Weaver's Week 2022-11-20

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Coming up in this week's ITV Three: the Teapot Dome scandal, a trip to Cannes, thoughts on Matt Hancock and forgiveness, and we answer the question on everyone's lips: have they cancelled The Chase?




East Media (part of The Whisper Group) for ITV, 24 October – 18 November

Jaunty music and purple computer graphics set the mood for this show. It's going to be played seriously, but it'll be light at heart. Taxing puzzling, with a wink in the eye.

"Welcome to Riddiculous!" says host Ranvir Singh, a young woman who also works on ITV's Good Morning Viewers. Within moments, she throws over to Henry Lewis, the show's resident Riddlemaster. He's in Riddle Corner, books on the shelves, stuffed animals and pot plants. Henry has a loud booming voice, and he's dressed in waistcoat and cravat.

Riddiculous It's host Ranvir Singh!

A quick introduction to the three couples playing today, and we're into round one. Ranvir asks general knowledge questions for £50 each. First team to answer three questions correctly earns a bonus question – a riddle from Henry, worth £100. These are simple word puzzles, such as "What has leaves, but no branches? A spine, but no bones?"

Ranvir talks to the contestants before they face their first riddle, find out a bit more about them. Don't talk to people at the start of the show, spread it out through the programme, an idea we first saw on Pointless – but here it feels more natural and organic to speak when you're already the centre of attention.

Riddiculous Henry Lewis with another round 1 riddle.

Everybody's scores are reset to zero after a riddle is asked, whether they got the answer "book" or not. It's the first to answer three questions after one riddle to earn the next. There's a theme running through the round – all answers begin with a common letter. The round comes to an end after four riddles have been asked, and the team with the lowest score leaves the game at this point.

We go to the break with an extra riddle from Henry, he'll give you the answer afterwards.

Riddiculous The green pips on the podium light up to show who's reached three answers.

Round two has more general knowledge questions – £100 per right answer, and there's a theme – the answers might contain food, or a place. Three right answers earns a visual riddle, worth £250. The players pick from a choice of three broad categories, and must also pick one player to work alone. There's also a time limit of 60 seconds to give a "final answer". Get it wrong, and the question can be offered to the other team for £125.

A load of complications make this round more fussy that it needs to be – it's not natural for one player to talk to themselves, we'd get more value from hearing the duo confer amongst themselves. Time limit for conferring, yes. Pass over to the other side, certainly.

Riddiculous Picture questions in round 2: which is the odd one out?

Visually, the show is controlled chaos – there's a mostly-black set, lots of question marks in various styles, some spotty spots. The dominant colour is a pinky-purple, with blue highlights; the set lights up green and red in the inevitable way. But Henry's Riddle Corner looks very different.

Paul Farrer's done the soundtrack, though the in-game elements are limited to whooshes and honks, and some very quiet pizzicato thinking music. Ranvir reads the questions crisply and clearly, which is exactly what we want from a question-asker.

Riddiculous Angular question marks. Interesting design choice.

Henry Lewis is the star of the programme. You might know him as the big-voiced man from The Goes Wrong Show, BBC1's comedy where props fall over, lines are fluffed, and nothing goes as it ought to. No, not the one with the lettuce, the other one. Here, he's the big-voiced man, and with a big heart. He asks difficult questions, and is genuinely impressed when people get it right.

The interaction between Ranvir and Henry is the key to the programme. It took a few episodes for them to gel, but they certainly got there by the end of the run. We could easily see this show having a double-act to rival Xander and Richard.

Riddiculous Ranvir and Henry are split by a different backdrop, and a massive screen.

Back to the programme, and we're up to round three. £150 for the questions, and £500 for the riddles (£250 if they're handed over). We do wonder about near-miss answers. We've not seen a quibblesome question ourselves, but our friends at Life After Mastermind did. "What letter can you add to 1 to make it disappear?" The contestants said "N", the answer they wanted was "G" for "g-one". "None" was never there, apparently. Makes sense, but it feels a little dicey.

For boring regulatory reasons, ITV's 3pm hour doesn't contain many adverts, and the first break might be a "fake break" with just ITV promos and nothing paid from outside. The result can be that Riddiculous feels quite slow, especially if one team runs away with the early rounds.

Riddiculous Our contestants ponder this round 3 riddle.

And being slow is a good thing. For most of the show, Riddiculous is an accessible show, something you can play along with at home. The pace isn't particularly fast, you've got time to think. Most of the game is relatively simple, and you can feel smug for getting the answer, and do a proper lap of honour when you're able to beat the contestants. It's a touch too slow for primetime, it's exactly right for the 3pm nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-sit-down slot.

(Though if they are planning a primetime version, can we recommend an idea from Oci Oci Oci!. At the moment, when one team gets a riddle in the first round, everyone's scores are reset. They could just reset the scores of the team who gets a riddle. They'll get more riddles in, which is good, and adjust the money to cope.)

Riddiculous Quick, what's the phrase?

The pace does pick up in the final, "Henry's Riddle Run". Our winning team has one minute to win the prize built up during the show – it could be as much as £5000, likely somewhere around £3000. To win this money, the team must answer six word puzzles from a possible ten. They're quick to read, the word "skinned" written in a thin font takes us to "thin skinned".

Six in a minute wins the prize. The team can pass, and return to that puzzle if time allows. If they don't win the cash, the team wins the consolation prize – a Riddiculous teacup and saucer.

Riddiculous Henry demonstrates how to use a teacup and saucer.

Get the money, and the team has the option to go for one extra puzzle, to double their money. But it's a double-or-quits choice: if they play and get it wrong, they lose everything and just get the consolation prize. Not a lot of teams go for it, the stakes are perhaps a bit too high.

Riddiculous is the first game show from Whisper, a company we know and love for making great sport programmes. It's a promising start, there are points they will improve in a second series, and a second series will massively benefit from Ranvir and Henry having worked together. Does it deserve another series? Absolutely, it's a show we found surprisingly moreish.

On repentance, redemption, and forgiveness

ITV has been running I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. Amongst the contestants are some offenders in the court of public opinion. There's Boy George, who served time in prison after handcuffing someone to a radiator and beating them with an implement. His victim is Audun Carlsen, who said it "sends the wrong message to survivors of violence and abuse and is plain wrong".

By his own admission, Seann Walsh was "abusive" to his ex-girlfriend Rebecca Humphries; she says that Walsh "constantly lied and gaslighted her" during their time together. The charity Women's Aid said, "Imagine experiencing gaslighting by a partner, undergoing therapy, and then watching that person garner sympathy on national TV?"

Matt Hancock was employed as a minister in the Health department during 2020 and 2021. He appears to be responsible for the Westminster administration's poor response to the ongoing COVID emergency, which has thus far caused about 135,000 excess deaths in his area of responsibility. An independent inquiry has been promised, it is yet to start hearing evidence, and a report is many years away.

We asked various AI image generators to give us pictures on "three men seeking redemption in the Australian jungle". This is Deep AI's effort.

All three of these men are on what we might term a "redemption tour". Each hopes to convince the watching public that they've changed, that they've learned the lessons of their anti-social past. The method by which they hope to convince us isn't by doing good works, or campaigning against the behaviour that brought them shame. No, it's the somewhat unorthodox method of eating rancid animal body parts on network television.

Many great minds have thought about the ethical challenge – how do you actually become a better person? One widely-accepted ethical framework for redemption goes like this.

  1. Accept that you have caused harm.
  2. Convince yourself that you need to change, and begin to make that change.
  3. Make amends to the people you have wronged, or to society in general.
  4. Make personal apologies to those you've directly injured.
  5. Live the change: make a better choice when a similar situation comes around.

(We recommend Dayna Ruttenberg's recent book On Repentance and Repair for a longer explanation. Her work has directly inspired part of this article.)

This is from Dream AI.

Matt Hancock appears to have gone down the "apologise profusely to everyone" stage, perhaps forgetting that apologies alone do not earn forgiveness. Worse, "apologise and seek forgiveness" means that the people he harmed have to do all the work. And they're not being paid half a million quid by ITV.

A public apology doesn't demonstrate that any inner work has happened. What has Matt Hancock changed about himself to earn our forgiveness? A few months is a short time to take a searching look at your behaviour, still less to make changes. Jumping back into the spotlight at the earliest opportunity makes people suspicious about whether these gents are being sincere.

What might we look for? A change of priorities – calling out their own bad behaviour, giving time and/or money to causes protecting or compensating their victims. Active restitution work, away from the public gaze. And certainly the men need to step away from the limelight, do the recompense without public acclaim.

Have these people learned anything? Have they sought to change themselves? Tried to make recompense? Have they even attempted to understand why so many people are so angry?

Night Cafe went down an impressionist route.

Each man is at a very different stage of his journey towards redemption. Boy George has had over ten years to turn his life around, and says he's given up the drugs that influenced his behaviour. Matt Hancock has had little more than a year, and Seann Walsh about four years since his behaviour entered the public sphere.

This column does not wish to judge the moral states of Boy George, Seann Walsh, or Matt Hancock. That is a matter between them and their spiritual and life advisors, if they have any. We must also act with compassion. Remember that people are not to be entirely defined by their misdeeds: every real person has flaws.

Photosonic interprets "three men seeking redemption in the Australian jungle" quite loosely.

As a society, we are not obliged to reward people who have harmed us with extra money, we don't have to give extra opportunities to build their brand. We might judge the moral state of ITV as a company: it has upset a lot of people, it has upset people in the pursuit of ratings and advertising income and profit. ITV's upset appears to be completely needless and insensitive.

We are yet to see an acknowledgement from ITV about the hurt it has caused, and the channel appears unwilling to begin its own journey towards redemption.

Here endeth the sermon. Now for the cabaret.

Has The Chase been cancelled?

© All Tabloids Everywhere

Ever since it was revealed that Mark Pougatch's new show The World Cup would take over The Chase's coveted teatime slot, fans have fretted that the Anne Hegerty-led quiz show would be taken off air for good.

In The Chase, contestants come to the studio, answer questions posed by Bradley Walsh, then try to be at least as good as a group of star quizzers like Jen Lyons (pictured).

The show ends with a final The Chase, where surviving players try to bring home many thousands of points and turn them into prizes.

On hearing the news, fans of The Chase were frothing at the mouth, and they'll have to talk about this with their doctors. They also took to social media to express their fears.

"Is it true that The Chase is being taken off air because if so that's ridiculous", wrote Josephine Fictional.
"Can't believe they're cancelling The Chase! Bradley deserves more than to be replaced by that overinflated balloon", said Theodore Madeup.
"The World Cup? Isn't that the show with spelling letters they tried last year?" asked Minerva Blatantly-Innvented
"What the **** will we do for clickbait articles if Twitter vanishes?" wondered Ed Itor.

Is this going to win The World Cup?

Four of the programme's four million viewers have expressed some mild concern. And we in the tabloid media think we can get readers and clicks from their vexation. So we write cheap and rubbish articles like this one, which we probably ran a few years ago and hope that if we don't mention it's a repeat, nobody will notice. Nobody notices when we run repeats of articles when the show is in repeats.

Has The Chase been cancelled forever? Why has The World Cup replaced it? And what is the new show even about?

Has The Chase been cancelled?

No. It'll be back.

Despite appearing to have a permanent place on ITV's teatime schedule, The Chase actually runs in series. Every year, the show takes a couple of months off air. It gives Paul Sinha a chance to be funny for money, and Darragh Ennis to practice medicine.

The Chase Stars of The Chase: Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober, and Red.

The World Cup will fill in for The Chase during the three week hiatus.

How does Mark Pougatch's The World Cup work?

As seems to be traditional, the organisers have kept the format under tight wraps. But we have an exclusive insight!

An inside source we've completely made up has given us some hints. The press release — er, insider — confesses that it's got something to do with young men, a plastic windbag, and a grassy rectangle. An older bloke with a whistle is involved. The objective is to put the windbag in the gaol.

And there's something about large amounts of money, brown paper envelopes, and most of the people who commissioned The World Cup having moved on to Pentonville Utd and FC Alcatraz.

Football Genius How The World Cup is expected to look.

Staged in large studios in the middle east, The World Cup has attracted a crowd of literally a few people. Many of them thought they were going to hear a lecture on Shaun Wallace's collection of multi-functional hole punches, and they might leave disappointed.

For tedious reasons we in the tabloid media can't be bothered to understand, the BBC has rights to some episodes of The World Cup, though these won't be hosted by Mark Pougatch. Honestly, it's like Tipping Point turning up on BBC1 and being hosted by Amol Rajan.

When the BBC has rights to The World Cup, ITV might show repeats of The Chase. Or they might show a live feed of Mark Labbett touring his cake factories.

Next week: news that will shock the cosy world of Neighbours.

In other news

The death of David Barnard has been reported. David was an octochamp and semi-finalist on Countdown in autumn 2012, briefly returning for Champion of Champions in 2016. David continued playing Countdown online and at in-person events, and was popular with all he met. Following a period of ill-health, David died on Thursday, aged 30.

The answers we left hanging: cheese, a coffin, sign on the dotted line, and... Riddiculous ...they all rhyme with the picture, except Queen Bee.

An interesting academic paper on the Eurovision Song Contest. There's a correlation between the "populist radical right" vote in a country, and how highly the country's broadcaster votes for performances with "traditional ethnic" elements. Authors – Alessandro Nai, Elizabeth Young, and Linda Bos – code "traditional ethnic" as a national language, traditional elements of the culture, the cues foreigners might pick up as authentic. Examples include the grannies of 2012, or the butter-churning maids of 2014. Songs like this tend to get more votes than expected from areas that suffer from isolationist and quasi-racist parties.

The authors also found what attracts voters to a Eurovision song – and it's not a key change. Male lead good, group bad. Dance and funk do well, ballads less well. Backup singers on stage hurt, as do comedy and sexual references – but pyro and the wind machine help. The authors found a measurable draw effect, the EBU has long claimed that there's no draw effect but has never produced stats to back up their claim.

Eurovision Song Contest A very ethnic entry.

The Euro-standard song is a male-female duet in a blues-rock style, with little staging, probably from somewhere around Romania. A key change won't affect whether anyone votes for it.

Awards season continues, with nominations for the RTS Craft and Design Awards. Our shows nominated are:

  • Costume Design – Entertainment & Non Drama
  • Make Up Design – Entertainment & Non Drama
    • David Petruschin, Julie Cooper, Sam Greenwood for RuPaul's Drag Race
    • Lisa Armstrong and Lisa Davey for Strictly Come Dancing
  • Multicamera work
    • Chris Power and the camera team for The Wheel
  • Production Design – Entertainment & Non Drama
    • Catherine Land for Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway

Awards will be presented on 5 December.

Podcast corner This column doesn't get to go to Cannes, but Axel Fiacco does. He told our friends at TV Show and Telly podcast what happens at MIPCOM.

Another new podcast for your ears, Tell Us About Yourself. Christian Carrion from Buzzerblog talks to interesting American contestants. The first shows talk to Kristin Bivona about Wheel of Fortune and Remote Control; and Tony Reitano from The Pyramid Game.

This fortnight we learned:

  • The actors River and Joaquin Phoenix were born into the "Bottom" family (Only Connect)
  • French Guyana is about the size of Scotland. To translate that into metric measurements, that's almost exactly 4 Waleses. (University Challenge)
  • Bobby Seagull revised for University Challenge while listening to the "Game of Thrones" soundtrack. He knew that it was also used in the studio while the teams settled, and conditioned himself with a Pavlovian response. (Countdown)
  • Over 400,000 grey cars were registered last year. Bland and dull, cars are just an irritating background noise. (House of Games)
  • The Teapot Dome scandal was a bribery scandal involving Warren Harding's interior minister. Albert Fall leased rights to the "Teapot Dome" reserves in Wyoming, and was given a $100,000 kickback by the Mammoth Oil Company. That was about 32 years' average wage at the time. (As not explained on House of Games)
  • Oliver Lewis can play "Flight of the bumblebee" in a world record 1 minute 3.356 seconds. Ah, but can he solve a Rubik's Cube in that time? (House of Games / Blue Peter / Persephone's Chair)
  • There's never been a BBC Brain final between four women – until this year!

Quizzy Mondays: Tuesday Editions

"Kevin? Sorry, Kevin." The Jugadores remain in Only Connect, beating the Seagulls by 25-22. Star moment was a sequence: New Zealand bird, alias – apparently that's definitions of "kaka", "aka", so leading to "a". That's why the Jugadores are in the contest, and we're watching in awe.

"Oh my goodness!" A cliffhanger end to the second heat, as Scrummagers beat Irregulars by one point, 20-19. Like in their heat, Scrummagers had a 'mare in Connections, just a single point as the opponents romped ahead. They pulled some ground back in Sequences, which featured a glorious picture clue for "Starboard" – literally a wooden star made out of board. Irregulars lost it when they couldn't find a single link on the wall, and Scrummagers put in another lightning performance on Missing Vowels to pull off an unexpected win.

More awe on Mastermind as Michael McPartland dominated his head, racking up a perfect 14 on Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a total of 31. Runner-up Hilary Burton deserves massive praise, conquering some early nerves to score a stonking 27. Any other week, she'd be invited back. Ben Farren won the second heat, taking Christopher Hitchens as a specialist subject. He had the unusual tactic of saying "Margaret Thatcher" rather than "pass".

A great University Challenge performance from Southampton, beating Balliol Oxford by 95 points. Strong buzzing earned them lots of starters, especially from Ethan Lyons. With a strong bonus rate, they're a team to watch, and about the tenth heat winner we can envision in the final eight. Hmm. Bangor beat Nottingham by ten points in this week's match, tenacious in what they knew, and passing quickly to fit more questions in.

Great news for all viewers! Quizzy Monday returns to Monday nights this week. Long may it remain. The highlight is the BBC Brain final (Radio 4). Also the final of RuPaul's Drag Race (BBC3, Thu).

A massive international contest begins this week, Canada's Drag Race vs The World comes to BBC3 (Sun). You Won't Believe This (C4, Tue) is a challenge to interrogate and find facts or fibs.

There's also some sportsball, which causes major disruption to daytime schedules. In the evenings, BBC2 has lots of Celebrity Antiques Road Trips. Next Saturday has Pointless Celebrities marking the 100th anniversary of the BBC with lots of lovely people, and I Can See Your Voice with Celebrity Mastermind winner Claire From Steps.

Pictures: East Media (part of the Whisper Group), Deep AI, Dream AI, Night Cafe, Photosonic, Love Productions, Objective Media Group North, Potato, Hat Trick, EBU/Íctimai.

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