Weaver's Week 2021-08-29

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Apocalypse Wow


Apocalypse Wow

Tuesday's Child for ITV2, 16 July – 20 August

A few years ago, there was something called "after-pub telly". We probably have to explain this concept: a "pub" was a large building where lots of people went to drink alcohol and breathe all over each other in a most unsanitary way.

Apocalypse Wow Cheers!

After folk returned home from the pub, they were still tipsy, and enjoyed more raucous and lairy entertainment than they might normally watch. After-pub telly needs to be easy to watch (viewers are tipsy and can't concentrate), it needs to be daft (viewers are tipsy and don't need to reach for their remotes), and it can be cheap (viewers are tipsy and might not pay as much attention as in the cold light of day).

The Word was the first show in this category, and its influence and shock value has never been surpassed. Many shows have come and gone – The Girlie Show, TFI Friday, the late-night Big Brother spin-offs. Some have endured – Match of the Day has a monopoly on Saturday nights – but Friday nights are often up for grabs.

Apocalypse Wow The host welcomes us to a bizarre show.

The latest idea in after-pub telly is Apocalypse Wow. Each episode aired on ITV2 at 10.05, straight after the Love Island vote-off. It's hosted by AJ Odudu, like every other programme on telly at the moment. It's got Scarlett Moffatt on it, like every other programme on telly at the moment. It's got a massive metallic dome with people clinging to the outside, like absolutely no other programme on telly at the moment.

Apocalypse Wow Let's meet the ruler.

Presiding over this whole shebang is "The Mistress", played by Donna Preston. A harsh taskmistress, expecting nothing but the best, The Mistress has employed some superhuman "bosses" who can do incredible things. One can crack a whip so accurately that he can extinguish a candle with it. Another is a superfit parkour expert. Some of the "bosses" might have been employed for more aesthetic reasons: the pole dancer, or the man who wrestles in a pond of grease.

Apocalypse Wow Our five celebrities prepare to do battle with Mr. Enormo.

Up against The Mistress is the celebrity team – five ITV2 celebrities, captained by Scarlett Moffatt. We've had folk from Love Island and The Only Way is Essex, a winner on Drag Race, some CBBC regulars, and a few comedians. They're all young, relatively fit, and familiar to ITV2's viewers. This is after-pub telly, viewers don't need to think about who he is.

Each show is made up of four challenges. The Mistress will bring on her player, and set out the challenge. She'll then offer a range of advantages to the celebrity team – a head start, or having more players take on the challenges. The smaller the advantage, the greater the reward – success will earn hundreds or a few thousand pounds for charity. Sober viewers might notice that the producers often nudge the celebs towards a certain offer, but the team won't always pick it. Regular viewers will notice that the team learn from past mistakes – most of them will meet these "bosses" again, and can learn how to beat the boss.

Apocalypse Wow The contender is bobbing for something in the bathtub.

The challenge takes place, and we find that celebrities win (much cheering from the team, The Mistress sends a comic barb to her vanquished boss). Or the celebrities lose (much despondancy and snidery from The Mistress, the boss walks out as though victory was assured from the moment they entered). Rinse and repeat for all four challenges.

Apocalypse Wow works on two levels. There's a genuine tension in the challenges. Can the horn-hunter hunt down all the horns? Will Mr. Enormo push all of the celebs off their tyres? What about Hot Slippy, is he a good oil wrestler, and did the celebs dress up in silly silver spandex for nothing? The tests are entertaining in their own right, they're ones all the audience can identify with from their time in the school playground. And if one challenge doesn't work, there's another one along before too long.

Apocalypse Wow The contenders try to avoid the parkour runner and deposit their unicorn horns in the sacred tree.

But Apocalypse Wow also works as a spectacle. It's takes the battle arena from Fight Club, and turns it up to eleven, and then turns it up some more. Action is set in "The Torture Dome", a cage where cybergoths wear neon shirts and studded collars, where dancers wear more fire than clothes, where regular society fears to tread. The judge isn't retired coach John Anderson, but the "adjudication gimp", hooded and gagged. Apocalypse Wow is the television show everyone on Vampirefreaks would have loved to see, and it's made for the age group who would have been on that unsocial network in the aughts.

Apocalypse Wow The celebs always come dressed like a less glamorous Måneskin.

The whole show is so extreme that it goes so far past serious, and warps into the realm of absurd. The show believes in its core conceit, and runs with it past the event horizon. We've had to criticise a lot of programmes because they didn't commit to their core idea, and it's wonderful to see Apocalypse Wow believe so wholeheartedly in itself, however ludicrous the result.

The programme isn't for the easily-offended, there's the pole dancer, and people eating out of a mock toilet bowl. The Mistress warns everyone before each challenge, "Darlings, don't be shit", there's casual blasphemy, and people playing with fire. No electric shocks, at least, which is a good thing.

Apocalypse Wow The contender tries to stay in the ring with the grease wrestler.

Why should contestants not be rubbish? At the end of each episode, one of them will be banished from the dome, and have to leave the show. This decision appears to be in the hands of Scarlett as the captain; we suspect that each contender agreed how many shows they'd do for their charities.

The nominated celebrity then becomes a human sacrifice. Not in the sense of the oubliette, throw them down a deep hole and forget about them. Not in the sense of tied to the stake, or kicked on the bottom like Bishop Brennan.

Apocalypse Wow The banished celebrity becomes a human piñata.

It's the height of absurdity, and everyone treats it as a quotidian experience. Still, if you've danced with a pole, been slung through gravy, eaten from a washing line, and been pinged by a giant ball, what other thrills are left in life?

Money earned in the challenges is put into balloons, and the balloons, are fixed into a cardboard donkey outfit. The celebrity is inside. The rest of the team use bungee ropes to jump up to the celebrity, and whack the balloons off the outfit. Whatever money falls to the ground will be split between the players' charities – and it turned out to be over £20,000 across the series.

Apocalypse Wow That's a gobsmacking achievement.

The show wears its influences lightly: there are bits of It's a Knockout in the sheer absurdity, of Fort Boyard in the slight undernotes of sadism but played for safe laughs. The Crystal Maze inspired the aesthetic, and some of the games are ripped straight from Gladiators. (And The Void: on this show, we can picture Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball.)

Apocalypse Wow has a subtle humour, and a strong camp sensibility – though it took the arrival of a real drag queen to fully surface that aspect. It's a fun show, and it hits exactly the spot ITV2 wants. It's a show people can put on when they come back from the pub, they'll be entertained, and they'll never know what's coming next. And that makes folk stick around for the adverts, and that makes ITV2 very happy.

Scores on the boards

A funny thing happened in last week's Eurovision Again programme. They didn't show the winner's crowning moment.

Eurovision Song Contest All eyes on Linda Martin.

The contest was from 1992, hosted by SVT in Malmo. Harald Treutiger and Lynda Capolicchio presented the bulk of the show in Svenska. It was a contest in transition: ethnic entries from Antenne 2 and NOS (that's "France" and "Netherlands" in modern captions) vied with an old-school jazz number from RAI ("Italy") and nonsense from YLE ("Finland").

Eurovision Song Contest Lynda and Harald, the hosts.

Lighting around the arena changed colour to match the mood of the song, and sometimes pulsed with the beat: not to the eye-searing degree commonplace these days, but more subtle and restrained mood colours. Clothes were bright, vivid reds and oranges and yellows and lime greens, standing out from the dark blue backdrop and its Viking longship.

This column liked the zippy song from IBA ("Israel"), found much to enjoy from RTBF ("Belgium"), and the conversation song from DR ("Denmark"). Of the top three, PBS ("Malta") admirably captured the ballad market, Michael Ball for the BBC ("United Kingdom") had the best performance of the night, and RTÉ ("Ireland") won with another Johnny Logan composition.

Eurovision Song Contest A very strong BBC entry. More with this sort of swagger, please.

The scoreboard was fascinating. All Eurovision scoreboards are fascinating, a little time capsule of what broadcast technology can do, timestamped to a particular May in history. From the flapperboards of the late 60s, through the blocky LED displays of the early 80s, and some gentle animations and pleasant colours in 1992.

Except that Eurovision Again chose not to show the original scoreboard. Instead, whoever's in charge chose to show a 2020 recreation of the scoreboard. And it's not even a faithful recreation of the scoreboard, but one done in the pervasive and charmless "flat" graphic idiom of the early 2020s.

Eurovision Song Contest The original scores (top, from a home video) and the recent re-creation.

Antti Lehtonen of YLE designed that scoreboard to look good, and thirty years later it still looks good.

Why would Eurovision Again lose the original scoreboard? Their replacement animates, it re-orders and shows the scores in order from the most to the least.

And that is literally the one thing it does. It animates, re-orders, shows who is in first and who is last. Never mind that the original picked out the leader in a sensible gold colour, Eurovision Again thinks it vital that we know precisely who is in 17th place at any given moment.

Eurovision Song Contest What's Swedish for "That's Numberwang"?

Is the new scoreboard any clearer? No. It tries to cram in more information – the distance to the leader, progression of the vote, location of the contest – and becomes a jumble of numbers. The original made us work out how far the gap was, but picking the most important information allowed it to present facts with elegance.

Eurovision Song Contest When the original show had a cut to something else, Eurovision Again couldn't be bothered.

From time to time, the show director will cut away from the scoreboard, and show one of the contestants. Occasionally, this will happen during the middle of a vote. Did the Eurovision Again edit respect all these cuts? No. They stayed with the dull grey board. The most egregious thing they missed: Linda Martin realising she'd won the contest.

The whole point of Eurovision Again is to present old editions of the Eurovision Song Contest as they happened. We take the rough with the smooth. We delight in re-discovering old tracks, and shudder through every piece of schlager from Ralph Siegel. We see how the stages and staging have developed, from "stand on this mark" to "cavort all over the arena" to ice dancers and burning pianos. An integral part of the experience is to see how scoreboards have evolved. They're part and parcel of the contest.

Eurovision Song Contest And while 1992 viewers saw the winner, Eurovision Again couldn't be bothered.

From time to time, there may have to be changes to the shows. Some editions cannot be shown because they've lost the tapes – unless someone invents a time machine and programmes a VCR, we'll never see the 1956 contest. Nobody on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest has been caught up in the slew of historic sex offences; we have no problem editing around such people. Some uninvited invaders have made it to stage; there's a clear argument to edit such invasions out, to discourage other twits from following their lead. But technical faults have been allowed to remain in, Clifford Brown asking for scores to be repeated, the inaudible backing track at the start of Zagreb 1990, and the appearance from Jemini.

We can even imagine a case where a replacement scoreboard is justified: where the original malfunctioned, or could not be followed on screen. It's arguable that the board in Den Haag 1980, shown by Eurovision Again last month, was sufficiently unreadable as to be replaced. Certainly it was an experiment that was worth running, but we don't see evidence that it should have been repeated.

Eurovision Song Contest The original and recreation from 1980. Both have problems.

We appreciate and endorse what the Eurovision Again project is doing: it's taking old Eurovision Song Contests recorded onto several different media held by several different broadcasters, melding them together, buffing them up, making them look the best they can, and presenting them back to the public as historical artefacts. We deeply regret that the current presentation alters the history, and only shows part of the show. We encourage Eurovision Again to be honest with the viewer, and respect all aspects of the contest's history.

In other news

What's American for «The Wheel»? Michael McIntyre needs to know. He's going to do an Anne Robinson, and take his own show over to NBC. He won't be hosting the Dutch version, which begins on SBS6 next weekend.

Blossoming career Now that Dodgy Mike has left Jeopardy! to spend more time applying to run OFCOM, they've asked Mayim Bialik to fill in for three more weeks. We reckon Brooke Burns from The Chase and other shows would be a great choice – she's done serious quizzes, and is wonderful with people. Brooke's slick hosting skills and love of knowledge mean she's not too different from Alex Trebek; that she's a younger woman means she looks very different from Alex Trebek.

The ITV Television Awards are down to the final few in each category. It's 100% televote, with the winners to be announced by Joel Dommett on 9 September. Here are the game shows still in competition:

Shortlists are also out for the Broadcast magazine Digital Awards. This is 100% jury, with the winners to be named at a posh nosh on 6 October (so before logging on to Zoom, do remember to get pultaceous petits pois with your double-fried aardappellen fritzen and beer-battered haddock).

  • Best Digital Support for a Programme – Ru Paul's Drag Race (sic), The Masked Singer, and four others
  • Best Digital Support for a Strand, Channel or Genre – Blue Peter's 6 Badges of Summer, and five others
  • Best Entertainment Programme – Don't Hate the Playaz, Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable, The Rap Game, and three others
  • Best Lockdown Programme (Comedy, Entertainment & Scripted) – A League of Their Own, Don't Hate the Playaz, Lockdown Juice, There's Something About Movies, and two others
  • Best Popular Factual Programme – Glow Up, The Rap Game, and four others
  • Best Programme Acquisition – Canada's Drag Race, and five others

Yet another Channel 4 pilot series. Claudia Winkleman will host One Question, with a potential hundred grand prize. Apparently, there's one question, and twenty answers of varying degrees of plausibility. Surely Channel 4 have already done a show with just one question.

Deal or No Deal "No questions, except one: deal, or no deal?"

From the BBC, we hear about Superstar Survival, where outdoorsy expert Wim Hof gets celebrities to go to the ends of the earth. Lee Mack and Holly Willoughby host. Some have compared it to 71 Degrees North, others to Bear Grylls' Survival Challenge.

Quizzy Monday continued. Mastermind returned, with new host Clive Myrie. We'll have more to say on the new host in two weeks, so will note that Ranvir Singh Kalare won tonight's episode, where everyone scored into the teens. Shows like Mastermind mean a lot to the contestants, as we saw when his partner ran onto set once his win was confirmed.

Only Connect had the Ramblers and Woolgatherers meeting for a pie and a pint and some parlour games. Ramblers won, 19-13, after the sides had been roughly level throughout. In a particularly frothy programme, we learned that humans and bananas share 41% of the same DNA, there's an area of London with six consecutive consonants in its name, and "Ziggy" was a fictional artificial intelligence. A surprise to all who remember Grange Hill.

University Challenge saw Trinity Cambridge all over Durham, the match was decided half-way through, and Trinity won 190-90. "We watched our friends being clever on television," said last year's Durham side on the Quizzy Monday aftershow. The older team spoke about the "nominate" in the bonus rounds, where someone else on the team gives the answer. The captains are "nominating" a lot more, especially for complex words and unusual languages, because they can't quite hear as well with the earpieces. This year's Durham squad were selected from an online test, and had very little practice with the buzzers – it rather showed, sadly.

The Quizzy Monday aftershow (100% unofficial, 100% fun) wondered why we haven't seen the regeneration scene on Mastermind. We reckon it's for continuity reasons – viewers in Scotland still haven't seen John Humphrys' final episode, and still don't know if he escapes from the walking daffodils. It also had word about what the Newsnight presenters wear beneath their smart suits. And an unexpected appearance from a cuckoo clock, but whose was it?

The fiftieth anniversary of a television legend is marked this week. Twee voor Twaalf, the Dutch quiz of extreme difficulty, marks 50 years confusing a culture. Primetime shows on NPO2, repeats at lunchtime on internet channel bvn.tv.

Summer is ending. How can we tell? New episodes of Tipping Point and The Chase (ITV); we've also a charity episode of Tenable (ITV, Wed). The News Quiz returns (Radio 4, Fri).

Richard Osman has a new radio show, The Birthday Cake Game (Radio 4, Tue). Celebrity Masterchef has an unusual week, Wednesday is the new Monday. Glow Up Ireland begins (RTE2, Thu). Paddy McGuinness takes over on A Question of Sport (BBC1, Fri).

We don't plan to publish next week, so here's a sneaky preview. The best of Family Fortunes on ITV next Sunday, filling an awkward half hour between the football and the 8pm drama. Unbeatable (BBC1), Pointless (BBC1) and Just a Minute (Radio 4) all return on Monday the 6th.

Pictures: Tuesday's Child, SVT, EBU, Cheetah Television West

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