Weaver's Week 2018-06-03

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Reaching up the KYTV this week, with reviews of two action-packed Sunday night shows. Later: Freddie Flintoff is involved in Carnage, but first...




Znak & Co and Motion Content Group for The Satellite Channel, 1 April – 20 May

"Revolution" has many meanings. It can be a violent overthrow, replacing a worn-out aristocratic regime. With a different pronunciation, "re-evolution" can be ongoing progress towards an inevitable goal. "Revolution" can be the turning of a wheel. "Revvolution" was an incredibly short-lived youth magazine from June 1991, made by someone old enough to know better.

All of these meanings spring to mind while watching KYTV's show. According to the press blurb, Revolution was a competition between BMX bikers, skateboarders, and inline skaters. A group of excellent participants in each discipline had gathered in the arena, where they would take challenges against each other. A winner in each section advanced to the series final, the other competitors would stay on and try again next week, with a new competitor to replace the retiring champion.

So far, so The National Lottery The People's Quiz 2007. Lots of people doing the same sort of thing every week, the winner gets to escape, and someone takes their place. And like The People's Quiz, we've got a lot of hosts.

Revolution Steve-O (left) and Maya Jama.

The main presenters are Maya Jama and Jordan Banjo. Between them, they'll interview the competitors, introduce the events, and keep the programme on the rails. Stephen "Steve-O" Glover is a third host, he's very much the comic relief, the show's resident Snarf.

Revolution They're commentators! They're in a box!

And there are more voices. Event commentary comes from a literal commentary box, CK Flash and Tim Warwood are suspended in a big metal box high above the arena. Zora Suleman has pre-recorded some announcements, used as "Voice of Revolution". And with eighteen competitors on the show, there could be room for mass confusion. It's to everyone's credit that the programme flows simply, and we're never confused.

The events

As we mentioned, the same events take place each week. Round one is "The Cull". It's a very simple test, an obstacle course down which each discipline races. Over a leap, some bumpy stretches, various curves and mountains, and a sprint to the finish. First across the line progress. It's fast and it's brutal, and some will find their programme ending after half a minute. Four survive, two fall, six ran.

Revolution The obstacle course in action.

After that test of speed, round two is wholly technical. "The Reactor" is a series of tricks and manoeuvres, and they change from week to week. In a typical week, there's a see-saw, a slalom, some high-low bars, jumping over some cotton reels rolling towards you, and a spinning roundabout. Fail any element and that's your challenge over. Furthest down the course wins, and in the event of a tie, they use time to complete the sections. Three progress, one fall, four ran.

These are sprint events, not marathons. It makes for choppy television.

There were no profiles of the competitors before The Cull. That would have taken forever, perhaps longer than we were going to see that player. Instead, the profiles pop up in this round, before and during their technical challenge. It's the right place to learn more about the players. But it means this round takes absolutely ages, the frenetic energy we saw earlier is allowed to fizzle down to a gentle simmer.

Revolution Hit!

What's next? "The Vortex". One person from each discipline is assigned to a team. They'll all roll around a bowl in the floor, with six numbered targets. From time to time, one of the targets turns green, and the first person to roll their wheels over that target picks up a point. Everyone goes twice, in runs of thirty seconds, and the lowest-scoring team leaves the contest.

This is by far the most physical challenge, there are often clashes and it's legal to body-check your opponent. But it's short, like all of the events. No challenge lasts much more than 30 seconds, these are sprint events, not marathons. That's true to the sport, and great for shareable video, but it makes for choppy television. Two remain, one's gone, three ran.

Revolution Get over the bar.

"The Rampage" follows next. It's the high jump; the bar rises and falls, until one competitor can clear it and the other cannot. How did this get it's name? Everyone starts by rolling down a large ramp. The winner in each discipline has won the week, and will return for the series final. Like an earlier round, this could be dull, but the producers sensibly omit most heights where both players succeed. Most, but not all, and we cannot predict any result. One survives, one falls, two ran.

But there's still one exhibition race to run. "The Reckoning" pits the winning skateboarder against the top rollerblader and the high-flying BMXer. This is just for bragging rights, there's no prize or advantage in the series final. That's except for the series final, where this final reckoning determines the one true champion.

Revolution Ooh, that's a bad hit.

The opinions

The show is recorded at Cardington Studios, a massive space that looks like an aircraft hangar, and appears to have the complete lack-of-heating of an aircraft hangar. Long-term viewers will recognise it from Airmageddon, the CBBC game of drones from 2016. "It's a work in progress, it's not There just yet," we concluded of that show. We can't say that about Revolution, it's arrived There in the first series. This is a fully-formed programme, there are slight tweaks we might make but the basic format is there.

A really good show, on the wrong channel, and too late in the year.

And yet Revolution hasn't hit the mark. Viewing figures started out decently (500,000 for the opening episode) and fell away (less than 35,000 for the final). What's gone wrong? The start of summer hasn't helped, it was freezing over Easter weekend and baking for the final. The show looks like it's a winter programme, everyone in the hangar is in hats and gloves. Perhaps it would have looked better in February and March.

Revolution Ready to race.

Does the show live up to its name? There are "revolutions" as the wheels turn. It's a "re-evolution", taking something familiar and putting a new spin on it. Races between cyclists, between skateboarders, between bladers, anyone can film those. Putting these different disciplines together, and using them in the same show, is a novelty.

The hosts do convince us that they could be part of the scene. While there aren't many women involved in the contest, Maya is effortlessly cool in everything she does, and could easily skate back home. Jordan Banjo would look at home on a skateboard, and Stephen Glover is not terribly irritating. Unlike the "Revvolution" magazine, Revolution the tv show is authentic, it feels like it's youth culture.

Does it herald a change of regime? Not likely. KYTV pretends to be edgy, it tries to come across as rebellious and different from the establishment broadcasters. This might have worked in 1991, when the channel was new and struggling, the outsider promising "a revolution in choice and quality". It might have worked in 1999, when it was bringing digital entertainment to the masses, making the wholly-new promise of "a revolution in choice and quality". But it rings hollow today, KYTV is part of the broadcasting furniture. The youth audience uses many platforms, most of which are not satellite television.

The real revolution is in user-generated content, of which we see just a clip in the profile sections. Revolution is on linear television, one choice amongst many. And it's hidden away on a pay-tv channel, invisible to those teenagers who have only Freeview and the internet in their rooms. Watch a show about your counter-cultural passions with your parents? How very uncool.

From this column's view, Revolution is the right show on the wrong channel. It needed to go on E4 or ITV4, or at a pinch on BBC3 or another online-first broadcaster.



Primal Media / Motion Content Group for The Satellite Channel, from 6 May

There must be a crossover between Top Gear and Robot Wars. Both series appeal to men of a certain age, they allow the viewer to indulge his base desires. See this car go really quickly! Watch this machine get consumed in flames! Listen to some privately-educated divot prattle on!

Carnage covers most of these bases, though it can't provide any presenters with a private education. The hosts are Freddie Flintoff (cricketer and lad about town), Vick Hope (radio host and gal about town), and Lethal Bizzle (rapper and baker of delicious cakes). All of them were products of state schools.

Carnage In their best apocalypse wear: Vick Hope (spiky top), Lethal Bizzle (sleveless vest), Freddie Flintoff (natty jumper).

But we're not here to discuss scholastic privilege! We're here to talk about cars ramming into each other! We're here to talk about machines with massive spikes, and ditches! We're here to talk about massive clouds of dust!

Carnage has gone for a very particular aesthetic. It wants to look like a Mad Max movie, and it lives up to that idea. We can imagine the people behind the wheel wearing skinny vests and warpaint, with ammunition slung over their shoulder like a beauty queen's deadly sash.

Carnage Safety never takes a day off.

Then we peek inside the cars, and it's crash helmets and safety equipment all round. For the best, but it does spoil the effect a little. The driver has two backup people, they're at the other end of a walkie-talkie and the driver can talk to them during the events. All three worked together to make the car, and will make running repairs during the contest.

The show has four rounds, and kicks off with The Grid. It's a most unusual grid, being triangular in form. Three cars drive around the vehicle, hoping to pin one of their opponents and damage their car so they cannot move. Or, failing that, to drive them off the road and into the ditch. After a few moments, the competitors are joined by one of the House Robots. Er, er, one of the "Mutant Vehicles", which will just try to bring the game to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

Carnage Make mine a 66.

The Grid is played twice, and for two teams, that's it. Their trip to South Africa, all the work they've put into their car, gone even faster than Mr. Bizzle's freshly-baked fairy cakes. You know, the ones with raspberries on top.

Four cars remain for The Desert Race, a race in the desert. It's the one point in the show where speed matters, because the fastest team gets to pick their opponents. No-one leaves after this round, though we found we had to pause to wipe dust from the scrumptious butter icing.

Carnage The scenery is at its best right here.

The Scrapyard is a head-to-head duel, featuring some "Pressure Pads". What, the sort John Barrowman enjoyed a few years ago? Sadly not, these "pressure pads" are safe areas. Drive onto one and you're safe for a bit, and the other team must face the wrath of a "Mutant Vehicle". Once the house robot's time is up, it returns to its base, and the Pressure Pad disgorges its car. Another Pressure Pad will shortly be active, and the cycle repeats. First car that can't move is the loser.

The eliminations are: "disable a car", "disable a car", and "disable a car".

We'll play this round twice, and it drags on a little longer than we might prefer. The two survivors go into The Dome, another head-to-head duel, albeit in a different arena, including a Huge Massive Pit that will swallow a car faster than Freddie Flintoff swallows Mr. Bizzle's light-as-a-feather rock cakes.

Carnage Hit after hit...

There's plenty of action in this show, though there had to be profiles of the teams in order to drag out the first round to a sensible length. When we've seen so many identikit team profiles, they tend to blur into one. The hosts were impressive, they looked casual but were actually incisive. They asked the right questions – we didn't know we wanted to hear the answers, until we heard the answer.

For our money, Carnage has one massive problem: it's the same round reskinned each time. The eliminations are: "disable a car", "disable a car", and "disable a car". Once a car has had a bad hit, that's pretty much game over, and even Colin Murray can't commentate that into something spectacular.

Carnage ...after hit after hit.

Top Gear and Robot Wars appeal to a certain middle-aged man. This column can't stand either parent show, and we haven't warmed to Carnage. There is an audience for this show, and that audience doesn't include us.

But let's revisit something from the Revolution review earlier. KYTV likes to think it's edgy, even though it's even more establishment than the BBC. There's a certain strand of middle-aged manhood that likes to think it's edgy, for still appreciating fast cars and machines putting each other out of business. These segments are made for each other.

Carnage goes out at 8pm on Sundays. It's a slot where Little Timmy might sit in his pyjamas, ready for bed, and share some time with his father. Some father-and-son bonding over cars bashing each other up? Might help to explain the decent audiences.

Carnage In the grid.

Music – Jode Steele, Dave Wainwright

This Week and Next

Sorry to hear that Cornelia Frances has died, aged 77. A character actress, best known for villainous roles, she's best known as Morag Bellingham on Home and Away. She reprised that character as host of The Weakest Link on Channel 7 in 2001, perhaps even more acerbic than our own Anne Robinson. "What were they thinking? Silly question, Cornelia, they weren't thinking!"

Cornelia Frances.

Semi-final two of the BBC's Brain quiz. Props to Russell Davies for his introduction, an overt reference to the repêchage system for high-scoring losers. We can be sure his script included the circumflex.

"His housekeeper took a picture of the Queen and a bottle of gin," and a mention of Count Duckula. This will impress at least one member of the audience, Duckula is to Danger Mouse as Stephen Mulhern is to Saturday Night Takeaway. But we digress; Tim Footman knew both of these, and more, to open with Five In A Row, and a Bonus Mark, and This Round of Applause!

Brian Thompson knows about "When the boat comes in," and the story of the Women's Institute gives our host an excuse to mention the original location, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Brian opens with Five In A Row, and a Bonus Mark, and This Round of Applause!

In the second round, Tim gets just one, Brian picks up three, and he's opened up a decent lead. But then Colin Daffern comes in, knows about the band Air and the game of marbles, but falls one short of his own Five In a Row (etc).


Beat the Brains manages to stump the panel when asked about the fathers of Queens called Elizabeth. The second question does not involve a bottle of gin, how very annoying. Pteradology turns out to be the study of ferns, not of proverb-quoting flying animals. Bonuses fall kindly for Tim Footman, and he twice draws level with Brian Thompson.

It'll all come down to their own final rounds: Tim misses with the Biblical event associated with Bethsaida, Brian picks up the bonus and scores with the vocals of George Melly. Brian Thompson wins the day, beating Tim Footman by 16-13. Colin Daffern scored 9, and Amit De finished in fourth place.

BARB ratings in the week to 20 May.

  1. The Royal Wedding returned after a seven-year gap (BBC1, Sat, 8.9m; ITV, 2.6m). The trend is clearly downwards, a staggering 35% drop from the last instalment. Obviously what they need is fewer horses and 'cello players and choirs, and more time on the couple's personalities.
  2. Top game show was Got Talent (ITV, Sat, 8.9m). The men's FA Cup final scored 6.2m, and finished in time for a Pointless Celebrities repeat (BBC1, Sat, 3.4m). Have I Got News for You scored better (BBC1, Fri, 4.35m).
  3. Breadxit Crème de la Crème is gently rising (C4, Sun, 2.3m). The special Motty Mastermind was lightly watched (BBC2, Sat, 1.25m).
  4. Top digital shows were Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 1.01m), Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 925,000), and Stephen Mulhern's Got More Talent (ITV2, Sat, 640,000).
  5. The shows we've reviewed this week? Carnage has slipped gently, from 320,000 to 240,000 in three weeks. Revolution finished with fewer than 40,000 viewers. Stick a fork in, that show is done.

The tests of truth must begin again. True warriors are found on Raven (CBBC, weekdays), and true personality on The Crystal Maze Celebrity Editions (C4, Fri). True singing on Got What It Takes? The Winner's Story (CBBC, Fri). If it's true love you're after, sorry, the best we've got is Love Island (ITV2, Mon).

A special edition of The Chase for Soccer Aid (ITV, Fri). It's the final of This Territory's Got Talent (ITV and TV3, Sun); if you're suffering withdrawal symptoms, 5* has TV3's Got Talent (weekdays), it aired to viewers in Ireland at the start of the year.

Saturday has the final of Ninja Warrior (ITV) and an Over 50s special of Take Me Out (ITV); Celebrity Pointless (BBC1) fights back with a classic episode featuring Eurovision experts Jedward. And unprecedented events will shock the cosy world of Just a Minute to its core (R4, Mon).

Antiques Road Trip [cue doom music...]

Photo credits: Znak & Co / Motion Content Group, Primal Media / Motion Content Group, 7 Network Australia, BBC, STV

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