Weaver's Week 2011-08-14
Coming up, a show we don't understand, a programme we only half-watched, and news for Masterchef fans. But first, we must seek the privacy of the confessional.
Box TV for 4Music / Channel 4
Forgive us, Father Simon, Sister Diane, Sainted Guest Producer, for we have sinned. It all began back in the mid-1990s, when Never Mind the Buzzcocks first came to television. It should have appealed to us, being about popular music, and about people being funny. But, truth to tell, we always found the programme to be too far up itself. It praised a certain type of beard-stroking rock music, and made fun of anything that didn't fit its narrow definition of cool. Not even the genius of Simon Amstell could stop us from saying, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, it could be doing so much better.
Our opinion's been thrown into sharper relief by the appearance of Pop Up Pop Quiz, the pop quiz that pops up around the country. We've seen a couple of episodes, one recorded at T4's promotional event at Weston-super-Mare, another at an amusement park in Surrey.
Hosts Rickie Haywood-Williams and Melvin Odoom appear in what looks like a large yellow tent. No! It's a giant blow-up inflatable thingy. If someone were to prick it with a suitable pin, it would doubtless deflate with an audible pthththhtth sound. And quite possibly fly about the area and get itself caught on the large roller-coaster just behind it.
Rickie and Melvin haven't got the monopoly on large inflatable thingies, because Sam Hall and Alice Levine have got one each. Unlike the Kiss FM breakfast presenters, Alice and Sam are sharing their blow-up tents, with two stars from the world of entertainment. Already, Pop Up Pop Quiz is showing it recognises pop music as a frivolous activity: where other programmes might have a studio and video wall, this one has inflatables, and cameramen a) getting in shot and 2) sheltering under umbrellas.
Is there a game in this? Too right there is. Round one is a trip to Melvin's Pop Menagerie, from where we're introduced to a strange creature, such as Rappin' Rabbit or Hip-Hop Hedgehog. All of these cuddly creations are able to sing recent hit singles, speeded up. Contestants buzz in by the most remarkable high-tech method of indicating they know the answer we've yet seen: they shout out their name. Ever wondered what Justin Bieber sounds like at twice the speed? Far less painful: not only is it over in half the time, but we can't actually hear the vocal line. The neighbourhood mutts did have a bite at the question, found this to be a wuff experience, and hounded us to move on.
The next couple of rounds are introduced by Rickie and Melvin's Amazing Randomiser. Readers of a certain age may recall folding up squares of paper, and writing things on them, hoping that they could use the appliance of science to prove that Mark fancied Rachel, but Rachel fancied Matthew. It's all a bit silly, the result's pre-determined by the operator. And so it is with this randomiser, a large and shiny device that takes two people to operate, but it's still a piece of paper folded up and with colours on the outside.
Er, where were we. Rounds for the teams: there could be some dressing up, there could be a challenge to guess which toe-curlingly rubbish record reached number one in some obscure country, there could be some "identify which pop stars are meant to be in these pictures, but they're absolutely rubbish pictures." Whatever happens, the round is fun to watch, and it's not necessarily going to come back next week. Neither are the background shots: we'll occasionally cut from the action to a long shot of Weston beach (where the tide's in) or one showing all of the inflatables. Why? Just because they're out and about and can do this.
There are more silly things to do: Throw In the Towel puts clues to the identity of a pop star in a beach towel. Melvin and Rickie's Musical Theatre is a piece of semi-improvised drama, leading to a current hit single; we only half-expected one to ask of the other, "You'll have had your tea, then?" Rate Me has a pop star (or Peter Andrex) doing something silly, and giving himself a mark out of ten. The Glockenhat sees one team-member wear a bucket over their head with a glockenspiel on the outside, while the other wears some glasses with tennis balls attached to the outside. Neither can see what the captain plays on the instrument.
All of these are fundamentally silly things to do. They're absurd, and absurd is the one thing Never Mind the Buzzcocks doesn't do with its challenges. Oh, the language on the programme can be completely barking – it doesn't take much for Phill Jupitus to go off on a complete tangent, and Simon Amstell was capable of building a world of his own. But talking absurdity is easy: building it into the fabric of the show, that's more difficult, and Pop Up Pop Quiz can be commended for their achievement.
Rizzle (or is is Kicks?) and Brooke Vincent model the latest fashions. Are you watching, Style the Nation?
All shows need a final round, and where Buzzcocks has the yawn-inducing Complete the Lyric, Pop Up Pop Quiz has Describe the Video. It's terribly simple, one of the competitors is handed the team's miniature video screen and needs to say what they're seeing. From this description, their team-mates are supposed to be able to work out what song they're seeing, and what performer. It's more difficult than it sounds. Points have been awarded throughout, a winner is declared, and the show ends.
At heart, pop music can't be taken too seriously. It's a piece of froth, it's designed to date, to be disposable and entirely of the moment. Pop Up Pop Quiz has taken that lesson to heart, and it's perhaps the first show to be properly impudent since Amstell and Miquita Oliver left Popworld.
That is our sin. We like Pop Up Pop Quiz more than we ever liked Never Mind the Buzzcocks. May we be granted absolution?
Nickelodeon, 15 July - 19 August
We'll be absolutely honest, seven episodes in and we're still not sure what's going on here. Here's what we do know.
Main hosts for the show are Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers. Readers may recall this pair from Toonattik, the GMTV morning show for Saturday and Sunday. It showed a lot of Disney cartoons and was set in an attic, hence the name. After GMTV was bought out by ITV, the new owners decided to stop showing programmes for children, and ended the programme.
It would have been a sheer waste if they'd been consigned to history, and as the BBC already had their own double-act in Sam and Mark, they joined commercial rivals Nickelodeon. The dynamic duo had had a few years to polish up their act, and they now show as much polish as the previous Pope. They're witty, they've a great affinity with children, and it's clear that they love their work.
Jamie and Anna are joined on the programme by Denise Lewis. She's listed in the credits as "camp mentor". This doesn't mean she's helping the charges become more like Dale Winton. Instead, she works with them to become a little more athletic, a little more daring, a little more sporting.
The opening half-hour episode was an audition piece, in which we got to know the four competing pairs by means of their progress through the early rounds. Applications were accepted from children of about 12 years, and from children in pairs of great friends. In part, Camp Orange appears to be about the strength of friendship, testing it and demonstrating it.
After that, the competing teams were put on a plane to Australia, where they stay in log cabins. Each day in camp is split into two half-hour programmes, and has two challenges for the teams to complete. So far, we've had tests of memory, remembering where various bugs were in a line-up of six. Tests of skill, throwing water-bombs at targets. Tests of physical ability, retrieving pieces of a puzzle from across a course – perhaps by crossing over a pit filled with bean-bags, perhaps by moving up a slope covered in the trademark green Nickelodeon Gunge. Tests of mental acuity, solving that puzzle. And tests of fear, retrieving an item from a dark and spooky cabin.
Each of these activities will put the teams to the test. Their ability to support each other, to work out who would be best at which part of some activities. Or it'll test their resilience, how well they stand up to difficult situations. At some point, there's also a session with Denise Lewis, showing how the competitors are encouraged to develop.
Points are awarded for each of the competitions, and the highest score on each day wins some Nickelodeon-branded goodies. In part, Camp Orange is a cross-promotional activity for the Nickelodeon channel, giving away Sponge Rob backpacks and iCecily video games. This message is reinforced by the on-screen competition, giving away the same prizes as the show's winners. There's another prize, to join the overall winners on a Nickelodeon cruise in the Med. Both of these contests are done by web-entry, and promoted at the end of each part of the show – four promotions in a one-hour block.
At the end of each day, the winners invite one of the losers to eat some nasty meal, such as grasshopper tacos. Apparently, should the nominated team not take a mouthful, they won't be allowed to compete in the next day's challenges. Each person also casts a vote for one of the other teams, the one that's impressed them most – as performers, as good sports, for whatever reason. We think that the winners of this "Champ Orange" vote at the end of the series will be deemed the overall winners of the contest.
Our trouble is working out how the whole series fits together. It's originally an Australian format, they've had about five series before this year's. Some moments try to be as tense as Escape from Scorpion Island, but this show isn't such an extreme challenge, constantly pushing youngsters to their limit and beyond their limit. Some moments try to be as serious as Raven, but while Denise might possibly be a similar figurehead, Jamie and Anna always have a mischievous twinkle in their eyes. And there's a running joke about a goat that only Jamie can see, a motif this column remembers from Why Don't You – before the days of Russell T. Davies and L.I.N.D.A.
Let's not be unfair: Camp Orange is good viewing. The challenges are fun to watch, they're fun to do, and the pairs of friends are thoroughly enjoying themselves. We're just not sure what the programme's getting at. Does anyone have a nine-year-old to explain it to us?
Heat 6: Christ Church Oxford v Bath
Before we begin, a quick return to last week's questionable flag question. Inevitably, the Daily Hell got its hands on this story, and their report (via a proxy) added nothing of substance. Apart from a comment: "If you want to hear clapping and cheering instead of the questions then maybe the beeb can include it as an option." A spectacularly excellent idea, based on the way one can watch sport with a choice of commentary, or no commentary at all. Perhaps we might pilot it with the other half of the Monday Night Quiz Hour. Only Connect as a red-button app, with the contestants' microphones muted until they buzz, and for the final a CBBC commentary with Ed Petrie and Barney Harwood. Thanks for that suggestion to Mr. Charlie Farley of Midsomer.
Forgive us if we're a little distracted this week, as London is having one of its occasional bouts of civil unrest, and we're a little worried for our friends and acquaintances. L_K_Evans is in the spirit. "Having a break from riots for University Challenge."
Has Bath never produced any famous alumni? Really? Tell that to Don Foster, John Fashanu, and Doctor "Neil" Fox. The side does well on questions about statues of city heroes, Christ Church on spelling out homonyms. We'll get the slow round out of the way early, thank you. CCO also do well on coasts, even though none of them looks like Neil Oliver. Unless he's wearing a suit. "Your questions are on mathematics," says Thumper, and we think "He's just reading this out". CCO go for π and ℮ and that's always good news. How does anyone know the logo of the UK Weightlifting Association? CCO does, and they've taken an 80-20 lead.
The Fashion Police are out in force: davesilverman: "Two of the Oxford contestants on University Challenge are wearing business suits." Tubridytweets: "Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young take on New Labour." wombat37: "University Challenge has a Hat Man!" True! But will he win the hotly-contested Hat of the Year Award, awarded yearly on a year-by-hat basis. Defending champion Shabby_VH has greater things on her mind, like people who leave their homes by choice: "Cameron, you like being on holiday so much, you can stay there. We clearly have no use for you, you massive epic waste of space"
We're only ten minutes in, and everyone from CCO has picked up a starter, and some questions on accents and other diacritics in central European languages. Drabbs4Owls is thinking about the riots. "It'll calm down now when they realise University Challenge is on." C'mon, these rioters wouldn't be seen dead watching University Challenge, it's too far beneath them. They're waiting for Only Connect in 7 days and 15 minutes, proving they're more intelligent than an automated supermarket checkout.
"Don't panic," says Thumper in Bath's direction. Andrewellson says, "If it is not already, University Challenge should be classified under comedy in TV listings" The Brandenberg Concerto is the answer to the audio question, we always think of it as a very Classic FM tune, which reminds us to tip our hat in memory of Michael Bukht. Adyric has another memorial: "Question about Lucien Freud on University Challenge, described as greatest living artist. *correct at time of recording." CCO's lead is 150-25.
Cflint46: "If there is anything more middle class than reading tweets about riots on iPad whilst watching University Challenge, pray tell me now!" Reading microblogs about riots on your Pearpad while watching UC and wondering what all this will do to house prices. Bath get a starter, CCO three bonuses on places differing by one letter, like Perm and Peru. Dremmalindley has the Diversity Audit: "no women at all on University Challenge". And no eleven-piece dance troupes, either.
People who have been depicted on stamps. It's a subject too broad for a question on Only Connect, but just right for the second visual round on University Challenge. Katofbooks has been doing homework: "Lidell on University Challenge was also on an episode of Pointless". 190-55 is the score, and Christ Church are only building it further. Kirstymerry speaks for a lot of microbloggers: "Watching university challenge on riot night. Sirens making it hard to concentrate."
The game itself is a washout: when Thumper said "don't panic" in large, friendly letters, he may as well have said "give up, give up, give up." Ishbroken is cautiously optimistic for the future: "Bath, the cast of Time Team in 20 years." CCO's lead briefly reaches 200 points, but Bath stages a late revival and might just pull off a spot on the repechage board. The gong goes during a question about Paris, and Christ Church Oxford has won, 270-105. 40/65 the accuracy rate for CCO, 16/44 for Bath, and Mrsoblivious: "Yes! I answered 7 questions on University Challenge. A record."
Next match: Plymouth v Durham
This Week And Next
Ryan Tubridy appeared in the previous report by arrangement with RTÉ. The Irish state broadcaster announced its schedule for the coming winter. Dylan McGrath and Nick Munier are the judges on Masterchef Ireland, and the big talent show is The Voice, which we'll be able to see on BBC1. Put 'em Under Pressure is the new sports quiz, hosted by Gráinne Seoige.
BARB ratings for the last week of July, where Dale Winton survives a strong challenge from Pete Burns. In It to Win It is the most popular game show, 4.55m tuning in, compared to 4.4m for the return of Dragons' Den. The latter had 380,000 on BBC-HD. Penn & Teller: Fool Us ended its series with 3.2m viewers, and Univerity Challenge (2.55m) beat Show Me the Funny (2.4m) – but at least the latter's in the ITV top thirty. 8 Out of 10 Cats topped Channel 4's gamey listings with 1.8m viewers. Come Dine With Me returns to the top of the digital pops, 770,000 on Sunday evening sees it comfortably ahead of Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model (450,000), Dragons' Den on BBC-HD (380,000), and Dave's Mock the Week (345,000). Camp Orange had 65,000 viewers on Nickelodeon.
After last week's famine, something of a feast for all tastes. The toughest quizzes around, Round Britain Quiz (R4, 1.30) and Only Connect (BBC4, 8.30), both return on Monday, and The Great British Bake Off on Tuesday (BBC2, 8pm). Saturday has the start of Epic Win (BBC1, 5.30), the return of Secret Fortune (BBC1, 8.05), Celebrity Family Fortunes (ITV, 7pm), The X Factor (ITV, 8pm), and a Who Wants to be a Millionaire Soap Stars special (ITV, 9.15). On The Satellite Channel some Safebreakers (8pm Monday), and over on Channel 5, there are revivals for Big Brother (Thursday, 9pm) and The Bachelor (Friday, 10pm).
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