Weaver's Week 2018-09-09

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We're concluding our short series of Obscure Shows No-one Watched with two last entries.


Evil Monkeys

Renegade Pictures in association with The Story Lab for ITV2, 2 August

We didn't understand this show when it went out. Part of our problem: it went out during a hot part of the heatwave, and we found even the most simple programme somewhat taxing. Teletubbies was beyond us. A second viewing this week has helped to clarify matters.

Evil Monkeys A spy camera looks at the invaders.

Evil Monkeys took three ITV2 celebrities and put them on an island with some hyper-intelligent monkeys. The backstory is that the people from The Only Way is Essex wanted to steal some money from the island. The monkeys think that this is a bit presumptuous, and lock the celebs in a cage.

But the monkeys get bored, they have better things to do than look after this trio. Heck, Only Connect questions don't write themselves. They'll give the celebs silly things to do, while experimenting under "sensory depravation theory" – removing one sense (sight, hearing, vision) to improve the others. It's almost ten minutes before the first challenge begins – a lot of exposition and setting the scene, and the first of many trips into the show's soundtrack.

Evil Monkeys "This bowl is full of excreta!", or words to that effect.

Round one involves the blinded player going into a latrine and digging around in fake semi-liquid dung. Some letters of the alphabet have been hidden in there. The blindfold player shouts them to the mute player, who puts her body into various poses. These allow her to communicate to the deaf player, who will solve the four-letter anagram. Errors are signalled by giving the deaf player an electric shock.

As time ticks, sand idols are covered up. Any that remain once the task is completed will be added to a giant sand timer, which will come into play in the final game. Rounds two and three follow a broadly similar pattern.

Evil Monkeys Water is thrown down a slippery slope.

Round two asks the players to identify someone famous from a drawing so bad it was done by a monkey, and a mixed up catchphrase. The team are to ascend a rubber slope while water and washing-up liquid is sent down it. Round three was to work out some sequences of sounds, each indicated by a picture tied to a tree. Go to the trees in the right order, all while the monkeys throw bananas at the player.

The grand final was a combination event – driving, collecting keys, an obstacle course, then climb a net to collect cassette tapes to reveal a key word. Saying that word ended the task. For our money, this was the best contest of the show, a well-themed Grand Challenge and – potentially – ten minutes of great telly.

Evil Monkeys One of the humans indicates that she is carrying pumpkins.

Evil Monkeys let itself down with the earlier rounds. The faffing about quotient is huge. Between them, the tasks amount to about half the show, the rest is spent watching the monkeys and going through a slim plot. They try to build up the monkeys into characters, which might possibly work in a series. Jokes were passed on as captions – a great way to keep people watching, except the jokes were too feeble to be worth the effort, and they could have used the Audio Description soundtrack to tell them. And while the show cuts music in throughout, it's all mainstream and clichéd. "The lion sleeps tonight"? "The final countdown"?

Evil Monkeys "We'd rather be watching My Little Princess", or something like that.

All things considered, this feels quite a bit of a way away from the finished article. The monkeys' world is coherent, and there's something to build upon. They've nailed a very subtle "trapped in time" aesthetic dated to the late 80s – cassette tapes, 4:3 televisions, a final round that looked a bit like The Krypton Factor if we turn our head really squiffy.

Would we watch it again? Not for fun. The tasks were variable, intended to shock (both metaphorically and literally). There were elements of humour, mostly from the captions attributed to the monkeys, but the show didn't pass the Six Laughs Test. Bad language got boring, and shouty contestants we wouldn't know from Adam were also tiring.

Evil Monkeys Visual gags, like this monkey on a Segway, were the highlight.

Call Yourself a Fan

Call Yourself a Fan

Zig Zag Productions / Velocity Content for BT Sport, from 21 August

An unusual and very pleasant little show, a mixture of quiz and fan chat.

Lyndsey Hipgrave and Max Rushden are in the BT Sports Park, where they're joined by teams of three fans. Each group represents a non-League football team – in the opening episode, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, later shows featured Chelsea and the home team West Ham. The second half of the series will feature Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, and The Crystal Palace.

Call Yourself a Fan Lyndsey Hipgrave and Max Rushden.

Half of the show is a quiz. Round one, "Shooting for Glory", asks questions about the group's club from video clips and still photos. These are inaccessible to the general sports fan, being "who scored for Yourteam when they lost 6-1 to Spartak Podgorica last year?"

"Memory Lane" takes match action and asks questions about the players and performances just shown. "On the Ball" is the inevitable quickfire buzzer round, about football in general. It's the only round with questions open to both sides.

Interspersed with the quiz action are some animated discussions. These football fans have opinions, and get to voice them on air. "What about your summer signings, West Ham fans?" asks Lyndsey. "We've got new signing Kikkit in midfield, he'll provide service to Cervis and proved his worth playing for Inter Genoa in last year's Cup Losers' Cup run."

Yeah, that sort of thing. Without exception, the fans are eloquent and brief, able to make their points in one soundbite and then move on. Unlike certain other shows we've looked at recently, Call Yourself a Fan doesn't need to say, "you'll sound a little different, that's because of editing."

Call Yourself a Fan The set is simple, doesn't distract from the action.

BT Sport has built a portfolio of big-name sport, hosted by witty and intelligent presenters. The football rights include Super League football, men's clubs such as Bayern München, Paris St Germain, and Boreham Wood. They show top-flight domestic and European rugby, the biggest women's tennis tournaments, and motor cycling's Moto GP. Hosts include the massive talents of Jake Humphrey, Suzi Perry, and Robbie Savage, with Gary Lineker a familiar face for some European football.

Call Yourself a Fan fits in with the channel's overall position, sport presented with intelligence and erudition. There's a fine line to tread between taking sport too seriously and making it disposable trivia; we reckon BT Sport steers with aplomb between Scylla and Charybdis.

On the quiz section, we're impressed with Lyndsey Hipgrave, because she has learned from the best. "You could have said Burnley. You could have said Leicester... You said Liverpool... {pause}... and you were right." Chris Tarrant would doubtless tip his hat.

For scheduling reasons, Call Yourself a Fan is going out in two versions – a 30-minute programme combines quiz and chat, and a 15-minute burst of concentrated quiz with all the opinion edited out. There may also be an edit containing only the discussion, though we've not caught it. This is smart, as the discussion is topical and it could date badly – if Kikkit gets injured, the supporters don't need to be saying how useful he'll be. The quiz can be chopped up and tossed out for a couple of years to come.

Countdown Update

We left Bob Lunt within sniffing distance of the finals. He made seven wins, but fell to Matthew Bass in a high-scoring game. Matthew lost his next game, to Eddie Glass. He won three, as did his conqueror Steve Rush.

Adam Ralston became the first octochamp of the series, though a total of 650 points would not have put him in finals week last December. We think he's particularly weak on his own numbers selections, and didn't run up the score once he'd won the game.

Tony Manwani won the next eight games, a total of 715 points. He rode luck to win one game, but otherwise put up a solid and respectable performance. From what we've seen, we would expect Tony to beat Adam in a best-of-five final. (But this is Countdown, it's a best-of-one match.)

Dave Ashton has looked good in his two wins. We'll finish his story, and continue the hunt for the next Countdown master, in four weeks.

This Week and Next

Best of the Web From the Manchester Grauniad, a look back at Shattered, the 2004 experiment in sleep depravation. The piece flat-out says they couldn't make it these days. This column disagrees, a competition about not sleeping could happen – but we expect it would be treated like Hunted, and shown after filming was over.

Is that a record? No, a record is a round black thing with a hole in the middle. The teatime shows came back this week. Pointless hit on Tuesday with the round, "Countries containing a repeated letter". Vanuatu, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Namibia. All correct, and all scoring the grand non-total of nothing. Five pointless answers in one round. Is that a record? No, a record is a round black thing with a hole in the middle.

The Chase kicked off on Monday with a massive win. Diane, Luca, Tim, and Gayna accumulated £100,000 in their pot. That's happened before on the daytime show. They set 21 for Anne Hegerty, extended it to 22 after the chaser's poor start, and ended up winning by 8. Is that a record? Sort of. The six-figure prize is the biggest awarded to players seen on daytime television in a general knowledge quiz.

We're hedging that accolade. Even in daytime, bigger prizes were awarded on the psychological game Deal or No Deal, on telephone call-in quizzes, on celebrity editions of The Chase, on Golden Balls. And on daytime radio, prizes have been bigger – most notably in 1999 on Someone's Going to be a Millionaire.

That show's devisor and host Cliff Evans said this week that he's off to spend more time with his money, and will leave Radio 2 for digital-exclusive station C3D8 over on band 11A. Will he be playing records? Yes, a record is a round black thing with a hole in the middle.

BARB ratings in the week to 26 August

  1. New drama Bodyguard went straight into The Ten Million Club (BBC1, Sun, 10.4m). Celebrity Masterchef was the top game (BBC1, Thu, 4.95m).
  2. Rest of the top three is Pointless Celebrities repeat (BBC1, Sat, 3.6m) and Dragons' Den (BBC2, Sun, 3.3m). The Chase was ITV's top game (Mon, 2.85m); The Chase Bloopers Special (Sun, 2.65m) fell behind the thrice-postponed Alright on the Night (Wed, 2.75m).
  3. Celebrity Big Brother ruled on C5 (Mon, 1.9m), and day-old repeats did well on MTV (Sun, 72,000). Channel 4's top was Catsdown (Fri, 1.6m); The Crystal Maze stuttered to 710,000.
  4. Digital-tier leaders were Room 101 (Dave, Mon, 335,000), QI XL (Dave, Tue, 310,000), and Come Dine with Me (More4, Sun, 280,000).

As Celebrity Big Brother ends (C5, Mon), a new Big Brother begins (C5, Fri). A new series of QI (BBC2, Mon) asks the question: why is Sandi Toksvig only paid 40% of Stephen Fry's packet? Celebrity Juice marks its tenth birthday (ITV2, Thu). Y Ras is a sports quiz for Wales (S4C, Fri). Comedians on Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat), and there's a reflection on fifteen series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Photo credits: Renegade Pictures / The Story Lab, Zig Zag Productions / Velocity Content.

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