Weaver's Week 2020-11-01

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"This show does for education what tequila does for sobriety."



Tuesday's Child for Comedy Central, from 5 October

Watch out, folks! This review gives stonking spoilers for the 26 October show.

Guessable Dark in here, isn't it.

First thing we see is a striking aesthetic on this show. The studio is decorated to look like we're in someone's loft: the eaves of the roof come down, there's lots of wood, and there are cardboard boxes everywhere.

The show is dimly lit – it's not exactly dark, but the palette is browns and reds and a complete absence of bright colours. With the jaunty music, we wonder if this show takes place in the attic four floors above Noel Edmonds and his Deal or No Deal Basement Dream Factory.

Sara Pascoe is the host, Darren Harriot and Alan Davies the resident panellists. Each week, they're joined by a couple of other friends, people like Angela Scanlon and Jason Manford. Everyone's sat on their own armchair, approximately one Osman apart.

Guessable The team are well spaced

Every show needs its richardosman, a sidekick who knows everything and banters with the host. For this show, the role of richardosman is played by John Kearns. All of the shows so far have featured a common set of rounds, though the order is occasionally changed.

Guessable John Kearns: smart in appearance, smart by nature.

Who am I? One of the team stands behind a picture frame, and puts their head into pictures. The other two players describe the pictures so their companion can guess what's in the picture. "Served at Christmas, absolutely horrible! Vegetable!" Carrots. "Green!" Brussels sprouts. Whichever team gives the more correct answers wins the round.

Guessable Wears a meat dress!

After this round, John unveils his Mystery Box, the key aspect of the show. Inside it is a famous person. There's a link between each and every answer on this show. All answers are somehow linked to the famous person in the box: a spider, potatoes, peanut butter sandwiches. This is the idea to keep us watching through the show, there's a structure and (gasp!) a logic to everything they're doing.

Guessable The mystery box.

Worst Impressions comes next. As the name suggests, it's an impressions round. Do an impression of the person on the card. The queen is easy. A diplodocus is more difficult. A midwife..? Good luck with that. More good impressions wins the round.

Guessable What's the clue here?

After the commercial break, Say It Properly, a round involving props. This is a rebus game, host John presents boards with four or five objects. The key, simply and literally, is to say what you see. Che Guevera, the letter F, a silver star, the planet Mars. Starf Guevaraplanet? Oh! Mars-star-che-f. We viewers feel clever when we beat the contestants to the answer, and work with the teams when we can't.

Guesstimation Unkown is, yes, another guessing game. Before the show, John did something. What happened next? What was the result when John challenged a tai-chi master to a staring contest? Will the teams' initial reaction be right (it'll be the tai-chi master), or will they think it through and conclude that John won? It's a long segment to add one thing to the clue board.

Guessable The world stare-out contest continues.

John looks at the various clues on the board, and then there's another commercial break. We come back with Muted. One player on each team mouths words, while the others try to lip-read. "Harrison Ford!" "Fin shun bim!" Not sure both of those are right.

What You Porking About? A test of improvisation skills. Each player on one team has a cardboard box, quite large. Two of the boxes are empty, one of them has something in it. Each player describes the item in their box, and answers questions about it. Can the opposition guess which box has something in it? Yes, this is the "Carrot in a Box" round they once played on Catsdown, done with different people.

Guessable Dev Griffin's fee for this show: one turnip. Thanks to his agent, E Baldrick.

Once more to the board, and then to the commercials. Signature Style is an unusual game, new this week. It asks our players to copy a celebrity's signature after seeing it for just a few seconds. One player from each team at a time, John Kearns is the judge. Most weeks, they don't play this and only have the other six.

After all the rounds are complete, one team will have won more rounds than the other. They're the winners...... so far! Remember how there's a celebrity in the mystery box? And how all of the answers on the show link together? This is where all the threads unite. The leaders take first guess, the losers have their shot. Got it right? You've managed to win the entire show! Take a lap of honour!

Guessable In your face (at a safe distance to prevent droplet and aerosol transmission), suckers!

Sara explains some of the less obvious clues, and that's our programme.

Guessable knows its limitations. It's a bunch of people larking about, lighthearted fun and nothing more. An entertainment, an insubstantial entertainment. Every viewer is going to have their own view on what is entertaining and what's not: this column thinks the show starts out fun and finishes with some slightly dull rounds, other viewers have exactly the reverse opinion. We can all agree that most of the clues to who's in the Mystery Box are out early, relatively few are exposed in the second half of the show.

Guessable Sara's entry for "Host Holding a Question Card 2020".

The Mystery Box is an unusual idea, and it's the thing from Guessable worth thinking about. There is a glue binding all of these disparate rounds and challenges together. We may not know what links Starf Guevaraplanet, Sesame Street, and a turnip. But add in the likes of Chicago and Alicia Keys, a rose and Jennifer Lopez and many more, and we begin to get an idea.

Very few parlour games try to draw everything together in this big way. QI is a ramble around its subject, Catsdown a series of individual events, Taskmaster might have a loose theme to each show but it's not the point of the programme. This sort of meta-round is most unusual in the game show world,, we only expect to see it in good puzzle hunts. Kudos to the producers for making it happen.

Guessable John reveals what's in the box tonight.

Guessable is an undemanding watch, and it's possible to dip in and out or to only watch clips. The Mystery Box is a bonus for people who watch from start to finish, it's not essential to appreciate the show. And the show itself is light and inessential: we've enjoyed the shows we've seen, we'll watch the show if we catch it, but we don't intend to set a series link for it. In 2020, that's the sign of OK and nothing more.

Bring on The Wall

We really enjoyed last Saturday's edition of The Wall. Two likeable and young contestants, who wanted money to pay back their mother and make her life better. It became clear that they were very knowledgeable, the answerer got five of the six main game questions right. An aggressive strategy from the ball-handler meant lots of positive balls dropped, and left the final prize at a smidge over £120,000 – a record for a single appearance on the BBC.

The Wall Is it right, or is it wrong?

What helped the contenders win their large prize? Oddly, rotten luck in the opening round helped to make the decision more clear-cut. Four correct answers out of five would normally generate around £9000, but the contestants had barely £4500. With £2500 per correct answer in the main game, the answerer reckoned stakes were likely £14,500 against better luck on the wall. Would the same decision have arisen if the wall had been generous in its opening, £23,500 against the unknown?

Correct answers help massively, and the aggressive moves paid off. For the final question, they dropped three balls from position 1, above relatively small amounts. For each ball, there's a 50% chance of a very small change (£100 or less) and a 50% chance of a small number of thousands. We reckon the expected payoff for each ball is about £5500, total about £16,500. And it's much less variable, you can be reasonably sure the total result will be in the range £2500 to £25,000

The Wall Drop 'em!

One ball from the other end still has a 50% chance of a very small amount. If it does drop into a big money hole, it'll be the biggest money, £25,000 or £50,000. That's a payoff of about £20,000 per ball. It's unlikely you'll get that exactly, it'll either be the big money or peanuts.

These two strategies are roughly equivalent in the long run. But The Wall isn't played in the long run, it's played once, and then you're gone. Short-term factors, how much risk you want to take, how much luck you think you've got, come into play. For some contestants, the smaller but more controllable amount might be more helpful than the possibility of a big one.

We're still not impressed with the contestants' scripted remarks. "That's OK, that's fine" whenever money is removed from the pot. Why can't anyone shout at the wall, or jump up and down in frustration. "Isolation is so hard," says every single answerer when they finally emerge back into the main studio, surely a scripted line. But when the contestants are this easy to root for, we can forgive the format's production wobbles.

In the aftermath, someone asked how the BBC can afford or justify these big cash prizes.

The Wall The future contestants on The Wall want.

How can they afford it? Simple: cancel Who Dares Wins. The prize is a line item in the budget. It's a big line item, looks like it'll average around £25,000 per show, and with a huge variance between prizes of £0 and perhaps £150,000. Around £25,000 per show was the average prize area for Who Dares Wins and In It to Win It, and all the other lottery shows of the past decades.

The cost of the set is also a big item, that wall isn't going to come cheap. But they only need make it once, and then it's in good nick for everyone else. When the alternative is flying people to Warsaw, the savings begin to mount up. We reckon that the big prop pays for itself in about 60 episodes – and they've already made 16 episodes of The Wall from London.

How can the BBC justify it? Let's ask the reverse question: why shouldn't the BBC give us an occasional big prize show? The prize is big by BBC standards, but remember that ITV is prepared to splash this much cash on one daytime episode of The Chase, and ten times as much on Millionaire. The Wall is a popular show, and the combination of quiz and drama advances the art of television – there's nothing like it on any other channel.

The Wall The biggest attraction in London.

The Wall returns on 14 November, and we're threatened with some celebrity editions later in the year.

In other news...

Eenenviertig. The entry list for next year's Senior Eurovision Song Contest has been confirmed. It's exactly the same as for this year's Senior Eurovision Song Contest. VRT will still be billed as "Belgium", MTV ("Hungary") and RTCG ("Montenegro") will still be absent.

In the week before Monday's announcement, the Eurovision twitosphere wound itself up tighter than SMRTV's budget. Three broadcasters – the BBC ("United Kingdom"), TVP ("Poland"), and BTRC ("Belarus") – had not publicly said they would attend. There were some increasingly far-fetched conspiracy theories, when the most likely explanation was that the broadcaster just didn't want to make a big thing of it. All broadcasters have more important things on their plate than satisfying Eurovision fans – civil unrest on the capital's streets, dealing with all sorts of unplanned and unpredicted occurrences, and figuring out how to stage Junior Eurovision in four weeks' time.

Would You Rather..? CBBC has sent a press release trumpeting their new shows. Would You Rather is described as "a brand new game show asking celebrity guests to make hilariously tough choices".

"Rock on, Tommy." The death of Bobby Ball, half of comedy duo Cannon and Ball. We'll have more on Cannon and Ball's career – and a quick review of Cannon and Ball's Casino – next week.

Guy with well established nazi iconography on his face still not on our telly Following last week's events, Sky's The History Channel have confirmed that The Chop has been chopped. No further episodes of the woodworking series with unplanned racist overtones will air. Young Jimmy Goosestepper continues to deny the evidence written all over his face; his "late" father remains resurrected.

The History Channel put out a statement where it regrets that its processes did not prompt an investigation at an earlier date. The statement concludes, "We are thoroughly reviewing our internal processes following the investigation". To complete its corporate atonement, we encourage Sky to publish a summary of its review, and the lessons learned, in due time.

The Phillip Schofield Fan Club is squeaking for joy, as there's a new series of 5 Gold Rings (ITV, Sun). Something new from CITV: Don't Unleash the Beast (weeknights) is an adventure series, contains no Mark Labbett. Ultimate Goal (various BT Sport channels, from Tue) finds a new footballer and makes sure she's worth it.

One reality show ends, The Bridge runs out of planks (C4, Sun and Mon). One reality show lasts the week, Don't Rock the Boat has a bunch of celebrities rowing via a very circuitous route (ITV, weeknights).

Little Mix The Search (2) concludes (Friday and Saturday). It's movies week on Strictly Come Dancing, and Celebrity Supermarket Sweep (ITV, Sat) features Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph from Birds of a Feather.

Photo credits: Tuesday's Child, Remarkable (part of EndemolShineGroup) / Spring Hill Entertainment / Glassman.

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