Weaver's Week 2022-08-28

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CAUTION: the host of this next show will invite the players to sing.


The Connection

BNNVARA / MediaLane for NPO1, from 21 May

Earlier in the summer, we reviewed the NBC version of University Challenge. Lots of picture and video questions, some snazzy introduction videos, but questions so simple they belonged on primary school quiz Top Class.

This week, we review the Dutch show that isn't Only Connect, but might have been inspired by it.

What is the link between all of these things?

BNNVARA is the left-leaning broadcaster, with a slogan "We are for peace, progress, change, we are for you". It emphasises the benefits of society, and how we're all strengthened by working together. And what could be stronger than a quiz where all of the answers – all of them! – lead to one big idea.

Guessable on Comedy Central has a similar conceit, but that is a panel game where the link is an excuse for fun. The Connection is a quiz, and treats itself seriously. There's plenty of fun on the way, but they don't set out to make a theatre of the absurd.

Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, the host with the most.

Matthijs van Nieuwkerk is the host, he's mostly presented pop music programmes on television and radio. Matthijs also hosted De Wereld Draait Door, a genial current affairs show of the sort we simply don't get on these anglophone islands.

The show is set in a green-screen studio, which is decorated to look like the atrium of a museum. Glass dome on top, high rounded arches. Clearly in the Romanesque style. Three contestants the show each week, because a quiz without contestants is just useless.

The things they can do with computers these days!

Each week, the contenders are celebrities, linked by a common theme. They may appear to be a team, but no, they compete as individuals. In the show we're watching, the three contestants are opera singers. Tania Kross, Maria Fiselier, and Francis van Broekhuizen.

Matthijs talks to the contestants before the game begins. And, because the contestants are opera singers, they'll all give us a short aria. Yes, we're less than three minutes into the programme, and the host's already asking the contestants to sing. You wouldn't catch Victoria Coren Mitchell asking contestants to sing – not this early, not before the second bottle's been opened.

Opera singers in the local aria.

Before round 1, Matthijs invites us to play along at home. If you're watching live, you can logon to the BNNVARA website, and potentially win an unprize. You wouldn't catch Victoria Coren Mitchell sending a Champagne bottle to some lucky viewers – not unless she's drunk it first.

For this first round, we get questions fired quite quickly. For instance, "What was the dress that Lady Gaga wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards made of?" The answer is quite simple, "meat", or "vlees" in Dutch. The contestants each type their answers into a keyboard, and they appear on little displays in front of the player.

There are four questions in this round, and the answers are connected in some way. The answers appear on screen for us, and the contestants try to work out the connection. One point for each correct answer in the main game, one bonus point for the connection.

What links these ideas? The contenders type in their answers...

In our example round, the answers are UNESCO, vlees (meat), Noord-Brabant, and singing wonderkid Roy Donders. The contestants offer different connections – carnaval (carnival), pakken (suits), and Brabants bont (a type of fur). No, the answer is worstenbroodje, the good old sausage roll. Delicacy from North Brabant, recognised by UNESCO, and loved by the singer. Goed gedaan als je *dat* thuis hebt!

Three separate rounds, three separate sets of four linked thingies to work with. About half of the initial questions are illustrated by video clips, and there's plenty of chat amongst the players as the round plays out. The programme doesn't move at a breathtaking pace, but nor does it hang around; in that way, just like Only Connect.

Eventually, about twenty minutes into the show, we reach round two. Matthijs the host reads a long statement, like the ones Henry Kelly read on Going for Gold. Unlike the pan-European quiz, nobody interrupts Matthijs. Instead, visual clues appear on the green-screen museum behind him. Parts of a sculpture, a throne.

A hint appears on the virtual set.

These visual hints are clues as much as the words Matthijs is saying. A sumptuous building, chandeliers, velvet rooms – is the answer "crown"? Three points for the fastest player to lock in the right answer, then 2, then 1. The order of play is indicated using Roman numerals, fitting the Romanesque architecture.

Three of these long questions, then we find the link between the answers. And whoever's got the lowest score leaves the show here. As we said, the players are competing as individuals, and here we lose the weakest. Don't forget, there's a home game still playing, where the viewers can win an unprize.

Matthijs points while holding a question card. That's got to impress the judges!

Round three, the head to head. Eight questions in this round, the players will answer verbally. Scores are carried forward from the first round, with two points for a correct answer so nobody should build up an insurmountable lead. Whoever's in the lead takes first choice of the questions, and will answer first. Their opponent will pick and answer the next question, and so on until everything's selected.

The questions are indicated by modern pictograms, which vary from week to week. The microphone, the lollipop, the rocket, the two earrings.

This week's hieroglyphs: de clown, de bibliotheek, twee reiten...

In our sample game, one of the contenders is 15 points ahead going into the round, and secures victory with the first question. But they've still got to play out the round, our winner might need the clues to find the connection at the end.

Or maybe she won't, our winner seems able to infodump about some of the video clips and answer the question without Matthijs actually asking it. We're reminded of Bamber Gascoigne's Connoisseur, which rewarded massive infodumps by people who knew a lot about a small reference pool.

Once again, there's a connection between all eight answers in this round. Can the contenders spot what it is? Will the bonus points change the outcome of the game? No and no, not this time.

What links these things? A place in the final might be at stake.

All of which brings us to the final. For the first time in the programme, we're reminded of all the answers so far. Some of them are removed, Matthijs will tell a story about them later.

Our contender has one minute of questions, the answers will be added to the clues on the screen. Then there's two minutes for the contender to think about the overall connection. They can buy extra clues, but at a cost – 15 seconds per additional clue.

As we've heard for the last few minutes, and someone spotted in the very first round, it's "carnival".

Not that we need it this week. The contender spotted the overall connection – carnival – back in the previous round. Rather than wonder about it, she explains all the connections on the screen, and the whole thing ends in a joyous farce. If you didn't get all the connections, they're explained on the website. For us outsiders, it's a primer into Dutch culture.

At the end of the time, getting the overall connection wins a piece of art – this week, a small sculpture. The unprize for viewers at home is a computer picture of that sculpture, with a certificate of inauthenticity stored via "niffy fart trading", or "gigantische zwendel die de planeet runt" in the original Dutch.

The winner gets this unique prize.

The Connection gets many things right. It's got the right attitude for Saturday night television: entertaining, fun and friendly, and with solid research at heart. The host is engaging, and keeps the fun flowing while the show remains on course. They've cast their celebrities with care, nobody is made to look a fool in the episodes we've seen. Even radio DJs are allowed to look slightly sensible.

Every time we review a foreign programme, we end with the million-euro question. Could this show work here? We think it could. The format is roughly equidistant from Comedy Central's Guessable and BBC2's Only Connect – it's lighthearted without being silly, rigorous without excluding anyone. If Channel 4's after a show in such a space, The Connection might work for them.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest

A Song for Young Europe

The BBC will make its debut in this year's Junior Eurovision Song Contest. The process to select the song and performer is being led by CBBC with BBC Studios Entertainment and Music. The show will be broadcast live on CBBC and BBC1 on Sunday 11 December. We're also promised some commentators, who may or may not include Hacker T Dog (and if they don't at least make Hacker's Eurovision Trip we will be sorely disappointed).

Patricia Hidalgo is the BBC's senior person responsible for children's programmes, and said,

"This junior version of Eurovision will undoubtedly encapsulate the same spirit of unity that the adult contest brings, reflecting the heart of what CBBC is all about, an inclusive channel that celebrates the diversity and creativity in all children."

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Creativity in the young performers.

She's right. Last year's winning song talks about how Maléna needs to go to faraway places, find out who she really is. How she'll be like the wind, going everywhere. It's a song about discovering yourself, of pushing your boundaries. Last year's runner up is through to the final of NBC's Got Talent. Winners from three and four years ago are massive stars in their homeland, another is a leading plasma physicist, and you'll remember Destiny and the Tolmachevy Sisters from the senior contest.

Since ITV pulled out seventeen years ago, Junior Eurovision has found a niche, it's a family viewing show. It's aimed at children of about 14. It's sufficiently cool to not embarrass young teens, and sufficiently aspirational to entice slightly younger viewers. There's talent for parents to appreciate, and just enough cute-factor to keep grandparents watching.

Reflects the heart of what CBBC is all about.

At its best, Junior Eurovision is better than anyone dare hope. Top-tier performances are uniformly brilliant. Honestly, authenticly, heartwarmingly, stomach-jumpingly, brain-fritzing wowsomely brilliant.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Makes you go bim, bam, and toi, all at the same time.

It's become traditional for the Senior Contest's hosts to send an entry into Junior, it gives the broadcaster vital experience on how to stage a magical show. The BBC knows it can always improve, particularly given its recent dodgy record, and is taking every chance to do better. Good luck to them.

One lucky CBBC viewer is going to spend a week in Yerevan, perform to millions of people, and quite possibly have an experience to define their life. We really hope that they're trailblazers, and the BBC sends more entries. It might be an acquired taste, but once you've got the taste, Junior Eurovision is quite moreish.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest An experience to remember.

In other news

Channel 4 commissions Rise and Fall from Studio Lambert. According to the press release, this "social experiment" will cast ordinary people as a have or a have-not, either in a position of power or as part of the powerless. The powerful live in an opulent penthouse and everyone else in a basement workplace. Through a series of games and challenges those in power will be responsible for making decisions which affect those who have none, whilst those without power compete to build favour with those at the top.

The press release continues: Players will have opportunities to rise and fall, from having everything to having nothing. The cash prize starts at zero and only builds if challenges devised by those in power are completed by those who are not. Those at the bottom must find a way to make it to the top, as only the most powerful and influential can win the game.

Eighteen episodes of this, stripped across a few weeks. It's an interesting idea, but it's Studio Lambert, and they've a track record for telling the story they want to tell and ignoring the genuine reactions of the participants. Love Thy Neighbour, The Bridge, Race Across the World have all suffered to some degree from the production company's narrative control. But this does sound more interesting than falling off a brick, and we'll give this project a chance.

Alone is also commissioned by Channel 4. Ten contestants are dropped into the remote wilderness of north Canada. Each is challenged to survive entirely alone. Players will be equipped with only a handful of basic tools and film their own adventure. They'll battle the elements, loneliness, and wild animals. Whoever lasts longest is promised £100,000 (€ 120.000). Alone is made by The Garden, part of A+E Networks.

Walk the Line C'mon, walkies!

Line out To nobody's surprise, ITV won't be recommissioning Walk the Line. The singing show underwhelmed when it went out last December, beaten in the ratings by Only Connect and in people's hearts by the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. ITV also won't be making a new series of The Games, May's event didn't set the world afire, and didn't cement ITV as the natural home of celebrities doing sport not particularly well.

Glad all over BBC has confirmed it's bringing Gladiators back: reports in the press a month ago have been confirmed.

How much does a Eurovision bid cost? The cost of Bristol's failed attempt to host next year's Eurovision Song Contest has emerged. The total cost was £70.42 (€ 83,65). Fifty quid went on a short video, and £20.42 in travel expenses. Seventy quid! Will that cover the drinks bill for one episode of Only Connect?

Only Connect (2) Victoria is working on the viewers' unprize.

Coming up this week, a new daytime quiz on ITV. Fastest Finger First is an expansion of that brief round from Millionaire. University Challenge seeks the brightest student stars (BBC2, Mon). There's a celebration of University Challenge through its ages, too.

Many other quizzes are back this week. The Chase has a celebrity edition with Lord Basil of Brushford (Sun), and daytime shows (from Mon). Only Connect finds the smartest people who don't engage in niffy fart trading (BBC2, Mon). The Bidding Room comes back (BBC1, from Mon).

Next Saturday has The Masked Dancer (ITV) up against Pointless Celebrities (BBC1). The Voice of Holland of This Territory also returns (ITV), as does Who Wants to be a Millionaire (ITV).

Pictures: BNNVARA / MediaLane, EBU / TVP / France Télévisions / Andres Putting, Syco Entertainment / Lifted Entertainment, Parasol.

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