Weaver's Week 2006-01-29
'Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.'
Great hosts - 29 January 2006
In preparing this week's column, we had a choice. Should we inflict a review of Dancing on Ice upon both of our loyal readers. Or should we be remorselessly self-indulgent, and post this column's entry to the recent UK Game Shows poll. Hmm. Tricky one, that.
The Greatest Game Shows of 2005, and Greatest Hosts Ever
(In this column's humble opinion. Which is no more or less right than yours.)
Let's start with the easy bit, Best New Shows of 2005. Those of you who recall the End of Year column (and we were all a bit drunk at the time) should not be surprised by the selections.
This was, in part, a tactical vote - it's blatantly obvious that Deal or No Deal will win the competition by a country mile, and we would rather influence the battle for second and third than waste ballots. Splash Camp was a terrific grower, and just pipped Geronimo! for the last place on the ballot. The Golden Lot and Sudo-Q were also closer to this list than the next.
Worst New Shows of 2005
Because this column doesn't acknowledge any of the gazillion call-and-lose channels as game shows, many possible nominations are lost. ITV could easily have monopolised the voting here, and we strongly expect Scream! If You Want to Get Off and Celebrity Wrestling to feature in the final analysis. But The Big Call was perhaps the channel's greatest disappointment - a terrible set design saw Dr "Neil" Fox shouting across acres of space, having members of the public putting their fate in the hands of Anneka Rice is worrying, but finishing every show with an anti-climax (have we won the jackpot? Er, no) is just plain wrong.
Channel 4's Name Your Price was just lazy television, showing an antique and asking us to SMS in with its value. And for a Friday night entertainment quiz, 29 Minutes of Fame was far below par - it wasn't funny, and nor was it brain-stretching. We considered The Apprentice, ...Baby One More Time, and Britain's Worst Celebrity Driver, but there was drosser dross out there.
Best Game Show Hosts of All Time
Before the run-down, here's the criterion for inclusion. Would we watch a new game show if it sounded a bit rubbish, but was hosted by this person? Missing out on the top five were, in alphabetical order: Bob Holness, Davina McCall, Richard O'Brien, Dermot O'Leary, Phillip Schofield, Liza Tarbuck, and Richard Whiteley.
In fifth place, Nicholas Parsons. Back in the 70s and 80s, he became an institution on Sale of the Century, a strength that perhaps became clearest when Antan Dec tried to do the format last year. More recently, Nicholas has done annual series of Just a Minute, and cropped up as a generic rent-a-b-list-celeb. By not taking himself at all seriously, Nicholas allows us to laugh with him.
Fourth place, Paul Daniels. Now apparently retired from game shows, we're placing him highly because he never went for an easy format. Odd One Out, Every Second Counts and Wipeout were all high concept shows, difficult to describe in the billings of the Radio Times, but the familiar face of the magician, and his firm hand on the tiller, helped to steer them through.
Michael Underwood is certainly the fastest rising star in the television firmament, and we're taking a bit of a punt in putting him third. Michael first appeared on our screens in the 90s on a children's Crystal Maze special, and led his team from victory to victory, which instantly puts him a long way ahead of most adults. After finishing school, he won a six-month contract on Children's BBC. Learning on the job is never easy, and though he visibly improved during his time on the channel, it's only since his transfer to ITV that Michael has become the presenter most likely to. Jungle Run has confused many other presenters - Chris Jarvis tried hard, and Keith Chegwin got so confounded that he turned up to the recording without putting any clothes on - but Michael makes a difficult task look simple. Even better, he's not overly sympathetic towards the teams, and when they fail, he neither covers it up nor goes to the extremes of Anne Robinson. Michael is also the best Eurovision commentator we've had in twenty years, and a great future surely lies ahead.
Another graduate from CBBC to ITV is Antan Dec, who we're rating second. From SM:TV to Takeaway, everything the two-headed Geordie has touched has turned to broadcasting gold. (With the possible exception of Slap Bang, but let's not dwell on failures.) Last year's Gameshow Marathon was a demanding concept, and there's no-one else on television with the combination of talent and bravado to even attempt the idea, never mind do as well as they did. That Antan Dec was prepared to measure himself against the all-time greats is admirable; that the comparisons were mostly favourable shows the great depths of talent.
When this column contributed to the first poll in 2002, we described the best game show host of all time as sadly wasted on daytime television. Sadly, he's now no longer on daytime, on primetime, or even with us. Our cinq point goes to Bob Monkhouse, a man with no fewer than sixteen (count 'em!) entries on our database, and there are probably others we've forgotten about. Combining stand-up comedy, a remarkably swift wit, and an energy that saw him work almost every day, Bob was, in every way, the king of game shows. No-one else, not even Antan Dec, handled The Golden Shot with such aplomb; no-one else made Celebrity Squares such fun, or made television bingo at all well.
These are the opinions of this column, and are not the final results of the greater UK Gameshows readership. A team of highly-trained counting bats are working through the night to work out your favourite show, and to provide some sort of context against the last running of the polls. Keep watching for the result.
Second Round, Match 1: School of Oriental and African Studies v Churchill College Cambridge
SOAS won heat 11, beating Christ's Cambridge by a country mile. This column suspects that their bias towards social sciences - and having all the team come from London - may count against them. Churchill won the following week, beating York by a closer scoreline, and Daniel Nazarian was the hot-shot buzzer.
Churchill buzz in first on the opening three questions; a missignal and dropped bonuses ensure the game is briefly tied at 15-all. A set of bonuses on mathematics gives Churchill a lead, and the next bonus is on a sculpture in Manchester. The first set of visual questions is on castles on stamps, after which Churchill leads 80-15.
The word she was looking for here was - well ...
- Q: "The Stiletto in the Ghetto", "the Nail in the Pale", and "the Bertie Pole" are among the nicknames given to a stainless steel monument in which city, completed in 2003 on the site of Nelson's Pillar, blown up in 1966?
- Beth McEvoy, Churchill: The erotic gherkin in London?
It's actually in Dublin. The second stanza is not a classic, with lots of dropped starters, a missignal, and barely any bonuses answered correctly. However, there is some fast buzzing:
- Q: To which court are ambassadors from abroad formally...
- Graham Ruston, SOAS: St James.
SOAS briefly ties the game at 75-all. Daniel Nazarian gets the definition of a "tog" (something that will maintain a thermal difference of 0.1 degrees K) without reference to Terry Wogan. The audio round is on classical music inspired by the sea, after which Churchill's lead is 100-90.
The SOAS team looks confused by questions on plant biology, but get Hamid Karzai's country from nothing more than his name. He's the president of Afghanistan, and SOAS has a ten-point lead. It doesn't last long, and by the second visual round - pictures of Poets Laureate - Churchill have their lead up to 145-120. Having an English specialist on the team really helps.
With three minutes to go, Churchill's lead is 50 points, but SOAS get the starters, and the bonuses, and reduce the deficit to ten, and then to level-pegging. Questions about people called "Sykes" give SOAS a lead, then they get their fourth starter in a row to extend the lead, enough to put the game beyond doubt. SOAS takes the win, 200-170.
Douglas Renwick was the top-scorer for SOAS on 72, Churchill were once again led by Daniel Narazian's 64. Churchill lost the game on their bonuses - the side made only 12/36, and picked up two missignals. SOAS had 16/36 and no missignals.
Next match: London Business School v Nottingham.
Heat 1 of 5
"Back by popular demand," says John Humphrys. No-one here is more than 11, except for the host. His opening announcement confirms this series was intended to be stripped across a week; instead, it's running for the next five Thursdays before the heat winners and the one best runner-up come back for the final. In keeping with BBC policy, this column will not give the competitor's full names, even if this information is known from elsewhere.
Joseph from Southampton is taking ABBA, the Swedish pop group. It's a perfectly respectable score, not quite perfect, but 13 correct answers (0 passes) is worth it.
Oliver from Manchester will be discussing big cats. We learn that lions sleep for about 20 hours a day, and readers will be capable of inserting their own jokes about students here. He scores 9 (1).
Emily from Shropshire plonks herself deeply into the black chair, a stark comparison with Oliver's edge-of-the-seat performance. Emily will talk about Henry VIII, and in spite of stumbling over his mother's name, she powers ahead, finishing on 12 (2). This column would like to thank its Primary 7 history teacher, who kept his promise to ask the name of Henry's older brother.
Sam from Rutland will tell us about the James Bond films, giving John Humphrys the excuse to reel out many classic quotes. Sam is as bright as his orange shirt, making his way to 17 (1).
In last year's series, the general knowledge round was key. Oliver is first up, goes full steam ahead for a minute, briefly slows down, but still finishes on 20 (2). Emily is next up, and only hits her stride in the final few seconds. Her final score is 19 (2).
Joseph gets off to a good start, but also hits a road-block during his round. He also recovers, and gets the obligatory CBBC question correct. His score of 24 (3) is worth remembering.
Finally, Sam brings his bright shirt back - it really is an eye-dazzler, especially against the all-black background. He picks his answers carefully, and he has the luxury of being able to do this. The final score is a remarkable 31 (4), a score that would not disgrace any contestant in the grown-up version.
It's worth noting that Sam won both the specialist and general rounds. The man in bright orange is the man to follow.
This Week And Next
Apparently, and we didn't see it ourselves, University Challenge host Jeremy "Thumper" Paxman turned up on Big Brother this week, reprising his famous "Congratulations" interview with George Galloway. It'll be interesting to see if his extra-curricular outing is more popular than his day job.
Another extra-curricular outing, Thumper's research into his family tree, was the top-rated programme on BBC2 in the week to 15 January, attracting 5.5 million viewers. That's just ahead of Celeb Big Brother's best rating, 5.4 million for Friday's show. Deal made 3.6 million, and moving the Saturday edition an hour later helped it pile on half a million more viewers. None of Deal's outings on More4 made the channel's top ten. However, Deal was beaten again by Link, which had 3.9 million on its best day. 2.6 million for University Challenge is exactly normal.
Millionaire Manor was the BBC's biggest game show, though it fell below 5 million, and beat Link by less than a million viewers. The Dumper beckons. The first edition of ITV's Dancing on Ice had 9.9 million watching, Soapstar Superstar's final had 8.2 million - the daily shows came in around 6.5 million - and Millionaire took a very respectable 6.9 million.
Next week: this column's greatest game shows ever.
To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.