Weaver's Week 2021-05-02

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So, it's the last time John Humphrys hosts a Mastermind final. We've already paid tribute to all his good qualities, and we wish him a long retirement.



Hindsight / Hat Trick for BBC2, 5 October – 26 April

Six months of heats. Three weeks of semi-finals. Four and a half minutes of questions. Whoever gets the most right wins the massive honour of winning television's blackest quiz.

Mastermind Six contenders remain.

Dan Afshar is first into the chair tonight. He's taking Shackleton's Antarctic expedition of 1914-17. Not only do contestants declare a specialist subject, but they also make a short film about their lives. Dan does a lot of running, he's applied the same determination to his revision, and has great support from his partner Jen. Recent budget cuts mean that Dan doesn't get to go to the Antarctic to make his film, but does go to a college where he sees a lifeboat that saved Shackleton's life. Dan gets all his specialist questions right, and scores a PERFECT ROUND of 10 points.

Mastermind Dan Afshar, at home.

Claire Barrow steps forward next, taking the specialist subject of Cole Porter. While Dan runs, Claire cycles to consolidate her learning. Strength and endurance, not speed. We see members of the Honiton Spinners cycling club, a clip from The Weakest Link in 2001, and a chat with supportive son James. Claire is competitive, we get that much from the film. A few errors in this round, and Claire finishes with a score of 7.

Frankie Fanko appears next, with specialist subject The Vienna Succession 1897-1905. Frankie is a regular quizzer, winner of Only Connect last year, and will dedicate her performances to her late father; mother Ann endorses this view, as do The Songbirds Ladies Choir. The Succession was an art movement, breaking away from the established forms into novel and inspiring places, and inventing the Golden Cabbage award. Frankie is a regular quizzer, and knows that she only needs to give an artist's surname. Less "Gustav", more "Klimt". This is a standard amongst quizzers, we see it on such highbrow shows as University Challenge, The Chase, and A Question of Sport. A single error leaves the score at 9.

Mastermind Frankie Fanko, also at home.

Harry Heath is our fourth contender, taking Jimmy Carter. An American president with honour and integrity, and who has the courtesy and grace to write and wish his student good luck. Harry lives on a smallholding with plenty of geese. One of the youngest contenders in the series, Harry has been watching Mastermind since he was in nappies. A single slip leaves Harry on 9 points.

Jonathan Gibson steps into the chair next, with Flanders and Swann to follow. Jonathan's a PhD student at St Andrews, having been an undergraduate (and University Challenge captain) for Magdalen Oxford. Like Harry, Jonathan would be the youngest ever champion of Mastermind, taking the record held by Gavin Fuller since 1993. Since before Jonathan was born. Flanders and Swann were a pair of musical comedians: great musical songs with precision wit and gusto. With the benefit of some very sharp answers, Jonathan squeezes in an extra question, and turns it to his advantage – a PERFECT ROUND of 11.

Mastermind Jonathan Gibson, with a ukelele.

Hazel Humphreys is our last contender, to tell us about the Films of David Cronenberg. It's the fourth series she's been on Mastermind, and Hazel gets her name in lights at her local cinema. It's the best thing they've played all year. Because Mastermind has a small budget, we can't see any clips from the films, only the posters. We do get to see a video message from David Cronenberg, wishing Hazel all the best for her round. A few questions on the minutiae of the films go begging, with a final score of 6. (Many of these extra details are cribbed from All Things Quiz and their post-match chat with the contestants. An hour's video well worth watching.)

Mastermind Hazel Humphreys, in the cinema.

After the score recap, Hazel's straight back into the chair. Five points off the lead feels like an insurmountable margin, but Hazel keeps powering through to finish on 17 points. (And two passes: these might prove important for the lead.) Even if this is as far as Hazel ever gets, it eclipses her win on The Weakest Link. Hazel's in rarefied company: less than 300 people have made a Mastermind final. This column hasn't, you probably haven't, Hazel Humphreys has.

Claire is next back, and while she's only one more point ahead, it feels a doable gap. Going all out for the victory, Claire's knocked off course by a couple of errors early on, and never quite recovers pace. The final score is 18, and the lead for at least the next three minutes.

Mastermind Claire Barrow, at home.

Probably not a lot longer. Frankie is back in the chair, giving answers very quickly. Even when they're wrong, as they are from time to time, Frankie gets the answers out quickly. Move on, bag the point, don't dwell on the error, scoot through. There are enough errors to give the other contenders something to tilt at, 20 points the final score.

Harry joins us again. A pass early in the round, zigs with "mist" when given the definition of "fog", and that's a lot of the advantage lost. Further errors mean it's the entire advantage lost: 18 points. The lessons of How Quizzing Got Cool have helped Harry get here: we'll doubtless see Harry again in a few years, when he'll be unstoppable.

Mastermind Harry Heath, on the farm.

Dan comes back, and gets off to a strong start. Things falter a little in the middle of the round, Cullodden and Flodden battlefields are confused, but things soon get back on track. Something edited out of Dan's film was how he knew the show would come down to general knowledge, and how he'd have to improve his performance. Taking advantage of a question started just before the buzzer, Dan advances to 24 points and no passes.

Last week, Jonathan had the rarest of rare achievements, a PERFECT SHOW!!! Every specialist question right, every general knowledge question right. He'll need a similar performance tonight. He gives a similar performance tonight. Nodding as soon as he knows the answers, snapping out the question some moments later when the question finishes, Jonathan never looks like he's going to be beaten.

Mastermind The contestants and contributors to All Things Quiz cheer for Jonathan.

And so, with a champion's score of 28 points, Jonathan Gibson is the 2021 champion. A fist-pump when the win comes through, and Jonathan says he's "unbelievably lucky" to have won the series. Next for Jonathan: a bit of a break, then more team quizzing, Online Quiz League and other buzzer tournaments. BBC Brain will follow in due course; Claire and Dan may both be on the series this year. Hazel wants to come back to Mastermind, just to meet Clive Myrie.

The winner's tips for other contenders? Work out how much time you have to concentrate on the revision, and how long it'll take to get under the skin of the subject. And remember that you don't have to win. All we ask is to give a good account of yourself, to do your specialist subject justice, show off a bit of general knowledge. That will do your honour fine!

Mastermind Jonathan Gibson, Mastermind champion.

Guaranteed value

A few people have asked recently if Their Favourite Show is the best value quiz on television. We've heard it said of Only Connect, of Mastermind, of Pointless Celebrities. Can we provide a definitive answer?

Sorry, we're not going to provide a definitive answer. That would require every production on television to open its accounts, from which we could work out how much profit it does and doesn't make. And that's just not going to happen.

Mastermind Mastermind: £140k per hour, 2.25 million.

However, we do have a yardstick. When Mastermind was put out to tender a couple of years ago, we found out the price per episode: just over £70,000, plus the host's fee. Television prefers to talk in "cost per hour", so we'll call it £140,000 per hour. For that, the BBC gets 16 hours of civilian Mastermind on primetime BBC2 (average audience: 2 million) and 7 hours of Celebrity Mastermind, mostly on Saturday teatime BBC1 (average audience: 3.25 million). We'll call that an average of 2.25 million viewers.

Pointless Celebrities will be on a similar production cost – it surely cannot be twice as cheap, and we don't see evidence that it's twice as expensive. Average audience is 3.5 million viewers, so gets more bang for the buck than Mastermind. Daytime Pointless might be a smidgeon cheaper, though not enough to offset a "mere" 2.75 million viewers. Unlike most of the shows we're discussing, Pointless has a life in repeats: this may reduce the amount the BBC pays, as the producers know they'll get some residual money from the Challenge channel.

The Hit List The Hit List: 3.25 million viewers, as popular as Popmaster.

A little later on Saturday night, The Hit List offers stonkingly good value. Average audience is around 3.25 million, and while we suspect music licenses make the cost higher, it's not that much more expensive than Pointless.

Back on Quizzy Monday, Only Connect (2) and University Challenge get big audiences (3 million and 2.6 million) on Mastermind-sized budgets. In the case of Only Connect, perhaps a smaller budget. There are economies of scale to write and verify questions, helping UC and Mastermind to keep costs down; there are so few questions on OC that it will be cheaper.

House of Games (3) House of Games: lots of viewers, even more fun.

What about House of Games (3)? The Richard Osman show gets 2.25 million viewers, and it does feel cheaper per hour than Mastermind. Again, the show takes an artisan approach to questions – feel the quality, not the number – and it gets some traction in repeats. Fees for the celebrities need to be considered, but are only a line item in the budget alongside the lighting and studio hire.

On the commercial channels, Tipping Point has a bouncy drop and rides into our attention. 2.75 million viewers, and – even with the prize of about £4000 per day – the budget doesn't feel hugely greater than Mastermind. It's a very different hour for our £140k, brighter and more fun and more compelling, and the questions are both shorter and a smidge easier.

The Chase The Chase? Really? Really!

Here's something that surprised us – The Chase has an average prize of less than £5300 per episode. There are a lot of questions, and the resident stars are doubtless paid in more than plastic counters. And we watch in our droves – 4.25 million on average this year. That's twice the Mastermind audience, and probably not for twice the budget.

On Channel 4, Countdown gets 650,000 viewers, and we can almost believe that the budget is £40,000 per episode. Almost. Catsdown gets 1.5 million viewers, and we actually can believe this is on £100k per episode. Some of the chat-and-game shows on Dave feel very inexpensive, but get very small viewerships – 0.5m viewers – and not even UKTV can make professional telly on £20k per hour.

Only Connect (3) The best value show on telly? We'll drink to that.

So, while we don't know which show offers the best value for money, we can name shows that could hold the honour. Only Connect, Pointless Celebrities, Tipping Point, The Chase while it remains so popular, with House of Games set to challenge for the title in the years to come.

Edit Later in May, we were reminded that the Eurovision Song Contest is cheap (about 12 episodes of Mastermind) and popular (7.4 million viewers all evening). It's clearly better value than even Only Connect, though it's a once-a-year show and not directly commissioned by the Beeb.

In other news

Nominations are out for the BAFTA Television Awards, and the BAFTA Television Craft Awards. Game shows in the running include:

Craft awards will be given on 24 May, the other awards on 6 June.

We have a new run of Beat the Chef (C4, weekdays), and great quizzing on Beat the Chasers (VM1 and ITV, from Mon). It's the final of Young Musician of the Year (BBC4 and Radio 3, Sun). RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under comes to BBC1 (Mon). Watch out for a lot of schedule changes on Friday.

John Humphrys' final engagement is Celebrity Mastermind (BBC1, Sat), that's unless the election night coverage goes to extra time or ballots from the penalty mark. In for a Penny is in Chester (ITV), and Epic Game Show has Celebrity Bullseye – and that's at the earlier time of 7.30. Next week's Week plans to review I Can See Your Voice (BBC1).

Photo credits: Hindsight / Hat Trick, All Things Quiz, Tuesday's Child, Remarkable (part of EndemolShineGroup), Potato (an ITV Studios company), Presentable / RDF Media.

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