Weaver's Week 2001-01-09

Weaver's Week Index

9th January 2001

Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.


A very pompous voiceover from Peter Dickson, who sounds a lot like Robin Houston (the voice of 100%) leads into a set that can only be described as orange, until it goes sea blue during play. There's a checkerboard behind the contestants, though not behind host Nadia Sawhalia. It's not... The Famous One; she's the sister of Julia Sawhalia, Linda in Press Gang and Saffy from Ab Fab.

Three contestants each stand behind a podium, with a flat-screen monitor and one buzzer on the podium. Nadia has some tittle-tattle with the contestants - that there's any interaction proves It's not ... 100%. Further evidence is provided by the ultimate prize, a trip around the world.

The game is simple. Questions appear on a blue overlay to the left of the contestant, along with five answers. One of them is correct. The contestant tries to buzz in with the correct answer as soon as possible. If the contestant doesn't know, voiceover man says "It's not..." one of the answers, and the point value comes down. If the contestant buzzes and gets the answer wrong, they score nothing. Three times round this and it starts to wear thin.

Round two is a question from one of six topics, following the same format. There are but two questions in each category, so four times round the players exhausts the questions.

The scores are kept out of vision, except for the recaps at the end of each round.

Round three is on the buzzers, with the same format we've come to know. An astute contestant is able to buzz in before Nadia's finished reading the question. There are a lot of questions in this round, and the lack of on-screen scoring doesn't help figure out who is leading.

After the break comes round 4, Choose a Chain. Nadia shows three brightly coloured envelopes (It's not... three-fifths of the Channel 5 stripes) in which every question is based on the previous answer. For instance is the answer was lieutenant, the next question might be about The French Lieutenant's woman. Five questions each. Get a question wrong, and the chain continues with the next question. Voiceover man pops up to say the contestant scored a magnificent 200 points (or whatever.)

Round 5 is the category board again. With a slight twist. Six categories, each with a question worth 100, 200 or 400 points. Hey! It's not... Jeopardy! At the end of the round - when time or questions run out - the highest score wins. In the event of a tie, a sudden-death eliminator question on the buzzer decides.

We lose two contestants at this stage, they leave with nothing but Nadia's thanks. The winner chooses a weekend break, in Dublin, Paris, Brussels or anywhere they can get on 5000 air miles.

The winner competes for ten more questions, with an on-screen clock ticking down points at quite a rate. Anything remaining is added to the score from the main game and goes for a place on the finals board. (Sorry, the champion's board. It's not... Fifteen To One.)

Final sting comes during the credits, where the winner does a somewhat out-of-place piece to camera, reflecting on their win. It's not... (The) Weakest Link.

Overall, the questions are carefully graded, from really easy ones in the opening round to more taxing fare in the solo run. Nadia Swahalia seems well-matched to what is a quiet, perky little quiz. And, er, the prizes are quite nice.

On the downside, the format gets a tad repetitive by the end of the first round, and screamingly dull by the endgame. The questions aren't too demanding, only the last round wouldn't be entirely out of place in the early rounds of Fifteen To One. For the Millionaire crowd, think questions 3 to 11.

It's with Channel 5's 100% that comparisons should be made: both feature three contestants answering lots of multiple choice questions. While Nadia and Peter do a perfectly competent job, they're not as easy on the ear as silken-tongued Robin Houston. The prospect of a big prize at the end of the series might keep the viewer's interest, but then a carry-over champ can become a minor celebrity in his or her own right.

Overall, then, I have to rate this below 100%, and roughly on a par with Eamonn Holmes' recent vehicle Playing for Time.

Microcredits: Green Inc / Carlton Central for ITV. Format by Green Inc productions, in association with RTE. Sony gets a "With Thanks To," for no obvious reason. Producer: Mike Morrisey.


Most of the elements of the planet's favourite game show survived into the double-headed special. Chris Tarrant wasn't replaced by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed alien from the "Hitch-Hikers" books, but the title gained an extra word that lost any semblance of grammar from the title.

The format is the standard one, though the couples (all straight, at least on the opening two editions) are shown together backstage, rather than from Contestant's Row. Only the person who made the original phone call gets to play FFF, with the other halves stuck halfway up the audience. That would be Partner's Paddock, I suppose. On entry to the centre circle, the FFF player enters with Chris, the partner from the stage exit. Once qualified, normal rules apply: three lifelines, usual milestones, you know the drill. Both contestants must agree on the answer.

In spite of the host's protestations that this series would turn out to be the most raucous thing seen on ITV since "Jerry Springer," all the contestants were a picture of sweetness. Chris spun the proceedings out more than usual, with a lot of chat before starting and through the ad breaks. The first time the contestants weren't sure, Chris asks each of them their thoughts. Then, when they do decide to play, asks *both* to confirm the finality of the answer. All very democratic, all very *nice*. Not edgy at all.

The gameplay struck me as slightly more conservative, less risk-taking than in the regular show. There's not only the usual embarrassment involved in getting an answer wrong, but the contestant gets it wrong with their beloved within striking distance. No-one goaded their co-player into answering something of which they were unsure until day 2. He: "I'm sure it's Czechoslovakia, but would you be mad at me if I'm wrong?" She: head in hands, nods vigorously.

Monday's game went at a snail's pace; I presume it was very loosely edited so that they could leave the game with a FFF for the next episode. Tuesday's episode wasn't much faster, though; maybe this is a format more suited to leisure.

From a technical point of view, this is a masterclass on how to work in 16:9 widescreen. The head-on shot of the contestants is wider, by necessity, and shows some of the display on Chris' screen. Even zoomed in to 4:3 centre cutout, nothing is lost. It's the side-view shot that is the real winner, with two contestants and one host close to the edge of the screen, but without anyone dropping off the edge. Parts of the cheque do drop off the edge, but that looks arty. The same can't be said for the sponsor's captions, part of a two-day block on ITV Entertainment, which appear to be by that well-known car firm Toyoi, advertising their Rimera. Or was it the Rius? Shows how effective it was.

One other new shot to the repertoire was a side-on of both contestants, set to the backdrop of the stairs at the back left. It would only work when there's interaction on the contestant's side.

Looking at Chris' screen, he has the same ladder and lifeline display as appears on the programme from time to time. There are six coloured boxes also visible: Purple - yellow - purple Green - red - cyan The lower boxes appear to contain amount won, amount guaranteed, potential loss. There's a figure in the yellow box - value of current question, presumably - and words in the left purple box. I can't say what they are exactly, though the display *does* change between question mode and chat mode. The right purple box lights up at the end of the game with the correct answer, after the contestant has walked or (presumably) erred.

But to return to Millionaire Couples: it's fun, but it's lacking the pace and the atmosphere of Real Millionaire. The regular series returns next Monday.

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