Weaver's Week 2018-10-14

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Sound the "Week's Talking about Eurovision" klaxon. This edition also discusses a sports quiz, and University Challenge.


Chwilio am Seren Junior Eurovision

Chwilio am Seren

Rondo for S4C, 18 September – 9 October

Croeso y Llandudno! Welcome to Llandudno, where S4C seeks its first entry to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest was established in 2003, and the first few editions were televised by ITV. Stars to come out of the show included Jack Garrett, Cory Spedding, and Nathan Sykes from The Wanted. None of the ITV entries won, though "The best is yet to come" was everyone's second favourite entry in 2004.

After 2006, Junior Eurovision fell off television screens here. It continued as a song contest for eastern Europe and Dutch broadcaster AVRO, and was rather forgotten by the western Eurovision fandom.

Chwilio am Seren An early audition for this year's contest.

Then, in about 2013, something changed. It might have been the EBU's decision to bring the Junior winner to the Senior contest the following May. It might have been the success of the Tolmachevy Sisters at that Senior contest. It might have been the thoroughly professional and enjoyable contest held in Valletta in 2014, an event that piqued this column's interest.

Junior Eurovision has grown since then. TG4 (Irish) and ABC Kids (Australian) debuted in 2015, and the last three contests have been won by absolute classic performances. Go on, watch "Not my soul", "Mzeo", and "Wings". We'll be here.

The standard of winners is high. A flawless song, a perfect performance, and something in the staging. Let's see if S4C can select someone to do the business in Minsk, and wow us in Tel Aviv.

Chwilio am Seren First, they'll have to survive Swansea.

The journey begins

Traditional talent shows split into three phases. We begin with The Audition, where we meet the performers for the first time – and often for the last time. Then comes The Cull, where the best auditionees are reduced still further. Finally comes The Performance, one or more shows where everyone sings to win.

The X Factor demonstrates these stages well. After the Audition phase comes Six Chairs and Judges' Favourite Places, which combine to make a Cull. Then comes the live Performance shows.

Most talent shows are unbalanced. Got Talent on ITV is almost entirely Audition and Performance, the Cull is done in half an episode. Over on CBBC, Got What It Takes? is almost entirely Cull – the Auditions are off-screen, and Performance is just one show. Chwilio am Seren has given equal time to all three phases.

Chwilio am Seren The expert panel: Connie, Stifyn, Tara.

Auditions were a performance in front of experts Connie Fisher, Stifyn Parri, and Tara Bethan. Connie won talent show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?. Stifyn is a producer, comedian, and showbiz veteran. Tara is a singer and actress, and a familiar face on S4C. All three know how to perform on stage, all know good singing, and all can recognise promising singers.

The atmosphere was warm – everyone who appeared was talented, and we only saw performances of a high standard. Some were already exceptional, some were great from performers with promise and character. Some performers were given brief profiles, the stars we'd expect to see again in later programmes.

They won't remember Tiffany Darwish

One-and-a-half shows about auditions was quite enough. The best 20 from the auditions came back for some group work. Plenty of familiar faces, but also some people we didn't recognise from earlier. This callback was about choreography, learning a simple dance and performing it in a group. "Time to shine", the introduction number from Junior Eurovision 2017, was translated into Cymraeg, and performed here.

The Cull continued in show three, where twelve competitors took to a stage in the Quadrant Shopping Centre in Swansea. All of the competitors had equal treatment – a filmed profile, highlights from earlier in the contest, and some rehearsal time with one of the three mentors. The singer performed a cover version of their choice – either a Welsh-language song, or one translated. Performances, and the crowd reaction, and everything that had gone before, all added up to work out who was in the final.

Chwilio am Seren The final six, and backing dancers.

The last of the groups were eliminated in the group dance, and the last of the lads fell in Swansea. Six girls took to the stage in Llandudno.

Going live!

After a reprise of "Time to shine", the opening number from last year's Junior Eurovision final, it was into the performances proper. Ella had wowed us in the auditions with "This is me", and tonight took on the difficult challenge of "Hallelujah"; the arrangement suited her to the ground.

Chwilio am Seren We haven't seen the last of Gracie.

Gracie had a massive voice, and kept her shriek under control when singing "Rhywbeth o'i le". For our money, these had been the two strongest performers in the final, it's a straight choice of which one performs the chosen song better.

Lily brought a natural vibrato to the contest, demonstrated on the powerful tearjerker "Adre". We're reminded of the stage presence of Zena Donnelly. Manw has the irresistable charm of Lizi Pop, and belted well on "Fy nghariad gwyn", a song with complex tempo changes. She found a tenderness we didn't expect.

Chwilio am Seren Manw used the night's prop, a bench.

Lauren has quietly crept under our radar, just as Lindsey Russell did for two weeks on Blue Peter You Decide. Tonight, Lauren performs "Angel", a track made famous by Elin Fflur. A few duff notes might compromise her chances, everyone before has sounded flawless. Misha is our final contender, she takes on "O Gymru" with great stage presence and solid singing.

There are regional juries, each award a star to their three favourite acts. Aberystwyth go for Ella, Gracie, and Manw. Llandudno give Ella and Manu second votes, with one to Lily. Down in Cardiff, it's Gracie, Lily, and Misha. Hope they've got a good tie-break here.

London give votes to Ella, Manw, and Misha. And in Swansea, votes go to Ella, Manw, and Lily. Which means those three go through to the final sing-off, and we wonder what they're hearing in Cardiff. Ah, the screams of contestants in training for the new series of Only Connect (2) next week.

Chwilio am Seren Ella made the final three.

Higher than the starlight, where the birds can't fly

So we know the final singers, but what of the song? Manw has a very mid-tempo number, too gentle to threaten victory, and too fey to repeat "Mezo"'s unlikely victory from two years ago. She does her very best with the song, but that material doesn't convince us.

Ella offers something much more in the Junior Eurovision tradition, uptempo and poppy with a clap-along bit in the middle. Ella's voice got lost in the mix tonight; if they can make it sound like there's a zillion of her, it'll storm away.

Chwilio am Seren Lily, the third finalist.

Lily's song is of a similar tempo to Manw's and is just as technically good. It's slower, more Ellie Goulding than Céline Dion. Will viewers prefer Lily's mature stylings, or Manw's younger emotions? Or will they plump for Ella with something more uptempo? Full disclosure: this column cast one vote for Ella.

The active voting window opens at 9.15, and we're straight away into the interval act. Host Trystan Ellis-Morris reads the voting terms and conditions in Welsh and in English. It's entertaining, though it's not quite Riverdance. We also get a montage of all the previous Junior Eurovision winners, the first time "Candy music" and "Bzzzz" have ever been primetime entertainment. Well, first time they've been on primetime telly.

Chwilio am Seren Love love peace peace, and a bilingual voting rule.

Recaps. What? That's the same song?!?!?!?! In three different styles?! Truly, "The Winners' Song" for the new decade.

Voting was by premium-rate phone number and SMS. We haven't seen an SMS vote in an OFCOM-licensed broadcast in over a decade. We have seen most of the performances in the "What's happening in Junior Eurovision" before, plenty of memories, all warm and fuzzies.

And joining them in Belarus: it's Manw! She'll be a wonderful ambassador, she'll make friends for life. We'll be surprised if the song wins in this form, but taking part is the important thing for all European endeavours. To shine together, to discover, to light up our worlds. We all gain when we do things together.

Chwilio am Seren Our winner.

Junior Eurovision Y Ffinal is on 25 November. We'll have a report on 2 December.

Y Ras

Y Ras

Hoi Polloi Pictures for S4C, from 14 September

S4C's new sports quiz is set in a studio. It goes out at 9.30 on Friday nights, just after the news bulletin. Four players are in each edition, introduced by spinning around while the host reads out facts. Almost at once, we're into five rounds.

Y Ras We'll see this shot for much of the game. Scores in the corner: nice move.

The Titular Race. 90 seconds of quickfire general knowledge sports questions on the buzzer. One point for a correct answer, and that also moves you down the track one space. Wrong answers are open to other contestants. Bonus points for "reaching the medal positions" (giving 6 or more right answers).

The Specialist. Each player has nominated a particular sporting topic, the setters have written 16 questions. Choose a number, answer a question, repeat for 90 seconds. One point for each correct answer, a bonus of 5 for each line of four across the board (yes, diagonals count).

Y Ras The category board, with some squares claimed and others lost.

After the advert break, it's The Game, a categories board. Two minutes for this round, which begins with a control question on the buzzer. Whoever gives a right answer picks a category from the board, and has first dibs at the answer. Get it right, two points and the square turns your colour. Get it wrong, question goes on the buzzer for everyone else to take control. Bonus marks for a line of four across the board.

The Connection. A picture is shown, and a buzzer question is asked. Whoever gets the question right gets 2 points and has the chance to name the connection between the pictures. Repeat for up to four pictures, and if the connection still hasn't been guessed, that goes on the buzzers. This is a timed event, 90 seconds to name the connection and earn the 5-point bonus.

Y Ras Go on, what links these pictures?

Finally, The Titular Race Redux. Again, 90 seconds on the buzzers. Two points and a space on the board for a correct answer; an error will deduct one point and move you back a space.

Top two from each heat make the semi-finals, top two from each semi make the final. Very often, the most interesting race is for second place, not for the heat win.

Win, Place or Show?

There are a lot of good ideas in Y Ras, but we reckon the execution lacks something. Music is used to introduce a sense of drama, but is a trifle overblown. The show's graphics are consistent, but the typeface isn't suitable to fill a television screen.

Y Ras Gareth Roberts.

Gareth Roberts hosts the show. He knows sport, he loves sport, he's a tremendous rugby player. That doesn't mean he's got the sharp and swift diction needed to be a great quiz master. Timings are scrupulous, Gareth's speed is a little variable. And when one question can be worth six points, that feels a little unfair.

The points distribution is skewed weirdly. Get ten questions right on the categories board – a good contestant will manage this – and you should score 25 points. Across the rest of the game, you'll be lucky to find more than 25 points, and that relies you being fastest on the buzzers.

We have no objection to the best performers on specialist subject going through, and we do get to see some fine chases. But the balance of the show seems a little too skewed. The categories board feels like it's under-used, but where could the time come from? Y Ras uses every moment it's on air, the game never stops.

Y Ras There's a track in the studio. No-one moves down it.

We also expect a sport quiz to be at least a little "tracksuits", to show some sort of physical activity. The contenders and host remain behind their podia, no-one moves an inch from their mark. Y Ras is pure "smoking jackets".

On the upside, there's plenty of variety in the specialist questions – we never expected to hear 90 seconds about netball on primetime television, and there's impressive knowledge of some esoteric subjects.

Let's give credit where it's due. Y Ras is a perfectly fine sports quiz, and this column is sufficiently interested to watch through to the final. While we find some weaknesses in the format, there's nothing that can't be fixed for a second series.

University Challenge Update

Heats 9-12

Back to mid-September, when Bristol took on Queen's University Belfast. Bristol (George Sumner, Owen Iredale, Anne Le Maistre, Pushan Basu) won the game in the final few minutes, ahead of QUB (Matthew Hooton, Maria McQuillan, Stephanie Merritt, James Breen). 140-110 was the final score, after a 110-all tie with a few minutes left. There's more – much more – from the Hey, I Was On That! podcast.

University of London in Paris made their BBC debut, against another University of London college, Goldsmiths. ULIP (James Dann, Jack Griffiths, Liam Alcock, Niamh Merritt) never got out of first gear. Goldsmiths (Kesheva Guha, Ieuan Cox, Diana Issokson, Jamie Robinson) didn't have to work too hard for their 180-55 victory.

Yet another Oxbridge contest saw St Peter's Oxford play Pembroke Cambridge. Ding-dong in the first quarter of the show, but then St Peter's (James Hodgson, Seb Braddock, Nick Williford, Laura Cooper) pulled away, leaving Pembroke (Dan James, Joe Kiernan, Anki Deo, Jamie Bamber) with a mountain to climb. Turned out that Pembroke hadn't brought their crampons, and St Peter's pulled to a 225-50 victory.

This week, another London derby pitched UCL against King's College. This time, King's (Liam Tsang, Rhian Jones, Anthony Chater, Katie Heath) had the best of the early exchanges, but UCL (George Mitkov, Sophia Walker, Robert Johnstone, Feiyu Fang) responded with a strong comeback and a big lead. UCL won by 180-145, and it looks like King's will be squeezed out of the repêchage.

Two more heats, two more teams to meet, and we'll cover them in four weeks.

This Week and Next

Y Ras Gary Lineker is the connection: played in Japan and for Leicester, under Bobby Robson, and won a Golden Shoe.

BARB ratings in the week to 30 September.

  1. Strictly Come Dancing the top show of all (BBC1, Sat, 9.95m), and only a slight slip for the results (Sun, 9.35m)
  2. Burn-Off continued to fuel viewers (C4, Tue, 8.65m), and it's the top show viewed over the interwebs, over 300,000 views. The X Factor pulls in an audience (ITV, Sun, 6.25m). Celebrity Masterchef peaked in the semi-final (BBC1, Thu, 4.8m).
  3. Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat, 3.4m) beat The Chase (ITV, Tue, 3.25m), but Tipping Point (ITV, Thu, 2.2m) beat Pointless (BBC1, Tue, 2.15m). Both were less popular than University Challenge (BBC2, Mon, 2.25m).
  4. Elsewhere on BBC2, Great Local Menu (Tue, 1.9m), Mock the Week (Fri, 1.7m), and Monkman and Seagull's Genius Guide (Mon, 1.55m) all did well. Letterbox enthralled 760,000 (Thu), and Gareth Malone's All Star Music Quiz attracted 730,000 (Thu). The Circle stabilised in its second week (C4: peak Sun, 1.05m; average 925,000) – and 12% of the viewing is online, most shows get about 1%.
  5. Big Brother continues on Channel 5 (Tue, 1.08m). Digital leaders were Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 785,000), Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 685,000), A League of Their Own (The Satellite Channel, Thu, 685,000).

The week's biggest new show is Landscape Artist of the Year (Artsworld, Tue). Brendan O'Carroll hosts For Facts Sake (BBC1, Mon).

A new run of The Chase with Celebrities (ITV, Sun). Ore Oduba's fan club will tune in for repeats of Hardball (BBC1, weekdays), and there's a new series of Family Cooking Showdown (BBC2, weekdays). We have the final of Y Gemau Gwyllt (S4C, Wed).

Photo credits: Rondo, Hoi Polloi

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