, the best BLANK of the decade.

But Lily Savage was only a character, and one Paul eventually tired of playing. Paul O'Grady's Orient and Paul O'Grady's America followed the man on the Orient Express and in America; Michael Portillo would later reinvent himself in the same way. By 2004, Paul was famous and familiar enough to have an eponymous talk show at 5pm on ITV; The Paul O'Grady Show would later move to Channel 4 as The New Paul O'Grady Show. He insisted that new jobs were advertised in the local Job Centre, so absolutely anybody could apply and get their break.

The daytime chat show came to an end in 2011, Paul felt he was losing his way. "I felt part of the PR machine. They’d want this guest or that guest. Every question had to go through the lawyers. I was just another plug for someone’s book."

Paul turned down the host's job on Simon Cowell's show, baulking at the proposed name Paul O'Grady's Got Talent. He did return to ITV in 2009 to host a Friday night chat show, reportedly on an £8 million deal. He also fronted Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs, a heartwarming show about Battersea Dogs' Home, of which he was a patron. He lived on a small farm in Kent, where he kept sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, and a particularly free-spirited dove. The RSPCA recognised Paul with an animal hero award for his "outstanding contribution to animal welfare". More recently, Paul hosted a milk-and-water revival of Blind Date for Channel 5, and intriguing ITV talk show Saturday Night Line Up.

Blind Date Paul on Blind Date.

Tributes were paid by all with a kind heart. Dick and Dom gave a personal memory:

The heartbreaking news of the loss of Paul O'Grady. Lost for words really. He was the most hardworking, funniest but most of all, kindest man you could meet. The twinkle in his eye as he said 'alright kidda' is something we will never forget. Rest well Paul.

Amanda Holden said something forgettable. Dominic Raab paid tribute to "Paul Grayson", whoever he was. Camilla Windsor, wife of a property magnate, was "deeply saddened". Carol Vorderman remembered how he "never judged the vulnerable, never judged the weak, never judged the misunderstood."

Chris Smith, the former cabinet minister, said Paul O'Grady "fought nobly for things that were important". Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner, said that Paul "wasn't one of these people where celebrity went to his head. He was still very down to earth. Whenever someone was in need, Paul O'Grady stepped in to offer help. He was such a kind, generous humanitarian.

Paul O'Grady It could be you!

Over the years Paul suffered three heart attacks, he put that down to smoking 40 cigarettes a day. It took a severe case of COVID last year to really slow Paul down; no more panto, and one children's book alongside three volumes of autobiography.

Paul also worked on radio: a long-running weekly show on Radio 2 was all about Paul's own life, particularly his love of animals and Northern Soul. The programme came to an acrimonious end last year, when Paul resisted Radio 2 bringing comedian Rob Beckett in the slot for half the year. Paul made a Christmas show for independent station Boom Radio, and was due to present another on Easter Sunday.

Paul is survived by his daughter Sharyn Mousley and her two children; his brother and sister; his husband Andre Portasio, and their collection of animals.

The final word goes to Patrick Studwick, specialist LGBT reporter:

I'd say the best way to mourn our Paul, apart from watching re-runs of his greatest bon-mots, is to raise your voice, take off your heels and fight back. Protest every pompous idiot, counter every hateful lie, vote against every political cruelty, rage against every abusive institution.

In other news

Gladiators Falcon, 1963-2023.

Gladiators news Falcon (Bernadette Hunt) died on 14 March at the age of 59 after battling cancer for a number of years. Bernadette was one of the longest-running Gladiators, staying with the show from 1993 until its end in 1999. She was a warm and generous person with a genuine smile.

Deal or No Deal on ITV The worst-kept secret in game shows is finally confirmed. Stephen Mulhern is to host a Deal or No Deal revival, on ITV. A player tries to work out how much money is in their box, by opening other boxes and eliminating them from play. From time to time, a mysterious "banker" will offer to buy the box and end the game.

Deal or No Deal ran for over a decade on Channel 4, hosted by Noel Edmonds. He turned the simple guessing game into a cult show, with in-jokes and recurring features and more twists than a very twisty thing that's been twisted by Twisty McTwist of Twizzleton. Stephen Mulhern will also bring lots of energy to the show – and even without seeing the programme, we know it'll be a very different energy.

Riddiculous exports April Fools' Day was yesterday. Today, we report that GSN in the States is to buy Riddiculous from ITV. The melange of riddle and quiz did decent business on ITV last autumn. There are also reports that a network over there might buy The 1% Club, they'll let us know in about fifteen hours.

Only Connect winner Michael Wallace fronted a piece on CBC News this week. Now resident in Kitchener, the Boardgamer has worked out the optimum time to play a coffee store's virtual promotion. To nobody's surprise, the answer is very early in the morning.

Sarah Greene's back on telly! The unchallenged master of live television will host The Finish Line on BBC Daytime. "High energy, high drama racing and quickfire questions" are promised in this Potato / Nice One co-production from Belfast. Sarah will be assisted by Roman Kemp.

The Traitors

Winners at this week's RTS Programme Awards included:

  • Entertainment Programme – The Traitors. "Authentic and compelling – the producers captured lightning in a bottle," said the judges.
  • Entertainment Performance – Claudia Winkleman, The Traitors. The judges said, "Outstanding. This was a performance of absolute mastery."

RTS Daytime Programme of the Year was won by "Loose Men".

We're not here next week, so enjoy this episode of Show and Telly with Matt Edmondson. Board games, clothes shopping, and rabbit fur machinery, from one of the people who liven up any show.

Quiz Digest

  • A "yaffle" is a nickname for a green woodpecker. It may or may not be carved in the shape of a wooden bookend. (Mastermind)
  • Sierra Leone's football league features sides called Sierra Fisheries, Anti-Drugs Strikers, and Mighty Blackpool. Yes, the latter are named after Stanley Matthews' old club. (Paddy Duffy of Northern Ireland)

Quizzy Mondays

Someone had to win a low-scoring Mastermind. It turned out to be James Davidson, one point behind after his specialist round on Queen Anne, one point ahead after everyone's general knowledge. Just three points covered the competitors – Darren Ross (PDC darts), Alison Rose (history of transportation to Australia), and Sam Swift (Parks and Recreation).

A low-scoring match on University Challenge, too. Royal Holloway of London beat Durham by 125-100. Very much a game of two halves – Durham leapt to a 95-20 lead after the music round, but their technique of buzzing early cost with four penalties. Royal Holloway had plenty of room to pick up the pieces, and came in with a couple of sharp buzzes of their own at the very end of the game.

Loved the first visual round, sheet music representing leitmotifs from Peter and the Wolf, allowing the Durham side to show they can hum with the rest of us. Less impressed with the sides interrupting Paxman on a swerve question – the golden ratio to four digits, use the digits as a year, who was the king of England? But buzz in at "four digits" and you've absolutely no chance at all.

Finals for Lego Masters Down Under (E4, Sun), Ireland's Home of the Year (RTÉ1, Tue), Scotland's Greatest Escape (BBC Scotland, Wed), Fred's Last Resort (E4, Wed), and Counterpoint (Radio 4, Mon).

If you wondered what Come Dine with Me would be like on holiday, that's Strangers on a Plane (C4, weekdays). Unbeatable returns to BBC1 daytimes: it's good, but it's no Bridge of Lies. New Pointless and The Bidding Room through the week (BBC1), new Just a Minute on Monday (Radio 4). Ireland's Smartest comes to RTÉ1 (Sun), and The Weakest Link is back (BBC1, Friday). There's also a new series of Hell's Kitchen (ITV2, Tue, Wed), don't forget to miss it.

Easter Saturday has Robin Hood: Bridge of Lies, a fact for every week Bryan Adams' song was in the top 20 (plus ten copies of the song to avoid). Saturday Night Takeaway take their plane to Florida for the live finale. Round the Islands Quiz returns (Easter Monday, Radio 4) and Masterchef is back (BBC1, Easter Monday).

We won't be publishing on Easter weekend, and it's Tempting Fortune when we do come back.

Pictures: TwoFour, RDF West, Fremantle (a Pearson Television Company) and BBC, Stellify Media and So Television, Olga TV / Silver Star Productions, LWT, Studio Lambert Scotland.

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