Weaver's Week 2001-02-13

Weaver's Week Index

13th February 2001

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


Just after the clock struck nine on Monday night, something unusual happened. As Annie herself might have said... "*Who* is past their peak. *Whose* ratings are in terminal decline? *Who* is failing to deliver an audience that matches mine? It's time to vote off... The Past-It Quiz."

Then The Voice Of Jon Briggs would provide a voice-over along these lines. "In a massive upset, Millionaire, champion of the ratings game for the past two and a half years, has been beaten by me and Annie. The statistics show that the opening ten minutes of Millionaire tonight scored 8.7 million; the closing time of (T)WL picked up 9.2 million."

"Chris Tarrant, yours *is* the past-it quiz. Goodbye."


Last of the quarter finals, and the dull side from University College London takes on home team Manchester. Manchester takes an early lead, and though Univ pulls level at one stage, it's all one sided and unusually dull for this level. Manchester wins, 250-105.


Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of this week's events, let me reflect on the position this show now has. Aggregating the two airings is giving a total viewership of almost 2 million. This may be peanuts when compared to Millionaire, but it's enough to make The Mole the third most popular programme on Channel 5.

More importantly, it is now event television. A show that is unmissable come what may, and one that will still be talked about in some years. For my money, Big Brother never *quite* sustained the Event Television of Nasty Nick's removal. People don't talk about Millionaire contestants in the same way they used to, and I think that's because Millionaire is now everywhere. I suspect that this week's show will elicit the same memories as The Old Ladies Off Of "Wanted", or Mad Eric On "Going for Gold."

I would have expected The Mole to become huge in the populist press. It hasn't for two reasons; one, rival network ITV has pitched "Popstars" at them, and while that show is vastly inferior to The Mole, it's caught the public attention. Two, the pops still think that Channel 5 is cheap porn, cheap programmes, and Kirsty Young's legs. While Kirsty may have moved to ITV last year, and the *prize* budget for The Mole was £200,000, these facts haven't registered with the editors at the press. (You'll have to ask someone else about the quality of the porn.)

Anyway. The repeat is 7pm Tuesday. Do watch it. And no apologies for the way this suddenly turns into UK Millionaire in the middle.

Week Six, and with apologies to Grandmaster Flash, let's meet the Furious Five: Zi Khan, 32, bleep machines are for melting, Doncaster Jennifer Waller, 37, shocked and depressed, Darlington David Buxton, 35, professional black-sheep, London Oliver Norman, 22, loud and proud of it, Glasgow Sara Lee, 24, couldn't miss a barn door at that distance, Droitwich

Someone who shall remain nameless kept me talking on the phone for five minutes past eight, so I missed the exact details of the first challenge.

Challenge 16 (as I understand it) The five must come down a 150m slide from a tower, over some cliffs to the other side of a small bay. They must then answer a question about the game so far. Three out of five right wins £10,000. The slide is an extended version of the one on The Krypton Factor assault course.

50 metres due up a wartime tower, onto a 1m wide ledge. It's 100m down to the cliff face. Zi, daredevil Zi, goes first. His question: Where was Zi held hostage? St Catherine's Sailing Club it was.

David is up next. Or down next, depending on how you prefer to look at it. Q: Four runners in the maze by how long they spent there. David, Ollie, Paul, Zi... but the last two were in the wrong order.

Ollie is third, and almost clonks the mike boom on the way over the edge. Who were the five in the first (other) plane on the parachute jump? Gloria, Jo, Dave... Jules. But time expires before he could think of John.

Both Sara and Jennifer need their questions. Sara goes first. And enjoys the heck out of it. The lobster potting boat she was in was... Honeybear? Nope, Genesis. Jennifer doesn't have to go. The challenge is lost.

It's a night off. Cue some (mercifully) brief footage of the contestants murdering karaoke classics.

Glen ponders the history... Zi: reaction to the snipers, car game [Why cite Zi for losing that game? The team lost it through their incompetence.] Jennifer: afraid of heights, but did she know what was coming? Sara: Bunker challenge was wrong all the way through, oh, and last week's Springer impression. David: Was he tipped off about the bunker questions? And calm at the snipers. Ollie: The maze, volunteering for the island and a cushy life?

Now, pick someone with a cool head, and a competitive streak. David. Meet a man called Simon at the arts centre for no obvious reason. Everyone else gets the afternoon off. Time they spend down the boozer, naturally. As if *last* night's hangovers weren't bad enough.

Challenge 17: David and Simon have been filmed in the arts centre. Predict 3 of four events correctly, and win £5000.

First... Simon's phone rings while he's away. Does David answer it? Yes, says the team. "Hello" says David. Second... Does David step off the pavement to avoid walking under a ladder? No, says the team, but he does. Third... Drinks order - does he order an alcoholic or soft drink? Soft, say the team, after last ni ght. Orange juices all round.

For the cash... The bill is £10 too much. Does David spot it? No, says the team, and unlike David, they're quids in. A success!

Meanwhile, David is talking with Simon about interrogation techniques... Simon's an ex-SAS man, and the producer had to pop in to tell him to tone it down a little. They don't want to end up with lawsuits and/or boxing on camera.

Oliver seems *very* clued up about what is coming. A nasty night, and one that will rip the group apart, he predicts.

11pm, Elizabeth Castle. David is in a room, looking pensive. Simon is described as a "negotiation and interrogation expert."

Challenge 18: David will try to find out that he was filmed, that film was used in a challenge, and the major details of the four questions. £10,000 if they can keep that info from David till dawn, defined as 6am (though it's really around 5:15.)

The contestants don't know that Simon is in the next room, and communicating with David through an earpiece. The contestants are put in cells, adopt "stress positions" and made to listen to a loop of the theme while sitting in silly positions.

David gets a pass to the next episode if he can get the info. Zi is smiling, and the CAT logo on his hat is not very well disguised. Sara is not forthcoming, but Simon reckons Sara is one of the weakest of the group. David parrots t his. I don't believe this. Jennifer says she slept through the afternoon, blanks David totally. He's not going to get anything from her.

Ollie is told that Sara has a bed if Ollie gives some info. Ollie gives some info, but is it accurate? Zi listens to the terms of the deal David is offering, and gets a bed for his help.

Sara mutters something about having an alcoholic drink. And there was a challenge today. David figu res he was filmed in the cafe. Sara breaks on that. And related to money. "Were we overcharged?" "Your bill may have been incorrect."

By 3:45, David is most of the way there, but there's two questions (the ladder and the phone) to find, and not much more than an hour.

Jennifer claims nothing happened. Simon picks her up on this, but nothing is forthcoming.

Zi is "pissed off," according to Simon. "Ask them, then! Why should I help you." Zi loses his bed, and looks like he's in danger of losing his rag. Don't think it's worth while going further down that road.

Ollie is recalled. It's 5am. It's getting light. He mentions a car park. "Do you want to help Sara or not?" Not.

5:30, dawn is breaking. Sara is disoriented. She walks with her eyes almost closed, feeling for the steps rather than walking down them with confidence. David is looking shell-shocked himself. David offers Sara some water . "The last incident was by the car park. You know what it was." A long pause. 11 seconds on screen. "There's one more piece of information we need." Five seconds pass. They seem even longer than the last pause. There's a tremor in David's voice as he says, "I'm not even going to ask you for it." Sara mutters a word under her breath, it could have been the word "ladder" that David needed; it could have been an expletive, it wasn't fully audible. But David's not listening. "Just one more piece," urges Simon. But it's gone. "I don't wanna know. It's wrong. We're going home, I don't want to talk to anybody."

David unplugs his microphone, and walks out of the game. Presenter Glenn confirms that this counts as a win.

Sara reports to the group that David wants to be on his own, he completely broke down. Much to everyone's pain, someone has to leave :(

Zi - Not David [not Sara, Oliver]

Jennifer - Zi [Zi, Zi, Zi, Zi - is anyone spotting a pattern here?]

David - Zi, he knew what was coming. [Zi, Zi]

Sara - Ollie over Jen [Zi, Oliver, Zi, David]

Oliver - Hedges his bets. Claims to have backed the wrong person through, which is a *blatant fib*. [Zi, Zi, Zi - ring Monty Python! We have a new song!]

I fear for Zi. If (as is looking increasingly likely) Ollie is the mole, he's safe, so is Sara, and Jen and David have strength in numbers.

£70,000 at the start has turned into £85,000 at the end. David is through. Sara is through. Ollie is out! Pass the humble pie! Everyone is really, really emotional. Including me.


16) David had a stinker of a question, Ollie should have been able to work his out by process of elimination, and Sara should have gotten hers. The mole probably got a question wrong, purely based on the odds. Bring to mind challenge 2, where Ollie got a simple question wrong, and Jennifer didn't get to answer.

17) Majority voting on each question limits the influence of the mole. Perhaps one to let them win.

18) Zi was *very* eager to cut a deal, but didn't. Jennifer played a dead bat. Ollie reckons David was fantastic. Sara found it awful. Just like last week. Has David picked up on the dynamic between Ollie and Sara? Not that that counts for anything any more.

Well. That's left my theory deader than a dead parrot. If this were the Weakest Link, I'd be voting Zi off this episode, but it's not, and he will get up my wick for at least one more week.

I can't read much into David breaking before Sara - one of them was going to, that much is clear, i t was just a question of which came first. Sara blew an easy question in the death slide, to add to her sins right through the contest.

In the final analysis, though, I have to think about who has made the least contribution from the get-go. And it boils down to Jennifer. No part in the death slide, reluctant to jump in game 1, did little when she paired off with Jo in the charity challenge, poor at the karting, out early at the paintball - and her reaction there.

Jennifer, then, is my latest nomination as the mole, just ahead of Sara. Whoever wins, though, will *really* deserve their money, and I salute all five competitors in an exceptional week.

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