Weaver's Week 2001-05-08

Weaver's Week Index

8th May 2001

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


Peter Bazalgette, creative type for Endemol's BIG BROTHER format in the UK, has confirmed that this year's version will be bigger, better and more in-yer-face. Watch out for copious coverage and an "enhanced package" on Channel 4's baby entertainment channel, E4; news going direct to people's mobile phones; and information on the radio.

The new series is expected to begin as early as the end of this month, heading for a climax in early August.


Anne Robinson in America popped up on our screens last Friday lunchtime. It replaced an episode of BERGERAC, which is no real loss.

The format is, of course, exactly the same as in the UK. With one exception; our version starts the opening round with the person whose name comes first in the alphabet.

The show's progress struck me as painfully slow. It could be an effect of the transition from NTSC to PAL introducing delays in the audio, but there were some l-o-n-g gaps between answers and questions.

The voice-over artist, giving the end-of-round summaries, is nowhere near as active as Jon Briggs. His slightly menacing tones counterpoint Anne's insults, giving a reason for her nastiness. John Cramer, the US equivalent, is laid back to the point of being asleep, and I think that detracts from the experience.

I won't comment on the quality of the answers - I don't know what makes an easy US question. Given the inability to get strings of answers correct, the team's banking strategy looks better than it appears on paper.

Over time, contestants will begin to get wise to the demands of the game, and to bank as much money as possible in the early rounds, playing more conservatively near the end. USD 150,000 feels like an achievable target - one chain of six answers, two of five, and plenty of threes and fours. Anything below USD 100,000 looks like a distinctly sub-par result. The USD 38,000 won on Friday's program shows that the contestants aren't as tactically savvy as their UK counterparts.

This will happen, later in the run...


The raconteur and host of ITV's top-rated game show "3-2-1" died suddenly last Wednesday. He was 65. Rogers' show invaded the public consciousness, with the bizarre three-fingered hand movement, cutesy booby prize, perpetual grin, and riddles that still made no sense even after Rogers had explained them.

3-2-1, a re-working of Spanish format UN, DOS, TRES, attracted 17 million viewers. It offered substantial prizes for the era - 1000 pounds in cash, plus a brand new car. Less lucky contestants might win a canteen of cutlery, or a holiday in the sun, while the booby prize was a brand new dustbin. Even this wasn't a total disaster - Rogers spoke of the shop owner who doubled his trade by putting the dustbin in the window, with the sign "As won on 3-2-1."

Combining the best elements of quiz, variety show, and improbably confusing teasers that pointed to the prize. These clues were so difficult even solvers of the Times crossword were befuddled.

Rogers was also involved on The Most Famous Game Show Out-take Ever... "This is a composer, German by birth, English by adoption. Best known for an oratorio published in 1741; it was called "Messiah". [briefly looks up] You're bound to know his handle..." Contestant: "Oh, gosh, I used to have it at school... Handel's Water Music." Ted: "So who's the composer?" Contestant: "Chopin?" Ted turns to the other pair. "So I can offer it to you." Contestant: "I don't know, Beethoven?" Audience collapses in giggles. Struggling manfully on, Ted repeats "You're bound to know his handle."

Born in Kennington, South London, in July 1935, Rogers won a holiday camp competition with his impersonation of Danny Kaye. After a placement as a Redcoat, he took the lead in Cinderella after Tommy Steele injured his ankle. Throughout the 60s, Rogers gained recognition for his stand-up comedy and compering skills, including work with Billy Cotton, the Royal Variety Performance, and Sunday Night At The London Palladium. Bing Crosby was so impressed that he asked Rogers to support him on his American tour.

3-2-1 was unexpectedly axed by ITV in 1988, and short-lived plans for a revival in the mid-90s were all without Rogers. In recent years, Rogers has made a living from television commercials, and pantomimes, where Dusty Bin invariably made a cameo appearance. He is survived by his second wife Marion, their son and daughter, and two daughters from his first marriage.


A strange brew of Mastermind, Millionaire and pub trivia quiz is airing on BBC Radio 4 at present. Compered by Peter Snow, contestants on the first show include FIFTEEN-TO-ONE regular Matti Watton. 1330 Mondays, repeated 2300 Saturdays.


David Stanier wrote last week regarding the FTO website. One of the indirect links from that is www.thecountdownpage.com which provides a wealth of trivia regarding the players and performers on Channel 4's favourite show. There are no glitzy samples of Carol Vorderman, nor a collection of Richard's best jackets, but plenty of statistics and memories.

Also included is a section on the guests in Dictionary Dell, which may just be enough to pinpoint the exact air date of any taped edition you may have lying around. And guess who has appeared on almost 10% of the editions.


Channel 5's import version of GREED finally airs on Friday May 18, at 8pm. Host Jerry Springer will also be fronting the channel's coverage of the looming British general election. I could not confirm persistent rumours that it will be a big-money game show, WHO WANTS TO BE A PREMIER?


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