Weaver's Week 2023-09-03

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We're sorry to report the death of Bob Barker, aged 99. He was the host of CBS's The Price is Right for 35 years, during which time Barker defined the role of game show host – support the contestants, remember the show would be nothing without them, know everything there is about the format, and remain calm no matter what chaos unfolds. Leslie Crowther followed Barker's template to the letter, Bradley Walsh on The Chase subverts it every day.

Our colleagues at Buzzerblog have a much longer obituary.

Bob Barker with Janice Pennington and Anitra Ford on the set of The Price Is Right in 1972.

Ultimate Wedding Planner


Ultimate Wedding Planner

BBC Studios for BBC2, from 8 August

Ah, the traditional wedding. The very public declaration of a commitment between two people, that they are together forever, and never to part. The celebration of a relationship, marking and establishing spiritual bonds between the participants – both those to be married and those celebrating with them.

Weddings are as old as time. Game shows about weddings are almost as old; the genre began with Do You Trust Your Wife?, a 1950s show with a 1950s title and a 1950s attitude. Mr and Mrs gently asked just how predictable the couples were, but was mostly chat and smiles.

Earlier this century, ITV Studios made Four Weddings for Flextech's Living channel, which was all about the paraphernalia surrounding a wedding. The costumes! The cake! The reception! The ambience! Four brides attended each others' weddings, gave marks, and eventually a winner took a honeymoon somewhere hot. Looked at in retrospect, the show captured the excesses of the first decade of the century, ostentatious and showy and gauche and exceptionally negative. People watched I Can Haz Marry? for the prospect of a catfight, though the result was always more LOLcat.

Ultimate Wedding Planner The showiest thing in this series is the cake. It's massive!

"Ultimate Wedding Planner is fantastic, finally an answer to the question of what if the best day of your life was organised by seven people who hate each other"

Fifteen years later, we return to the topic of weddings. This time, we approach from the other side: the planner. The miracle worker, the designer, the hired help. In the controlled world of Ultimate Wedding Planner, the bride and/or groom have arranged many of the details – the date, the venue, outfits, cake.

But many of the other details are just a wishlist. The couple on our opening episode said, "We want a wedding set at an airport. Lots of airport ideas, themes, planes and gyrocopters and gliders and that kind of thing. Oh, and we want it in a floral wonderland."

Ultimate Wedding Planner The happy couple meet their unhappy planners.

"You've got three days to make it happen, and here's £10,000 to grease the wheels. Get going, get creative, and get me to the church on time!"

A good planner will be with the participants every step of the way. They'll have plenty of time to sort out the perfect arrangements, get the flowers right, organise the look and feel of the event. And they'll check in with the bride and/or groom at every turn: it's not the planner's big day.

By this standard, everyone on Ultimate Wedding Planner is useless. They have three days to build the venue from scratch, having had a fairly thin brief and just one meeting with the couple. And there's no way to cross-reference, check that what they're doing will be delightful.

Ultimate Wedding Planner The contestants: made the best of a difficult brief.

Fuss and frenzy and work against the clock is a standard reality television trope, we see it in Masterchef and Interior Design Masters and Build Yourself a Wall and Challenge Anneka. And we love Anneka Rice, she's a tremendous person, funny and witty and does a lot of good work and has an infectious vivacity. We just wouldn't pick her as a wedding planner, we'd be exhausted before reaching the venue.

Nobody knows what they’re doing, one contestant is soap-opera-villain levels of nasty and it’s totally chaotic and brilliant.

Ultimate Wedding Planner The planner is doing the florist's job.

Ultimate Wedding Planner wants its participants to have the energy of Anneka Rice, and the persistence of the Energiser Bunny. Yes, staying up all night painting toadstools demonstrates commitment to the cause; it also leaves the planner tired, so that they make silly mistakes like getting the table plan upside-down.

"Reality" television is always a slightly artificial world, as the minutiae of a job rarely makes for interesting television. We're prepared to accept a certain level of make-believe so we can better enjoy the programme. But Ultimate Wedding Planner goes so much further, it is a universe of its own devising, connected to our everyday experience by the thinnest strands of sugar icing and chiffon.

The job of a wedding planner is to plan stuff. Arrange it. Be an intermediary between the couple and other people. Hire in someone to do the catering, someone to cover the path in washed and dried leaves, someone to train an owl to bring a ring.

Ultimate Wedding Planner An owl to bring in the ring. This actually happened.

The details may be forgotten, the emotions will remain.

Ultimate Wedding Planner asks its contestants to do all these things and more. Want a path of crunchy leaves? A contestant will go out and collect them from the garden, and make sure they're hygienic for indoor use. Want a backdrop of hearts and flowers? Guess who's weaving the wire into shape. Marshall the guests? Any professional planner will hire someone in to do that, and position themselves where their talents are needed. Ultimate Wedding Planner expects its contestants to do everything. It's very unrealistic, both in the job spec, and how it treats contestant time as valueless.

The judges are little help: Raj Somaiya lurks in the background of the event like Wotsisname Smith, ticking off things on his mental clipboard and not offering to help at all. Fred Sirieix is there to offer advice and pablum, the star name to drag in curious viewers. And there's Sara Davies, who is loud and cheerful and has a lovely line in hats and outfits. They're little help, but not no help – they will give up pearls of wisdom, gently point out where things are going wrong, offer little clues for improvement.

Ultimate Wedding Planner The judges: Raj Somaiya, Sara Davies, Fred Sirieix.

For various reasons, the planners are split into two teams. Half of them do the "design" elements – the tables, the décor, where to put the lights, how to jazz up an aircraft hangar with a supersonic aeroplane already in it. The other half do the "experience" – organise the welcome, serve the drinks, make sure the fireworks don't interfere with the flights arriving from Alicante. Someone is appointed head planner, this is merely an honorary title and doesn't carry any extra reward or jeopardy. The players must work together as a team, but they'll be judged individually.

Each show follows a similar formula. "How are we going to do it?" "We're going to do this!" "Or we could do that." "'Ave you zourt of doing it zees way?" "Don't be late starting!" "The bride is late." "Hello, welcome, we're not quite ready..." "Oh, that was lovely." And then back to "Wedding HQ" for a debrief.

Ultimate Wedding Planner At midnight, all these pumpkins will turn into carriages.

And an elimination. Ultimate Wedding Planner is an elimination show, except it doesn't get to do normal eliminations. We'd expect eight to start, one to go each week until three are left for the final. No. One withdrew in the opening week, another was sent packing next time. No-one went in week three, two were removed this week, and another pair go next time. The final pair go head-to-head in the final.

Feedback from the guests is given in a "Truth Booth" and dropped into the final programme – we'll see something happen, and might get a guest's response to it. Glad to see that they don't over-use the "Truth Booth", we want to see action and just enough reaction to get a taste. (And sometimes the feedback is itself a complete load of feedback. "45 minutes is too long for a wedding ceremony," moaned one guest. The Week thwacks this guest over the head with a) it's not your wedding you utter lummox and 2) you've never been to a Catholic ceremony including a mass because you'll be lucky to get change out of two hours.)

Ultimate Wedding Planner The table is set, the oven is hot.

A good game show will have a vague educational spin. From Ultimate Wedding Planner, we have practical takeaways. It's all about timing – once you fall behind the clock, you can never catch up. Meet the guests, greet the guests, keep them away from the prep in the other rooms if you need to. Have a rain plan. The details may be forgotten, the emotions will shape memories.

But mostly, we have a sense of, this really really does not matter. The couples tell us they've had a great time whatever the planners did. The biggest failures – a massive queue for a fish 'n' chip van, a car parked in the middle of the planned fireworks area – were inflicted on the planners and they did their best to alleviate the problem. Most people won't have noticed anything amiss, either through not seeing it or through being a bit too drunk and happy to care. Which raises the question: what is the point of a wedding planner? If your guests will be happy with any sort of entertainment, why not just have a few pints and a buffet in the back room of your local pub?

Ultimate Wedding Planner The groom's party is pulled by two converted pumpkins.

For all that, Ultimate Wedding Planner is a passable show. Once we understand the twistyverse it inhabits, the show looks to be a reasonably honest account of events, and brings out the little dramas that mean everything in the moment and nothing in the long run. It's the usual meretricious nonsense, which one can like or loathe as one sees fit. Bit like the institution of marriage, really.

Eurovision news

Eurocat is sad. The death of Toto Cutugno, who wrote and sung "Insieme 1992" the winner of 1990's Eurovision Song Contest. He was best known for the worldwide hit song "L'Italiano", a smash in '83 described as the “Christian Democrats of canzone”, selling millions of records even though no one would actually say they listen to it. He performed "Solo noi", the San Remo contest winner in 1980; six of his other entries finished in second place. The eternal runner-up hosted the eternal Eurovision contest, it began in Rome in 1991 and is probably still going on. Toto Cutugno was 80.

Eurovision Song Contest Toto Cutugno, 1943–2023.

All of the big five play together This year's Junior Eurovision will be the first time all of the Big Five broadcasters have taken part at the same time. KiKA returns after a year off ("Germany" on screen), to join RAI ("Italy"), RTVE ("Spain"), BBC, and hosts France Télévisions. The contest will also see EER ("Estonia") make their debut, the first Baltic representation in many years. RTS ("Serbia") have pulled out, which is a shame; we also lose the invited Khabar Agency ("Kazakhstan"). Junior Eurovision takes place in Nice on 26 November.

Semi-finals to stay on BBC1 The Tuesday and Thursday shows of Senior Eurovision will remain on BBC1 next year. Until this year, they've been on BBC3 and played to about a fifth of the viewership. It's not immediately clear what this means for the traditional semi-final filler Scott and Rylan Lark About And Eat Cakes Backstage, which we hope can go out for both viewers on BBC Red Button DVD Through The Post.

Keep songwriting human! Last time, we concluded that autocomplete bots, "artificial intelligence", are completely incapable of any creative work. The EBU agrees, in the shape of deputy director general Jean-Philip de Tender. The competition should reward "people on stage, who have achieved something in writing a song and performing a song," de Tender told Bloomberg at the recent Edinburgh TV Festival.

How rubbish are "songs" composed by an autocomplete bot? We gave our useless bot one last task.

We said: Write the chorus to a new Eurovision Song Contest entry.

Ultimate Wedding Planner And make it better than "My lovely pumpkin".

To nobody's surprise, it misunderstood the assignment.

Our bot said:
(Verse 1) In a world of dreams, where love's the theme, We'll shine like stars, a dazzling team. From east to west, we'll unite as one, A Eurovision journey, let's have some fun.

(Pre-Chorus) With melodies that soar, and hearts that beat, We'll dance together, in perfect harmony. From every nation, we'll light up the stage, A Eurovision anthem, for every age.

(Chorus) Oh, oh, oh, let the music play, In this Eurovision night, we'll find our way. Oh, oh, oh, let the colors fly, Together we'll reach for the sky, oh so high.

(Verse 2) From ancient lands, to modern streets, We'll share our stories, with every beat. With passion and fire, we'll capture the crowd, A Eurovision moment, forever loud.

(Bridge) In this grand celebration, we'll break down the walls, Embracing diversity, as love conquers all. With sequins and sparkles, we'll light up the night, A Eurovision spectacle, shining so bright.

(Chorus) Oh, oh, oh, let the music play, In this Eurovision night, we'll find our way. Oh, oh, oh, let the colors fly, Together we'll reach for the sky, oh so high.

(Outro) So let's come together, from near and far, A Eurovision family, like shooting stars. With love as our guide, we'll sing with pride, A Eurovision anthem, forever side by side.

SMRTV, call us!

In other news

Lots of commissioning news from the Edinburgh Television Festival.

  • Battle in the Box, a comedy reality game show hosted by Jimmy Carr on the Dave channel. Celebrity teams spend a day in a box, doing silly things; winners of the silly things get rewards and more space. And possibly a carrot.
  • Rob Beckett's Smart TV is a panel game for The Satellite Channel, with Josh Widdicombe and Alison Hammond the resident captains.
  • Bridge of Lies is going stateside, as GSN (the channel formerly known as The Game Show Network) has ordered a full series. To avoid confusing GSN's more artificially-intelligent viewers, they'll rename the show to Beat the Bridge.
  • Chase the Case meets The Traitors on ITV's The Fortune Hotel. Ten pairs of contestants are given suitcases; one case contains £250,000, another has an eviction notice. Who will keep the dosh until the end? Who is leaving after breakfast? Will the star be a scowling security guard who never speaks? Stephen Mangan hosts this Tuesday's Child production.

Chase the Case Grump.

Also at the Edinburgh Television Festival, we heard from Jasper Hoogendoorn, who oversaw the development of De Verraders. The show we know and love as The Traitors was originally going to involve a recreation of a real-life murderous mutiny aboard a 17th-century Dutch ship, with contestants pushed into the sea when they were voted out.

His vision was inspired by the 1629 voyage of the Batavia, a ship heading to what is now Indonesia that found itself wrecked off the coast of Australia. The survivors split into factions who started killing each other, with only 129 people remaining when they were eventually rescued.

Jasper Hoogendoorn said, "It's a story about people who murder each other, backstab each other, betray each other – it's a horrible story. But it was such a fascinating story and I was thinking it’s also exciting. It's so exciting to read that story and that's where the whole idea came to create the show."

It's expensive to stage a programme on a ship, and the almighty success of Cabin Fever (sunk) and Press Ganged (lost at sea) tells us that reality shows and ships go together like ocean liners and icebergs. So they thought of something else – film in the desert, before RTL reined in the budget even further by using Castle Erenstein. The rest is history, fringes, and parting gifts.

The Traitors

Like all festivals, the Edinburgh Television Festival hands out its own awards. Game shows and folk on top include Graham Norton (best entertainment presenter), The Traitors (entertainment series), STV Studios (production group of the year), ITVX (best rebranded on-demand service from a major broadcaster other than Channel 4), BBC1 (channel of the year), and Claudia Winkleman (outstanding achievement).

Roger Ordish has died, aged 83. He produced many great light entertainment programmes for the BBC, including Wipeout and Odd One Out with Paul Daniels, and some episodes of Call My Bluff in the Robert Robertson era. His longest engagement was with a wish-fulfilment show we don't talk about in polite company.

A triangle missing a side is an angle E4 has commissioned Love Triangle from Workerbee. According to the blurb, a single chooses their match from two options; after their date, the rejected person comes back to form a love angle. Folks, let's do the maths: a triangle has three sides. It's only a love triangle if the two original options can choose to date each other. We hope that Workerbee is better at making television than it is at basic geometry.

Quizzy Monday

A group of Mastermind finalists popped up on Only Connect, defeating a family team. Highlights included various books with HRH Sir Prince Charles' name on the cover, dimensions on television shows, and an extended discussion on the motorway network. Although it was very tight going into missing vowels, the Also Rans beat the Gardners by 26-15.

Mercians won their heat, some spectacular early spots allowed them to pick up extra points. Who knew that the card game "Go fish!" and the footballer Quinn would appear on the show? Spot of the night was an initialisms sequence – beginning ABC, DEF, so Just Keep Loving. A perfect wall and barnstorming Missing Vowels allowed them to run up the score, 36-10 over the Volunteers.

Over on University Challenge, UCL beat Kings Cambridge by 190-145. UCL took the early lead with great buzzing from Ali Izzatdust, and although Kings stayed close, they never got within striking distance after the start. Buzz of the night came from Tayana Sawh, who got Lamark just from "discredited theory of evolution".

University of East Anglia beat Strathclyde by 235-125. After an uncertain open, a run of six starters out of seven gave UEA a strong foundation, helped by a useful set of bonuses on Trevor Horn's music – they got "Relax" off even faster than Mike Read. For Strathclyde, Gregor MacDowell gave hope with three starters, including a spectacular bonus set on German footballers, but UEA got the last five starters to confirm their victory.

Mastermind came back, Ruth Hart took the win – a very strong set on the Red Clydeside rebellion of the 1910s, and a very strong general knowledge to back it up. Chas Bedford was great with the Calvin & Hobbes comics, but lacked a little general knowledge.

Quiz digest

  • RICE IS ABUSE! How we'll remember the newly expanded BRICS block – that's Russia, India, Communist China, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Brazil, the UAE, South Africa, and Egypt.
  • The bronze-age band Status Quo gave their name to a Latin phrase, meaning "the way things are, were, and have always been".
  • Victoria and the other Coren Mitchells enjoy Rat-a-tat Cat, a card game of bluffing and cats and rats and smuggled maths education but don't tell the kiddies.
  • There is a 6666 Ranch, near Guthrie in north Texas. It's 350,000 acres in size, or approximately 7% of the size of Wales.

The autumn schedule slowly begins to creep onto the schedules. After Fighting Talk came back yesterday (Radio 5), The News Quiz follows (Radio 4, Fri; on podcast in 2024). More embarrassing anecdotes on Growing Pains (Comedy Central, Mon). Junior Eurovision returns to TG4 for Ireland (Sun), followed by CBS Survivor (Wed). Celebrity Masterchef (BBC1, Fri) and Bake Off The Professionals (C4, Tue) find their winners. Strictly special of The Hit List (BBC1, Sat), and after her performance on Tipping Point Lucky Stars we wonder if Megan McKenna will join Pointless Celebrities' 200 Club on her own (BBC1, Sat).

Pictures: CBS, BBC Studios Entertainment, TVZ/EBU, Bandicoot, Studio Lambert Scotland

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