Weaver's Week 2018-06-10

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With daylight running for about twenty-nine hours a day, it's a perfect week for a Daytime Special. Later, we cheer for The £100k Drop, run the rule over Richard Osman's House of Games (3), and wonder why they've axed The Chase. But first:




Youngest for BBC1, from 13 May

For the first time this year, we have an excuse to watch BBC daytime for a new game show. There's not been a new one since the brilliance of Armchair Detectives, and no-one gets away with sloth in Tellysville.

At heart, Hardball is a quiz against the clock, but with a difference. Almost every other quiz says, "Here is a set amount of time, how well can you do in that time?" The Chase has its one-minute Cashbuilders. Mastermind has its two-minute rounds. Going up against the clock is a familiar trope, and we take it for granted.

Hardball plays differently. "Can you keep up a good strike rate throughout the round?" The host will read out questions, and if you get them all right, you'll stay in the game. Get questions wrong and trouble looms. Once your success rate falls below 70%, the round might be over.


All of this looks fine on paper, but it's surprisingly difficult to show on screen. Producers could use a traditional clock that springs forward with every right answer, but how does that convert into questions? Producers could use all sorts of bar charts to demonstrate the achieved rate against the required rate, but this is meant to be an entertainment show, not a lecture on the Dirac delta function.

Hardball strips down the rate to its fundamental components. How many questions have you answered correctly? How many questions should you have answered correctly in this round so far?

Hardball This player has four screens and one fall in hand.

Hardball answers these questions in one simple picture. Your place on the video wall, that's how many you have got. The place of this big silver ball, that's the required rate. The gap, that's your margin for error. So simple, even a daytime audience can understand it.

Massive kudos to the producers, they've managed to find a different way to measure success, and present it in a way everyone understands. We are seriously impressed by this achievement.

Question or question?

So, having praised the mechanics, what about the show itself? To be honest, we find it a bit cold.

Six players take part, split into groups of three. Each of the group has an individual round, and the lowest score is off the show at once. (Ties? One question shootout. Simple.) The two survivors go head-to-head, a right answer moves you along, a wrong answer moves the other player along. The two group winners meet in another head-to-head final.

Hardball A great big video wall, and a slow-moving ball.

What's the required rate? In the individual round, the titular Hardball starts to ascend the set when the first question's been asked. It takes 17 seconds to reach the top, 34 seconds to traverse a level, and 6 seconds to descend to the next level. With questions lasting about 5.5 seconds each, a player needs to get a lot more right than wrong to remain ahead of the Hardball.

For the head-to-head rounds, the Hardball doesn't start until one player has reached the second row. In total, the round is approximately a best-of-23 shootout. In practice, it's often a best-of-3 shootout, and that is always going to be tense.

Questions are written with precision, they are of a certain length when Ore Oduba reads them. That's consistent, and it allows the show to build up a certain rhythm. For some reason, we don't like the aesthetic rhythm, it's just a bit longer than we find ideal. Other people (such as this column's mother) find the rhythm just right.

Hardball Jay is four clear of Hannah, and his next right answer will start the ball.

Something that does irritate: Ore says "Correct" or "Wrong" after each response. We hear a lot from Ore, and clear sound effects would reduce the amount he has to say. Fifteen-to-One could often be a monologue from William G Stewart, and he'd let his sound effects tell part of the story.

Another throwback to Fifteen-to-One: Hardball has a lot of questions. Across the show, we're going to hear over 150 questions. Ore will typically ask at a rate of 11 questions per minute. This column's calculation of speed is relative to Channel 5's functional quizzer 100%, and here Ore asks at around 250%. Even in the fastest buzzer rounds, he doesn't quite make Bradley Walsh's speed in the Final Chase (around 280%), and comes nowhere near Nicholas Parsons and Daphne Hudson's world record 311%.

Crushed under ball

For all this, we find Hardball to be a flat watch. The titular Hardball grinds on at a steady speed, and it looks sedate on the screen. Ore asks questions at a steady speed. The players are mostly competing against the machine, we can't point to one thing and say, "there, that's your opponent".

Hardball That's your opponent?!

Over on The Chase, you can point to one vixen and say, "See that Jenny Ryan? That's your nemesis, that is. She will crush you into a handful of dust." On Tipping Point, you can point to one machine and say, "See that machine? That's your nemesis, that is. It will decide whether you win or lose." Hardball doesn't have a clear opponent, and that costs excitement.

If anything, the final round is the most exciting. The day's champion is playing for all the cash built up in everyone's individual rounds – typically £3000 or so. Our champion sees five categories, and they're to move across the board, down the board, and off the board. 30 correct answers in those five categories.

The first category gets the longest play, the time to climb the side of the wall and roll along the first row. Remaining categories get a fall and the length of a row, perhaps 8 questions if you're quick.

Hardball One more answer to win the prize.

Should the player fall behind the required rate, they can claim a "boost", and advance one square, but it'll cost half the money available. A close finish is likely – the player will use their best category to get ahead of the ball, and then slowly fall back into its rolling roll. (See! Told you the Hardball opponent was dull.)

Ore Oduba hosts the show. It's a slight change for him, Ore has previously worked on shows like Ultimate Sports Day and And They're Off For Sport Relief. Hardball is not a sports show, Ore's first game show engagement outside sports and fitness. He's doing a perfectly competent job, but there are a lot of "perfectly competent" hosts on daytime. We think this is going to be a stepping stone in Ore's CV, something he tried and didn't quite show him at his best.

We've found Hardball to be a struggle. We really love how they've handled the "keep to a certain rate" idea. We like a quickfire quiz, but we find this one lacks enough excitement to keep us coming back. Viewing figures almost double after Tipping Point has been resolved, and it might be best to tune in for the final rounds.

EndemolShine On

The £100k Drop

The Million Pound Drop Live has come back to Channel 4. There have been a number of changes. They've dropped the "Live" part of the name, because the programme is no longer live. They've stopped being a show in primetime and become a show in daytime. And, because it's daytime, they've dropped a digit from the prize.

The £100k Drop is similar to the primetime show. It's still played by teams of two, using forty real cash bundles. The cash bundles still drop through gravity. It's still got a studio audience, and still hosted by Davina McCall.

The Million Pound Drop Live

They're using the "seven questions to a million" version, just three questions have four answers. One change is designed to speed up the game, the questions with three answers now last for just 45 seconds, not the full minute.

"Move your money back" is still a catchphrase, but the magic of editing allows us to elide the wait while the players move their money. They've dropped the playalong app, so Davina can't give updates on who was best on that last question, they just have to get on with the game.

All of these little things add up, and The £100K Drop just flows better. This column never stopped liking the primetime show, but nor did we miss it when it was dropped from the schedules. The daytime show has minutes of high drama, moments where we know the answer, and it's still got one of television's best hosts. Good stuff.

House of Games (3)

A shock to viewers on BBC2, as the Eggheads have gone away for the summer. Richard Osman's House of Games has come back. The show remains entirely sedentary, and are a selection of trivia questions with a pop culture bias. Every show still ends with "Answer Smash", and that still feels like a missed opportunity. There are some new rounds.

  • Chron-Illogical, put three items in historical order, oldest first. Oh, and one of the statements is personal to a fellow competitor, allowing a little anecdote into the show.
  • The Elephant in the Room, where the correct answer has another word removed. So if today's elephant is "dog", and you're asked for the Turkish politician, the required answer is "Eran". That's "Erdogan" minus "dog".
  • Games House Of, where the correct answer is transposed into alphabetical order. Simple when you're answering "Brown Gordon", more complex when your head calculation needs to be "Bikini bitsy dot itsy polka teeny weeny yellow".
  • Highbrow Lowbrow, an idea familiar from The 3rd Degree. Two clues to the same answer, a highbrow one (worth two points) and a subsequent lowbrow one (for one mark).
  • I'm Terrible At Dating, write down the year a historical event took place.

House of Games (3) 2017: Rick Edwards knew where his towel was.

  • The Nice Round, three players write down a one-word clue to a particular answer; the fourth player is to guess the answer. Most helpful clue, as determined by the guesser, is rewarded by a point.
  • The Penultimate Question. One of these passages is the first line from a famous book. The other has been written by one of your opponents. Which is real, or the point goes to the fake.
  • Roonerspisms, clues to two answers that are spoonerisms of each other. One is sensible, one is silly. For instance, "Paris landmark" and "60 minute pudding" should lead to "Eiffel Tower" and "Trifle hour".
  • Round Backwards The, questions and answers are given backwards.
  • Size Matters, give the longest answer in a particular category. Longest correct answer wins a point, and there's a bonus if it's the longest possible answer.
  • You Complete Me, answers are in two parts. The first person to buzz in gives one part, their partner the other part. Break the Safe looks on with interest.

Break the Safe And that's the first time anyone's been interested in Break the Safe in many years.

House of Games still stands (or falls) on the chemistry between the players. The good news: everyone has brought some character, whether to love or to loathe.

Has The Chase been axed?

© All Tabloids Everywhere

Ever since it was revealed that Mark Pougatch's new show The World Cup would take over The Chase's coveted teatime slot, fans speculated the Anne Hegerty-led quiz show would be taken off air for good.

Fans of The Chase were aroused into a fervour, and they'll discuss those complaints with their doctors. They also took to social media to express their fears.

"Is it true that The Chase is being taken off air because if so that's ridiculous", wrote Josephine Fictional.
"Can't believe they're cancelling The Chase! Bradley deserves more than to be replaced by that overinflated balloon", said Theodore Madeup.
"The World Cup? Isn't that the pretty show with shrinking dolls they tried last year?" asked Minerva Blatantly-Innvented

Three of the programme's three million viewers have expressed some mild concern. And we in the tabloid media think we can get readers and clicks from their vexation. So we write cheap and rubbish articles like this one.

Has The Chase been cancelled forever? Why has The World Cup replaced it? And what is the new show even about?

The Chase The famous five: Julian, Dick, George, Anne, and Timmy.

So, has The Chase been cancelled?

No. It'll be back.

Despite appearing to have a permanent place on ITV's teatime schedule, The Chase actually runs in series. Every year, the show takes a couple of months off air. It gives Paul Sinha a chance to be funny for money, and Jenny Ryan to learn even more than she does already.

The World Cup will fill in for The Chase during the four week hiatus.

How does Mark Pougatch's The World Cup work?

We're a little hazy, as the organisers have kept the format under tight wraps.

An inside source we've completely made up has given us some hints. The press release — er, insider — confesses that it's got something to do with young men, a plastic windbag, and a grassy rectangle. An older bloke with a whistle is involved.

Babushka And there's something about empty vessels making noise.

Staged outdoors, The World Cup has attracted a crowd of literally some people. Many of them thought they were going to hear a lecture on Shaun Wallace's collection of staples and paper fasteners, and they might leave disappointed.

For tedious reasons we in the tabloid media can't be bothered to understand, the BBC has rights to some episodes of The World Cup, though these won't be hosted by Mark Pougatch. Honestly, it's like Tipping Point turning up on BBC1 and hosted by Susan Calman.

Armchair Detectives No-one gets away with the jackpot counter... in Mortcliff!

When the BBC has rights to The World Cup, ITV might show repeats of The Chase. Or they might show pictures of horses running round a field, and women wearing interesting hats. We're promised "a surprise" that will "shake ITV to its very foundations". Or is that Mark Labbett on hearing the first cake of the day?

Next week: why don't they bring back The Crystal Maze?

This Week and Next

The Chase had a new episode this week, a charity special to promote Soccer Aid. Records were smashed, as Rachel Riley was offered £120,000, brought home £120,000. With Kirsty Gallagher, Rachel set a soft target of 16, but Shaun Wallace was not up for it, falling well short. We've never seen a higher offer, nor a greater total won in the Final Chase.

The BBC's Brain quiz played something from the number one album, an extract from The Greatest Showman soundtrack. None of the players could identify it. Clive Dunning had already secured his Five in a Row, and would go on to win the programme easily. Clive made 20, closest competitor Gary Holland scored 10, Tom Williams and Julia Lamannion completed the line-up.

Far too many deaths to report this week. John Julius Norwich was a writer, broadcaster, historian, and learned man. John made films about music, Italy, Venice, and particularly La Serenissima a history of Venetian music. His game show contributions were erudite, a regular on the Round Britain Quiz and chairman of My Word!. This column also remembers John from how he presented the Classic FM Evening Concert, both authoritative and accessible. The son of war minister Duff Cooper, he bequeaths the title Viscount Norwich to his son Jason.

Teddy Johnson was a singer, performer, and radio presenter. He represented the BBC in the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest, "Sing little birdie" was performed with his wife Pearl.

The Taste Anthony Bourdain (right) with Ludo Lefebrve and Nigella Lawson.

Anthony Bourdain was a cook, global traveller, writer, and judge on Channel 4's shortlived The Taste. We loved the show for about two-and-a-half episodes, then lost interest in the format. We stayed for the judges.

BARB ratings in the week to 27 May.

  1. Coronation Street is the most popular show (ITV, Mon, 8.2m). Got Talent lost viewers over the hot bank holiday weekend (ITV, Sat, 7.8m).
  2. Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri, 4.5m) and The Chase (ITV, Thu, 2.9m) complete the podium positions. By comparison, that's behind the men's Champions League Final (BT Sport 2, Sat, 3.05m)
  3. Channel 4's top game was Breadxit Crème de la Crème (Sun, 2.15m); BBC2 led with Eggheads (Tue, 1m).
  4. A Celebrity Juice compilation had 1.1m (ITV2, Thu). Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 785,000) and Stephen Mulhern's Got More Talent (ITV2, Sat, 550,000).

Something of a "will this do?" schedule, devoid of much excitement. Gaby's Talking Pictures (R4, Sun) is billed as a newish film quiz. Best Home Cook has its semi-final and final (BBC1, Wed and Thu). We'll review next week.

If you're not interested in Mark Pougatch's The World Cup next Saturday, there are alternatives. Channel 4 has Snow White and the Huntsman, Kstew and Chris Hemsworth give something for all tastes. Chuckle Time is a "hilarious" Channel 5 clip show with Paul and Barry Chuckle. They've also got a new series of Blind Date (C5, Sat).

Photo credits: Youngest, Remarkable Television (an Endemol / EndemolShine company), Thames Scotland, Potato, STV / Armoza, Red Arrow / CPL

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