Weaver's Week 2010-10-10

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A definition for those who are new to economics. Money: (i) a unit or medium of exchange; (ii) a measure of value or wealth; (iii) a store of value or purchasing power; (iv) a standard or means for deferred payment. There will be a test later, Mr. Johnson.

Secret Dealers


Secret Dealers

RDF Television West for ITV, 27 September – 8 October

(This review based on the show of 1 October)

Take three antiques dealers, and let them loose in a house for an hour. Anything is up for grabs, and they'll leave sealed bids on anything they might want to buy. Obviously, the dealers are going to want to turn a profit, so they'll bid something less than the open market value. But if two or three of them bid on the same object, they might be driving the price up.

We'll see the dealers moving around the house, looking at the various objects d'age, and writing their bids on coloured slips of paper. Yes, some of them make bids in order to annoy the other dealers, but these are rarer than honest and genuine offers. Needless to say, they don't look at each other's notes. After an hour of television time (and eight minutes of screen time), the householder returns.

They'll see what it is they've been offered in total – in the show we saw, a few pence short of £12,000. But will the householder accept all the offers? Will they be tempted to sell their worldly goods for cool hard cash? Will they be swayed by competition amongst the bidders, and by information from the "independent valuer"? Or will that old favourite, "sentimental value" trump wods of wonga?

Secret Dealers A teapot in the shape of a chicken. People buy this?

Just when we're getting into the swing of the programme, up pops that ITV daytime standby, the Call And Lose Contest. This time, it's based on the highest bid for a particular item, selected to be somewhere between £1000 and £1500. To win this prize, answer the following question: "if you avoid making a choice, you are sitting on the..." Fence | Wall | Ledge.

That's a genuine question, by the way. Gosh, they never have anything like that on Mastermind, do they. Some of the items only attracted one bid, and these are dealt with swiftly. In the end, the sales are totted up, and a cheque for the final amount written. Then, after the central ad break, we do it all again with a different house.

Kate Bliss is the host, we have to say that we've not come across her before. She presents in a brisk, efficient style, able to explain what's going on without dominating proceedings.

Secret Dealers Kate Bliss. Looks like someone else, but we're not sure who.

In its own way, Secret Dealers asks some difficult and interesting questions. Given a potential £12,000 on the board, does the householder feel compelled to sell and realise as much of that as possible? Or will they make more calculated choices, not accepting bids they don't feel are worthwhile? Can one put a price on "sentimental value"? The householder is encouraged to bring friends and family round with them, will this influence their decisions?

The programme often refers to an "independent valuer", and this mysterious figure is held as the final arbiter of truth. We're not entirely sure why this should be: they are, after all, just one antiques expert in a field of four. True, the "independent valuer" is the only one without a stake in the outcome, but they are as fallible as the next person.

From the one episode we saw, there were two different strategies of participating. One was from a recently-widowed lady, who appeared to want to clear out some of the collection from her late husband. From her, we got the vibe that no reasonable offer would be refused. The other was a gentleman in his seventies, selling his own collection: here, the aim seemed to be to realise a few thousand pounds, and we had the feeling that he picked and chose which items he would sell to reach his target. Both of these are perfectly fine ways of playing the game, as are any other number of strategies.

Secret Dealers Lots of bids on the contents of this jewellery box.

All of this does rather beg the question: is Secret Dealers actually a game show? Is there a condition of victory or defeat? There isn't, but there so easily could be. It would be the work of a few moments to add a caption saying something like "Billy bought items for £2500, and sold them for £2100."

Even without this, we reckon the show does pass as a game show, though more under the narrow definition of "game" used by economists. In this show, the dealer is using money in one classical economic definition, as a unit of account. The householder is using money in another classical economic definition, as a store of wealth. Billy is prepared to pay £100 for the lampshade, he believes he can sell it on for a little more. The householder is prepared to accept £100 for it because she believes she can use that wealth for a better purpose, an experience she'll not forget rather than an object sitting in the corner of the room.

Secret Dealers These went for £60. Value on both sides.

Of course, none of this is ever mentioned on the programme, just as the various theories of utility don't get explained on other daytime television programmes. It would be pleasant for some daytime television show (or some television show full stop) to attempt to explain some of the deeper effects, but we'll take these covert references where we can find them.

And for those who don't understand a word of the last few paragraphs: the answer to the call-and-lose question was "fence".

University Challenge

Heat 14: Merton Oxford v St John's Cambridge

A certain irregularity about proceedings this week, because it appears that both sides have sent teams of 12, rather than the regulation four. Furthermore, they appear to be reviving the Pass the Baton round from the 1980s, in a variant that involves the movement of both the stick and some small white balls. Our regular host Mr. Thumper appears to have been replaced by Mr. Cliff Evans watching the birds, and the announcer by Mr. Dick and Mr. Dom, playing another game of Intercontinental Bogies.

Yes, University Challenge was taken off air for coverage of the Ryder Cup golf. Europe won, and they'll now meet Manchester in the second round. Merton Oxford and St John's Cambridge will try again next week.

Only Connect

Series 4, heat 5: Fantasy Writers v Bridge Players

All of that means there's no danger of missing Only Connect. "Come closer and relax", says Victoria. We'd like to, but we do seem to be leading the cheers for this show. The teams: Fantasy Writers are Geoff Ryman, Paul Cornell, and Liz Williams, and we find that Victoria has never seen an episode of Doctor Who. She wins! Chris Cooper, Nick Smith, and Tim Dickinson are the Bridge Players, and they describe it as the most intellectually challenging of card games. To a poker player. There'll be daggers in the green room!

Round one steps in and drags the squabbling parties apart, and Fantasy have a question that makes no sense to us, until we find one of Julius Caesar's assassins. That's a brutal question, and one point. Bridge begin with Miss Scarlet, which surely isn't going to be from Cluedo? Actually, yes it is, clue three is Women and Children, and that's their first two points. Fantasy go for it very early, Philip II of Spain and Simon Bolivar were rulers of other countries, but it's wrong, the other clues don't fit. Bad luck.

Bridge have the audio round, which begins with a guitar solo, then some pastoral tune, more guitar work, and they guess at "Australia". No, not the link, it's countries in general – Panama, Finlandia, and Brazil the other three. That's a bonus to Fantasy, and they promptly pick the picture clue: a pfennig, Psycho, a pterodactyl, and it's so much easier when written down. Two points, please, Bob. Was the Helmet of Perseus a winged object? Or did Siegfried's Cloak confer invisibility? It did, the Bridge Players get it for one point, and trail 4-3.

Fantasy Writers start round two, and ask who was Chowsingha, and why is he next to the Triceratops? It's a horny little question, and a Bull gives a couple of points there. Bridge have some TLAs: would EHF, SHF, UHF really be followed by VHF? Extremely, super, ultra, and very high frequencies. Two points there. April, June, September. It's obvious! We are literally hollering at our television, they're taking forever to work this one out, and we're giggling at January, on a mathematical progression. It's November, on the grounds of having exactly 30 days. That's a bonus for Bridge.

Only Connect (2) The Fantasy Writers had a good story.

They get the Rebus: 20 H in a T, 8 S in a H, oh, gottit. It's another Imperial echo, and we just have to weight for Bridge to remember there are 16 O in a P, and pick up 2P. Pictures for Fantasy, a baby with M, a christening with T, so it's Solomon Grundy. Married on W, and there's too much hesitation from the team, so it's across for a bonus – he was Taken Ill on T. Bridge have some more countries: 4th Indonesia, then United States, and a lot of discussion: area or population? 2nd is India, so it's China, and two more points. Bridge have pulled well away, 11-6.

The connecting walls are next, and Bridge Players kick us off. Housego, Noddy, Swiss cow, Talking head are all standout answers. Are there a set of arts? There are a set of arts. Things with bells? Five candidates, they've got to be precise and systematic in their jabbing, and they leave at least one possibility untouched. Finally it comes out, and the third group appears at the first time of asking. We're not entirely sure why, they are camera shots on the telly which emerges from somewhere. The missing link is taxi drivers – apparently Noel Edmonds and Stephen Fry all do that. As does Round Britain Quiz's Fred Housego, who got a set of questions about road crossings that didn't even mention the Pegasus Crossing. Seven points!

Fantasy begin with an awful lot of battles. Is that too easy? That's far too easy. 42nd should be a big clue, so should Top of the class. Might there be some chairs in there? Dogs? Pink Floyd songs? The team spend an awful lot of time talking and not a lot of time jabbing. Hallelujah! They spot 42nd Street, and Wall Street, but they're really making no progress. Ah! The streets in New York are out, there's ten seconds to play, and the wall freezes. Famous people called Max, things that you can go to, and the 19th century battles. Four points!

Bridge Players have the lead, 18-10, and epsilon has been left down under. Good. It's an invertebrate, like the first words in Mssng Vls, and that round ends 2-(-1) in favour of Bridge. Things that can be capped is 3-1 in their favour. Oh gawds, epsilon is back with Fiction Set in Australia. No-one knows much of that, Fantasy wins 1-0 with the only buzz. At the end of the round, Bridge Players have won comfortably, 23-11.

In linguam Latinam SMS dicare: Mensae v Blogarii.


The following review contains references to Swiss performers that some readers may find offensive.

Heat 8

It's another Football Friday, the latest score from Dublin is that Russia are a goal up, and that Keeva and Shabby are bottles of gin down. The Week recommends moderation in everything, including drinking.

Moderation in everything, that is, except quizzing. John Humphrys welcomes us to television's toughest quiz involving a black chair and going out at 8pm on Friday. That's with the possible exception of Postcode Challenge, where we don't know the seating arrangements.

Vicky Versaci begins this show with the Hannibal Lecter novels of Thomas Harris. Lecter, a psychiatrist and gourmet, finds a novel way of removing unruly patients from his practice: he kills and eats them. Lovely. The character appears in three novels, the most famous being "The Silence of the Lambs". After a few correct answers, the contender falls into something of a pass spiral, and pulls out of it to finish on 10 (6).

Paul Philpot is next up, he's taking the history of Alcatraz. An island in San Fransisco Bay, Alcatraz has been a military fortress, a prison, a home for Native Americans, and is now part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. The entire round is taken up with discussion of Alcatraz Prison, which we think is a bit of a swizz. Still, if that's what the contestant nominated, the failure is from the producers for not explaining the round. It's a great score, 17 (0).

Carole Symonds has been watching the "Carry On" films (1958-92). She wins! These were a series of British films, featuring a regular cast in a variety of situations. Bad puns and double-entendres were never far away. Most of the stars are involved as a question or an answer, but there are enough slips to make us sweep the floor for bananas. 8 (1).

Bran Pendreigh discusses The Beatles (1960-70), a group from Liverpool, who are probably the best-known popular music group in the entire history of rock and/or roll. This is a large subject, but it's very well documented – there must be a zillion books, many of very high scholarly quality. The contender is visibly annoyed to miss even one question, can't wait to shout out the answers, and ends up on 15 (0).

They'll be dancing on the streets of Athens tonight, as Georgia has actually won a game, beating Malta by a goal to nil, and that becomes a best for this year.

"Where is Strictly Come Dancing occasionally filmed?" is the first question asked of Carole Symonds. It's almost as if the programme begins in earnest this weekend. She's also asked about the other BBC show, Who Do You Think You Are? When asked after a London district, it's always good to guess, and we wouldn't mind seeing a Battersea butterfly. It's got a certain ring to it. The round never really picks up steam, ending on 15 (4).

Vicky Versaci is asked about the song "My heart will go on". Aaaaargh! Aren't there supposed to be warnings about this sort of thing? The contender also picks up the site of Truro cathedral, but misses the classical Mastermind questions about Whitsun and Lloyd George. He was another politician who never answered Mr. Humphrys' questions. 16 (13) is the final score. Ooh! Disaster for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Duro has scored on the stroke of half-time to put Albania level at 1-1.

If we're being honest, the game begins here, with Mr. Pendreigh shouting out the answers as soon as Mr. Humphrys has shut up. The Sistine Chapel, Carl Lewis, spaniels, the career of Daedalus, Ken Dodd, and Dudley Moore all provide correct answers, and when his score tips up to 30, we can be sure that we'll be seeing this contender again. Possibly in his remarkable starry shirt. The final score is 35 (2), which is quite a remarkable score by any standard. Hats off, sir!

Mastermind Brian Pendreigh was the star of tonight's show.

Mr. Philpot has a remarkable score to reach, but kicks off well with Boy George and the humble loaf. He can only afford a few incorrect answers if he wants to win tonight, needs perhaps a dozen answers to be assured of returning, but gets stuck on 21 points for an awfully long time. Even Vince Cable can't come to his rescue, as we endure one of the longest and most painful brain freezes it's ever been our misfortune to see. It finishes with a correct answer, Real Madrid, and on 24 (5).

Bad luck to Mr. Philpot, and congratulations to Mr. Pendreigh; his 35 is equivalent to about 32 in the old scoring system, and that's the sort of score a series winner might achieve.

This Week And Next

Is it October again? Gosh, it must be: the leaves are turning, conkers are falling, the East Michigan Eagles are losing at football, and there's a Fabricated Row Involving Simon Cowell Annoys.

This year's Fabricated Row Involving Simon Cowell Annoys is that, apparently, one of the contestants had A Bit of Previous, having been signed to the show's corporate sponsor, Sony BMG Records. This contestant appeared in a transparent marketing push for much of last year; the plot of "Green-Eyed World" was to follow the fictional character's path to inevitable stardom, and to push a particular brand of sickly-sweet drink. Needless to say, fact was bent to follow fiction, the performer had an album released overseas and played to gatherings of almost some people.

And so on, and so forth, and blah blah blah. This is tremendously old hat, of course. Last year's Fabricated Row was all about the scheduling of Simon Cowell Annoys opposite Strictly Come Dancing, and it's a slight shame that the BBC has declined to renew hostilities this year. The year before had a Fabricated Row so successful that we've completely forgotten what it was. The bottom line: this is a Fabricated Row. It's only done so that people know that Simon Cowell Annoys is still on, is still as creatively bereft as ever, and is still being done to promote Sony BMG in general and Simon Cowell in particular. We disapprove of this sort of thing.

But this year, there's a Buy One Get One Free on Fabricated Rows. They're literally flying off the shelves! The inclusion of Miss Green Eyed World meant the exclusion of Miss Better Singer. It's since emerged that Miss Better Singer is the daughter of a refugee from Zimbabwe, and the mother has been asked to leave the UK for breaching the onerous conditions imposed on refugees. Populist papers have been campaigning to keep a refugee in the UK, rather than blaming them for everything that's wrong with the country.

Come Dine with Me has been sold to even more countries. There will be local versions in Cyprus and Ireland, and a show is being made for consumption in Iran – this one will actually be produced in the UK, using Iranian expatriates.

We don't have reliable ratings data for ITV in the week to 26 September, and BBC1 failed to put a single game show in the channel's top 30 – QI fell below the 4.05m cut-off mark. It's therefore left to The Great British Bake Off to head the ratings, 2.75m saw the final, a sneeze ahead of University Challenge's 2.7m. Antiques Master finished with 1.95m, and Come Dine With Me was Channel 4's biggest hitter, 1.85m tuning in on Friday teatime.

Surprising scenes at ITV2, where Celebrity Juice is the biggest game show, 1.23m saw the Thursday broadcast, beating Xtra Factor (975,000). Come Dine With Me comes third, with 825,000 viewers on More4. Only Connect was seen by 450,000, QIXL had 415,000 on Dave, Ballroom With the B-List 185,000 on Watch, QI took 105,000 on BBC-HD, and Wedding TV's The Great Cake Bake attracted a whopping 5000 viewers.

Highlight of the week ahead? Probably the return of Mission 2110 (CBBC, 5.45 Thursday). But some will prefer new runs of America's Next Top Model (UK Living, 9pm Monday), and there's always Have I Got News for You (BBC1, 9pm Thursday; BBC2, 9pm Friday). Codi Canu has a new format (S4C, 8.25 Tuesday), and we think My Genius Idea (BBC2, 4pm Tuesday) is a junior version of Genius (BBC2, 10pm Monday). If you're still suffering from Big Brother withdrawal symptoms, there's coverage of Josie and John James' housewarming where they throw a duvet over it (C5, 10pm Monday), and Davina appears on Comedy Roast (C4, 9pm Friday). Next week's talent shows: Strictly (Saturday 6pm – 7.45, Sunday 7.30 – 8) and Cowell (Saturday 7.30 – 10pm, Sunday 8 – 9).

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