Weaver's Week 2021-03-28

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

This week, two shows where celebrities flaunt their embarrassment for our entertainment.




Expectation for UKTV, shown on Dave, 2 February – 23 March

In the beginning, there was the Rev. Simon Mayo. Part of his successful radio show was "Confessions", where members of the public would write in, confessing some sin they had done. Simon and his panel – most often Rod McKenzie and Diane Oxberry – would hear the listener's letter, and absolve them of their sin – or not.

Unforgivable The church in 2021.

Simon and his team broke up in 1993 – Rod McKenzie went to Radio 1's Newsbeat, and then to communications for the trucking industry. Diane Oxberry returned to North West Tonight, her death in 2019 was a shocking loss to all viewers. Simon went to midmornings, and took the "Confessions" feature with him. After an interregnum while Simon talked on Radio 5, "Confessions" turned up when he took over drivetime on Radio 2.

Confessions spawned a primetime series on BBC1, the Saturday teatime slot they now use for Catchpoint. A quarter of a century later, the confessions format is post-watershed on UKTV Dave.

Unforgivable Host Mel Giedroyc, and contributor Lou Sanders.

It's a celebrity show, Mel Giedroyc hosts the programme, with "support" and "assistance" from Lou Sanders. We're not entirely sure what Lou's role is – she was almost silent for the first episode, and didn't contribute much to discussion in the other episodes we've seen. Maybe all her best bits were left on the editing floor; maybe her choice bon mots were intended as the voice of a higher power.

Unforgivable This week's panel: Graham Norton, Desiree Burch, Alex Brooker.

Three celebrities join Mel, and with few opportunities to appear on telly right now, the calibre of celeb is that bit higher than we expect from a show this far down the EPG. Graham Norton! Alex Brooker! Jimmy Carr! Richard Bacon! Gemma Collins! Richard Ayoade! We would expect to see them up in the single digits, not languishing down here on channel 19.

Unforgivable Thanks. Now I'm interested.

As befits a show structured around a competition, it's divided into rounds. "Original sin" is the opening round, the contestants are asked to recount a tale from their childhood. These are well-worn tales, Graham Norton's were featured in his autobiography, but lose nothing in being told fresh. For all that, we're glad Alex Brooker didn't recount the same tale he told on every panel show going a few years back: these tales can be rehearsed, but lose so much if they're familiar.

Unforgivable Who is in the mystery guest booth?

Later, the "Payback Shack" holds one person familiar to the contestants. Mel gives a series of clues, which might help one of the panel work out who is in the cupboard at the side of the studio, and why they might be there. Each gives a tale that might explain why someone wants to see them again, and not in the most friendly way.

Unforgivable This isn't the most outlandish prop on the show.

"Damning Evidence" is the props round. Because there's no audience in the Riverside Studio, they're able to bring on the props by ... flying a drone! That's innovative. Again, the props will clue in a story from the panel.

Unforgivable This is the most outlandish prop on the show.

"Takes one to know one" features members of the public in the broom cupboard (now renamed a "Confessional"), who recount a tale from their own personal life, but with some details omitted. The panel are asked to work out what happened, to fill in the blanks.

It is a contest, they do keep score, but in a gratuitously complex manner. All points are minus numbers, with Mel dishing out minus points based on the quality of the tale and moral repugnance it evokes. Particularly egregious sins are rewarded by Mel bashing a gong and awarding MINUS TEN POINTS!!!

Unforgivable And at the gong..!

There's a decent show in here, and the producers are right to make Unforgivable a chat show structured around a panel game. It's at exactly the sweet spot for the Dave channel, famous people talking scurrilously about themselves, telling fabulous tales with aplomb. We think the show needs one more round, there's not quite enough material to fill the commercial tv hour, and there's often some soggy padding around the middle of the programme. Very much like Sanj Sen's music, an atmospheric mix of organs and beats, ramping up the atmosphere of a confessional.

A damnable sin in one person's eyes is a mere misdemeanour in another's, so we've no problem with the wholly arbitrary nature of Mel's scoring system. It's a far cry from the rigorous and scientific and far too complex scores they kept on Simon Mayo's Confessions. But Unforgivable didn't need to make itself sound so complex, the show appears more confusing than it actually is. Clear that up, and we could see more Unforgivable.

Growing Pains

Rhod Gilbert's Growing Pains

Rumpus Media for The Paramount Partnership Trading As Comedy Central, 12 January – 16 February

Rhod Gilbert is our host, the Carmarthen comic encourages celebrity guests to relive their childhood years. Unlike every other show on the planet, Rhod doesn't have a sidekick, or an accomplice. No Lousanders, no Richardosman, not even a Timedmunds.

Growing Pains Rhod Gilbert.

Instead, they've spent the budget on celebrity guests. It's not as though they've got anything else to do at this time. Guests across the series include Jonathan Ross, Charlotte Church, Joel Dommett, Sara Cox, and Richard Ayoade.

Growing Pains Bad memories will be put in here, taken away, and symbolically burned.

The conceit is to put items in Rhod's Embarrassing Memory Box, each represents the most embarrassing memory shared in the round. Although the details of the rounds varies from week to week, a typical show might start with a photograph, help us see what the young Jonathan Ross looked like in his callow youth. (Did they have photographs at that early date? Thought it was wood carvings. But we digress.) Jonathan shows us his photograph, takes the mickey out of himself, gives us all permission to laugh at him.

Growing Pains Into the box with this rubbish photo.

And that's the key to Growing Pains, everything is volunteered. There are no surprises, all of the anecdotes are offered in the sense of, "this is what I was like as a youngster. Golly, wasn't I painful." Unlike the mystery guest on Unforgivable, all of the celebs are sharing things they're comfortable sharing. We get to laugh along with them, at memories of their own discomfort.

The show might continue with tales of one's first kiss. While Growing Pains is a post-watershed programme on a pay-tv channel, they'd prefer not to use strong language just in case any kids are still up, so it's the first kiss and nothing more.

Growing Pains The panellists are allowed a foodstuff and a drink (alcoholic or not) from their youth.

Rhod tees up a commercial break, by showing us a bit of ankle. Metaphorically speaking, of course, he teases one of the tales we'll see in the next part. Reason enough to fast forward — er, er, stick around — through the commercial break? It's more successful than Mel Giedroyc's habit of starting a scurrilous and baseless rumour before the break, and finishing it off straight after the commercials.

Obsessions is the next topic of discussion. Every teenager gets obsessed with something, playing video games for hours, or collecting every little scrap and snippet about their favourite band. Our panel discuss their teenage obsessions, their bad poetry, falling off a wall in the hope of seeing McFly. And they bring in props from home, something memorable to air one last time, then discard as the person they've grown up from.

Growing Pains Nicola Coughlan invited Busted to check out... oh.

"My most embarrassing year" comes later in the show. Here, the panel voice their thoughts over a collection of clips from the year. We're reminded about The Crazy Frog, and about glam rock, and about Noel's House Party. The clips are clearly sourced from the internet, showing the mark of Fair Dealing (the imprint of show and director in the corner). They're also clips of shockingly low quality, sometimes they're even more blocky than Blocky and Oxwinkle. The discussion doesn't go very far, it's a parade of cheap negative nostalgia – and it's not terribly funny.

Growing Pains Fingers on buzzers.

Unlike some other shows, Growing Pains does have a quickfire final round. Rhod reads out some short hints to tales provided by the celebrities' friends and family; if they recognise themselves, they're invited to buzz in. "Is that me?" the call, and a chance to complete the tale.

A winner is declared, based purely on Rhod's whim, and takes home a prize based on something they weren't allowed as a child. There's a Jerry Springer moment at the end of the show, where each panelist turns to the camera and offers some advice to their teenage self.

Growing Pains Darren Harriott wins this week's prize: helmet and high-viz jacket.

For our money, Growing Pains is another show that's got promise, but would benefit from some improvement. The quality takes a massive dip in the second half of the show. One minute we're enthusing at Nicola Coghlan's word-perfect knowledge of late 90s teen films, the next we're sitting through dodgy clips and hearing a sarcastic-to-sneering voiceover.

Both Unforgivable and Growing Pains are worth watching if they're on, but we would not go out of our way to watch them. Or, indeed, review them: both series have now finished, and Growing Pains has likely fallen off the Paramount Player. Viewer ratings were decent, Unforgivable averaged around 600,000 viewers for its episodes, Growing Pains 220,000 – very decent on pay television. With panel games being easy to produce in the current circumstances, we expect to see more shows like these.

In other news

Clive Myrie has been appointed the new host of Mastermind. Clive has watched Mastermind since he was very young, and says he would like to gently stamp some of his personality on the show. This column is not too familiar with Clive Myrie's work in the newsroom, but people we trust speak very highly of him. We wish him well in his new role.


The Oral History of Gamesmaster Now happening on the Kickstarters, a hardback book telling the story of Gamesmaster. The show chronicled the rise of video games through the 90s, and now Dominik Diamond and all the regulars tell the show's inside story. £35 for the book (postage overseas will vary); this column's already ordered a copy.

Wanted: better ruse We noted last week how BTRC had sent an over-political song for this year's Eurovision Song Contest, and how the contest organisers had knocked it back. They gave BTRC a couple of weeks to come up with something more – well – something more light. Pleasant. Fluffy. Undemanding. BTRC sent a new song, and the EBU again declined to accept it, saying that it would make the contest look a laughing stock. BTRC therefore won't participate in this year's contest, and the BBC is guaranteed a place in the top 39.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest The worst of it: they could have recycled last year's Junior Eurovision song and it would have done well.

With both AMPTV and BTRC absent, there will be changes to the voting, mostly hidden in the accumulated televotes, but sometimes from cultural and geographic neighbours. Our back-of-the-napkin calculations suggest RTR/C1R (Russia) is likely to be the biggest loser; others suffering from reliable flows include GBP (Georgia), TVP (Poland), NTU (Ukraine), and France Télévisions. While the ex-Soviet broadcasters will not suffer hugely on the scoreboards, as votes will just shuffle up, someone has got to get the top ten spots they've left open. It's good news for Europe's 11th favourite song, because that's going to be top ten in more places.

C21's Format of the Year awards are always a hoot: remember the time they gave nods to Take on the Twisters and The Bank Job? This year's nods follow the critical judgement a little closer. Here are the nominations for the shows we call game:

  • Best Comedy Format – Don't Scream (BBC3), Gods of the Game (Comedy Central), 9 Windows (Nippon TV), The Big Crazy Game Night (M6 France), The Secret Gameshow (Asahi Broadcasting TV Corp)
  • Best Competition Reality Format – District Z (TF1), Fridge Wars (CBC), Full Bloom (HBO Max), Pretty Small (SBS6 Netherlands), Top Dog (A&E), Walk the Line (TV2 Denmark)
  • Best Host of a Format – Alan Carr for Epic Gameshow (sic), Jane Lynch for The Weakest Link, Tyra Banks for Dancing with the Stars (ABC (Disney)), Michael Youn for The Big Crazy Game Night
  • Best Multi-Platform Format – Thriller Game (France3), Fish Bingo (DR2 Denmark)
  • Best Reality Format – Five Guys a Week (Channel 4)
  • Best Returning Format – Taskmaster (Channel 4), Bake Off (Channel 4), Dancing with the Stars (ABC (Disney)), De Mol (Play4 Belgium), Survivor (Network 10 Australia), The Secret Song (TF1)
  • Best Studio-Based Game Show Format – Rolling in It (ITV), 9 Windows (Nippon TV), De Grote Generatieshow (Mind the Generation Gap, BNNVARA/NPO Netherlands), Don't (ABC (Disney)), Pulse! (ProSieben Germany), The Big Crazy Gameshow (M6)
  • Best Innovation What With One Thing and Another – I'm a Celebrity (ITV), American Idol (ABC (Disney))

Gods of the Game Be quack or be lost.

Really pleased that Gods of the Game has its moment in the sun, we do love Gary Monaghan's sense of humour. District Z looked awesome, though the game proved wonky (and not good enough for us to fully review). Alan Carr was right at home on Epic Gameshow (sic), and Jane Lynch on The Weakest Link: that the formats were flawed is not the hosts' fault. Kudos to I'm a Celebrity for adapting to the health concerns; once it's over, we hope for more from Five Guys a Week. And we will have to dig out Fish Bingo: is Line 35 full of carp, or is that the host?

Winners to be announced on the afternoon of 13 April.

This year's most esoteric quizzers are found in the Only Connect final (BBC2, Mon), and the brightest young things are crowned on University Challenge (BBC2, 5 April). We'll cover both series when we return in two weeks' time.

We're nearing the end of Masterchef (BBC1: final's on 9 April), while pay-channel W has Top Chef (weeknights). A new series of Dragons' Den grondas over to BBC1 (Thu), and there's more celebrity confusion on Alan Carr's Play Your Cards Right (ITV, Sat).

Missing Tipping Point Lucky Stars? Tough, it's back (ITV, 4 April). New episodes of Pointless (BBC1, from 6 April), and Brightest Family has another celebrity run-out (ITV, 8 April). The Circle concludes (C4, 9 April), and BBC1 launches I Can See Your Voice Mystery Music Game Show (10 April).

Photo credits: Expectation, Rumpus Media, Hewland International, EBU/TVP/BTRC.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers, sign up to our Google Group.

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in