Weaver's Week 2020-10-11

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In the beginning, the Sunday service was taken by Lord Robert from the Monk House. All pray to be as good, as glib, as entertaining as him.

Then came other pilgrims. Max By Graves is remembered for but one word: turkey. Les Dennis was the master for countless years, always with a ready wit and certain smile.

Then came the great schism: Andy Collins is now a footnote in history, his work fulfilled the ritual elements but left believers without fulfilment. Vernon Kay took the other approach, longer and chattier, yet his service was for the already saved, only the famous need apply.

Now, can Gino D'Acampo unite the divergent strands and give us what we want: an entertaining hour's telly? Find out, on

Family Fortunes


Family Fortunes 6.0

Thames (part of Fremantle) for ITV, from 20 September

We always associate Family Fortunes with Sunday nights, that fun half-hour after Songs of Praise when we could watch people being silly, before bed and another boring week of double history. Sunday was an unusual slot for Family Fortunes, it mostly went out on Friday or Saturday evenings somewhere between 7 and 8.30. Our new revival goes out at 8pm Sunday.

Family Fortunes Gino D'Acampo, the new host.

Although it's a revival, Family Fortunes has been off the air for a good number of years, so we'd better explain the format. Basically, it's the inverse of Pointless. Before the game, they survey 100 people and ask them to name something in a category: something you might take to the beach, for instance. Only one answer per person, as quickly as you can. First thing that comes to mind.

Family Fortunes Name something you turn on every day.

In the studio, our players are looking to match the answers people in the survey have given. Except here's the twist: on Family Fortunes, they're looking for the most common answers, the ones most people have said. Takes a load of getting used to, this new twist on a familiar format, and we'll explore some other rules a little later.

Host for the show is Gino D'Acampo, a television chef from the television. He comes on stage through doors in the middle of the screen, and promises a potential prize of £30,000. He also introduces the wrong answer noise, a bass "eep-orp" sound they've not changed since 1980.

Family Fortunes The set isn't much changed, either.

Each family is welcomed to the studio by means of a short video they've shot at home. Then Gino has a quick chat with some of the players. This is clearly edited to help with the timings, not all of the five players get an individual chat with Gino. Almost seven minutes into the show, we hear the magic words, "Come to Gino, and let's play Single Money".

Family Fortunes W00t.

Is there a phrase more disappointing in the game show lexicon than "Single Money"? We don't know one. The basic idea, "Let's play for money!" promises much, it opens the door to riches beyond your wildest dreams, or at least a tasty packet. But when we add the adjective "Single" before it, the dream is trashed already. We could be playing for double, triple, lots of money... but we're not. Just the standard, basic, not at all interesting single money.

You wouldn't catch the original series producer William G Stewart putting "Single Money" on screen. We assume he's exercised his contractual right not to produce this series of Family Fortunes, seeing as how he's been dead for the past three years.

Family Fortunes It's right, but it's not top.

One player from each team steps up and hears the question. They have a race to buzz in, hoping to give the most popular answer, the one given by most of the 100. Got it? Good. Got an answer that isn't top? It's revealed with its place in the list of possible answers, along with however many people named it, but the other player has a chance to give a more popular answer. We work out who has got the better answer – the more popular, scores more points, because on Family Fortunes points are good. Whoever has the better answer has the choice: play or pass.

By playing the round, the Smiths will give one answer in turn, and hope to complete the board with their answers. Should any answer not be on the board, we'll hear that "eep-orp" sound from earlier, and the team loses a "life". Lose three "lives" and the Smiths' go is over. The Joneses can and should confer to give one final answer: if it's one of the unrevealed answers on the board, the Joneses win the round and the money, if it's not the missing answer, the Smiths keep the money.

Family Fortunes Two right answers, but one wrong already.

Obviously, by passing across, you hope the other family will fail miserably, and let your clever crowd swoop in and pick up the round on one answer. This rarely happens, because there are often spot prizes behind the answers. When a player finds one of these, they win something nice, like a kitchen bundle, or a day in a hot-air balloon. You can't get these spot prizes if you pass, and it's rarely good tactics to pass.

Family Fortunes Mutter mutter mutter mutter.

When it first aired in the 1980s, Family Fortunes was a half-hour programme, played to a total score of 300 points. It had to be slick, it had to move quickly, because there's a lot of game to fit into the slot. Bob Monkhouse and Les Dennis had the knack of being friendly with players while still getting on with it. Vernon Kay's celebrity editions were longer, introducing the video of the family at home, and chatting a little more with the players throughout the show.

Gino's version here has to fill a complete hour, and it goes that little bit more slowly. A longer chat with the family at the start of the programme. Gino repeats his catchphrases throughout: "our survey said...", explaining how the "three lives" rule works. Little things to make the show longer. If they're seriously running light of game, they might leave in the interval act, such as one of the contestants singing a duet with Gino.

Family Fortunes Not exactly the new Riverdance, this.

After four rounds of the soul-sapping "single money", we finally move into "double money". Now, all the values on the board are doubled: a clean sweep could be worth 200 points. (It won't be, the producers weed out any answer given by a single person, it keeps the lists small and guessable.) They play this "double money" round twice, once with the final player on the line, and once with a player nominated by the captain. It ensures we're likely to have some jeopardy going into the final round: only a complete blowout will have wrapped up the game.

After this second "double money" round, the main game is over. Whichever team is behind must leave us. Their score in the game is turned into cash and doubled, so when they were playing for "single money" earlier, it turns out to be double money, and "double money" is double double money. Everyone gets a novelty Gino doorbell, which makes the "eep-orp" noise.

Family Fortunes There's somebody at the door.

Our winning family nominate two players for the final game. Each player hears the same question, and is guided to give different answers. A total score of 200 or more earns the main prize of £10,000. Find the top answers to all five questions and that prize increases to £30,000. For this version, the time limits are 20 seconds for the first player, 25 seconds for the later (extra time for passes). Gino doesn't need to read the questions as quickly or precisely as other hosts.

Two stages to the prize ladder means there's always something to play for: first the revelation of whether they're going to reach 200 points, and then they go back through the answers to find the most popular responses. Gino builds the tension further as he goes through the first player's answers, gives the scores.

Family Fortunes High scores for the first player on Big Money.

So we find that our first player has scored 166 points. That's a lot! Can our final player scrape through with the remaining points? And are they going to find the top answers between them? It's nerve-jangling for everyone.

This series of Family Fortunes was something of an emergency commission, made because ITV got bored of quizzes where everyone appeared in little boxes from their homes. And judged by the standards of shows where people do appear in little boxes from their homes, this Family Fortunes is far better.

Family Fortunes Jackpot!

The families keep their distance from each other, and from Gino. They've arranged the studio with care, so that we don't see how little audience there is. They do have an audience, about 50 people, all at a good distance from each other. Their natural applause and laughter is sweetened and enhanced by Canned Crowd™, all your cheering in one handy can. At times, they've overdone the cheering, and the show sounds dishonest. More often, it's teetering on the edge of credibility, the crowd finds Gino a deal funnier than we do.

Overall? Family Fortunes has always been the frothiest of light entertainment, and 8pm feels like it's one hour too late. Gino acquits himself well, and while the pace is slower than we'd like, the rounds themselves are played almost as quickly as in Les Dennis's day. The long advert breaks, and the drawn-out final round, give an unfortunate illusion that the show is slower than it is.

Other adjustments

Family Fortunes isn't the only show to produce in a manner conducive to good health. We've already noted how Countdown is keeping everyone at a good distance, and they make sure the guest can't pass notes to Susie Dent.

Only Connect (2) Screens split the players: spot reflections and the edges.

Only Connect has installed some Perspex screens between the players. We can see through them, and the players can talk round them, but the screens protect against ballistic projectile spittle. The screens go through to the Connecting Wall, where only the captain gets to jab their finger against the touch screen.

The Wall While the contestants celebrate, Danny keeps away.

The Wall has done away with its audience, and the supporters are now kept at a healthy distance from each other. Host Danny Dyer keeps a good distance from the players, and there's no more kissing of the balls for luck before popping them down the chute.

Mastermind is now in an even more Spartan studio. It's the chair, the four competitors in a U-shaped arrangement, and that bloke asking the questions. No audience, no-one to hide behind. Gives us the willies just thinking about it.

Viacom's Celebrity Game Night and Guessable keep their panellists away from each other, there are no more games where things are passed down the line.

Mastermind Stark.

Got Talent booked a massive studio in West London, and set up a well-drilled operation to ensure each performer was kept apart. With three different stages in the studio, we're able to move attention quickly from one space to the next, only judges and hosts need move. (A novel idea? New for ITV: it was used in the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest, as will doubtless be discussed when it pops up on Eurovision Again.)

Singing presents particular problems, aerosol transmission worries scientists and they recommend a distance of at least three metres, preferably more. Choirs and some large dance troupes get recorded near home and don't come to the studio. Others are recorded at home to avoid quarantine problems. The theatre audience has been replaced by a giant LED wall beaming in viewers from their homes.

The Wall We ain't had a massive row...

Each show reflects the recent situation in its own way. Family Fortunes and Guessable don't say what they're doing, but respect best practice in their deeds. The Wall briefly explains why the supporters are so far away from each other: not because there's been a mass falling out, but because they're being safe. Got Talent makes a running joke out of David Walliams being so far away from guest judge Ashley Banjo, he's only in because Simon Cowell put his back out while lifting wodges of cash.

Only Connect ploughs its own furrow, of course. Where Countdown pretends nothing is happening, OC asks, "What did you get up to during lockdown, Phil?" and "The crew have been asked to stay at least five metres away from me at all times, so at least some things are the same as usual."

We'll doubtless have more to report on this topic later in the year. How will University Challenge have dealt with the problem? Did Richard Osman use himself as a measuring stick before House of Games (3)? What will Strictly Come Dancing do?

In other news...

Question 500 of a possible 500.

How long does it take to ask 500 Questions? 12 hours and 17 minutes and 55 seconds. The fact was demonstrated by Ash The Bash, who asked all 500 questions in the format of 500 Questions last weekend. Co-star on this endurance marathon was Lew Cario, a competitor who took the hot seat around five hours in, on a question naming clouds, and stayed there for a further seven hours and 332 questions. If you're quick, you can watch the entire marathon on catchup, and donate to Save the Children.

Popmaster sounds even better Ever since it was invented in the 1990s, Popmaster has suffered from one problem: telephone lines sound rubbish on radio. The studio sounds excellent, Ken Bruce is as clear as if he's in the next room, and all the songs are crystal-clear. But the plain old telephone system is badly limited – it cuts off the higher frequencies from people's voices, and as a result everyone sounds muffled and distant.

This week, Popmaster has had a system upgrade, and people are now talking via an internet connection and not on a common phone line. All the frequencies in the contestant's voice are heard, so we can hear the cries as though they're in the studio with Ken. No longer do we have to strain to hear callers say "Oh, before my time, Ken," or "Was that Reg 'Reg' Snipton And His Ukelele Gals?", or "Love the show, Steve".

Awards season continues Trade magazine Broadcast hosts its Digital Awards this Wednesday. Game shows up for the awards include RuPaul's Drag Race UK (Best Digital Support for a programme), Killer Camp, RuPaul's Drag Race, The Rap Game (Best Entertainment Programme), and we're cheering for Cbeebies in the Channel of the Year category.

This week, Channel 4 invite us to jump off The Bridge (Sun). The Bidding Room returns to BBC1 daytime, and Richard Osman opens the doors on House of Games (3) (BBC2, weeknights). New Four in a Bed on Channel 4 (weeknights). Breaking the News returns to Radio Scotland (Fri).

A new channel for Taskmaster (C4, Thu), that's Channel 4, not UKTV G2. Over on the History Channel, The Chop (Thu) seeks a great woodworker, Love Island What Happened Next comes to ITV2 (from Tue), and Portrait Artist of the Year returns (Artsworld, Wed).

Next Saturday has Pointless Celebrities sitcoms, the Strictly Come Dancing launch show (both BBC1), and The Million Pound Cube Celebrity Special (ITV).

Photo credits: Thames (part of Fremantle), Presentable / RDF, Remarkable (part of EndemolShineGroup), Hindsight / Hat Trick.

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