Weaver's Week 2018-01-07

The Week of the Year | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

Lines are now open in the UKGameshows / Bother's Bar Poll of the Year 2017. What were your favourite new shows? What do you want consigned to history? And did you prefer The Chase to Pointless? Tell us by Thursday.

While you're weighing up all the shows, here are some more we've seen and – mostly – want to forget.


The Price is Right

The Price is Right

Thames for Channel 4, 30 December 2017

Are they trying to build a connecting wall out of The Price Is Right hosts? First there was Leslie Crowther, then Bob Warman for viewers to KYTV. Bruce Forsyth had his version in the 90s, and Joe Pasquale did his thing last decade. The latest host is Alan Carr.

The Price is Right Hello!

This latest take on The Price Is Right follows the fashions and trends in television. The set is in bright colours – pink, mainly – with some subtle colour changes as the show goes on. Above the audience, they've got the catchphrase "Come on down", not the show name.

Alan takes a different approach from the off. He leaves a huge gap in the call: "Mary Brown ... ... ... ... ... Come on Down!" By the time Alan completes his sentence, Mary has already stumbled her way to the end of the row, and is running down the stairs. Maybe that's the idea. Shout "Come on down!" as she descends into the prize pit.

The gameplay follows The Price Is Right traditions. The single-bid opener, to select one player from the four on Contestants' Row. During the hour, we see "Cliffhanger". An excellent choice – easy to follow, ramps up proper tension as the mountaineer keeps going and keeps going.

The Price is Right Going up, Mr. Carr?

They didn't use the familiar yodelling music, though. Indeed, they've employed Dan McGrath and Josh Phillips to write completely new music for the show. The show's not been a big primetime draw since the last century. The producers reckon that a fresh approach for all is more productive than bruised feelings amongst the handful of diehard fans.

This column didn't recall the new music at all, we couldn't hum it. We couldn't revisit the pleasure from watching The Price is Right by remembering the theme. But nor did it intrude on the programme.

We see the very familiar "higher-or-lower" game against the clock, albeit with the answer displayed on screen, so we cannot easily play along at home. We see the very familiar "Plinko" game, with the cashpot replaced by individual prizes.

The Price is Right You wouldn't catch Ben Shepherd putting up with this.

"Pay the Rent" was new to these shores, and sparked off much discussion. "It's impossible to win!" cried many people. Pish and tish.

The objective is this. Put six objects in a house, following certain rules. One item in the recycling bin. Two items on the ground floor, must add up to more than the item in the bin. Two items on the upper floor, must add up to more than the items on the ground floor. One item in the attic, must add up to more than the items on the upper floor. The items are all placed before any prices are revealed, and are placed starting at the bottom level.

The Price is Right Order these items to meet all the rules.

To win the jackpot, the most expensive item must be in the attic. A general heuristic is to put the third most expensive item in recycling, put the cheapest and second-most expensive on the upper floor, and the fourth- and fifth-most expensive on the ground floor. But be prepared to think and adapt.

A worked solution:

  • Attic – 32 AAA batteries for £10
  • Upper floor – 4 lightbulbs (£6.50) and cocoa powder (£2.09), total £8.59
  • Ground floor – 5 cotton tea towels (£5) and washing up liquid (79p), total £5.79
  • Recycling bin – box of chocolate biscuits for £4

Swap the cocoa and washing-up liquid if you wish. Or try our idea from earlier: put the tea towels in the bin, and combine the biscuits with the cocoa powder on the ground floor. There may be more than these three possible solutions.

You can stop after the upper floor, and win the second-tier prize; to do this, put the items in approximate order. Is a certain £2000 better than a fairly slim chance of £10,000? That's for each player to decide; on this show, the player may have taken the easy dosh.

The Price is Right Is each digit higher or lower?

A game called "Bonkers" was also new, asking the player to work out whether each digit in the actual price was higher or lower than the corresponding digit in the stated price. Didn't work for us, mainly because the colour scheme lacked contrast. They have a pepto-pink backdrop, so purple is a good accent colour, and black is a good accent colour. But don't use all three together, it's difficult to tell purple from black.

Five into one for the Spinny Wheel, perhaps the weakest part of the show. The wheel looked cheap, it jarred with the rest of the show. There was also a very strange shot: close-ups of the wheel, with some weird split-screen effects to make Alan and the contestant look closer to the wheel than they really were.

The Price is Right The wheel on screen...

The Price is Right ...and from afar. Note where Alan's standing.

The two players who hit 100 exactly were rewarded with £100. Felt a bit of a cheap prize, but we must remember that it's a bonus, they've already won a large prize (or had the chance to win one). A larger prize might encourage someone to spin on, and distort the game. The objective is to qualify for the showcase, not win more money.

Strategy for the first player in a five-player game? According to John Haigh, she should stick at the positive root of x9+9x8-1=0, which means spin at 75, stick at 80.

We'd likely have tweaked the showcase final, by having two people go through and make their bids. Write 'em down. Show me and tell me.

The Price is Right Welcome to "Come On Down".

And the showcase final itself, with ample product placement. How does the total of £23,091 add up? £1450 for the electronics, about £14,000 for the new car. That makes the week at a five-star resort in Dubai (for four people) worth about £7500. Must be economy flights and two rooms.

Some things have not changed. The props are still physical. Prices are revealed by turning over actual cards, or dropping flaps. None of this computer screen gimmickery, no chance of hitting the wrong button and spoiling the game. But the "range finder" for the showcase final is still computerised, and this jars somewhat.

The Price is Right To quote Barney Harwood, I want one of those!

The flying clock was particularly lovely. Clanging bells to announce a win was not. Overall, we'll class this as a faithful revival of a show we know and (for this column) can take or leave.

How does this fit into the grand scheme of things? It's quite clear that Channel 4 has abandoned its traditional approach, of being ever-so-slightly arch and postmodern and cutting edge and experimental. Instead, the channel's going for familiar programmes and fin-de-siécle revivals.

For all we know, the grand plan might be to get viewers and revenue with a few very popular shows, and use these to support the many hours of niche shows elsewhere. (Where are these niche shows? Er, must be around here somewhere.)

The Price Is Right fits right into the apparent strategy at Channel 4. We can just about see this working in very short bursts – we might order five episodes as midweek counter-programming against the men's soccer in June and July. Channel 4 could easily manage without it, and there was nothing in the show to scream, "Never darken our button again!" Nor did we get anything to say, "You'd be foolish not to make more."

The Price is Right Will this be the end for TPIR? We'll find out...

Guess the Star

Guess the Star

ITV Studios Entertainment for ITV, 30 December

We need to explain this format. We're going to see a performance, someone lip-syncing to a pop song. It won't be the original singer performing, but someone familiar to the ITV audience. This famous person will be dressed up to look like the original singer.

Guess the Star Who is pretending to be Bruno Mars?

On the sidelines are three teams of ITV celebrities. They have been given one task: identify the person who is dancing and not-singing. Fast responses mean points, and the team with the most points will win a small trophy.

The format ticks a lot of boxes. It's a bit Stars in Their Eyes, people are transformed into their favourite stars for one night only. It's a bit Lip Sync Battle, there's no singing, all the effort goes into the performance.

For viewers at home, it's a bit Mystery Guest, pitting our wits against the assembled stars in the studio. And if we don't know the ITV celebrity, we can still appreciate the choreography and make-up, because each performance is a little masterpiece.

We noticed that the folks in the studio weren't confined to our camera angles – for much of the time, the director had wide shots of the spectacle, not the close-ups to help us play along at home.

By only using stars of ITV, people who watch a lot of ITV are at an advantage. Again, there's nothing wrong with gentle cross-promotion for ITV, though at least one of the stars are unknown outside ITV.

Guess the Star That's right, it's Ninja Warrior UK host Chris Kamara!

If we're honest, we found this the lightest of light entertainment. There's a place for such frippery, and the quiet period after Christmas is a very good place for it. This was fine as a one-off, but would quickly stop being fun. One episode a year feels about right.

A Right Royal Quiz

A Right Royal Quiz

Shiver (part of ITV Studios) for ITV, 31 December

Creeping into the old year by eight hours, A Right Royal Quiz had clearly been sitting on an ITV shelf for ages. "Good evening!" said host Fern Britton at the start. Fern, mate, it's 3.30 in the afternoon. The sun is still up, it's daylight outside.

The format is simple: it's a pairs quiz (Hal Cruttenden and Angellica Bell beat Joe Pasquale and Jodie Kidd). Rounds included What Happened Next, Call My Bluff, Spot the Connection, How Much is That Tat Worth, Name The Year, and The Inevitable Quickfire Buzzer Round.

Interspersed through the quiz were contributions from the audience. Deferential anecdotes from a retired butler. A man who makes images of Queenie on pizza. The woman who collects all of the royal tat. A town crier. And, throughout, Jennie Bond sat in the corner to give us the benefit of her experience.

A Right Royal Quiz Any old tat? Any old tat?

A Right Royal Quiz tapped into the "patriotic" meme, it tried to associate the royals with the union flag and all things British. This column doesn't believe these ideas at all, and we're not going to debate them at length. This show treated the royals uncritically, and we see that as a political position. We look forward to ITV commissioning a light entertainment to that effect.

More saliently, we reckon the quiz was staid and unimaginative and deeply conservative. Had ITV filmed it in the spring, hoping for a royal wedding in the year? Have they got something more lively planned for the actual wedding, scheduled for May? We'll have to see.

Other News

Countdown finals week went to form. Top seed Tom Chafer-Cook won his quarter-final, and his semi, and the final. Second seed Bradley Horrocks fell in the final, with John Cowen and Noel McIlvenny taking their places in the final four.

The raw result is only half the story. Bradley's opening match, against James Kennedy, was a ding-dong battle. James had the early running, and Bradley had to recover from behind on the conundrum to avoid the upset. Noel beat Eoin Jackson by 111-109, a match enhanced by LOCALISES and MONRADITE, and played in a wonderful spirit.

Tom played a blinder in the semi, scoring 134 points out of a possible 135. And in the final, Tom had to scramble to solve some of the numbers games correctly, and his incorrect buzz on the conundrum meant Bradley had his destiny in his own hands.

Way back on 18 December, Bristol played Trinity Oxford on University Challenge. Bristol won the match, 205-100, and add to their first-round scalp of Trinity Cambridge. We'll have to see if they're any good against sides not called Trinity in the group phase.

The Christmas University Challenge mini-tournament took place, featuring some very prolix introductions, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, a strong UCL team, Eniola Aluko of the England football squad, and a man disqualified from The Krypton Factor. Keble Oxford won the series, defeating Durham in the first round by 220-35, and they beat Reading in the final by 240-0. The Keble team – Paul Johnson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Katy Brand, Anne Marie Imafidon – take their place amongst greats; the Reading team might be shoo-ins for Pointless.

University Challenge Pictured with a hero: Bruce Dickinson meets announcer Roger Tilling.

Only Connect bookended the Christmas week. On 22 December, Meeples and Parishoners kicked off the Second Chance First Round. Slash fiction, Blockbusters, and a rather fetching rendition of "The one and only" marked this match. The Meeples won by 23-15, helped by a decent performance on the wall.

Start your new year right with the Snake Charmers and Inquisitors. This went with the Inquisitors from the start, International Mr Men, and a 9-2 lead after Connections is substantial. Slightly trimmed in Sequences, the Inquisitors won 23-19. We were particularly pleased to hear post-grunge band InMe get some play on BBC2, though the connection was not "bands whose lead singers look like stars of teen dramas".

Mastermind also had two civilian episodes. Ben Holmes won on 22 December, he was perfect on Dr Who since 2005, and amassed a total of 29 points. Diane Hardman racked up 24 on Sir Francis Walshingham, and she misses out on a high-scoring loser play-in by one pass. Kevin Howell and Tony McConnell both scored 20.

The new year began with a very strong win. Tim Footman racked up 17 general knowledge points after taking The Beach Boys; his total is 29, an excellent mark. Magda Biran had decided never to pass, and it did well for her; a specialist round on William Lamb Lord Melbourne took her to 25 points, and sixth place on the high-scoring losers' board. Matt Leighton and Steve Rhodes both did well on their specialist subjects, and finished with 22 and 20 respectively.

We've had the annual burst of Celebrity Mastermind. Highlights included a considered performance from Game of Thrones star John Bradley, Lloyd Langford being awesome, and Tim Farron actually winning something, which becomes a personal best. Vogue Williams excelled on Kim Kardashian, both with the questions and by putting John Humphrys so far out of his comfort zone that he just blithered on. Lowlights included long strings of passes: perhaps the producers might encourage contenders to guess rather than pass, it's just for fun.

Unusual scenes on The Chase, where Mark Labbett was feeling a little below par during the show. He went off, have a small cupcake with a raspberry on top, and crushed the team in the final chase. ITV researchers will now conduct a series of trials to see what the most important part of this combination was. If you'd like to help them, and possibly eat some ITV cupcakes, apply to "It's The Raspberry On Top That Makes All The Difference" at the usual address.

"What is Gangster's Paradise Lost?" asked Nick Spicher on Jeopardy! this week. He would be deemed wrong, as the judges wanted "What is Gangsta's Paradise Lost?". The producers said "Well, 'gangster' and 'gangsta' have different headwords in the Oxford dictionary." This is wholly true, and wholly irrelevant. The key point is the pronunciation, and in Yankee speech, "gangster" ends with a vocalised "r" sound, and "gangsta" doesn't. In English as spoken on these islands, there is no such difference. We trust that, if Jeopardy! is ever shown over here, that Mr. Spicher will win the 3200 dollars.

Alex Trebek is taking some medical absence from Jep!. He's had surgery for blood clots on the brain, following a fall late last year. The Transworld Top Team host plans to be back “very, very soon“.

And finally, BARB ratings have come out. I'm a Celebrity had its final on 11 December, and couldn't quite reach the heights of its launch episode three weeks earlier. 10.35m saw Georgina Toffolo crowned Most Popular In the Camp, over two million down from the opener. Strictly Come Dancing closed the series on a high, the 17 December final reached an audience of 13 million.

The Crystal Maze Mid-Advent Special went out on 14 December, with 1.35m seeing the show. Celebrity Juice aired its mid-Advent show the same night, 1.2m saw it. The Taskmaster Championship of Champions attracted 700,000 to Dave on 13 December, and Tipping Point was the most popular show on pay-channel W that week, 150,000 fans of the lateral action.

In the week to Christmas Eve, the biggest show was Coronation Street (ITV, Mon, 7.85m). Top game was Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat, 5.25m). The final of Masterchef The Professionals pulled 3.95m (BBC2, Thu). Christmas University Challenge (Sun, 2.3m) proved more popular than regular University Challenge (Mon, 2.15m). Blind Date had a festive special (C5, Sat, 1.05m), and 750,000 saw Taskmaster Champion of Champions (Dave, Wed).

Three talent shows begin their long runs tonight: Dancing on Ice (ITV and TV3), Dancing With the Stars (RTE1), and Y Talwrn (Radio Cymru).

For the weekdays, Coach Trip Road to Tenerife (E4, from Mon) takes a long route. The Chef's Line (UK Living, from Mon) has amateurs up against a professional chef. The Big Fat Quiz of Everything (C4, Fri) tries to cover all bases.

Some horror in the new year, too. Prosiect Z (S4C, Tue) rubs salt into BBC3's wounds. Release the Hounds (ITV2, Thu) starts with Love Island players. And Brightest Family (ITV, Wed) is a quiz hosted by Anne Hegerty.

Photo credits: Thames, ITV Studios Entertainment, Shiver (part of ITV Studios), Roger Tilling.

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