Weaver's Week 2004-06-05
5 June 2004
Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.
Kat's in the kitchen - Weaver's Week
One viewer called the channel to complain: "And this was only the edited version. I thought I had tuned into a porno channel by mistake."
We'll get on to Big Brother 5 in due course; Channel 4 and Endemol are already discussing a return for SHATTERED, the show that had average audiences, but did very well amongst the channel's target demographic. The BBC has quietly confirmed that a Junior Mastermind will take to early evening BBC1 this year, as will Hard Spell, which we believe to be a spelling contest.
The Simpsons slot - 6pm on BBC2 - will see a show called The Cube appear, along with next week's daily news quiz The Cram. We're not convinced by the BBC's desire to see shows stripped across the week - given the lack of variety on other channels (news on two channels, soaps on two others) would not a set of six-to- ten week shows, varying across the week, have more chance of success?
One idea they might like: in Belgrade, prominent politicians go behind the wheel of a taxi-cab, and discuss politics and current affairs with their passengers. The British version would, inevitably, feature Gyles Brandereth.
The BIG BROTHER television show, which started at the weekend, has featured lesbian sex, a woman having an orgasm in the bath and kinky spanking scenes in a sauna.
The show began with two female contestants drinking a bottle of sparkling wine to loosen inhibitions. One then announced she wanted sex, "I don't care with whom," before playing with the other in the sauna. Two other contestants got involved. There was spanking, massaging, lots of groaning and oral sex. At one point, contestants cried out with pleasure, and there were "kisses sweet like chocolate mousse."
Analogue satellite viewers can see more of that on the German Big Brother, every night on RTL2. However, this is the *UK* game shows list, so if we might divert your attention back to this country...
Week four in The Vault studios, and Mel Inblack has a large wodge of money to give to some lucky viewer. Speculation on the UKGS mailing list has been that that the round one questions will be very easy, as the production company is aware of mutterings within the game show fandom. This column has no evidence to back up these assertions, but the first round questions do seem easier than normal.
Contestant one gets just two on her own, but buys the remaining eight answers for £1700, slightly more than £200 a pop. Good going. Contestant two (a chef) gets four on his own, misses one on a garnish, buys the other five answers, and leaves with the £1000 he came into the studio.
Contestant three got three on her own, bought six more, but then got caught on the new Spanish prime minister. That's a stinker of a question unless you have a link to Spain, or you're a close follower of European politics. She spent £1400 buying six, leaving just £500. We did, however, get confirmation that there's some signal for the telephone players to indicate they wish to deal. Contestant four looks familiar from somewhere, possibly from Millionaire. He does everything we'd like: guessing on those he's unsure, getting seven on his own, passing on one question to get an eighth on his own and not dealing for more than £200. In just half the time, he's swept the board, spent £350, and he's going through to the next round.
Contestant five makes three on her own, reckons Trollope wrote "The Importance of Being Earnest", but buys the remaining answers for £1150, only slightly more than £150 each. She's also through, but won't make the final, surely. Some of the speculation was correct - the first round questions were phenomenally easy.
Round two sees two talking points: Keith Pottage (our familiar contestant four) fills the ten correct answer lights, and has a Very Tricky Question to get a set-busting 11th correct answer. He misses, just as he had to buy a question asking for the full name (not just Smith) of a footballer. We also get the Daft Answer Of The Week: someone with an irrational concern about their health suffers from "homophobia," and a host who has just heard a stupendously silly answer suffers from "the giggles."
Sadly, Keith gets stuck on questions 6 and 7 of the final, and can't name the man who succeeded Robin Cook as Leader of the House of Commons. John Reid is the answer to an incredibly difficult question, as he spent barely three months in the job before becoming the Health Secretary. This would have been a better jackpot question than for £3000.
The home caller is Mandy in Weston Super Mud. Gosh! Another lady! Seventeenth time in nineteen calls, the chances of this are minimal. For the first time this year, we get past the questions answered on the show, but then get hung up on which country won this year's Eurovision Song Contest. No matter how many times Mandy says Estonia, they didn't win, they didn't even make the final, grouch. And we don't even get to see Mel do the winner's dance. Half a million next week, then.
NEXT WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS
We've a 1960s edition of CALL MY BLUFF on BBC4 just after midnight on Sunday morning; THE CRAM, a new daily news quiz on BBC2 at 1900 weekdays; and THE INTERROGATORS begins at 2100 Monday on BBC3. We've repeats of QI, the final series of KNIGHTMARE repeats on Challenge, and Cameron Stout talks to Simon Mayo about religion on Radio 5, from 1300 Monday. Oh, and this lot continue:
Okay, there's no more putting it off. Those who find this show even more boring than power drills can move on, it's BB all the way from here.
Thrown on the scrap heap this year: the chickens, the vegetable patch, the lie- ins, a third of the house, the weekly shopping budget tasks; in comes the "treatment room" for pampering, a whirlpool, and a shocking red diary room chair.
Also gone: this column's red-button access to extra shots and coverage after 3:30 of an afternoon. Channel 4 has decided that digital satellite viewers can watch one stream from the house, and digital cable viewers can see nothing at all. Some have seen C4's decision as a cost-cutting move, the station is concentrating on potential money-generators. However, the channel also does not trust viewers to form their own opinion of the contestants, relying instead on the heavily edited highlights.
As regular viewers of Without Prejudice? will know, psychologists reckon that we form an impression of people within ten seconds of meeting them. Here, by way of introduction, are this column's initial reactions to the BB5 contestants. And the new, all-outside Friday shows, which began with the Intelfax Live Subtitlers saying "We can't hear a thing either." Things can only get better.
01 Marco Sabba, 21, student, Hull, bald, camp. Trying to be the new Christopher Price, or the new Brian Dowling, perhaps a little too hard. Mid-table.
02 Ahmed Ashil, 44, property investor, Liverpool. The erstwhile asylum-seeker the press has feared; doesn't like homosexuals, we like him for no obvious reason. Could go the distance.
03 Jason Cowan, 30, air steward, South Lanarkshire. Daft haircut, wears vests, exercises a lot, wearing a leopard-print thong and nothing more. Reminds us of Sandy from BB3. An early exit looms.
04 Daniel Bryan, 30, hairdresser, Hull. Another bald bloke, very out, a bit manipulative. Could go far.
05 Stuart Wilson, 20, psychology student. Long-haired, slightly arrogant, somewhere in the vicinity of Jon Tickle, only a few tads cooler. In for the long run, or out quickly.
06 Victor Ebuna, 23, politics and history grad, London. Loud, very confident, and he seems to have reason. Could go far, but will have to overcome the apparent anti-black vote first.
07 Vanessa Nimmo, 27, business administrator, Leeds via South Africa. Blonde, and makes no other initial impression. Early exit looms.
08 Emma Greenwood, 20, legal administrator, Manchester. Trying to be the new Helen, should be entertaining, will be draining. Staying long.
09 Kitten (Kat) Pinder, 24, homeless worker, Brighton. Looks like Brett Anderson, outer than something very far out indeed, is going to cause sparks. Will go very early, but then we said that about Jade.
10 Michelle Bass, 23, mortgage advisor, Newcastle. Wants to be a model, pulls easily and with anyone. The word "vapid" springs to mind again, possibly a long stayer.
11 Shell (Michelle) Jubin, 22, history of art student, Glasgow via Hampstead. The token sort-of posh girl, perhaps a calming influence. Will eat or be eaten, probably the latter.
12 Nadia Alnada, 27, bank worker, Surrey via Portugal. Ah, the trans-sexual the tabs have been predicting for the past four years. Feisty, and could last.
All the entries followed the same path: contestant leaves car, walks past the crowd, gets turned off down a badly-signed passage, meets the press, and enters. All the entries, that is, except for Kat, who "enjoys socially inappropriate behaviour and petty revenge," according to Davina's commentary. She sought out her girlfriend - who also features on the audition tape and could have been the "couple" the tabs wrote about in previews. Kat couldn't find her, used an iconic hand gesture, walked back, eventually rushed the stage, snogged her girlfriend, and is eventually wrestled into the house, by- passing the pose for the press. To the best of our knowledge, it's the first time anyone has been booed on *entry* to a BB house.
What's this year's theme? On first impressions, it feels like Endemol is pandering to the tabloid press again. They've been predicting a new immigrant for at least years, a trans-sexual for four, and they've been after some sex for five. Two out of three isn't bad, though if there is going to be some sex, it may well be of the non-straight variety.
On a little more thought, perhaps BIG BROTHER has taken a line out of the Without Prejudice playbook. "They'll be voting for the one they like the most - or dislike the least." We have three homosexuals, one trans-sexual, one bisexual, one erstwhile asylum seeker, one black bloke, one posh chick, a bloke in a thong, and just three people who appear normal at a glance. If you have prejudices, prepare to shed them now.
The first Saturday task provided ample opportunity. The contestants' suitcases hadn't been delivered to the house, and one of them wasn't going to arrive. Which one? The contestants had to decide. And decide now. When asked for clarification, we heard "BB has made it perfectly clear..." when the whole point is that BB has *not* made it clear. Watch for more patronising oafishness over the series.
Two people voted for Michelle, but by a clear majority, Kat's case was the one to stay out, and for Davina to rifle through. Is going through someone else's case cricket? Comments about the clothes, perhaps, we'd see them in time; a close-up of photographs seems to open the door to privacy writs; and calling shoes "surprisingly feminine" is a whole other can of worms.
Would the producer's pet house rebel wreck the diary room, or storm the front door? Not a bit of it, she's very calm and collected. Kat reckons losing the suitcase will only make the house grow closer, and the first attempt to cause strife has backfired in Endemol's face. Indeed, if Kat's aim is to show up the arbitrary rules of the house, she is doing exceedingly well, and we're barely a day in.
The suitcase rebellion on Sunday, where all twelve crammed into the diary room, was another reminder of where the power relationship lies. Endemol claimed not to negotiate, conveniently forgetting that a rebellion in series 3 was defused only by bribing side AA with some wine, and granting Christmas in the final week of series 4 even though the team failed the task. Endemol threatened to throw out any contestant - not necessarily the perpetrator - if anyone misbehaved.
In the event, the decision was made for the producers, when Kat painted slogans on the mirror. Whose bright idea was it to give her paint? Endemol's. The producers had backed themselves into a corner, and given their nemesis further rope to hang herself.
There is precedent to removing the persistent rule-breaker from the house, as one of the contestants in Teen Big Brother was disqualified on the final day, and that was the explicit rule in BB3. Evicting any other person would have offended against natural justice, and shown that Endemol and Channel 4 were more concerned with their ratings and publicity that running a fair game. Endemol looked into that abyss, and pulled back, removing Kat from the game.
Endemol's research hadn't unearthed Kat's court appearance next week, when non- appearance would have her held in contempt of court, with Big Bailiffs visiting the BIG BROTHER house. Controversial. It appears that Endemol's psychological research hadn't discovered the true Kat - or it had, and they decided to go ahead and damn the consequences. This may be pre-planned, it may be complete negligence, it's probably a cock-up, but it has to reflect very badly on Endemol.
The betting markets started by making Shell the favourite at about 6.9, but Daniel moved past her on Monday. Stuart and Vanessa both moved in under 10, Emma and Jason hardened to around 12, joining Marco. Michelle (and Any Other Contestant) held around 15, Victor remained just over 20. Nadia settled at just over 40, and Ahmed's price lengthened each day. Betting was thrown into confusion after Wednesday's announcement that someone will leave; Kat had floated between 30 and 60 before that point, and was still a stronger contender than Ahmed before her exit.
Overall, the pithy description is feeling like "Car crash television." It will change after last night's exit; when we write the final report in August, we may well see this week as an aberration. We shall see.