Weaver's Week 2009-08-23
We'll begin by presenting the brainteaser. "The voice of fast leg theory, a train in the sky, a follower in Hannibal's footsteps, and Juan Carlos. What links these to a focus and a directrix?" The answer comes later in the column; right now, we have to leave the planet.
Season 3, Episode 5
This episode was first broadcast on 1 March 1984.
|In the two years since the second series was made, computers had invaded the home. The Sinclar Spectrum, the Commodore 64, the BBC Model B had all brought their microchip goodness to families everywhere. If the audience didn't own one themselves, they certainly knew someone who did.
Not surprisingly, the opening sequence features games: Argeroids (Asteroids), Space Invaders, and Skramble in the opening title sequence. The lovely Ganord welcomes us to the show from the Arg-o-vision studio, and then changes into her only very slightly less lovely human form. So as not to scare the visitors, you see. Gandor is sitting at the flight control console, but he scarpers before their craft touches down. The adventurers are coming in too quickly and crash, so they will have to run through a Pacman maze, cross the Frogger road, and pass along the bottom of a computer game we could probably have recognised at the time but don't know now.
|Gandor pulls on his gloves and welcomes the team to Arg. The set is dressed using what appear to be pieces of car exhaust systems, thin metal tubes snaking up the wall in irregular patterns. This is probably because the set was dressed using pieces of car exhaust systems, purchased for a song and a green cheese roll from a scrap merchant near Bristol.
Moving to the declaration area, the adventurers in this episode are declared as Janet Fielding (Tegan off of Dr Who); Nigel Crockett (antique dealer); and Neil Adams (judo champion). Ganord shoots in to meet them, and she and Angord (who remains in her dragon form throughout) fit the visitors with their anti-gravity belts. It'll stop them from flying off in all directions during the inevitable gravity quake. Gandor says that the team's ship is being repaired: it's across the sitting room and through the lying room. Ganord reminds the team to address HH The Rangdo appropriately. She also gives the team a 12-drogna piece (green triangle) each, with the admonition to "use it wisely".
|The team are tethered by red ropes attached to their anti-gravity belts. When Neil inserts the piece, the rope extends from the wall in coloured segments, and he is able to walk further out. He and Janet move further out, and there are additional drogna scattered across the floor. It seems that it's only the colour of the currency that counts, not the denomination as we saw in the last series.
As the team are all moving out, His Highness the Rangdo of Arg enters on his pedestal. Inevitably, the team fail to give him an appropriate greeting, and Gandor has to come in and show them how. Gronda properly, chaps; when on Arg, do as the Argonds do. He suggests that the team get His Highness some presents: "he loves weedkiller, but not fertiliser."
|We cut back to the Arg-o-vision studio, where – almost inevitably – there's a game of snooker in progress. Back in the early 80s, no day on BBC2 would be complete without at least one shot of men hitting coloured balls with those little stick things, and even Arg wasn't immune to the game's charms. At the table is Ron Gad, the man who doesn't play snooker but rekoons, says elloh not hello, and generally talks sdrawkcab. Backwards. He's playing the part of Bill Homewood, and the backwards talking is somewhat better than Ganord's cue skill.
Back at the game, Neil's spotted a key in a bottle on a pedestal. The key is attached to an egg, the egg is in the bottle, and the bottle is stuck down. Neil adds water to the bottle, but the egg refuses to float. "Add salt!" Why would adding salt help the team? (We had to go and look this one up ourselves.) It makes the water less dense, allowing the egg to float up.
|The egg floats up to the top of the bottle, from where they can get it and the string out, but the key has fallen off! Was it ever tied on, we wonder? The adorable little Dogran runs into the room from the lying room, and Ron Gad comes in with his policeman's cry "Olleh olleh olleh!" before inviting Dogran to go back to his hole. With cries of "Syawyna", Ron greets the visitors in his effusive manner, and is asked, "Do you speak English" by Nigel. "Nodrap? Koogedelbbog!" replies Ron, before delivering a parting shot and leaving after Dogran. Many other teams tried to engage Ron in some sort of stilted conversation, but this group seems to be adopting the talk loudly and slowly approach.
The adventurers have spotted there's a magnet on the can-opener, and they can tie that to the piece of string and get the key that way. If they can see it through the cloudy water. On the suspicion that the water is hampering the magnetic properties, they siphon off the water. Janet suggests hurling the water at the cameramen who are smirking: weren't they advised not to break the fourth wall?
|Neil eventually retrieves the key, and even though Janet is worried that it might not fit, it fits, and there's a round of applause. Nigel and the others keep their belt, and Janet brings the money. Dogran welcomes the team to the Lying Room, so called because there's a waterbed in the corner. There's also a computer in the corner, and it allows the team to communicate with Dogran. Being an obnoxious sort of Dogran, he insists that the team talk proper to him, through the computer.
Down the Dogran hole is a rather clever logic maze, in which the team would be asked to (for instance) get a siphon and fill it with water to douse the fire in a dragon that's blocking the team from getting the password. This time, they see a sign saying "Way Out". "Is this the password?" ask the team. "Don't know," replies Dogran. "Is this a dirty trick?" they enquire. "A dirty trick? A dirty trick?! Dogran playing a dirty trick??!!!" exclaims Dogran, clearly offended. "Don't know."
|Janet tries "Way out" at the password barrier. It doesn't work, and she ends up in the Black Hole. It's a room, and it's entirely black. Nigel can see what she's doing on some infra-red cameras, and relay that to Neil who is on the telephone in the sitting room, and between them they can direct her out. Back at the computer, it's showing todays's password is Aargvark, and Ganord politely but firmly ushers the team along to the next event.
But The Drogna Game will have to wait for next week, there's someone waiting to combine the good looks of The Rangdo with the withering powers of Ganord. Or was it the other way round?
Series 2, Episode 6: Rugby Boys v Chessmen
|"If you think the explanations sound complicated, just wait until you see the questions," promises our host. And it's not even a general knowledge question! The Chessmen said their error last time was not having the courage of their convictions. The Rugby Boys don't underestimate their opposition: it's the runner-up from People's Quiz versus a finalist from University Challenge.
Rugby Boys kick off with types of show-jumping fences; they claim two points. Chessmen have literary characters named after anagrams, and Victoria confesses that she thought the character in The Matrix was called Neil, an anagram of, er, Line. Rugby spot the fact that there's something unusual in their second question being written in capitals and an unusual font; Chessmen get that every letter has horizontal symmetry.
Connection four is all things associated with That Well-Known Place in North Wales with a Ludicrously and Blatantly Made-Up Long Name. By one of those amazing coincidences, this week's edition of Round Britain Quiz referred to "a railway station on Anglesea" in a round on places with ludicrously (and, in some instances, blatantly made-up) long names. RBQ had this one, one in Connecticut, and this mountain in New Zealand.
|The picture round evades both sides; after naming That Well-Known Place in North Wales (etc), Stephen Pearson could have had five points if he'd guessed on pop music based on classical music. Two points, and the Chessmen lead by 6-2. They could have had five on each of the last two questions if only they'd had sufficient (ie reckless) courage.
What comes fourth? Rugby spot it's children's laureates, and zig for Jacqueline Wilson (she's third) when it's Michael Rosen. He's since been succeeded by Anthony Browne. The simple clue "Morocco" sends Chessmen thinking about North Africa, but it's followed by "Utopia"; the correct answer is "Bali", because it's numbers three to six in the "Road to..." films. A quality question-setter like William G. Stewart would have berated both sides by now. Rugby boys get the picture quiz, it's objects with increasing numbers of hearts, and a simple card suffices.
Chessmen get that it's nautical speeds quickly, and pick up a couple of points with Full (speed ahead). Rugby get the oldest people in Genesis, and correctly guess that Methuselah's 969 years is worth three points. The Chessmen's final clue is QR, QN, QB ... it's not QS, it's Q, it's Queen, it's files in chess, and Mark Labbett rubs it in a bit, much to the opposition's embarrassment. It's levelled the scores, 8-8.
|Bring on the walls! Ooh, is that a pretty new design on the tiles? Chessmen go first, they discuss moths and then spend some time on last somethings. Foreign Secretaries come out at the first attempt. More time on the "last", which is feeling like a red herring; then on moths. They start on flyers, but time is up. One point for the group they got, one point for the link. The remaining links were the aviators they briefly discussed; the moths they never got going; and the last ____ that always had "post" in it. As the authors at TV Cream would put it... Four points!
For the Rugby Boys, islands in New York go in absolutely no time at all. Singleton is in bridge, there's thoughts about horses; then they spot there's a set of Blue Peter presenters. They're beginning to worry about time, but singleton and compliment helps them to solve the grid with about 15 seconds to spare. The third group they got were terms in set theory, as used on Venn diagrams. The final group is, indeed, pink things. It may or may not have been an accident, but that's a perfect round. Ten points!
So, Rugby have an 18-12 overture for the finale. Parts of a Book begin the Mssng Vwls rnd, and that ends in a 2-2 draw. Quotes attributed to British Prime Ministers comes next, that's somewhat more tricky and ends 1-1. Prime Numbers in French gives 2-(-1) to the Rugby players. Exotic Fruit includes the somewhat unorthodox clues K and BBB, 3-1 to Chessmen. And that's time! Rugby Boys have won by 25-17.
They'll be back on Bank Holiday Monday to dispute the title; the Chessmen return in seven days in the third place play-off. It's not the winning, it's the having something to boast about. Apparently.
Next match (third place play-off): Mathematicians v Chessmen
This Week And Next
A slight return to Eurovision Song Contest news, where we hear a rather disturbing sound from Baku. No, it's not a concert starring Jemini, but a report about what happens to voters. According to press reports, someone in Azerbaijan who voted for the Armenian song has been interrogated by the national security police. The security service is quoted as saying, "You have no sense of ethnic pride. How come you voted for Armenia?" There is a long-standing disagreement between the two countries, which included a spat about the statue in the postcard, and the Azeris refusing to display the number to vote for Armenia. We do have to wonder whether the government of Azerbaijan has quite got the hang of the world's biggest game show. It's only a game.
We don't normally comment on the comings and goings in the world of PR. We will make an exception for Sara Lee, who has been appointed head of the television division at Hackford Jones, where she'll look after such shows as Hole in the Wall, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and All-Star Family Fortunes. This column still remembers Miss Lee from her almost-successful appearance on season 1 of The Mole.
In the brainteaser, we asked: "The voice of fast leg theory, a train in the sky, a follower in Hannibal's footsteps, and Juan Carlos. What links these to a focus and a directrix?"
The answer is all to do with cricket. Bill Voce was one of the bowlers on the infamous Bodyline tour of 1932-3 – this style of direct bowling was referred to as Fast-Leg-Theory, and "voce" is Latin for "voice". Jim Laker took nineteen wickets in a Test in 1956; twenty years later, his namesake Freddie started Laker Airways and its Skytrain linking London to New York for about 10p return. Ian Botham single-handedly won a match at Headingly, and in 1988 walked across the Alps with elephants, just as the Roman commander Hannibal had (reportedly) done. Juan Carlos is the King of Spain, a soubriquet applied to Ashley Giles in 2000 when a set of mugs were printed with that logo rather than the intended "King of Spin". A directrix and focus describes an ellipse, commonly referred to as an oval. Voce, Laker, Botham, and Giles are all bowlers who are best remembered for exploits in the Ashes Tests against Australia, the last of which is (at the time of posting) still taking place at The Oval.
Ratings for the week to 9 August are in, with Total Wipeout (4.8m) taking gold ahead of Millionaire (4.1m at the end of the series) and Guesstimation (3.6m). Dragons' Den had 3.35m on BBC2, plus 125,000 on BBC-HD, and 1.75m for the Sunday repeat. University Challenge (2.75m) beat Big Brother (2.65m). There were year's bests for Old HIGNFY (1.85m) and QI repeats (1.8m). On digital channels, Come Dine With Me (675,000) beat Britain's Got Talent Us (615,000), with QI (475,000) just sneaking ahead of Living's Four Weddings (445,000, a year's best). One Versus One Hundred has proven a hit for Challenge, 110,000 tuning in on Wednesday evening.
Countdown, Deal or No Deal, and Wogan's Perfect Recall return from their summer breaks (C4, from 3.25 Monday), and they're joined by Pointless with Alistair Armstrong (BBC2, 4.30). BBC1 invites us to Wait For It..! (Wednesday 4.05), and the first in a new series of Mastermind graces our screens (BBC2, 8pm Friday). Fans of people falling into water will be pleased to learn there's a Total Wipeout Championship of Champions (BBC1, 6.30 Saturday). The big one? Shooting Stars is back for a new series (Wednesday 10pm BBC2).
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