Weaver's Week 2006-10-22

Weaver's Week Index

'Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.'


Tooning in

"You never know, this fuss might help me get on The Weakest Link."


Turner Entertainment Networks Europe / Talent Television for Cartoon Network, 5pm Friday

Amongst the questions we don't find ourselves asking too often is this: How can we make a show combining live action elements, cartoon characters, make it entertaining, and yet still make it a proper quiz? Such is the challenge set for Skatoony, an animated game show made by the people behind Test the Nation, and currently airing on that well-known quiz channel, Cartoon Network.

Now, we've not watched Cartoon Network in many years, probably not since Fuzzy Lumpkin moved from Townsville to another city and another part of the Turner broadcasting empire. It is, however, a relief to find that some things never change. Cartoon Network is still loud. It's still brash. It's still so far in yer face that yer can feel the breath on yer nose. (And smell the breath, too; anyone got any mints?)

This programme is going up in the Friday at five o'clock slot, so it would be a mistake to expect anything too demanding. As with the opposition programmes - BBC's The Slammer and ITV's Mrs Zero Show (the only programme named after its rating), the focus is on entertainment, fun, and being only as serious as is strictly necessary to comply with relevant health and safety legislation. As we're working in a cartoon world, this last element is somewhat more relaxed than in the world where we humans live. Where else would the researchers attach so many balloons that the entire building lifts off the ground and comes under attack from a flying pirate ship?

Like all the best shows, Skatoony works on many levels. Not only is it a quiz, but it's also an entertainment. In the shows we've seen, the emphasis is perhaps more on the entertainment than the quiz. This certainly works in the context of the show - after a brief period of complete confusion while we tried to work out who all these people were and which ones we could forget about, this column managed to settle back and enjoy the jokes and utter silliness.

However, there is a game involved, and being the UK's leading weekly game show column, we perhaps should briefly describe it. Three human children and three cartoon characters play at the start of the game, and they're seated in a Quiz Block. Think the lower two-thirds of the Celebrity Squares set, or the Blankety Blank panel in their own boxes. At the end of the first two rounds, the lowest scoring two contestants (always one human and one toon) leave the show; after the head-to-head final, the winning child gets to play for a decent prize.

Regular rounds include "Bang on or Bogus", in which players are given some statements and must reply if they are true ("Bang on") or false (er, "Bogus"). There's the "Same Sound Name Round", in which clues are given to one three similarly-named items (for instance, a dog, a frog, and a pig - er, hog). There's an occasional "eat something yucky before answering" round, and one entitled "Hog Flung Dung" should not require too many guesses.

The final challenge, faced only by the winner, is the usual answer ten questions in 90 seconds to win something nice. Except, there's a twist. The show's co-host, The Earl, chimes in after 45 seconds with a Half Way Offer. The contestant can give up some of their time, in exchange for some additional correct answers credited to their score. "Do we have a deal, or do we not have a deal?" asks host Chudd Chudders, a stereotypical sharp game-show host. That could almost be a good catchphrase for someone.

The show's voices - all of them - are supplied by Rupert Degas and Lewis McLeod, two talented voice performers. The children's performances are done by Talent TV, but most of the visual work falls to the Cartoon Network's animators.

In the final analysis, Skatooney is an entertainment with the quiz show in as an excuse. Treat it on those levels, don't expect anything groundbreaking, and you'll do fine.


Final Eliminator 3

Lesley Edge will discuss the Life and Times of Rosa Parks. She won with Mary Seacole on 29 June. It's not quite a perfect round, but 13 (1) is a stiff target.

David Stedman looks into the Life and Reign of Edward I, after winning with Caravaggio on 11 May. He's also looking to add Mastermind to a Brain of Britain title, in this case from 2003. Though he starts with an error, he finishes on 13 (0).

Esther Kallen has The Gormenghast Trilogy by Melvyn Peake; she won with the Little House on the Prairie on 4 September. It's an unusually small subject for this year, and her score of 18 (0) demonstrates a deep knowledge of the topic. It is, though, one point lower than her first-round score.

Simon Curtis will take the Life and Works of Jim Carrey; he won on 20 July with The Jam. This is, regrettably, a noteworthy performance, as Mr Curtis's score in this round is 1 (8). The host dwells on the matter, rather than getting on with it. Mr Curtis's final score is 9 (11).

Mrs Edge tells of the tactics of Alabama bus drivers, who would make their passengers pay, walk around the bus, and drive off. She gets a question about that well-known civil rights campaigner Herr Hitler, and finishes on 18 (3).

Mr Stedman mentions Edward I's many children, and scores more than one point per child, taking his score to 27 (0).

Miss Kallen needs ten to win, and pays tribute to the lyrical descriptions in Mr Peake's books. But she's young, and young people just don't quite have the breadth of knowledge to pull off the win. She comes incredibly close, scoring 26 (8).

Inevitably, this week's show brought Mastermind back into the national papers, full of sniggersome and rather inaccurate coverage at Mr Curtis's performance. For instance, a piece in the Independent suggested there were no fewer than twelve passes; does no one actually watch the programme any more? In interviews, Mr Curtis said that he was expecting more questions about the Life of Jim Carrey, rather than many questions about minor plot details of his Works.

This is actually a very good example of the second problem that affects Mastermind at the moment. We've often spoken of the interminable series - at 24 heats, the opening round is easily two months two long. But the questions in the specialist round seem to be cribbed from a cursory glance at the subject. It's as if the setters had gone down to their local video store, rented all of Jim Carrey's works for a week, fast-forwarded till they found a couple of mildly interesting plot points, then moved on to the next flick. A shorter series would require many fewer questions, and might actually encourage a higher standard amongst the questions that do get asked.

University Challenge

First Round, match 8: Durham v Churchill Cambridge

Durham, famously, enters as a single university rather than its constituent colleges because the degree awarding body is the university, not the college. If the good netizens of Wikipedia would care to take this to heart, we'll all be happier. Churchill Cambridge was established in 1960 as a science and arts college and is, of course, named after the city of Cambridge.

Durham gets the question about the World Conker Championships, held the previous weekend. Churchill gets the following question, suggesting that darts is a proper sport and not just an excuse for Challenge to fill acres of airtime. Durham knows very little about the neighbourhoods of New York, but a lot about the colours of the Google logo - evidently the company has Arrived. The first visual round is on works of art depicting people drinking, and Durham has a 55-15 lead.

Durham shows there's nothing they're ashamed of knowing, including Billy The Bass, a singing fish that was unaccountably popular in the early years of the present decade. It's 20 points on the lead, don't argue. The second stanza is just about dominated by Durham, though they are taking a long time to give incorrect answers to their bonuses. The audio round is songs from movie soundtracks, and inflicts Whitney Houston on an unsuspecting nation. Durham's lead is up to 105-25.

Greek letters in mathematics seem to be all the rage tonight - a contender on Mastermind was asked about Σ, and Durham gets a set on φ. Churchill gets its statutory starter in this set before Durham takes the second visual bonuses on constellations of the zodiac. Their lead is 155-65. We'll take Factor Of The Week:

Q: When arranged alphabetically, which element comes after iron and before lanthanum? (1)

Churchill briefly threatens a comeback to threaten the win, but it's a task too far. The side does chase after a place in the repechage, but Durham gets just one starter too many for that to happen. The final straw comes with a fingers-on-buzzers question for the mathematician from each side, and Durham's win is by the emphatic scoreline of 245-110.

The repechage standings are unchanged:

  • 195 Bristol
  • 160 Pembroke Cambridge
  • 150 Manchester
  • 140 Sussex

Five starters each for Dafyd Jones (78 individual points) and Tom Jinks (74) of Durham - Mr Jones' led to slightly more bonuses. The side had 20/42 bonuses with one missignal. For Churchill, captain Andrew Sanderson answered three starters (46) - the side had 11/18 bonuses with one missignal. Durham is appearing for the ninth year in a row, and only last year's team failed to make the second round.

Next match: Robinson Cambridge v Wadham Oxford

Countdown Update

No news from a reliable source regarding the next presenter. We do have news on the champions' trail. Gordon Dimmack was the winner when we last looked; he made two wins before losing to Andrew Blades. It looked as though Andrew was going to be the third octochamp of the series, but he fell in his final match - 7 wins, 650p at +82 to Par. The conqueror was Stu Horsey, who did manage the full eight games undefeated, 732p at +68. Juliet Worthington inherited the chair, with Christine Rodley winning the next day.

The current top eight:

  1. Richard Brittain 8 wins 820 pts
  2. Stu Horsey 8 wins 732 pts
  3. Tony Warren 8 wins 712 pts
  4. Joy Longworth 7 wins 699 pts
  5. Andrew Blades 7 wins 650 pts
  6. Phil Watson 6 wins 574 pts
  7. Sheri Evans 5 wins 551 pts
  8. Andrew Laycock 5 wins 506 pts

Assuming a grand final on 22 December, and no Saturday games, there are 38 more qualifying games to be played. All three octochamps are therefore assured of places in the last eight.

This Week And Next

Our Dodgy Questions Department picked up its collective ears when Thumper discussed The Elephant Man. Durham claimed he was treated at The London Hospital; Thumper insisted that this was a different institution from The Royal London Hospital. Consulting the hospital's own website we read, "The Royal London, granted a Royal title by HM The Queen on its 250th anniversary in 1990." Five more to Durham, not that it affected anything.

Channel 4 is in talks to sell its Ostrich Media subsidiary, which runs the Quiz Call channel, and takes time on Channel 5's channels. Using a fancy name for the call-and-lose concept, a spokey said, "The transactional TV market has become increasingly competitive and Channel 4 no longer believes that the opportunity exists for it to make significant profits."

We note, with regret, the death of Jackie Rae, the first host of The Golden Shot. We also note, with regret, the enforced withdrawal of Jimmy Tarbuck from the current series of Strictly Come Dancing, following concerns about his health.

BARB ratings for the week to 1 October. With BBC1 taking a week away from the Saturday night race, ITV takes the top two positions - 8.75m for X Factor, 7.35m for Antan Dec. Friday's final of Celebrity Masterchef takes the bronze medal, 5.75m beats One Against One Hundred by almost a million - 4.95m saw Dermot's superior quiz.

Dragons' Den (3.2m) beat Deal (3.05m), but Noel beats Thumper (2.75m), Robinson and Humphrys (both 2.55m). QI had 2.4m, Eggheads 2.05m, the one-off Battle of the Geeks 1.95m, and 1.7m for Mock the Week. Interior Rivalry took 1.1m for Channel 5, with Trust Me I'm A Holiday Rep taking 0.80m and the All-Star Talent Show 0.75m

A Sunday night X-Factor repeat was the biggest digital programme of the week, taking 950,000, and beating Saturday's Xtra Factor by 80,000. QI on BBC4 had 460,000, More 4's Deal 270,000, and CBBC's Best of Friends 190,000.

In the week to 8 October, Strictly Come Dancing returned, and returned in the number one position - 9.25m tuned in after the football. X Factor had 8.95m, and Antan Dec 7.35m. One Against One Hundred improved to 6.2m, Question of Sport had 4.85m, and Ladette to Lady 4.65m.

Deal or No Deal returns to Channel 4's top spot, with 3.45m tuning in for the Thursday transmission. With no Monday night quizzing, the 3m for Link was BBC2's strongest suit, ahead of a Dragons' Den catchup (2.85m), 2.4m for QI, Eggheads 2.25m, and Mock the Week 2.2m. No game show made the Channel 5 top 30.

The biggest digital programme was Sky Onc's The Match, pulling 1.45m, and beating the X Factor repeat - 1.08m - by a long chalk. Saturday's show took just 510,000. QI 480,000, Deal 260,000, Best of Friends 240,000, Raven 200,000. Showbiz Darts is regularly securing 100,000 audiences, making it a surprising hit for Challenge.

Highlights for the coming week include twenty-five (count 'em!) episodes of Raven all day across the CBBC channel, which strikes us as a bit too much. Take It or Leave It comes to Challenge (8pm weeknights), and probably to this column next week. Simon Amstell takes the helm of BBC2's Never Mind the Buzzcocks (10pm Thursday), and Channel 4 begins Unanimous (9pm Friday), which our good friend Mr Bothersbar calls "Some People Might Have a Fight - How Exciting!"

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