Weaver's Week 2022-01-30

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"Discussions on the devoutness of Norwich".

Only Connect (2)


Only Connect

Series 17; Parasol / RDF West for BBC2, 14 July 2021 to 24 January 2022

Seventeen series, fourteen and a half years. The 399th episode of Only Connect to be filmed was the Third Place Play-Off. In a competition of no importance, this is the most unimportant match of all; the losing semi-finalists are pressed into service one last time, with some of the most difficult questions of the series.

Only Connect (2) Victoria describes tonight's game.

This year's Third Place Play-Off featured the Ramblers and the Animal Lovers. Ramblers had eased through the bottom of the draw: they'd demonstrated that humans share 40% of their DNA with a banana, knew about Assassin's Creed, and the wives of Kings George. Animal Lovers came from the top half, spotting things mimed in a game of charades, songs with porcelain in the title, and Danube capital cities in their native language.

"Bright sides" gave Animal Lovers an early lead, a music question where they didn't need to hear the Monty Python number. Ramblers struck back with a group of definitions of numbers with the same letter of the alphabet – the A1 road, T20 cricket, G7 economies, and D4 dice. We've all heard of these, but even seeing them written out, could we work out the connection? Ramblers could, and they didn't even have the letters to help.

Only Connect (2) Ramblers got three points. We'd have struggled to one.

Sequences are where the best sides run up their score. Definitions of "fi, phi, faux, fumb"? All in a day's work. A completely confusing one spelling out numbers one, two, three, four vertically from the bottom up? Bish bash and bosh.

Ramblers had nothing to lose – literally, this being the third place play-off – and utterly went for five points on a sequence about royal ratings. They went from Ivan the Terrible all the way to Suleyman the Magnificent; the question-setters had stopped at Catherine the Great. While the score was decisive – 18-4 after two rounds – everyone played on in a spirit of fun and entertainment. We're here, we've got some questions, we're going to be thoroughly stumped by them, but by golly we'll have fun trying!

Only Connect (2) A valiant fourth place for the animal lovers.

Missing Vowels continued an occasional feature: extended Answer Smashes. You know how Richard Osman tries to make the overlapping answers into A Thing, with such nonsense as "Nothing to declare Balding" or "Michael Bayleaf" turning up every single night. Only Connect was doing these overlapping answers almost ten years ago, and occasionally brings them back in the concluding category. Tonight: four overlapping names.

Only Connect (2) Answer smash that!

Craig David James Taylor Swift, being a judge on Walk the Plank, a contestant on Celebrity Mastermind, a soul singer, and a leading contemporary songwriter. Points were scored at a blur, Ramblers ending up 30-13 winners.

"It was a bewildering process that seems to have satisfied few."

The 400th episode of Only Connect to be filmed was the series 17 final. (Whisper it softly, it was number 404 in transmission sequence: the Christmas specials had been shuffled in at the date determined by the calendar.)

In a competition of no importance, this is the least unimportant match, as there is an actual tangible prize to be had. A small perspex square, containing the marking "Only Connect champions".

Only Connect (2) And the first shall be last...

Golfers (Evan Lynch, George Charlson, Frances Clark-Murray) had come through the top of the draw, with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, costumes on The Masked Singer, and a very strong performance on Missing Vowels. Data Wizards (Claire Turner, Jonathan Cairns, Tim Brown) were the last team seen on screen, and knew unusual reasons for cancelling gigs, occupationally-specific good luck wishes, and the Animal Crossing games. Both teams had wobbled in earlier rounds, the Data Wizards dropped just one connection on their four walls.

The first connection, on programming languages, fell into the Data Wizards' wheelhouse, and allowed one of the team to remind us of a pirate's favourite coding: R. Periodic table geography came back for the Golfers, in a question we've had to map out to understand.

Only Connect (2) What?!

Only Connect (2) Russium is NE of Rhenium, and so on.

"Answers are anagrams of the last word of the clue." Is there a more Only Connect answer than that? The little trivia questions are demanding enough, but to solve them and spot that there's an anagram of the answer? Incredible brainwork, and yet the teams were up to it. Another series of prosaic things made sense in context – they're the answers to questions posed in film titles. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Dude, Where's My Car?, and others.

An unexpected touch of emotion, as the music round features people duetting with themselves. Victoria is particularly taken by the version of "Walking in the air", featuring Aled Jones of 1985 singing with Aled Jones of 2016. "Aled Jones singing with his younger self is a strangely moving sound," comments the host. At the end of the round, Golfers have a 4-3 lead.

Only Connect (2) Golfers tackle an awkward question.

"Half a league!" "Half a league!" "Half a league!" Three clues all heading to the same response, that really indicates it's some sort of quotation or familiar saying. In this case, it's The Charge of the Light Brigade, and they're looking for a clue to indicate "onward". Something like "Drown around a progression". It's a rare miss from the Golfers, they'd also dropped a relatively straightforward group of things starting in April.

Both sides pick up three points: Data Wizards on mathematical symbols using fewer lines, Golfers on definitions of taxonomic orders. "Have we made it too easy?" asks Victoria. "Are you finding it too easy at home? Let's make it harder." The viewers respond in a chorus of "no! No! NO!!!", as if she'd suggesting breaking Cliff's head.

Only Connect (2) Victoria's prepared her stuff.

Diseases that make your skin go different colours is the next question, and Victoria neatly summarises a major dilemma in contemporary medicine... "in the case of the last clue, I think possibly be in The Beano, because I don't know if anyone actually goes green with nausea. So, depending on your original skin colour, and whether or not you're in a comic, it is a series of conditions following a rainbow pattern."

What's happened there is that Victoria's used humour (nobody actually turns green with nausea) to introduce how many conditions are predicated on pale skin. In the west, doctors learn about pale skin, patients with darker skin – the global majority of people – rarely turn up. At the end of the round, Data Wizards have a lead, 11-9.

The walls, as is traditional for the final, are slightly gimmicky. They're very well balanced: where one side gets shades of blue, the other has shades of purple. There are famous bands and famous Jacks, berries and boards. The key difference comes in hidden words: the Wizards use every possible second to identify words beginning with a shriek, the Golfers missed words beginning with fasteners. We viewers knew what to look for – we'd been primed to watch for a word one, and tipped off about which bit of the word.

Only Connect (2) Glurk!

Missing Vowels brought us to an end, and almost brought the Golfers back into the game. They'd been seven points behind, but clawed it back to a single point at one stage. Eight syllable words, like "hemidemisemiquaver". Film titles multiplied by ten, like "Nineteen Thousand One Hundred and Seventy"

But the Data Wizards did just enough to keep the scoreboard moving. A point here, a point there, just enough to keep their heads above water. And, when time expired, Data Wizards had won, 23-20.

To our surprise, the Only Connect final was an emotional experience. Two excellent teams, only one of them got to wave a block of Perspex around on the Quizzy Mondays show afterwards. Why is OC such an experience? Everyone is friendly, everyone is lovely – front of stage, backstage, even the question writers on social networks.

Only Connect (2) The winners take their trophy to the pub.

It's a pleasant place to be, and this generosity of spirit leaks out through the screen. Of all shows, Tipping Point is the only other to be positive and pleasant, without an ounce of backstabbery. And that's so very different from the rest of the world right now.

Some have noted how there are lots of champions teams, and can we have a Champions' League Only Connect? Many winners of the show have gone off and done other things – Mark Labbett and Jenny Ryan to The Chase, Aaron Bell to Westminster. Others are out of the country, or generally unavailable. But let's assume we can get enough teams for a series. Would we want it?

To be honest, we're not sure OCCL would tickle our fancy. The whole ambience of Only Connect is that it's the conversation after a dinner party, it's a chance for people to show what they do know, and applaud those who know what they don't. The stakes are so low, only the moles and earthworms encounter them. As soon as you put a barrier to entry, once you say "this is only for the winners", you're raising the stakes, people will start to bring their egos. They'll start to (shudder!) compete.

Only Connect has never been about the competition; that's just a structure to bring each series to a close. It's about sharing what we know, having fun with old friends, and making new chums.

We look forward to the joy of series 18 later in the year.

In other news

You literally had 0.97 job! BARB, the people who compile the television ratings, has spotted an error in its calculations. Viewing figures for the period around Christmas were under-counted by about 2-3%. For every hundred people watching a show, BARB only recorded 97 and a bit.

Countdown Wouldn't catch Carol Vorderman making this error.

The ratings body is red-faced by this error, and will re-issue more accurate figures over the coming weeks. In the spirit of co-operation, we've sent them a box set of our favourite shows: Who Wants to be a Nine Hundred and Seventy Thousander, children's favourite 49/49, and that old parlour game 19½ Questions.

Speaking of old parlour games, Round the Islands Quiz is to get a new host. Tom Sutcliffe has retired to spend more time with his Saturday review; Kirsty Lang will be now asking the most perplexing questions on broadcast media. More on that story later.

One more piece of ratings news: 33 million viewers saw the Junior Eurovision Song Contest last December. That's almost three times the aggregate audience – all six episodes added together – for Simon Cowell's flop show Walk the Lion.

Anita Rani Untrapped.

Anita Rani gets a new show. The The Answer Trap host will front ITV's Fastest Finger First, based on the bit they used to play in a couple of seconds at the start of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Get your pillows ready, The Bridge is back! After boring us throughout the first series of the semi-competition show, Workerbee's latest actors now try to construct a 300m bridge in 12 days. The winners – if there are any winners – will get £200,000 (€240 000), which works out at almost €1 per viewer. Eight episodes of this, with AJ Odudu and Aldo Kane hosting.

Channel 4's press release includes lots of quotes attributed to the dead tree media about the first episode of the last series. For reasons of space, they didn't find room for anyone who watched all five episodes, perhaps because this column was the only reviewer to watch the whole series. "It was dull television. Boring. Tepid, insipid, zeebsome. Predictable. The Bridge lacked jeopardy."

It lacked what?

Best of the Web "There can't be a second super champion this soon". Buzzerblog's Cory Anotado plays Jeopardy! and meets a super champion. Hijinks ensue.

Tom Scott! Money! That's got the search engines interested. Tom Scott, the red-shirted internet phenom, talks about his hit 2020 show Money on the latest Television Show and Tell podcast.

The Voice UK Serious bit follows.

Boos about The Voice Last time, we noted claims about The Voice of Holland of the Netherlands, and how the show seems to have been a safe haven for pests. Bandleader Jeroen Rietbergen has been challenged by 19 people: sexual assault, sending unwanted pictures of his anatomy, and unwelcome comments. Voice coach Ali B is accused of, among other things, rape and groping women. Six women accused Marco Borsato of groping their buttocks. An un-named director on the show is said to have made inappropriate comments.

Public backlash has been strong. Broadcaster RTL took the programme off air, and has expunged it from social media. Leading broadcasters Talpa and NOS have stopped playing records by Borsato and Ali B. A leading waxwork museum has removed its effigy of Borsato.

Another of the mentors on The Voice was Anouk, who has resigned her post. "I know enough. I've decided I don't want to return to The Voice. It's a corrupt mess. I don't want to work at a place where men have, for years, abused their positions and where others have chosen to keep the misconduct silent and look the other way."

John de Mol, who was head of Talpa at the time, says he "didn't know about it" and "couldn't have done anything". Well, perhaps he could have done some things. Set out the company's values: "we men no longer tolerate sexual harassment in our company". He could live the company's values: your CEO says, "that's not how we talk about women at Talpa". Put his foot down, made a public example of culprits.

If you want to talk to someone about sexual violence and abuse, The Survivors' Trust lists national and local helplines. Readers in the USA will want to talk with RAINN. Lezers in Nederland kunnen op Schlachtofferhulp Nederland contact nemen.

Your Face Sounds Familiar Meat Loaf, played by Cheryl Fergison.

The death of Meat Loaf. Best known for his rock opera trilogy Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf brought his larger-than-life theatrics to ITV about ten years ago, he was the best thing about Popstar to Operastar. Mr. Loaf turned it all the way up to 74.

The death of Barry Cryer, comedy entertainer, panelist and raconteur, and all round good egg. We'll have a longer tribute next week.

The death of the Young Audiences Content Fund, killed by the Westminster administration in one of its shameful bouts of harm to children. The YACF is intended to alleviate the free market's continued failure to make quality shows on commercial television for young viewers, particularly those too old for pre-school programmes. The fund mostly worked on drama, its big game show was Don't Unleash the Beast. It's clear that Nadine Dorries, the minister irresponsible for this decision, is quite happy to inflict imported crud on other people's children.

Don't Unleash the Beast As not seen on a telly near you.

More positively, The Beano Power Awards are back. They're voted by the young readers of Fleet Street's most reliable weekly newspaper. The Best Show award is for television programmes: Bake Off, Strictly Come Dancing, I'm a Celebrity, The Masked Singer, and non-game Falcon and Winter Soldier are up for the award. Strictly winner Rose Ayling-Ellis is up for the Positive Impact award, for people making the world a better place.

Quizzy Mondays Mastermind winners were Tom Lea (Line of Duty) and Paul Risebury-Crisp (Björk). Cheers to the contender who took "Gin" as a specialist subject: a place on Only Connect can't be too far off. Probably behind the bar, nursing Victoria's order.

University Challenge match 2 saw the London derby: Imperial defeated King's by 235-50. We believe Imperial go on to play Reading in the next round, which will be a cracker. King's will be up against Birmingham, and we only see one winner from that match. Match 3 was the repêchage final, St John's Cambridge beat Emmanuel Cambridge in an attritional battle.

BBC3 is back, with a new run of RuPaul's Drag Race (Tue). BBC2 strikes back, with Great Local Menu (from Tue). A new series of Celebrity Hunted (C4, Sun), and The Great Cookbook Challenge (C4, Mon) looks intriguing.

The Late Late Show invites Ireland to find a winning Eurosong (RTÉ1, Fri). Jackie Weaver has the authority to start a new series of Celebrity Mastermind (BBC1, Sat). It's followed by a Shouting Edition of The Weakest Link, with Anneka Rice, Richard Blackwood, and John Bercow all in the same room. Makes the line up for The Wheel – Shirley Ballas and Ainsley Harriott – look positively restrained.

Pictures: Parasol / RDF West, "File:18 column periodic table, with Lu and Lr in group 3.png" by Sandbh, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, All Things Quiz, Yorkshire TV, Sony, Talpa / Wall to Wall, Initial An Endemol Company, Tiny House Productions / CPL Productions.

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