Weaver's Week 2022-12-04

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Last week, we implicitly asked who is telling the truth. This week, we explicitly ask who is telling the truth.

You Won't Believe This


You Won't Believe This

Talkback for Channel 4, from 22 November

Ellie Taylor hosts the show. You might know her from Strictly Come Dancing or The Mash Report. Or from Mock the Week, Plebs, Show Me the Funny, and BBC3's Snog Marry Avoid, which was made much more watchable by Ellie's waspish humour. We see a lot more of Ellie on this show – and if we're honest, she's the only thing to save it from an early grave.

You Won't Believe This Ellie Taylor, your host.

The format of You Won't Believe This is very simple. Four people make an outlandish claim. One of them is telling the truth, the other three are lying through their teeth. There's a contestant who tries to work out which person is telling the truth.

And it's a single contestant, You Won't Believe This puts the decision on just one pair of shoulders. The player doesn't work alone, Ellie Taylor accompanies the player in a remote room – she doesn't know anything about the stories, she doesn't know anything about who's telling the truth.

You Won't Believe This A contestant's view.

The player doesn't directly question the claimants. Instead, that's done by a pair of retired police officers – Danni Brooke is joined by either George Rhoden or Craig Stevens. These interrogators bring all the skills of their past job, and hope to use them to winkle out the truth-teller. Our player is able to suggest questions for the interrogators, that's as much input as they get.

In effect, the player is like us at home – watching someone being questioned through a television screen, perhaps shouting out the obvious question they'd like answered. Unlike us at home, the player's shouting might get answered.

You Won't Believe This Craig and Danni are your interrogators this evening.

You Won't Believe This has leaned into a grimy, industrial aesthetic. The action takes place in a dingy room, only partly filled by a glass-walled interrogation space. There's an anteroom where the contestants wait in silence on uncomfortable chairs. Ellie makes light of this atmosphere, cutting through with some sharp one-liners and picking up on the absurd claims; this actually heightens the atmosphere, Ellie draws attention to just how artificial the whole thing is. "Relax, it's not real life, it's only a game show."

The heart of the show is the interrogation, two retired coppers ask searching questions. You say you were a mountain goat: how did you eat? How did you, um, relieve yourself? It's clear that we only see a very brief piece of the conversation, enough to get a flavour but not the full information available to the player. Nevertheless, we still have enough information to make an informed decision while playing along.

You Won't Believe This How did you opt out of civilisation?

And if you're not playing along, you're not going to get much from this show. It's all talking heads and conversation, spiced up with Ellie's remarks. The claims are interesting, but not riveting in the way we might get on Would I Lie to You?. It's all "I was on stage and it gave way beneath me" and "I saved my twin brother from an advancing bear". Bland and plausible seems to be the way to go, with quick responses to the questions always a help.

After all the questions have been asked, and everyone's been interviewed, the player has a decision to make. Who is telling the truth? Get the right person, and our player wins £5000. Pick a fibber, and they keep the £5000 all to themself. And that's literally the game: half-an-hour of interviews and discussion leads up to a single decision point.

You Won't Believe This Stand in front of the person you believe.

As much as we love Ellie Taylor, as much as we admire the storytelling and ambience, we can't help but feel "is this it?" You Won't Believe This is unsatisfactory, neither detailed enough to draw us in nor fast-moving enough to maintain interest.

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You Won't Believe This is a 10pm show, dark and edgy and brooding, it's a show of the night. Two separate games take up the television hour. With very few tweaks, this could be a half-hour teatime show at 6.30: people make outrageous claims, the prize is there to concentrate the mind and make sure everyone puts in a good effort. (Insert usual point about Channel 4 not making entertainment at 6.30 in the last two decades.)

You Won't Believe This The truth-teller lived as a mountain goat for a week.

Fibbing and lying have been a hallmark ever since television began. Liar, Pants on Fire, Faking It, Hoax!, and many more. Channel 4 has shown a very similar programme in the past. Let's whizz back forty years...

Tell the Truth

Tell the Truth

LWT in association with Goodson-Todman Productions and Talbot Television, 1983

A Saturday evening entertainment on Channel 4, Tell the Truth was hosted by Graeme Garden. You know, the scientific one from The Goodies and Bodymatters.

Tell the Truth Who are you, and why are you here?

But Graeme isn't the first person we see. The show starts with three figures standing in silhouette. "My name is John Adams, and I helped to raise the Mary Rose," claims the first. Portentous music plays, trumpets sound, and number two speaks. "My name is John Adams, and I helped to raise the Mary Rose," he claims. Even more portentous music, trumpets do a key change. Number three? "My name is John Adams, and I helped to raise the Mary Rose." The voiceover adds, "Only one of these people is the real John Adams, and has sworn to tell the truth!"

Only now do we see Graeme and the panel, brought in at almost some expense from the LWT bar. It's Peter Cook, the comedian and provocative wit. Beverly Anderson, television presenter. Willie Rushton, cartoonist and Winnie-the-Pooh storyteller. Victoria Wood, singer and comedian. (Modern bookings to make a similar panel: Jimmy Carr, Miquita Oliver, Steve Backshall, whoever the new Victoria Wood is this month. Ellie Taylor's good to host.)

Tell the Truth Your panel tonight.

John Adams – the real John Adams – has written a statement explaining his role with the Mary Rose project – how he removed all the bric-a-brac from the ship, and then gasped as they raised it to the surface. Only the real John Adams has sworn to tell the truth, the others are imposters and make it up as it was go along.

In turn, the panellists ask questions to the various John Adamses. Are they telling the truth. Do they remember the archaeological lead? Did they meet HRH Sir Prince Charles? Did they meet Sarah Greene from Blue Peter? Why did the Mary Rose sink, and which twit designed it to be so narrow and top-heavy?

Each panelist gets about one minute to quiz the claimants, time is ended with a sharp hooter. Question in progress at the hooter? Can't be finished; we see the hooter interrupt an answer and it wraps up quickly.

Tell the Truth Would the real John Adams please make himself known?!

After everyone's asked their questions, each panellist writes down who they think is the actual John Adams, who really dived for treasure on the Mary Rose? Three votes for the man in the middle, one for the person on the left. And, indeed, it turns out to be the chap in the middle.

Since this show was recorded, the Mary Rose has been properly restored, and put on permanent display at Portsmouth Dockyard. And if your child has a Blue Peter badge, they can get into Portsmouth Dockyard for free.

While we're raising a glass to Biddy Baxter, Tell the Truth moves on. We've now got three copies of Jacintha Crawley, biorhythms expert. Which is the real one? We'll investigate, after this commercial break!

Tell the Truth Graeme Garden keeps the show moving quickly.

Insert, here, some very Channel 4 adverts. It's so old that Channel 4 were still being boycotted by Equity the actor's union, so there are no actors in the commercials. Lots of sausages, some puppet crows, and typewriters.

Biorhythms, it says here, are a "fringe-scientific" method, and the real Jacintha Crawley is putting lots of information onto a computer in an effort to prove that there's something to be learned. (Spoiler: there isn't.)

In an effort to provide some variety, the questioning here goes from right to left, from Victoria to Peter. Nominations in the same order, and the real Jacintha Crawley explains Graeme Garden's biorhythm chart to him. Apparently the 29th and 30th will be bad days.

But wait, there's more! All four of the imposters come back onto the panel, and we find out that one of them is a snooker champion. Peter asks questions to the person he's facing. After just 20 seconds, the questions stop, and Peter then gives a "Yes" or "No" to whether that person is the real snooker champion. Same for the others going down the line, they ask questions to just one person and decide yes or no.

Tell the Truth The world snooker champion (ladies' division).

This time, all four players have decided "No", the person they're facing is an imposter. Victoria went last, and she decides which "No" to change to a "Yes". The real snooker champion is, indeed, Vera, who Victoria selected.

And that's the show: there's not a wasted moment in the half-hour, Tell the Truth goes at a ripping pace. No prizes, just honour for the celebrities and expenses for the imposters and real people.

Better than You Won't Believe This? It's a very different show, made for a different audience. Tell the Truth moves at express speed, perhaps too fast to form a good judgement. You Won't Believe This benefits from not being a cosy panel show.

In other news

The Roses d'Or were presented this week. Game show winners were De Verraders (The Traitors) in Reality and Factual Entertainment, and, er, that's it. Studio Entertainment went to the one non-game nominee The Musical of Your Life.

This week we learned:

  • In the first series of Rentaghost, the Meakers had a baby called Nigel. He was briefly turned into a dog, then written out before the second series.
  • The first escalator in London was installed in 1898. It was in Harrods department store, and was a flat "travelator" rather than the steps we're familiar with. Intrepid travellers were offered brandy and smelling salts lest they become discombobulated by the experience. (House of Games)
  • Only Connect talked about the first series of Big Brother. That was in summer 2000; another 22-and-a-bit years takes us back to the first episode of Grange Hill.
  • Both Citizen Kane and Kubla Khan were written to live in places called "Xanadu". History does not recall if their doorbells were recorded by Olivia Newton-John. (University Challenge)
  • James Bond was named after an ornithologist in Jamaica. The sports editor of BBC Radio Shropshire, James Bond hung up his microphone in May after over thirty years with the station. (House of Games)
  • A bolt of lightning contains about 0.25 kilowatt-hours of power. If you are able to harness the energy in a bolt, you'll cut your electricity bill by about 10 new pence. (Sarah Jensen at MIT Engineering)

Quizzy Mondays

Everything's going up these days. Even the scores on Mastermind. Lee Anstett won with a total of 28 points, 12 from Michael Palin's travel documentaries and 16 on general knowledge. James Devine-Stoneman also scored 16 on general knowledge, but he'd only amassed 10 on Lady Gaga. Katie Bamber was perfect on the BBC sitcom Mum.

("Only"!, knowing that's ten points more than this column has ever scored on Mastermind, and we'd probably not get past three taking "21st century BBC game shows".)

Mothers Ruined won on Only Connect, though the Cryptics had the good fortune to get a question on Pokémon this-and-that games. The Mothers knew about things named after places in Greece, the self-contradictory song "There's a hole in my bucket", and literal dinosaur names. Cryptics had a horrible wall, with Big Brother 1 housemates bumping up against anagrams of supermarkets. Sada? That's the difference!

A one-sided match on University Challenge, where Robert Gordon University beat Roehampton. Donald Anderson got some very good buzzes in, captain Emily Cullen led her team with some good captaincy skills. Roehampton rather put Victoria Holt on the spot, nominating her for a couple of answers and taking her by surprise.

That's the last UC first-round match, and we now have the horrible task of cutting 18 teams into 8 for the quarter-finals. The first step is the repêchage for high-scoring losers: Bristol and Newnham Cambridge should be favoured, with Sheffield and Oriel Oxford the sides hoping to put another spanner in the works.

Schedule A! Schedule B! None of that sports nonsense affects imported show Fboy Island (BBC3, from Monday). The sportsball might delay The Big Quiz (2) (ITV, Mon; VM1, Wed).

Nothing will stop Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu), because it's the last one ever! Ever, ever, ever. Until the inevitable revival in 2033, natch. And nothing will stop Junior Eurovision Song Contest Preview (CBBC, Fri).

Pictures: Talkback, LWT.

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