Weaver's Week 2003-04-12
12th April 2003
Iain Weaver is on holiday. Guest reviewer Nick Gates reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.
There is a war on. Some people answered some questions. Some people owe Jasper Carrott some cash and some people spend some money in London. All but one of these stories will be covered in this column.
Hello I am Nick Gates. I'm just the cleaner.
Ya-hah. Anyway, this week Major Charles Ingram was found guilty of trying to "get" security by deception, that security being £1 million. It's an amazing verdict, apparently. There's a perfectly good mini-site for this here. The result of the public vote, an overwhelming 91% (or 10 votes) wanted to convict him, whilst a pathetically wimpy 9% (or one member of the jury) decided otherwise.
The Ingrams went home with a £15,000 fine and ordered to pay £10,000 each. Whilst their partner in crime the teacher Tecwen Whittock leaves with a £10,000 fine, £7,500 in costs and a silly name. That's a grand total this evening of £57,500. AND! The kids don't go away empty handed as the 18 months above their parents heads is a... [come back after the break]
... suspended sentence.
£57,500, eh? They ought to go on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. That's only 11 questions.
The funniest thing about all this of course is that the method, coughing, very almost actually worked. It's very much the sort of thing that happens comically on ten minute versions of shows as celebrity charity specials not on a quiz with a life changing sum of money. The real winners of course are ITV who are going to make pots of cash out of the story and pots of viewers when they play the show out (with magnified background coughs, I'll be bound).
"This was a very cynical plan, motivated by sheer greed," said Chris Tarrant. Yes. That's the point of a show with a million quid prize.
Meanwhile the Romanian version has problems of it's own as one Transylvanian contestant is under scrutiny after winning the top prize. Witnesses are suggesting that as he was musing the answers out aloud, an undertaker in the audience was giving the game away by having a coffin fit.
UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE: THE PROFESSIONALS (BBC2)
University Challenge and The Professionals - together at last! - combine their constituent parts to form University Challenge: The Professionals. It's a show where some people who most likely went to university and now have a job (unlike lots of graduates - arf!) compete in a quiz to find out which is the best job, presumably. Same titles and music and each team has a short few minute film made about them after they've introduced themselves to give some sort of indication as to what they actually do. Fine, except the actual quiz doesn't start until about ten past eight which is bordering on overlong. Otherwise it's exactly the same game.
Curiously, only the top eight scoring winners from the eleven match ups will go through to the next round which is utterly silly as it quite clearly penalises teams in contests that are between teams of an equal level. Especially if they are of a high level.
The first week was between Civil Servants ("You've all seen Yes Minister haven't you? Ha ha ha!") and the T.U.C. (purveyors of TUC Biscuits - the cheese based wafer biscuit of champions, except not). Um, I can't remember who won, I find University Challenge a bit tedious to be honest. Still, though.
GOOD THINGS THIS WEEK:
- The Millionaire trial is over.
- Russian Roulette wasn't on...
- But TV's famous Craig Stuart Garfinkle made his US Russian Roulette music cues available for downloading. Do so now. From here: http://www.midiotmusic.com/russian.htm I particularly recommend the second season final round music which must be used for every round that involves a one minute countdown by law as of next Tuesday. It would be quite nice if Paul Farrer followed suit now, hmm?
- I had Monday off of work and proceeded to watch PYRAMIDE and QUESTIONS POUR UN CHAMPION on TV5 on cable. Pyramide is excellent and has a lovely futuristicy set these days and is still hosted by Patrice Laffont of hosting Fort Boyard fame. I approve of the show, except they've got rid of the excellent pyramid clock that filled up with water and then drains whilst the Dings of Doom count down in the background during the last ten seconds. Now they just have a dull tiny spinning pyramid computer graphic. Questions pour un Champion hosted by Julian Lepers (silent 's', joke approaching) is the French version of pan-European hit Going For Gold. He has been hosting it since the beginning of time, but then a Lepers was never much good at changing its spots. In terms of style, Pyramide feels like it's the French cultural equivalent of Countdown (indeed, Laffont has hosted La Chiffes et da Lettres in his time as well). It is astonishingly stylish for a daily afternoon quiz. I approve heartily.
- Being introduced to The Micallef Program (Programme - but Australian) on the Paramount Comedy Channel. It's an Australian sketch show on most nights at midnight which has a lot of rather amusing pieces in it, one of which invariably is based around game shows hence my cunning inclusion of it here. Thanks.
BAD THINGS THIS WEEK:
- Millionaire is still a dull show, despite what you all think.
- Russian Roulette's on next week and it will aggravate me. And it will aggravate you as well if you have a soul.
Well now, you see, I'm finding it very difficult to get excited about this really to the point where I haven't actually watched it yet. I have them both on tape though and I hope to watch them and the third episode in time for next week's column which I'm also writing (probably). It's nice of Channel 4 to obligingly move Boys and Girls to half past ten really because I would only have been able to set the tape for one of them. And as you're about to see, I quite like Boys and Girls. Sorry in advance.
So why can I not get excited about The Murder Game? I now present to you my three reasons in numerical pointed list form.
1) There has never been a whodunnit game show that has ever been any good. The last one, CLUEDO, managed to be incredibly tedious despite having a pretty A-list (for the period) group of celebs doing all the acting in it. It was, at heart, a guessing game. And no, THE MOLE isn't a whodunnit. Shoo, there's nothing to see here.
2) It looks to be exactly the same thing for eight straight weeks. Magnum P.I.. Hetty Wainthrop. Angela Lansbury. All of them seemed to manage to solve their case in about forty-five minutes. Here we're going to have eight hours. I liked Hetty Wainthrop Investigates.
3) The Killer's Game looks to be tremendously exciting, except it's not really. It's just a device for getting rid of contestants and it all seems a bit silly.
However, all this being said, I have read lots of positive comments of the show so it's only fair I be professional and give the show a chance. Results: next week. Hopefully.
Let's get this straight from the off: Boys and Girls is rubbish. It is Don't Forget Your Toothbrush - but for the Lack Of Discernable Content generation. And as a massive fan of DFYT I can say that with some confidence. The average episode of Toothbrush would be packed with three songs by a fairly legendary musical personality, a quiz, some jokes, about two audience surprises that would turn into games, a running game/gag throughout the whole show (to be introduced by the theme to "Please Sir!"), the legendary 'throw things out your windows' game and of course the big quiz at the end. It was an excellent feel good show that didn't alienate anyone and would show a ton of new ideas every week to accompany the regular items.
Boys and Girls has Babe or Minger, Knock on Your Door, a short quiz, a short film of the last week, a short talent contest and another short quiz. And that is it. And £100,000 in credit. And some neat choreography. Let us take a quick look at these things.
Babe or Minger is, in its defence, quite amusing. Everyone marks each other out of ten in the Boys and Girls pre-show party, the fifty of each gender with the highest marks are 'babes', the lower fifty are 'mingers' (I thought it would have been quite amusing at this point to consult the OED and reprint it's meaning. Except I'm not paying £350 for online access for a throwaway diversion. Ugly person, anyway). Boys and girls are called down (the fact that the numbers come out of a bingo machine would suggest a random selection, but the fact that there are tapes lined up and that Vernon describes them as "some of the more entertaining members of the audience" would suggest otherwise) and asked to predict whether the other sex decided collectively they are a Babe or a Minger. If they are right they win a holiday somewhere and if they are not (they will inevitably say 'babe' and be wrong) they go back to their place in the audience to the tune of "You're so Vain" by Carly Simon - relevant stings from songs has always been a Chris Evans staple and it works quite well here.
On Mothers Day they did a Mother's Day special where everyone rated the Boys and Girls mothers and the mothers had to predict whether they were a babe or minger to win their offspring a prize. This managed to be both clever and quite funny although of course they were all babes in the end (even if one clearly wasn't, leading the lovely Orla O Rouke (now she's come down three octaves) to say "oh it's mother's day tomorrow - of course she's a babe!"). They manage to make three goes at this last a good few minutes. It feels like about ten. It is shallow. It's also the best 'bit' of the show.
Knock on Your Door is a poor man's 'flash your living room lights and then throw things out of your windows'. It is also a poor man's version of Down Your Doorstep from The Big Breakfast. The song that plays after every go is quite neat though. There seems to be a production in-joke that whilst it's playing they all have to run around the set and whoever is still on the set when it finishes has to stay there until the song starts up again. No-one knows why this is. Your door gets knocked. You all get behind it, shout "hello Boys and Girls!" and shut the door again. A pair of tickets to next week's show is posted through the door. And that's it.
The quiz of Boys and Girls is a poor man's survey bit from Play Your Cards Right. Before the show the Boys and Girls are asked slightly provocative questions and then through their celebrity team captain ("It's Chardonnay from Footballer's Wives!") give an answer to a question based around how the opposite gender thinks.
Three people from the team that wins (the person voted top bloke/girl and top babe by the other gender and a wild card chosen by a poor man's lottery machine) get to go through to the poor man's talent contest ("do" that dance from the Lynx advert! "Be" Vernon Kaye!). The winner of THAT (voted for by the losers in the audience) get £100,000 to spend with the person of their choice of the opposite gender from the audience (apart from the week where they hilariously messed up and the poor man had two women to spend cash with all week who kept arguing, which the next week they made it a deliberate feature because "it made cracking telly").
Meanwhile, last week's winners get to play the poor man's Light Your Lemon (All or Nothing) in order to keep everything they bought in the last week. The questions are a lot easier than Light Your Lemon's (being as it was a game of pure luck really, albeit one which Chris Evans managed to sort of cheat so the contestants almost always won. Unless they were running short of air time then he wouldn't mess about quite so much.) and without the dragging out of the reveal it loses a huge amount of fun. Still, Chris Evans (the poor man's Chris Evans) comes on on a golf buggy at the end so that's all right then.
Boys and Girls - the poor man's Don't Forget Your Toothbrush then. And yet. And yet and yet and yet. Why do I find myself watching it? I've been out most of the Saturday evenings it has been on (get me and my exciting lifestyle) but I have got up for the repeat the following Saturday morning and even taped it for watching the following day. I'm certainly not the sort of person who goes for the Club 18-30 lifestyle being, as I am, a library assistant (yes! the cleaning stuff was all a front) that the show is aiming at (great idea! Let's aim a show at an audience most likely to be out at that time of night! We'll make millions!). I certainly couldn't give a damn about any of the contestants or who wins. So what IS the attraction, eh?
AND IN OTHER NEWS
Charlotte Church is being lined up as a guest host of HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU. Other guest hosts lined up include William Hague and Martin Clunes. Let's hope she doesn't become - ha - the Church of the Poison Mind with all that satire flying about, eh readers?
A better written column, hopefully, including some comment on The Murder Game. And TREASURE HUNT (every day next week, BBC2, 6pm), that's something to look forward to.
I have been Nick Gates and I am tired. Iain Weaver is on holiday. Goodnight!