Weaver's Week 2003-07-12

Weaver's Week Index

12th July 2003

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

This week, Simon Cowell announced he would spend nine months of the year in North America. This year's POP IDLE 2 will be his last British production. His CUPID, in which a woman goes off to find a husband, is attracting very small ratings on CBS.

MASTERMIND (BBC2, 2000 Monday)

Inspired by his experiences in a German prisoner of war camp, Creator devised the four-minute interrogation MASTERMIND. The show debuted in 1972 with Magnus Magnusson at the helm, and ran each year until 1997. A radio revival with Peter Snow lasted from 1998 to 2000, and the Discovery Channel had a gimmicky version chaired by Clive Anderson in late 2001.

John Humphrys is the new host, and the rules are exactly the same. Two minutes on the specialised subject, two minutes general knowledge, highest score wins. This compares to 75 seconds on the Discovery version. Unlike that idea, there's no muzak running behind the contestants.

We know exactly what to expect from Mastermind, and we get it exactly. Plus some brief conversation about the specialist subject, which feels a little out of place. John Humphrys is not Magnus, and neither is he as genteel as Peter Snow, but he's better than none.

Gary James, taking British cars of the 60s and 70s, scores 11. Peter Finan, the music of The Smiths since 1982, scores 12. Matthew Bladen, the Roman Empire 27BC - 427AD, scores 13. Anne Heggarty, the life and work of Charlie Chaplin, scores 8.

After the General Knowledge session: Anne Heggarty advances to 22 with one pass. Gary James starts slowly, and eventually totals 24 with three passes. Peter Finan's grand total is 25 with two passes, including one after the buzzer. Matthew Bladen finishes on 24 with two passes.

Therefore, Peter Finan is the first contestant through to the quarter finals. The first Dead Ringers spoof aired 38 minutes after the show finished.


Gavin Fuller plays David Stainer.

Gavin Fuller won Mastermind in 1993, Winner Takes All in 1997, 100% Ultrachamp in 1999, and he's done very well on Brain of Britain and Fifteen To One. David Stainer appeared on University Challenge in 1999, then took Millionaire, Weakest Link, 100%, and Countdown. Eyes down, this is going to be a corker.

It's a nervy start for both players, notable for David Stainer standing on his spot with arms folded, as if he can't really be bothered with this preliminary, and should be in the second round already. Though receiving the first question, Gavin Fuller wins by three and a half seconds. James reckons this was Gavin Fuller's strong point.

Numbers is also very tight. David Stainer spots that Gavin Fuller is watching the clock rather than a question, and switches it to him. That tactic runs down Gavin Fuller's clock by ten seconds and more, and Gavin Fuller's advantage is just six and a half seconds. Surprisingly, James and Carol don't comment on this diversionary tactic.

Contemporary Knowledge is Gavin Fuller's declared weakness. David Stainer has an unfortunate run of difficult questions in the middle of the round, and Gavin Fuller wins by 36 and a half seconds. A crushing victory, and David Stainer will need to do well in the next round.

That's Words, and David Stainer takes his win, but only by 12 seconds. Carol and James reckon that's a good result for Gavin Fuller.

So, Gavin Fuller takes a 35 second advantage through to the final round, and winds up winning by 41 seconds, the closest match of the series so far. This column cannot help but think that had either contestant played either of last week's contestants, they would both have cruised to victory.

Three other points of note.

1) Slapped wrists to the Intelfax subtitlers; in the Words round, they put a number of captions over the questions so that they could not be seen.

2) A rocket to the question setters for asking the old chestnut "In 1901, Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio signal to which country?" The accepted answer: Canada. This is not correct. The signal was received at the top of Signal Hill, St John's, Newfoundland. In 1901, Newfoundland was a British dependency, running in a similar way to India then, or Bermuda now. She did not join Canada until 1949. "Newfoundland" would be a correct answer, "Britain" technically correct, but "Canada" is definitively wrong. It's like referring to Dublin in a list of current UK cities. This question didn't affect the outcome of the match, and it's the first quibblesome question in five weeks.

3) Doesn't the announcer usually plug Big Brother at the end of the show? Tonight, she just speaks of the SMS contest, then shuts up.

Next week: Graham Nash -v- Laura Richardson


There's a good reason why the continuity announcer didn't plug BB at the end of Grand Slam: it's not airing next. A suspicious package in the studio forced a complete site evacuation, and the eviction - in which Gos left the house - took place on Saturday night. There were no crowds present, but this made for a refreshing change from the usual hype and hullabaloo surrounding the show. Maybe next year's show could take in a few midweek evictions, to spice things up and further bamboozle the contestants. Or have the whole game finish on a Sunday, or something equally simple but radical.

In spite of the extra day's voting, only 576,965 ballots were cast, the lowest total of the series so far. Over one third of the votes came in Double Eviction week, and the 5.1 million total is a third down on the same stage in 2002.

Celebdaq dividend lists for week ending Jul 4: Tania £1.70, Cameron £1.53, Nush £1.18, Gos 78p, Ray 77p, Scott 66p, Steph 64p, Federico 0p. Please note that these figures are not comparable with previous figures, nor with next week's figures, owing to a change in the way dividends are calculated.

The reward challenge was one of luck: pick the battery operated toy animal that will be fastest to waddle / walk / hop down a 20 foot path. Ray's sheep won, Cameron's giraffe came last. Thanks to the security alert, this 30 minute exercise in flicking back over to ITV became a four minute insert into Sunday's BBLB. That's another good idea, put more reward tasks into Little Brother.

In the US, BB4 has launched, with five contestants appearing with their ex-partners in the house. Mmm, fascinating. Brandon Showalter, from California, set something of a BB record by being evicted from the house one day before the show began.

The cash challenge was so exciting, they must have had it from the 2002 playbook. Ray placed some bets on a roulette table, then spun the wheel. He bet £20 on red, £1 on black, and some bets on number combinations. Black 8 came up, and his total winnings were the grand total of Two Pounds. This went on some toilet roll and a few vegetables.

The theme of the week was an Irish pub, to which the contestants (except Cameron) were allowed access for much of the day. And there was a lot of beer on tap. As a result, the contestants got very, very drunk indeed. Much to the pleasure of the tabloids, there was some kissing and finger sucking. (That's with an S. Not an F.) Lisa accused the other contestants of acting as a clique to exclude her, and saying she'd never felt welcome. Observant lass.

Exactly one nomination sufficed to nominate Cameron, Steph, and Lisa. To the surprise of exactly no one, Lisa exited. This paragraph was written on Tuesday evening. One bookmaker threw in the towel and paid up on Lisa to go on Thursday, and go she duly did. We saw that coming.

Now, if you wanted to see a host of Big Brother contestants, the logical thing to do would be to watch Big Brother, right? Wrong. You need to be watching Big Brother Breakfast, Channel 4's attempt at morning entertainment. It doesn't actually entertain, but it is on in the morning, so half-marks all round. Friday's edition featured this year's BB veterans Justine, Sissy, Fed, Jon, Tania, and Gos. Anouska sent her apologies, as she's doing something down under. Also appearing were Alison and Kate from last year, and some gangly bloke who isn't a known evictee: could he be this Scott person who everyone's tipping to win but this column has yet to remember?

That's eight BB contestants on one large sofa, and only six left in the house itself. The message: maybe, just maybe, the Grate British Public has voted all the entertaining people onto the BBAM sofa, when they should still be in the house.

The other message: oh look, the BB producers have given in, and let us vote someone back in. Anouska (still in Australia, she can't come all the way back in 12 hours) and Tania declined to return, and by a landslide, we had The Return Of Jon, coming to a BB house near you, right now. He's not eligible for the £70,000 prize, but does that mean he can't win?


And speaking of old friends returning (see, this column takes literally seconds to throw together,) it's hello again to Indrani Hettiaratchi, the most successful player on Daytime PEOPLE VERSUS back in 2001. She won £13,000 on that show, and charmed us all with her grace, humility, and dazzling smile. She's also done very well on Mastermind and Brain of Britain. Our hero turned up on this week's Vault, in Broker's Row, and earned more than three of the four proper contestants in the opening round. Also there was a waitress, for whom a typical negotiation went like this:

[Question, something like: Water, Madonna, and Bulldog are all types of 
which flower]
Contestant: £200
Waitress: £500
C: £200
W: £500
C: £300
W: £300, deal. Deadly nightshade.

Usually, this column does not recommend inflicting senseless violence on a game show contestant. Usually, this column does not watch people on Broker's Doh. The finalist took home £7,500, the piano teacher who would have unlocked the vault in double quick time left with a very healthy £5,200. Were it not for the bonus awarded for ten correct answers in the opening round, she would have been the night's top earner. Apart from the host, that is.

The ukgameshows.com mailing list was very pleased to see host Mel Sykes only have to run through the home brokers twice in the first round, once at the start, and once after the commercial break. The group wasn't pleased to see the home player dither for 30 seconds over the first question, one answered on the show. The group was rather annoyed when Ms Sykes just stared at the camera during this hiatus, rather than politely berating the contestant for their lack of preparation and/or brains, as Ms McCall did last year. The group was livid when the home player then raced through the six questions, delivering the final answer right on the buzzer, to be ruled out by the producers' spokesperson, Ms Sykes. And the group was apoplectic when this question turned out to be "Who invented the light bulb," with the answer "Edison" rather than "Swann" sought by the producers. This correspondent reckoned the player was just in time, with the right answer (even though it's wrong) but suffered swiftly delivered karmic revenge for his earlier gaffe.


Last week, this column wrote "Judgement Day isn't quite as good as it might be, but neither is it as much of a disaster as it could be."

The other part of ITV's dream Saturday lineup, Judgement Day, aired for the last time last weekend. The remaining four episodes "will be shown at a later date," just as ITV promised for SHAFTED when it met its maker in autumn 2001. It deserves better.

A Demi Grauniad published its annual list of the most powerful people in the British Media. BBC supreme Greg Dyke was #1, ousting Rupert Murdoch. Antan Dec rated 35th, Jonathan Ross 64th, Ian Hislop 65th, Thumper 72, Richard Littlejohn (now a political commentator, apparently) 73rd. And A Blogger rates 94th most important, ahead of Michael Jackson. No appearance for Earth Mother Davina, nor for Jan de Mol.

Viewers in Ireland and the near continent will wish to know that all BBC channels are available unencryped via Astra 2D. Those watching ITV, C4, C5, and S4C via satellite without a subscription may well lose their signal within weeks.

Robin Gibb, formerly of the Bee Gees, looks set to join the cast of Fame Academy 2. He'll join Richard "Dogsby" Park and Carrie "Betcha" Grant, whose complete inadequacy for their roles has proven no bar to their returns. Former Factory records boss and Granada Reports presenter Tony "F***" Wilson is also tipped for a spot on the new series.

After his recent court conviction, Mr Tecwen Whittock has had his souvenir cheque for £1000 returned. Police seized the replica cheque, along with a letter from Mr Chris Tarrant thanking him for being "a good sport," during the investigations into Mr Whittock's coughing scam.

And still on the subject of sore losers, Jemini's World Domination Tour took in the Guildford Festival last weekend. The duo played three songs during the Wimbledon final, and endured a bored crowd holding up giant zero signs.

Antan Dec's World Domination Tour continues apace, with news that they're in talks to bring the Saturday Night Takeaway to American television. They're working with Fox television network, which already airs Pop Idle US, and is set to debut Banzai tomorrow. This column is not paying out on the Cancellation Conundrum (from the May 24 edition) until the show actually airs.

Treasure Hunt's in Christchurch at 1745 Saturday, but it clashes with Weakest Link Game Show Hosts at 1810. Great scheduling, everyone.

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