Weaver's Week 2019-11-24

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The Weeks of the 2010s: Cookery | Reality | Quiz | Talent | Crafts and Childrens | Entertainments

Part five in our review of The Decade With No Name, and it's a double feature. Later, we're touching on the shows for children and young viewers, but we start with arts and lifestyle – excluding all things cookery.


Antiques and Collectibles

While Antiques Roadshow remains one of the most popular and most enduring shows on television, it's not a game show. Bargain Hunt is a game show, and it's enjoyed a second decade of great success, the most regular fixture at 12.15 every single lunchtime. Bargain Hunt has survived the loss of its founder, the charismatic David Dickinson, and it's survived some bad feeling from his replacement, the eccentric Tim Wonnacott. The show is a television institution.

Bargain Hunt An average result.

Antiques Road Trip came quietly to our screens late last decade. It's a very simple format, two people and two antiques experts scour sales and shops for the best collectibles they can find, hoping to turn a profit at auction. The gentle rivalry between the teams makes for a clear and compelling dramatic arc. Celebrity editions of Antiques Road Trip creep into primetime, and we enjoy the occasional episode.

David Dickinson is himself a television institution. Since he took ITV's shilling, he's mostly presented Dickinson's Real Deal, a show where he (er) goes around the country finding collectables and trying to value them. He also tried a personality show, Name Your Price (2), where he lied about antiques and indulged in a Take Your Pick-esque final round; the show would have worked if it had had a straightman as host, someone to run the show and let Dickinson give his character the full potential.

Name Your Price (2) The truthful host and fabricating liar.

That was one amongst many, many daytime shows to revolve around antiques. Flog It has run for years and years, it's a game if you squint hard enough. For What It's Worth put values to antiques, and the primetime quiz Antiques Master tried to put a price on this historic sandwich from Ethel's Sandwich Kitchen. More recently, Curiosity piqued our interest, Paul Martin almost plays The Crystal Maze with crystal decanters.

Truly, there are only two distinct antiques formats: "how much is this geegaw worth?" and "can you buy and sell at a profit?" There are enough slightly different takes on these ideas to fill Freeview channels Really and Home, and some pay-tv channels as well.


After the success of Bake Off, Love Productions wanted to spread its wings and make more television. To the surprise of many, their chosen media were textiles and clay. The Great Pottery Throw Down and Sewing Bee both came to BBC2, both attempted to recapture the feel of that tent-based cookery show. Neither of them hit their mark, they remained quite niche programmes. That isn't because they were bad programmes, but because we had such high expectations of anything Love Productions made. And, in fairness, because the shows were a bit too much like Bake Off Applied To Other Crafts and lacked enough of a distinctive mark.

The Great British Sewing Bee Calling its competitors "sewers" was a ditchy move.

The BBC loves to show gently educational in daytime. It encourages the viewers – who skew elderly – to go out and enjoy themselves, pick up a new skill or refresh something from their childhood. Channel 4 loves to show something similar in primetime, it appeals to the yummy mummies who hanker after the crafts of their youth.

So there are a lot of shows under the broad heading of craft, some of which pass muster as games. Kirstie Allsopp's Being Crafty Again is a regular cry on Channel 4, and she's managed to get at least proper game series out of the decorative swirls and scrapbooks and glitterkites.

Celebrity Craft Masters A Channel 4 fixture and/or fitting.

Indeed, Channel 4 seems to have cornered the market in this sort of programme. Old House New Home and Find It Fix It Flog It aren't game shows, but they're cheap enough and repeatable enough to have a regular place on the Channel 4 schedule. Some of the formats have been competitive enough for our purposes, French Collection and the recent Your Room or Mine? have been different ideas on how to do up old tat, or your fusty old room.

Interior design has been a neglected area, most often left to BBC2. The Great Interior Design Challenge ran for some years to very limited interest, the more recent Interior Design Masters seems to have done enough to get a second series. There was exterior designing in The Great Garden Challenge (2) on Channel 5.

The Great Garden Challenge (2) Plant.

While Scrapheap Challenge remained resolutely off the air, it was almost revived in Dave's suspiciously similar Scrapyard Supercar. Petrolheads also got their fix on The Satellite Channel's battle cars programme Carnage, and there was a short-lived revival for Robot Wars.

Painting isn't an obvious choice for television, a good work will take months to complete. By setting an artificial deadline, Portrait Artist of the Year can hold a competition for the telly, condensing one day's work into an hour. The series has been a tremendous success for the Artsworld channel, and spawned both a spin-off Landscape Artist of the Year and a competitor programme on BBC1, The Big Painting Challenge. More instant results came on the international Artsworld contest Master of Photography.


The deep recession at the start of the 2010s meant that society wasn't quite as interested in shows about buying and selling houses. The genre didn't die completely, but the shows that did survive – Homes Under the Hammer, A Place in the Sun – tended to be less aspirational and more realistic about what people could afford.

Guess This House – an ITV lunchtime filler one summer – was as much a snoop through someone's home and possessions as it was about the price of the building. The Home Game – which filled in for The Chase for a month one spring – was property porn, revelling in "adding value".

Guess This House Mirror mirror on the wall, how much are you worth?

But most of the shows about house and home have been improving what you've already got, not starting something from fresh. More than anything, it's a summary of the decade in this culture.

Shows for children

When some people talk about "the BBC", they think of the news division. Because these individuals are news junkies, and watch nothing else, so they assume that the only thing the BBC does is the news. Some of these people take their delusion to extremes, and make the ludicrous assumption that the BBC is incapable of accidental error, and anything that goes wrong is a plot stretching all the way up to Lord "Tony" Hall.

This column agrees that the BBC is staffed by super people, and the high quality of the programmes is a tribute to how well they do in some very trying circumstances. Yes, the BBC makes some mistakes, but it is open and transparent and accounts for its errors. Unlike (ahem) certain other broadcasters we could mention (cough, splut). Sorry, there's a jiggy bank in our throat.

While some people reckon the BBC is summed up by its news, this column reckons that the BBC is best summarised by the CBBC channel, aimed at children aged 6-14(ish). All art is contained in these four walls: drama that reflects life as it is, as it was, and as it could be. There are observational documentaries, comedies, and the sheer entertainment of cartoons. And there are some shows we call game.

The Dog Ate My Homework The Fabulous Iain Stirling wears a remarkably silly hat.

For instance, The Dog Ate My Homework. Very few things link all of the children who watch CBBC programmes, they're as diverse as anything. But just about everyone will know about "homework", that invention to help young minds become more self-sufficient, to guide their learning. To keep them off the streets, out of constructive community activities, and bore the youngster senseless with endless essays on the reformation according to the Tudors.

The Dog Ate My Homework riffs off all of these ideas, it's a panel game with sharp wit and a sense of enormous fun. The Fabulous Iain Stirling hosted for many years, until the gravitational pull of Love Island became just too great. As he said at the end of each show, "We didn't learn much, but we had fun trying."

Top Class Mr. Fanshawe takes the spotlight on questions the children know.

That's not a phrase we associate with Top Class, CBBC's academic quiz show. The search for the smartest school follows closely to the common curriculum for ten- and eleven-year-old children, it asks questions that the younger viewers might know, the older viewers should know, and children about the age of the contestants can feel proud for knowing. Almost every question has a visual graphic, it's far more interesting to watch than the parent show University Challenge.

The young teams have a chance to shine in their own "pet subject" round, and get the chance to turn the tables when their teachers are quizzed about popular culture. Worth the price of admission for that round alone, and for Susan Calman's genuine and enthusiastic hosting.

Adventure time

At the end of the last decade, we mentioned how interactive games seemed to have been left behind. Is there a way for viewers at home to play along, and influence the action on screen? And can this be done in real time, so the narrative is coherent and fast-flowing and doesn't require Mary Sue to pither about asking "Oh, what should I do?"

Children's programmes have involved the viewer. Boom Productions developed a simple app that let viewers play the same game as the children on screen, and see if they can beat the telly. Welsh-language shows Y Lifft and Pyramid were testing grounds for this app, before it went national on Ludus. We're surprised that there haven't been more app-a-long shows in the years since.

Ludus Thought they'd run for evah!

Last Commanders looked at it from a different angle: a small group of children control the actions of their avatar on a troubled space station. The children are at home, video-conferencing into the studio network, so they can see what their player sees. It's a wonderful demonstration of what technology can do, and the challenge for the next decade is how to scale this up so all viewers can take part?

Less interactive adventures have also been big business: everyone loves a good story, and the delight is that viewers could put themselves in as the hero. CBBC's Raven came to an end in 2010, with a brief and uncertain revival in 2017-18. Its replacement was Mission 2110, a show designed to have a short run.

Mission 2110 Mission 2110 commander Caleb communes with Cybele.

Some of the adventure series have been vaguely educational – Relic - Guardians of the Museum taught about history and ancient cultures, perhaps in a less accessible way than Horrible Histories and its spin off Horrible Histories Gory Games. Singing sensations Jedward hosted Jedward's Big Adventure, a tourist trail show around sites of historic and cultural importance.

ITV hasn't done much children's television this decade, but the shows it has made were of high quality. A team version of Fort Boyard - Ultimate Challenge - ran for a number of years, using the real fortress and asking children to take on the same challenges as those faced by screeching grown-ups. More recently, Spy School encouraged code-breaking and logical thinking. S4C's Prosiect Z combined tag with an escape room in your school; it's been remade for anglophone audiences as Project Z.

Spy School Destination data, Agent L?

Sam and Mark will sing for your entertainment

Glee Club Sam and Mark, CBBC's established stars.

Is it true that Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes have been a television staple for almost half their lives? These old friends spent another decade working together. Their Saturday morning show TMi came to an end, eventually replaced by Big Friday Wind-Up and in the new year by a revival of Crackerjack. They've hosted children's singing competition Glee Club and fronted Sports Showdown, a contest for fit families.

Taking The Next Step is another show where Sam and Mark hosted, but the bulk of the series was fronted by Lindsey Russell. She is a legendary presenter on Blue Peter, with a list of career highlights including the Red Arrows, pointless Pointless answer, swimming with sharks, ably hosting A Question of Sport spin-offs, training Iggy the guide dog pup, alpacas, street origami in Paris, winning the Pointless Celebrities jackpot, and always – always! – taking the top off a blender. All of this began on Blue Peter You Decide, where a panel of expert judges and a viewer vote selected Lindsey out of ten possible candidates. This was the correct answer, and is why we need to leave all important decisions to young people under 16.

Pointless All hail the decade's breakout star.

There have been other entertainments with a nod towards games. Remotely Funny went all around your house via an internet linkup, Saara asked for items to be found and stunts to be pulled; there was a winner, but we all remember the fun we had along the way. The same was true for Copycats, another Sam and Mark show, where teams mimed something down the line, hoping to pass it on so the person at the end could guess what it was. Fee Fi Fo Yum was the bizarre mixture of a giant, cookery, and Les Dennis.

Some shows were a little more highbrow. Pocket Money Pitch asked viewers to come up with a business case for new toys and things to buy, Saira Khan has a wonderful way of working with children. Airmageddon was an experimental show, trying to make drone racing look good on television, and proving that it probably couldn't be done. Un Cwestiwn was a fairly simple quiz in Welsh.

The Big Spell was Sky's effort at a show aimed towards young viewers, but also at their parents; while the contest was good, the presentation was poor, and it's no surprise that the show wasn't renewed. Preschool children were served by the pirates-and-ethics physical game Swashbuckle, and we'll be reviewing panel show Gigglequiz before the end of the year.

Swashbuckle All aboard The Scarlet Squid.

There will be changes to children's television in the new decade. We don't mean Newsround abolishing the evening bulletin that no-one watches in favour of online updates. No, we mean new money into the industry; there's a government fund to make programmes for young people aged about 6-16, because the free market fails to cater properly for them. We look forward to the new shows, because some of them will surely be proper competitive games.

The Weeks of the 2010s: Cookery | Reality | Quiz | Talent | Crafts and Childrens | Entertainments

This Week and Next

Taskmaster Your task is to redirect post for this house to our new home.

Taskmaster is to move. The show has gone out on UKTV Dave for the past five years, but is now out of contract. The next series will be made for Channel 4. Taskmaster joins a stable of fresh, new, innovative commissions like The Crystal Maze, Bake Off, and Don't Tell the Bride.

From BBC Archives, a quiz show quiz. There are just seven questions to tackle, but they've packed a lot in there.

BARB ratings in the week to 10 November.

  1. Strictly Come Dancing is still top of the pile, but the Sunday show tops for the first time this year (10.7m to 10.45m on Sat). David Attenborough documentary Seven Worlds, One Planet is second (BBC1, Sun, 8.45m), and drama His Dark Materials third (BBC1, Sun, 7.7m).
  2. Just a little further down we find Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri, 4.7m) and Would I Lie to You (BBC1, Fri, 4.4m). The Chase had fireworks (ITV, Tue, 4.134m) and just beat The Wall (BBC1, Sat, 4.128m). The Chase GMTV Presenters (ITV, Sat, 3.8m) ahead of The X Factor Celebrity (ITV, Sat, 3.75m) and Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat, 3.7m) follow.
  3. Masterchef The Professionals began (BBC2, Tue, 3.55m). Unusually, University Challenge (BBC2, Mon, 2.56m) finished ahead of Only Connect (2.52m). Take Me Out (ITV, Sat, 2.25m) continues to struggle, behind all episodes of Tipping Point (ITV, best on Wed, 2.6m).
  4. Celebrity Hunted was Channel 4's top game (Sun, 2.45m), Junior Bake Off launched with 1.82m (Mon), and Four in a Bed scored 595,000 on Saturday lunchtime.
  5. New channel leaders were Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 1.22m), Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 765,000), Gigglequiz (Cbeebies, 430,000), Swashbuckle (Cbeebies, 310,000), and There's Something About Movies (The Satellite Channel, 250,000). MTV's True Love or True Lies? finished on Tue (135,000).

Great news for children everywhere this Sunday. CBBC has already begun a new series of The Dog Ate My Homework with guest host Hacker T Dog, and it's the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (S4C, Fun Kids radio, TG4, jesc.tv).

For older viewers, The Switch (ITV, weekdays) is a new general knowledge quiz, hoping to become the new Tenable. Buy It Now for Christmas (C4, Thu) sees all sorts of gifts and gizmos, hosted by Rylan Clark-Neal.

It's the Counterpoint final (Radio 4, Mon), and Strongest Man all week (C5, weeknights). Reigning Pop Idol Michelle McManus is on St Andrews' Day Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat), and it's the final of The X Factor Colon Celebrity (ITV, Sat).

Photo credits: BBC, ITV Studios, Love Productions, Raise the Roof Productions, Crackit, 12 Yard, Boom Pictures / Cube Interactive, Zodiak Kids, Remarkable (part of EndemolShineGroup), Avalon Productions.

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