Weaver's Week 2021-10-03

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"If there's one thing we all love, it's a great" – what?! Oh. Thank goodness for subtitles!

Take a Hike

Take a Hike


Take a Hike

Cardiff Productions / S4C for BBC2, 13 September – 1 October

If there's one thing television producers all love, it's a show familiar from a different programme. Since it began almost two decades ago, Come Dine with Me has been shamelessly copied by many squillion other formats. This is the latest in a very long line.

Take a Hike introduces five hikers from the same part of the island to each other. In turn, each will lead a walk in the country. They'll be marked by the other walkers, assessing the route, views, the picnic they've provided, and any other attractions they might like to lay on.

Take a Hike Five go wandering in Northumbria.

For this review, we're going to follow all five episodes in the middle week, aired from 20 to 24 September. We start by meeting the five wanderers, led first by Stephanie, a loud fiftysomething walker. They're all from the modern country of Northumbria, consisting of land north of the river Tyne. (Historians will know how "Northumbria" took its name from all the land north of the Humber, but we don't want to answer to the president of the People's Republic of Yorkshire.)

In fact, let's look at what the Dutch equivalent of Radio Times said about this show. "Stephanie hoopt dat haar wandeling naar Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland de hoofdprijs wint". See, you know more Dutch than you think.

Take a Hike The golden walking stick.

To win the head prize (£500 (€585) in walking vouchers and a golden walking stick), Stephanie leads her charges on a five-mile wander through Hadrian's Wall. A fortification aimed at keeping the uneducated barbarian hordes out, it's named after the Roman emperor who the Picts really wanted to exclude. There's plenty of shots of the wall, including some of the old gates where customs inspectors made sure that goods were suitable for entry to the Roman single market.

Stephanie's "view" is of a tree. A single tree. What's so special about that tree? Apparently, it's where one of the versions of Robin Hood was filmed. If you say so.

Her picnic features some unusual dishes, hollowing out the egg from a Scotch Egg and replacing it with a cheese and onion mixture. Twelve out of ten for inventiveness, minus several for edibility.

Take a Hike Going through Hadrian's Wall.

And there's an activity. Stephanie's indulged in some Maid Marion cosplay, and invites the others to draw her. We vaguely recall Art School, a Come Dine with Me clone based on art. Don't think E4 or BBC3 have yet commissioned Come Cosplay with Me, but the idea's there for someone to develop. She's also got some cocktails for the team, but only if they dress up as a pantomime horse. The spirit of Rentaghost lives on.

Jasmine is the next hike leader, she's chosen a walk along the beach at Whitley Bay. Walking through the water, competitive selfies (!), and a Spice Girls tribute performance. Come rain, come shine, the walk continues, until one of the party starts to get too cold and heads home. The walk isn't a hit.

Take a Hike Walk this way. Oh, that was Girls Aloud...

Angus takes the group to Harbottle, where there's a bit of a hill, plenty of sunshine, and free parking. Through the week, there's been discussion of Angus and Jasmine's footwear, today they're both in borrowed boots. The walk stops at a wishing point, and finds a circle in the grass. Unidentified flying objects, or adders? They reckon some snakes. The team take a look at the Drakestone, which is believed to have mystical healing powers. At the end, they'll meet a local historian with a model of the castle.

"I didn't enjoy the sausage roll, it wasn't my cup of tea," said one hiker. Rhod Gilbert, the sarcastic voiceover, chose not to take this opportunity to make the commentator look even more foolish. Angus's activity is to dress up in hats and bin bags. So he has a seasonal fashion show, in the middle of a forest, during a sleet shower. Rhod Gilbert, the sarcastic voiceover, could not add to the complete bonkersness of this sight.

Take a Hike You don't get this on House of Games (3), do you?

Theresa goes around Kielder Forest and Kielder Water, quite the long walk. "I'll mark someone down if their walk is long and boring and the same" says one wandelaar. "Is this walk long and boring and the same?" asks Rhod Gilbert, rhetorically, because he knows Theresa is about to answer. The physical activity: it's a One Man and His Dog re-creation, with sheep and dog masks. It doesn't work brilliantly, but everyone has fun trying.

The viaduct provides a spectacular view, and at the castle there's a maze made from stone blocks. That looks fun. The picnic includes local delicacies such as pan haggarty, and Northumbrian broth, and banana bread, and local drinks.

And there's some pease pudding – peas and ham stock, left to set to almost solid. "It's not my cup of pease", says the same hiker from yesterday, allowed to set up and deliver her own joke. Scripted after-the-fact? Perhaps. Something to reward someone who watched both episodes? Certainly.

Take a Hike The group's tallest person is at an advantage.

And finally, Paul goes along the coast from Boulmer to Craister. His entertainment is a pub quiz outdoors, dressed as Austin Powers. "How did you know that?" "Because it's true!" The picnic is local delicacies, just like Theresa, except that his is entirely home-made food – and sparks a bit of needle with Theresa over whether Northumbrian broth has barley in. His surprise is a further pub entertainment: a fiddle band with the walkers on the spoons.

They have been keeping score, giving each other marks out of ten, and a winner is declared. Paul ends up with the most popular walk: flat, no mud, and the pub quiz was surprisingly popular.

Take a Hike This week's winner, with his prizes.

Do we get to know something about the contestants? We do. Across the week, we learned that Jasmine is big in selfies, that Angus is a dandy fop, Paul likes physical activity. Everyone's picked the place for reasons – it's the area where they live, or reminds them of an important time in their life. The personal stories are told, in a way that almost comes across as natural.

But there isn't quite enough show to fill a BBC half-hour. Filler at the top, filler at the bottom, and the show is just a little bit too slow in the middle. Were this a Channel 4 half-hour – about five minutes shorter – it would be just the right length. Compare and contrast against The Perfect Pitch, Channel 4's latest half-hour show about outdoor activities (and nothing at all to do with camping).

Take a Hike is a perfectly fine show, great to have on in the background but not foreground viewing.

Am Dro!

Am Dro!

We noted a credit to S4C at the end of Take a Hike. Where does that come from? Turns out it's from Am Dro, a version of this format they've run in Welsh for a few series.

What are the differences? Am Dro is a self-contained show, four walks condensed into one hour in primetime. We get to see some of the sights, and take in some of the activities. There's a picnic, and often an organised entertainment. Less of the personal stories, and the show feels like it makes more progress.

Some facts about the area are shown through captions on the screen, adding to the sense of place we get from the walks. S4C programmes are very good at showing their place off to interested outsiders, and Take a Hike was almost as good in English.

Wouldn't be surprised if BBC2 considers the one-hour format for future development, it could fill a similar role to Antiques Road Trip in the 7pm hour.

The Complaints Department

The Complaints Department

Monkey Kingdom for Comedy Central, from 13 September

During the COVID pandemic, it became very difficult to make new shows. S4C has made a lot of outdoors shows – Am Dro! only debuted in January 2020, and it's already into its fourth series. Filming outdoors is safe and easy.

Panel shows have also blossomed – it's relatively easy to film five people sitting down in a studio, much more tricky to do anything physical. The Complaints Department was one such commission.

"We celebrate the great British pastime of kicking off about absolutely anything," said host Jason Manford in his introduction. The usual arrangements: two teams of two comedians, some you might know, some you almost certainly won't.

Round one, "What's the point", show a picture of someone with a grump, and try and work out their problem. Failing that, try and work out the problem they're complaining about.

The Complaints Department The set features filing cabinets, where all complaints go to be ignored.

After the break, "Petition impossible", work out how many people signed an unlikely online petition. Did more folk put their name to "ITV should bring back Duel", or "Channel 4 should bring back The Crystal Maze"?

After another commercial break, "Top Grumps": compare two related items, and work out which leads in a particular category. For instance, which is the best motorway service station?

Then there's "Famous and Fuming", celebrities who have made a complaint, or been on the receiving end of someone else's gripe. Why, for instance, did Nick Knowles indulge in a 40-tweet complaint a few years ago?

"The Last Word" is the final round, a missing words test in the style of Have I Got News for You. After all of this, a winning team is declared – points have been awarded for giving the correct answer, and also for impressing Jason with something funny and/or passionate.

The Complaints Department Jason Manford, head griper.

The Complaints Department passed our six-laugh test, there's enough to chortle over to be a comedy. Jason Manford is a strong host, the panel are skilled raconteurs, and the result is some properly enjoyable moments. Only when we stopped to think did we realise that we were laughing at the comedians' jokes, these moments had nothing to do with the questions Jason was asking.

We can't help feel that The Complaints Department is too superficial, and leaves something on the table. A Channel 4 treatment of this show might draw out some greater points about society. Why do people complain about everything, and why does so little change when they do speak up? Is there any point in petitions? How come the systemic problems are left untreated? Late capitalism makes its inherent problems abundantly clear without providing any structure to resolve the problems: discuss. Do we need to take to the streets and blockade motorways and demand that every service station is as good as Tebay?

Comedy Central uses complaints as a vehicle for comedians to make jokes. The source material isn't intrinsically funny, and the funniest bits might not relate to the grouses.

In other news

Beste van Nederlands Dutch-language listings magazine TrosKompas is marking 70 years of television in the Netherlands. They've asked a panel of television experts about the best shows, decade by decade. 2 voor 12, the difficult quiz, is tipped for the 70s, and Dit was het news for the 90s – it's their version of Have I Got News for You, without any of the baggage this side of the channel. For the 00s, Wie is de Mol and Boer zoekt vrouw (The Mole and Farmer Wants a Wife, as they were known here). Another smartie-pants quiz, De slimste mens gets into the 10s list, as does the Bake Off show Heel Holland bakt.

Quizzy Mondays continued. This column got horridly confused by an Only Connect question giving some words, and some arrows beneath. What confused us: the arrows were meant to indicate compass directions (NSWE) and not general directions (UDLR). The Godyn Family won the final second-chance match, beating Woolgatherers by 24-14. Highlight was on the walls, where one had a distraction group of Spice Girls nicknames, and the other had the names of Victoria Posh Spice Beckham-Aadams' children.

Mastermind was won by Alice Walker, perfect on the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, then a full fifteen on general knowledge. Andrew Whiteley was perfect on Canterbury, but only took fourteen on the second phase. There's no space for high-scoring losers in this series, we'll surely see Andrew in a future series.

University Challenge saw Dundee take on the Royal Northern College of Music. Slow start for the musicians, but then a good comeback, and the scores were level with a couple of minutes to play. Dundee won the match, 145-135, and RNCM had a score good enough to get into a three-way battle for the repêchage. At the moment, all three teams on 135 qualify, but with two heats to go... The I Got That One! podcast has often commented at how poor teams are on domestic geography, something demonstrated once more on this week's episode.

The Wave Rylan on a beach.

Only Connect referred to a Rylan quiz, where people swam out to sea, answered questions, and had to put rocks down their trunks if they got a question wrong. That's The Wave, which went out at the start of 2018. While the questions were great, and the idea had merit, it made for dull and foggy television.

We don't intend to publish next week, so here's a two-week preview. Sorry, I Didn't Know returns (ITV, Sun). Another sort of panel show on Channel 5 as Eggheads returns (weeknights). Murder Island (C4, Tue) is a competitive detective show penned by Ian Rankin. Pointless Celebrities is back (BBC1, Sat), and it's movie week on Strictly. Tuesday 12th has The Men's Football up against Bake Off, we predict Paul Hollywood to score a profiterole from eleven metres. Complaints Welcome (C4, Thu 14th) is a Channel 4 take on complaints – but only about television shows – Tom Allen and Jessica Knappett host.

We'll be back on 17 October, looking at Saturday Night Line-Up. Which means we have to watch Saturday Night Line-Up.

Pictures: Cardiff Productions, Monkey Kingdom, Primal Media.

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