Weaver's Week 2019-06-02

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This week, we're reaching up the Sky.


There's Something About Movies

There's Something About Movies

CPL (a Red Arrow Studios company) and Motion Content Group for The Satellite Channel, from 2 May

Cast your mind back to early 1998. The Spice Girls were still a thing, and the biggest game show was Man o Man. Movie critic Mark Kermode was still at Radio 1, and Cameron Diaz has a new movie. There's Something About Mary is a derivative and orthodox romantic comedy. It's worth a watch, but it's not a flick that needs to be sought out.

The movie is best known for one thing: it has an intensely flexible title. "There's Something About Mary" implies hidden depths, that there's more to the character than might meet the eye. It tells the viewer, stick with me, and I can take you on a wild mystery tour. Expect the unexpected.

And this title has become a meme in itself. The book, "There's Something About Ari". The rap album, "There's Something About Remi". The vegetable spread, "There's Something About Margarine". And KYTV's transphobic reality show There's Something About Miriam; it was unacceptable in civilised society in 2003, and unthinkable in 2019.

No, in 2019, There's Something About Mary has lent its name to a panel entertainment about movies, hosted by Alan Carr.

There's Something About Movies Alan Carr: acceptable in civilised society in 2019.

At this point, it's necessary for this column to make two prejudices clear. First, we don't find Alan Carr particularly funny. He's tolerable in small doses, but he only has the one joke and it doesn't work for us.

Second, we don't do movies. This column's formative years coincided with the almost-forgotten Cinema Collapse of the 1980s. We'll need to explain this for younger viewers. Many cinemas closed in the early 1980s. Changing economic conditions, the growth of home video, the fact that there were a lot more alternative things to do, that bingo was more profitable.

The cinema in the town nearest to us closed in 1982, turned into a bingo hall, and there wouldn't be another in town until an arthouse cinema opened in 1988. For most of this column's youth, "going to the movies" meant cadging a lift with Ali Armstrong's ever-obliging parents to Telford, or making a day of it in the cinemas on New Street in Birmingham. Movies were a once-a-year treat, if we were lucky.

Hollywood was able to find a way to make cinemas larger and profitable again, but they couldn't undo the lost decade. There are a bunch of kids who grew up in the "provinces" in the 1980s, and for whom "movies" were a myth, like driverless trains on the Underground, or a Wolves team capable of playing in Europe.

There's Something About Movies The set is bright and colourful. Bring your own shades.

Right, enough memory, we have a game show to review. There's Something About Movies is hosted by Alan Carr. Micky Flanagan and Michael Sheen are the team captains, four other guests join the teams.

The rounds change from week to week. In the opening episode, the initial challenge was "What has Michael Sheen seen?" Some footage of a movie starring the team captain, and sides are to guess what spectacle has caused this look from the actor.

"We're going to re-create one of the most iconic scenes in movie history", says Alan before the next round. It's a taped event, Alan and Micky have taken some acting lessons, and will attempt to re-enact a scene where a man tries to break down a locked door by smashing his axe through it. Why is he battering the main bulk of the door? Surely if he wants to get in, he concentrates on the weak points, such as the hinges, or the plot.

There's Something About Movies Peggy Darling of the Central School for Luvvies helps Micky and Alan clap their hands.

Anyway, we see Alan and Micky prepare for the role, and then go through with it. We see the finished results, and hear a critique from the drama teacher. None of this alters the scores in any way, as it's a non-scored round.

Round three, who has cried more on screen, Tom Hanks or Natalie Portman? Points for the right answer, no points for the wrong answer.

So far, the show has been something of a pointless endeavour. And we mean that quite literally, no points were scored in the first round, no points could be scored in the second round, and no points were scored in the third round. The victory will be determined in the final round: the partial interrogation.

There's Something About Movies Jimmy Carr will make funny interjections.

The aim is to re-create a "classic" and "iconic" scene from a movie. One of the team is able to see cue cards, and ask the questions from the original script. The other player has no script to work from, and will have to think up their own responses to the questions. The audience chooses the better performance in this round, they win the point, and hence the game. Popcorn for the winners, popped dreams for the losers.

And, with only a brief reprise of the filmed sequence from earlier, the show ends. This column's initial reaction: thank goodness that's over. And we're not saying that because this is barely a game show. Not everything has to be a competition, messing about between friends is a fine television tradition. And we don't think it's because movies are a slightly alien concept to us; the clips played in during the show meant little to us, but made some sort of sense in context.

There's Something About Movies Three of the most inept questioners anywhere.

No, our problem is that Alan Carr doesn't know his own limitations. He's not the funniest comedian on the panel, not when the panel contains Lolly Adefope. Heck, even Jimmy Carr was much funnier than Alan Carr, and we have little love for Jimmy Carr. Nor is Alan the best actor on the panel, not when the panel contains Michael Sheen. Alan imposed himself on the format, like a needy puppy who will bark until someone plays with it.

Some people will watch this programme for Alan Carr, and they'll get what they came for. Some folk will watch the show for the star guest, and they'll be disappointed – it's a long hour for two minutes of brilliance from Katherine Ryan. There is an audience for this show, but it's not very large – CPL's sport quiz A League of Their Own pulls in half a million and more, their movie show is doing a third of that.

We found the programme to be very scattershot: the first episode had a comedy re-enactment of a horror movie, one of a romcom, and one of a crime interrogation. We have no idea whether we're coming or going. Perhaps they might have taken a leaf out of Mark Kermode's book. His recent "Secrets of Cinema" series on BBC4 spent an hour drawing comparisons between movies in a similar genre. A week on disaster movies, a week on romantic comedies, a week on action films. There's Something About Movies would have benefited from some sort of structure, help us concentrate our minds; they can drop it next year, once we're a little more familiar with the show.

There's Something About Movies And can someone tell Alan how to hack a door open? This is hopeless.

Is this show worth your while? If you're a fan of Alan Carr, or a mainstream movie obsessive, then yes. But if you're a casual viewer, perhaps it's not.

Gameshow of Thrones

Gameshow of Thrones

Znak & Co for The Satellite Channel, 29 March

How did KYTV plan to mark 11pm on 29 March? By asking questions about the massive amount of blood spilled on this impossible and futile endeavour that has caused so many to doubt their allegiances and question their "betters". Yes, it's Sue Perkins with a quiz about KYTV's big import drama Game of Thrones.

In the last review, we said that "not everything has to be a competition". Game of Thrones is a perfect example; in spite of what the title might let you think, it's not a game show as we understand it. It's a drama series, very popular amongst the chattering classes, and with a massive cult following. But it's stuck away on KYTV's subscriber-only channel, which this column doesn't get, so we've only followed the series through osmosis.

Gameshow of Thrones Real candles! Real celebrities!

Prior to the final series starting, Sue Perkins hosted a 90-minute special asking cast members (Kate Dickie and Hannah Waddingham) and guests (Rob Beckett, Rickie Haywood-Williams, Jonathan Ross, Joel Dommett) to talk about the show. It was all done in a very positive atmosphere: KYTV is hardly going to say "Oh, this premium show we've been bugging you about for the last eight years, it's really a load of pish."

The challenges tended to be predictable. Here's one of the actors from Game of Thrones with a question about some plot minutiae. Can you remember the answer? During your discussions, will you be able to make some jokes? There's a Wheel of Misfortune: what happened when this character met the other?

Gameshow of Thrones Sue rings the bell to start school.

A round where they've merged the faces of three men to form one compound face: can our players unscramble them? There's a buzzer round, featuring the most profane buzzers we've heard in two decades. Yet this is not out of character, Game of Thrones is very much an adult show, featuring strong language, nudity, gore, scenes of a sexual nature, gratuitous violence, and all of that in spades. It's the modern hipster's equivalent of the opium den, louche and carefree.

And, almost inevitably, there's How Did This Character Meet Their Grisly, Gruesome, and Horrible End? "Burned by a dragon!" "Pushed off a bridge!" "Forced to watch The Simpsons until their brains turned to liquid and death came as a merciful release!" Rather than a head-to-head, this round ends in a dead-to-dead: the team's champion is to name as many deceased characters as they can, without hesitation, repetition, or naming someone still alive – unless they've died and been reanimated.

Gameshow of Thrones Pointless dead to dead.

Later in the show, we catch up with Jamie East. The Big Brother's Little Brother's Bit on the Side Extra Plus contributor is in Northern Ireland, to show us some of the locations – and some of the clips filmed there. And he's going to ask questions about some of the plot related to some of the clips filmed there.

And speaking of Big Brother people, here's Rylan Clark-Neal. He's talking to himself, which should surprise no-one. What is he talking about? Specifically, what scenes in Game of Thrones is he describing? Not only is Rylan's description entertaining in its own right, but the panel are entertaining as they describe what's happening.

The mystery guest round asks our panel to work out the claim to fame of these people. Jamie's Prop Quiz asked questions about the show: why does Jendry use a weapon like this? Special seating is brought in for the Master Mind section, each of the captains has nominated a specialist subject on which to be quizzed. Sue Perkins asks questions on this topic for a minute, and makes a far better job of it than some other hosts we could name.

Gameshow of Thrones Jamie East auditions for the Father Ted revival.

It is a contest, they do keep score, and there's one point for winning each round, and the team winning more rounds at the end of the programme win the show. But these people don't play to win, they play to be entertaining.

Was Gameshow of Thrones worth watching? Yes. Yes, it was. Perhaps more than the source show, where the main reaction seems to be "meh". And that raises a deeper question: what made Gameshow of Thrones fun to watch, when There's Something About Movies left us wanting to switch over?

The answer lies in the approach. Gameshow of Thrones had great confidence in its theme. "We're going to make a show celebrating Game of Thrones. We're going to be huge nerds, everything on the show is going to be closely related to our topic. And we're going to have a good time." It's an infectious way to have fun, and we could tolerate the extreme plot pedantry because Sperkins or Jross was always on the verge of saying something funny. While we know very little about the source material, we know when they're gently ribbing its excesses.

Gameshow of Thrones Jonathan Ross collects panel show wins.

By contrast, There's Something About Movies seemed to fall between two stools. "We're going to make a panel show about movies, except it's not a panel show. We're going to ask for nerdy plot points, and do some tomfoolery, and we'll veer from tone to tone like no-one's business." It's a long way from horror movies to Natalie Portman, a move we cannot make in a moment.

Our abiding memory: There's Something About Movies was hard work, Gameshow of Thrones was as easy as slipping into a warm bath.

Mastermind Update

Semi-final 5

Janet Farley starts with The Human Body. "What name is given to a fissure between two gyri?" asks one question. The contender knows, and might be the only person in the room who does. Good stuff, 10.

Ian Orriss has Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Just the one error as this contender also makes it to 10.

Allan Wright tells us about Leicester City FC. As seems to be tradition on this show, they're only discussing the men's football team, though they don't say so. Guess it would be "too confusing". No passes, unlike his subject, and 9 points.

Bekah Oliver discusses Helen Keller. It's a decisive round, answer what you know, pass what you don't. Scores 10 points, but those 3 passes might count against.

Jo Skinner concludes with the Life and Works of Frida Kahlo. A little slower than the other contenders, and in a week of fine margins, this could make a difference. 9 (2 passes)

Just the one point covers the whole field; even though they know each others' scores, they don't know the pass situation. Allan is first in: after a nervy start, he falls into something of a pass spiral, and recovers well to end on 19 (5 passes). Jo has a strong start, wobbles a bit in the middle, then picks up to 19 (3 passes).

Janet never gets any momentum into the round, it's more stop-start than a traffic jam on a sunny bank holiday. 15 is the final. Ian starts strongly, confuses his kipper with his haddock, and recovers well to finish on 21.

Bekah is last to re-take the chair, and needs a great performance. It's not going to happen: a great start, then more passes than a tour of the Alps. 15 is the final score.

So Ian Orriss, the management accountant, will join us in the final on 14 June. It'll be more exciting than England against Argentina in the football.

This Week and Next

Good news from Alex Trebek: we hear that the cancer in his body is being beaten back, and the Transatlantic Top of the Form host is doing far better than anyone dared hope. We'll have a profile later this summer.

It's the Gameshow Marathon revival we didn't expect. ITV has commissioned five one-off remakes of well-known games. The series will feature remakes of Play Your Cards Right, Take Your Pick, Strike it Lucky, Bullseye, and The Price is Right. All five episodes will be made by Talkback (part of Fremantle Media), and all will be hosted by Alan Carr. That's why it basks under the working title of Alan Carr's Epic Game Shows.

Play Your Cards Right Very big shoes to fill.

A brief history of these shows:

  • Play Your Cards Right was hosted by HRH Sir Bruce Forsyth, and was last in regular series in 2003.
  • Take Your Pick has been off screens for even longer, the last regular series was hosted by Des O'Connor in 1998. It was originally hosted by Michael Miles (1955-68)
  • Strike it Lucky is always associated with Michael Barrymore, for better or worse. We've not seen new episodes since 1999.
  • Bullseye is best remembered with Jim Bowen, which ended in 1995; Dave Spikey did a shortlived revival on the Challenge Channel in 2006.
  • The Price is Right has been around the houses: Leslie Crowther on ITV (1984-8), Bob Warman on The Satellite Channel (1989-90), Lord Brucie on ITV again (1995-2001), Joe Pasquale on ITV again (2006-7), Alan Carr on Channel 4 (2017), and now back to ITV.

With the exception of Strike it Lucky, all these shows were part of the Antan Dec Gameshow Marathon in 2005.

From a business perspective, this makes great sense. Fremantle Media gets to float five of its best-known formats on primetime television, and five formats that have been pretty much off the telly since the last century. Alan Carr gets to appear on mainstream television, from which he's been mostly absent for a couple of years.

From an artistic perspective, it's bizarre that ITV has chosen to bring back these old shows. All belong to a bygone age, they're what game shows were, not the contemporary We Versus Them fierce-but-friendly dynamic. Take Your Pick was already old-fashioned in its 90s revival, and we fear that Strike it Lucky will have aged terribly. The mid-aughts revival of Bullseye is rightly forgotten. The ghost of Bruce Forsyth looms large over The Price is Right, and is forever associated with Play Your Cards Right.

That said, all of these formats will have a certain nostalgia value, and a one-off show will not outstay its welcome.

Given a completely independent choice, without regard to who owns the formats, which five ITV games would we choose for a revival, even with a host we don't much like? Let's have Alan's Full House (a Biggest Game in Town clone), Man O Man (the one where Mr. Carr pushes useless men into the water), and Win, Lose or Draw. We'll take another look at early Bradley Walsh vehicle Spin Star, and bring back Duel.

BARB ratings in the week to 19 May.

  1. Got Talent remains television's most popular programme (ITV, Sat, 8.53m), but it saw off a strong challenge from Eurovision Song Contest final (BBC1, Sat-Sun, 7.3m). Coronation Street is the biggest non-game show (ITV, Mon, 6.85m), just ahead of Gentleman Jack (BBC1, Sun, 6.7m).
  2. For the record, Game of Thrones finished its story with 4.7m viewers (KYTV Ocean, Sun night/Mon morning). That's behind The Eastenders (BBC1) and Emmerdale Farm (ITV), but ahead of another deadly show, Midsomer Murders (ITV). Well done to the eventual Game of Thrones winner, James Holzhauer.
  3. Back on topic. Third biggest game show was Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri, 4.25m), ahead of Would I Lie to You FA Cup Filler (BBC1, Sat, 3.4m). Brightest Family had its final (ITV, Wed, 3.05m) – a strong set of figures in a difficult demographic for ITV.
  4. Great Local Menu reached its final week, and the biggest draw was Andrew Ridgeley (BBC2, Wed, 1.9m). Bake Off The Professionals continued (C4, Tue, 1.85m). Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 1.35m) leads the new channels, and is miles ahead of Mastermind (BBC2, Fri, 870,000).
  5. Other new channel shows: Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 860,000), Stephen Mulhern's Got More Talent (ITV2, Sat, 685,000), and Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals (BBC4, Tue, 650,000). Our review show, There's Something About Movies, is pulling about 170,000 pairs of eyeballs.

Like a ruthless chef, ITV moves quickly from one season to the next. Got Talent reaches its final on Sunday, and the new series of Love Island begins on ITV2 on Monday. Celebability returns (ITV2, Wed), there's a new run of The Voice Kids (ITV, Sat), and Harry Hill's Alien Fun Capsule comes back for a new run.

Also back: what tabloids called Mark Pougatch's The World Cup – except that Pougatch has been sensationally AXED and the rights have been HANDED on a plate to the BBC. Gabby Logan is at the helm, as Auntie shows every match in the month-long tournament from next Friday.

Photo credits: CPL (a Red Arrow Studios company) and Motion Content Group, Znak & Co, YTV.

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