Weaver's Week 2019-12-08

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Have you seen any bears, Mr. Johnson?





BBC Children's Productions for Cbeebies, 28 October - 15 November

Astute readers may be aware that there's an election on. One of the party leaders, Mr. Johnson, has been conspicuous by his absence. He hasn't kept a date with Andrew Neil, leaving the grouchy Scotsman to pay for his own drinks with a crisp ten-shilling note from his wallet. He didn't turn up to discuss the environment on Channel 4; his replacement, a dripping block of ice, was his equal in quality and intellect.

Gigglequiz Coming up: news on Miss Peep's lost flock.

We can exclusively reveal where Mr. Johnson has been. He's been courting the votes of children aged three and four, a subject he knows a lot about. Evidence of this has been found on Cbeebies, courtesy of the channel's leading reporter, Mr. Sleep. When not reading The News at Bedtime, Arthur presents the panel game Gigglequiz.

Don't let the name fool you, Gigglequiz is a highbrow intellectual challenge, with rigorous standards throughout. The show sets out its position in the theme song: "there are answers to guess, and buzzers to press, and Giggle points to win when we get stuff right." Loose and fluffy answers are not tolerated: contributors to Gigglequiz can expect to be pressed for a straight answer to a straight question.

Gigglequiz The set is stylish and instantly recognisable.

The resident captains are Gail and Keith. On one sample show, Miss Force was joined by Captain Adorable, a superhero here to save the planet from bad fashion choices. And with Mr. Fitt, it's Mr. Johnson, a cad in a tweed jacket.

Gigglequiz Captain Adorable and Gail Force.

Round one is a test of the panel's observation skills. Shown a scene from everyday life, they'll be expected to account for what happens on screen, and use it to justify their policy decisions. Again, on our sample show, Mr. Johnson was asked "what instrument is played by the leader of this orchestra?" The faintest echo of a laugh rumbled up from the BBC Breakfast Room.

Unable to answer this on his own, Mr. Johnson used a lifeline, and wondered what "a Helping Bear" would say. "Grr," probably, but what do we know. We are not wise to the ways of an ursocracy, we know nothing of government by bears; indeed, we've not found any mention of this in his party's manifesto.


Mr. Johnson pretended not to notice the charges of making up policy on the paw, or the Helping Bear sat down behind him and playing a small piano they've left lying around the studio. "A violin," he confidently answered.

Mr. Johnson drones on. He has a recipe for everyone to rally behind. "I know just the things we need. I'm a professional. First, some bear-spotter's notepaper. It really helps to jot down any sightings."

"Next, we need some paper cups." What, is Mr. Johnson proposing to put Accumulate! on primetime ITV by legislative fiat? Ah. No. "Bear spotting is thirsty work," claims the expert. "And finally, some camouflage. That helping bear will only appear if we hide."

Gigglequiz -It's on your right.
-Yes, I'm all right.

We must note that Mr. Sleep has kept his newscaster's desk, complete with brown trimphone, a supply of pencils for the contributors to chew on, and a state-of-the-art sound system. If only other news people had such a well-crafted working environment.

Gigglequiz Arthur's entry for "Host holding a question card".

Round two features Nana Knickerbocker, and her Panto Showdown. In this event, the panel are to predict just how productive the economy will be over the next period of time.

Gigglequiz It's Nana Knickerbocker.
Oh no it isn't.
Oh yes it is.
Oh no it isn't.
Do you want me to get former trade minister Vince Cable to read you a bedtime story?
Oh yes it is.

The challenge varies from day to day – on some episodes, the question relates to the output of cakes from a cake-decorating factory. Other times, it's how many balloons will the workers find in small tubs of jelly. At least once, the questions were quite personal: how many children does Mr. Johnson have?

Gigglequiz Well done if you got that one right.

The buzzers haven't yet been used, but all that must change under the First Law of Panel Games. In 2008, there came an Act for the Regulation of Broadcast Contests; section 47 paragraph (f) mandates the "Quickfire-Buzzer" round for all contests in a two-by-two format. "Don't blame me," huffed Mr. Johnson, "I don't make the rules". An indistinguishable shout came from the audience for The Line Up.

For this round, a clip of another party's policies is played, and the leaders are to buzz in and give their reactions. Given the poor sportsmanship shown earlier by Mr. Johnson, Miss Force believes it's within the rules to phone a friend. The final scores are counted, and put into the supercomputer to be revealed at 10 o'clock on Thursday next.

Gigglequiz Gail can phone a friend, an option not available to the other team.

OK, OK, we'll give you a straightforward summary of Gigglequiz. It's a panel game between cartoon characters of Justin Fletcher's imagination. He plays enthusiastic newsreader Arthur Sleep. And he plays captains Gail Force and Keith Fitt. And he plays Captain Adorable, Rapids Johnson, Nana Knickerbocker, DIY Dan, and many many more. The only part he doesn't play is that of Helping Bear, that's Josh Elwell in a bear suit.

All of these characters exist on set thanks to green screen technology, a technical miracle allowing Justin to be in five places at once.

The script hits just the right note: easy enough for the target audience of three-year-olds to be entertained and gently educated (a counting game, what to do with leaves in the autumn, how to spot a charlatan in a tweed jacket). Barrie Bignold's music is just right for the show, lively and enthusiastic, and in the best traditions of cheesy panel games.

Gigglequiz If the scores are level, the match will be decided by a tie-break.

Like all of Justin Fletcher's work, Gigglequiz entertains both the children and the adults they're watching with. Older viewers will be familiar with the conventions of the panel quiz, team-mates who are meant to be working together, but often don't listen to each other. Young children will be impressed that Professor Muddles has worked out how to use a door, and that they know how to go through it even if the Prof doesn't.

Gigglequiz Prof. Muddles and his thingamabob.

Celebrities coming through a door, now there's a format for the new decade...

Celebrity Countdown


More4, 12 and 19 November

While we're in the area, here's another intellectual refuge on digital channels. It's a spinoff from 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, with many of the silliest edges filed off. Sadly, it turns out to be the silly edges that keep the programme interesting.

Jimmy Carr has been given his marching orders, and told to smug off somewhere else. In his seat, we have television newcomer Nick Hewer. He keeps proceedings on track with as much authority as Nicholas Parsons on Just a Minute. Nick believes in minimal hosting: he doesn't perform comedy tricks while the contestants are playing, and he keeps his patter safe for the inevitable pre-watershed repeat.

Countdown The set is familiar.

The other big change is that the teams have been slimmed down. There's still a captain who we've heard of, but there's no longer a second comedy partner. Celebrity Countdown is an individual game, not one played by pairs.

Rachel Riley and Susie Dent are still amongst us, the famed Keepers of the Dictionaries and the Numbers could not be replaced. Susie is joined by a comedian, who will share their solutions and deliver an anecdote just before half time.

Countdown Our players tonight: Jay Rayner and Jo Brand.

Rachel also gets to deliver a mini-lecture, and this comes a little too early in the programme. After the introductions and the first letters round, the competition stops again for Rachel to talk about number theory. On the opening episode, she talked about the Rule of 937.5, a target you can always reach using four large numbers. 25*75/(50*100) = 937.5, and by adding or subtracting from the 25 or 75, you can get closer to the target.

Er, quite. All of this is fine and dandy, but what effect does it have on the viewer? "Oh, a less childish spinoff of Catsdown. Yay, Jo Brand! Whoop, Susie Dent! Rachel Riley, she always knows what she's talking about. Delivering a maths lesson, all scrawling on the board about big numbers. Er, is there something less demanding on ITV? Ah, Myles From Rak-Su being very daring and jumping off a brick."

Countdown We're not actually sure if that's Numberwang.

And the show continues. Susie talks about words, the celebrities give their opinions – and they're the butt of the jocular Pint-Time Teasers. Scoring is unusual: everyone gets a point for each letter in a valid word, or their numbers solution – so if your opponent finds ENVISAGES and you only get GENESIS, you're only down 18-7.

But, ultimately, the pace is too slow for primetime. The hour concludes, someone has won, and we don't actually care. Neither do viewers, switching off in their droves. The first show had a decent 250,000 tuning in, the second show lost half its viewers, and they haven't bothered with the other four episodes.

The Official Albums Chart

Our annual review of how well game show celebrities are doing on the albums chart this year. Whose CD are you likely to find in your stocking this year?

Michael Ball (BBC Eurovision 1992) is working with Alfie Boe again: their album "Back Together" has been in the top five for a month; their two prior works have also charted.

Cliff Richard (BBC Eurovision 1968, 1974) looks back on his earlier career with The Shadows on "The Best of the Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers".

Céline Dion (SRG SSR Eurovision 1988) has a top ten album "Courage".

Martin & Shirlie are the parents of Roman Kemp, wowing on I'm a Celebrity; their album is "In the Swing of It".

John Barrowman (Pressure Pad, The Movie Game, and many more) sings and dances through "A Fabulous Christmas".

Get well soon, mate.

Chris Kamara (Ninja Warrior) released an album "Here's to Christmas". Approach at your own peril.

James Arthur (The X Factor 2012) has "You" to thank on his album.

Freya Ridings owes her fame to Love Island; her eponymous album has been out since late summer.

Peppa Pig allows her family to appear on "My First Album", including her Pointless father Alexander Armstrong. Don't knock it: the album's sold consistently for the past six weeks.

ABBA (SVT Eurovision 1974) "Gold" has been selling consistently for the past 784 weeks.

Earlier in the autumn, Gareth Malone (various choir contests) put out "Music for Healing". Justin Fletcher (Gigglequiz) released his greatest hits album "Gold". Lindsey Stirling (Got Talent and Dancing With the Stars) gave us "Artemis". All three albums are jolly good. But be careful: Cult of Luna didn't name themselves after Ben Justice's cat, sorry to bring bad news.

This Week and Next

Rose D'Or awards were dished out on Sunday night. The shows we call game got nothing – Michael McIntyre's Big Show won Studio Entertainment, The Repair Shop took Reality and Factual Entertainment. Nyaaah.

Children's BAFTA awards were also handed out on Sunday night. Cbeebies won Channel of the Year, so well done to them. Horrible Histories won Comedy, and Creeped Out took Drama, two well-deserved prizes. The Entertainment award went to Play Your Pets Right (Lion Television / Sky Kids), which seems to have passed us by. Nikki Lilly from Junior Bake Off won a special award for her charity work. The best presenter on children's television is Lindsey Russell, and so say all of us.

The future CBBC-ers want.

BARB ratings in the week to 24 November.

  1. I'm a Celebrity settles into pole position (ITV, Mon, 12.15m), ahead of Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, Sat, 10.85m). Seven Worlds One Planet (BBC1, Sun, 8.55m) is the top non-game, ahead of Michael McIntyre's Big Show (BBC1, Sat, 7.6m).
  2. A long way to the next game show: Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri, 4.35m). A best-ever score for The Hit List (BBC1, Sat, 3.98m), ahead of Catchphrase Celebrities (ITV, Sun, 3.8m).
  3. Masterchef The Professionals leads on BBC2 (Thu, 3.45m), where there were year's best ratings for University Challenge (2.73m) and Only Connect (2.71m). Junior Bake Off finished on Channel 4 (Fri, 1.65m), and stays ahead of House of Games (BBC2, Tue, 1.55m).
  4. I'm a Celebrity Extra Camp remains top of the non-PSB chart (ITV2, Mon, 840,000), ahead of Gigglequiz (Cbeebies, Tue, 365,000) and repeats of Room 101 (Dave, Fri, 280,000); we don't have ratings for Artsworld, we expect Landscape Artist of the Year to be somewhere around here. S4C's coverage of Junior Eurovision had 26,000 for Saturday's preview show, and an average of 22,000 for Sunday's performances.

Watch out for The X Factor Colon The Band (ITV, from Monday), by far the most useless contest this week.

Photo credits: BBC Childrens' Productions, YTV, Initial / BBC Scotland, Lindsey Russell.

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