Weaver's Week 2020-05-10

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Over the past couple of months, there have been all sorts of "World Cups" run on social media. Starbucks coffee won the Most Mediocre Award, according to Alex McMillan and chums. The great Strawberry Switchblade revival continued, as they became the greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s. The New Radicals won the 1990s version, both organised by TV Cream.

The Krypton Factor Do you ℂ what I ℂ?

Kieron Gillen is currently running a World Cup of Numbers Between 1 and 32, but he's confined himself to the integers, leaving us in fields of ℤℤℤ. And Nick Barlow's voters concluded that Italia 90 won the World Cup of World Cups.

Ben Justice, who gave us his Top 100 Game Shows last year, has put in the legwork to organise


The People's Top Game Shows

How this column voted

Ben Justice in his board game library.

Mr. Justice is running the poll according to his rules. Television game shows only, and "game show" is interpreted more narrowly than this column's usual practice. He excludes performance programmes (so no X Factor), cookery shows (no Bake Off), panel shows (no Have I Got News for You), and no entertainment shows with a glancing competition (The Masked Singer: take it off). There's no chance for Cakey Cakey Dance Off.

In the first round of voting, we were asked to come up with a top 20, in ranked order. This is quite a difficult challenge: our initial top 20 ran to 53 entries, and subsequently grew. We had to think about ways to prune it to a more traditional length. This longlisting proved helpful, as we could fill out the ballot quite quickly for later rounds. But we'll get to that later.

Top 20

1) Only Connect

Only Connect (2) Wick of twisted questions, please

Victoria Coren Mitchell's show of lateral thinking has not just defined its own space, it's made it much easier to be unashamedly brainy on television. The show celebrates the smart, and mingles high culture with low culture, common trivia with esoterica, and all delivered with a dry wit.

2) The Adventure Game

The Adventure Game Aaaaaaaargh!

Put three people into a well-decorated set, give them some puzzles, and see what happens. Lore grew through the years, and everyone remembers where they were when Noel Edmonds got deaded by The Rangdo. The obvious descendants include The Crystal Maze and every escape room on the planet.

3) Countdown

Countdown Diddle-diddle-diddley-dee. Pew!

It takes a seismic shock to take Countdown off the air: the unexpected death of Richard Whiteley, or the greatest public health crisis in a century. For almost 40 years, Countdown has been a constant in our lives, a gentle workout for the brain, anagrams and numbers, with some anecdotes and bad puns. The show commands a very loyal – and surprisingly large – audience.

4) The Crystal Maze

The Crystal Maze ...and don't fall in.

Little challenges, explained on screen in two or three seconds, completed (or failed) in two or three minutes. A team succeeds – or fails – together, through the members' individual contributions. If you don't like one challenge, there's always another along in a bit. Should they have brought it back? Yes, it's a perfectly fine show. Should they have got Richard Ayoade to host with his character? Adam Conover shows the games are not at fault.

5) Blockbusters

Blockbusters One of the many revivals.

No fewer than five distinct versions have been made, but we always remember it as Bob Holness's show. Sixth-formers are asked general knowledge questions, and try to complete their path. The best won big prizes, everyone came away with a good time.

Top Ten

Raven Get knocked down? Get up again.

At 6, Raven. We were listening to Kermode and Mayo Witter On recently, and a correspondent wondered what represented a good role model for young people. Raven is the role model they seek. Each warrior is honest, moral, works in a team for shared glory. They are confronted with their limitations, invited to transcend their fears – and to accept what they cannot change.

At 7, The Krypton Factor. Television's toughest quiz, finding a physical and mental super person. We always wanted to go on the assault course, we reckoned we might crack an intelligence test, and tried to play along with the mental agility rounds. Perhaps the revival about ten years ago lost some of the energy.

The Mole ranks at 8, they're not working as a team, it's a loose set of alliances, shifting on every challenge. Treasure Hunt comes in at 9, Anneka Rice completes remarkable stunts and shows us parts of the country we'd never seen, while Kenneth Kendall gently educates us about geography and history. Bob's Full House is number 10: lots of quiz, plenty of fun, and Bob Monkhouse at his genial best. We're surprised this didn't make the next round.

Bob's Full House Bob Monkhouse, in his full house.

Next ten

We rank Fifteen-to-One at position 11: loved William G Stewart's effortless quiz, and – eventually – grew to love Dame Sandi Toksvig's slower take. Crackerjack at 12, while we mostly watch for the comedy, there's a clear game and a winner of each show.

A two-series wonder at 13, Wanted, hide-and-seek using the entire island as a playing board. Wipeout the quiz at 14, Paul Daniels asked some very interesting questions in a novel way.

Wipeout A brolly, by golly!

We put Bullseye in at 15; in retrospect, this might have been somewhat too high. As much as we enjoyed the darts-and-quiz show, as much as it gets the balance between darts and quiz right, it's maybe not that brilliant amongst its peers.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire ranks at 16: the first couple of years were unmissable television, then they showed it too often. Winning Lines at 17, mostly for the Wonderwall finale. Going for Gold ranks at 18, biographical questions in a simple and consistent format. At 19, 3-2-1, a variety show with some perfectly understandable riddles. If they want a revival, get the Only Connect writers in. The top 20 completes with The Generation Game, mostly for Larry Grayson making a fool of himself on national television every week.

3-2-1 The most animated part of the show.

The Top 20 (Twelve-Inch Remix)

Earlier, we said that our top 20 went well past 50 places. To shrink it down to the required length, we whittled it down in groups, which shows do we think were least brilliant.

Positions 21-23

We have a precise ranking for these three. At 21, Fort Boyard, the Challenge version was inferior to Channel 5's take, and CITV's version beat both. Number 22 for Interceptor, a gallivant around the countryside. And at 23, Pointless, homespun fun for teatimes.

Pointless All to play for as the second players take their positions...


From here, we present nominations in alphabetical order. Each group is better than the one below, but we don't care to order within the groups.

Every Second Counts, another magical quiz from Paul Daniels. One Man and His Dog, the annual test of communication and animals. Wild Things, a test of communication with animals, and our top-ranked new show of the 2010s. Who Dares Wins, Nick Knowles' long-running list of greatness.


Celwydd Noeth, the Welsh-language lie-spotting game. Does it gain from being in Welsh, and we have to concentrate? (Richard Osman's) House of Games is a relaxing half-hour of whimsey. Scavengers was not a relaxing half-hour of whimsey, it showed big budgets could make great television. The Golden Shot used real crossbows and real arrows, it's wonderful when they get a host great enough to control it.


Tipping Point The penny drops...

Big Break is a big entertainment show, and Jim Davidson was almost bearable in it. As a serious skills test, Fferm Ffactor might not qualify; as celebrities trying and failing to herd pigs, it certainly hits as entertainment. We understand why the BBC dumbed One Versus One Hundred down, we wish they hadn't.

The Chase has carved out a niche for itself. We might prefer Tipping Point on ITV+1, Ben makes a complex format look simple. (We've been watching the 24 Hour Game Show Marathon from last June, where a group of fans made their own versions of these and other shows. The Chase is The Chase. Tipping Point suddenly becomes more complex than The Golden Shot.)

Turnabout is anagram fun, with a devilish twist where the balls change in a certain order. And Your Face or Mine tests relationships in a fun and supportive way.


One series wonders: 19 Keys, Five Minutes to a Fortune, Armchair Detectives, The Button, The Time it Takes

Perfectly fine primetime entertainments: 5 Gold Rings, Big Star's Little Star, Four Rooms, In for a Penny, Secret Fortune, You Have Been Watching

New shows with much promise: The Wall, Wonderball

Small budget gems: Accumulate!, The Code, The People Versus

Leading children's shows: Bamzooki, Get 100, Get Your Own Back, Horrible Histories Gory Games, Spy School, Top Class

Phase 2: the decade lists

This column doesn't decide the best game shows on our own. We are just one voice, with our particular preferences. Others have spoken, and Mr. Justice has compiled the top 20 in five categories. Shows debuting in the Extended 1970s (as in, 1937-1979); 1980s; 1990s; 2000s; and since 2010.

Having sorted the top 40 in some detail, it was a relatively simple job to come up with our category top eights.

Extended 1970s

The top four, in order: The Krypton Factor, 3-2-1, The Generation Game, The Golden Shot.

We put Superstars fifth, the made-for-television sports challenge. Name That Tune is sixth, a challenge of popular song – and we're surprised no-one's not tried another revival recently. Just a Minute ranks seventh; given that it's a telly contest, we're voting up the BBC2 series from about ten years ago. Eighth spot to University Challenge, more for Bamber Gascoigne's suave and debonair hosting than for any subsequent witterer.


We've covered all of these: The Adventure Game, Countdown, Blockbusters, Treasure Hunt; then Fifteen-to-One, Every Second Counts, Going for Gold, Interceptor.


Again, all of these have featured. The Crystal Maze, Wanted, Wipeout, Who Wants to be a Millionaire in the top half. Then Winning Lines, Fort Boyard, Turnabout, and Big Break.


Top eight were: Only Connect, Raven, The Mole, Pointless, Who Dares Wins, 1 vs 100, The Chase, and The People Versus. The last of these is for the potential perfect version: Kaye Adams' quiz-me-quick daytime version without the bong game.


We've covered (Richard Osman's) House of Games, Tipping Point, The Button, Secret Fortune, The Code, and 5 Minutes to a Fortune. The last two spots go to Breakaway, which we haven't watched in forever; and CBBC mole-light challenge Trapped.

And yes, we know Hole in the Wall doesn't belong here. Mr. Justice and voters will fill the gap, then it's semi-finals and finals to produce a final result. Watch Bother's Bar for updates, and we'll report back when it's all over.

In other news...


The Mastermind final took place this week. Dave McBryan won, three points clear of Emma Laslett and Marga Scott-Johnson. In this game, three points is a wide winning margin. Julie Bungay and Jethro Waldron finished two further points behind, with Lewis Barn last of the six finalists.

Some Mastermind traditions were preserved, the final included a short film where the contestant talked about their passion for quiz, and expanded on their specialist subject. Unlike in previous years, the films were mostly done at the contestant's home or work, no-one went on a research trip to talk with Hollywood director Kevin Smith, or even explore the house of Johannes Vermeer.

More regrettable Mastermind traditions were also preserved, with some spectacularly long questions eating into the time of all contestants, and no interruption allowed even when the host pauses for breath. Yes, it's all done to ensure scrupulous fairness, that all contestants can (in theory) face exactly the same number of questions. Yes, it might help viewers at home to play along. But Mastermind is a show about the drama, of the contestant knowing the answer or not. John Humphrys' prattling detracts from the spectacle.

Mastermind The finalists:
Top: Julie Bungay, Lewis Barn, Marga Scott-Johnson.
Bottom: Dave McBryan, Emma Laslett, Jethro Waldron.

To no-one's surprise, there won't be a summer series of Love Island this year. ITV2's biggest show of all has been kyboshed by the current health crisis. Kevin Lygo, ITV's director of television, said it's not possible to guarantee the wellbeing of all involved with the show.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire has another Event Week on ITV (from Sun), and apparently they've changed the show so that no "morons" appear. Wonder who the new host is.

It's the final of Great Local Menu (BBC2, from Mon), and a new series of Glow Up begins (BBC3 online, Thu). A profile of Dana Domestic has been made (BBC1 NI, Mon; BBC4, Fri).

It's the annual Eurovision Song Contest next Saturday. Except it's not. All the broadcasters come together for Eurovision Love Shine a Light (AVROTROS, bvn.tv, RTÉ1, BBC1, ARD, RTÉ Radio 1). The BBC make a night of it, showing a Pointless Celebrities special and their own retrospective Eurovision Come Together, with Rylan going through his The A-Z of Eurovision (BBC2). RTÉ1 prefers Marty's Magical Eurovision Moments. On Radio 2, there's another chance to hear Graham Norton Douze Points, his interview with Paddy O'Connell, before Rylan plays Eurovision Kings and Queens of Pop.

Photo credits: ITV Studios, Presentable / RDF, BBC, Fizz, Thames, Yorkshire TV, Initial, Hat Trick / Hindsight

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