Weaver's Week 2001-07-17

Weaver's Week Index

17th July 2001

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

This week in slightly dodgy headlines:

Survivor - Six On The Island, How Many Watching?

Channel 5 Forges Ahead

The People Versus The Facts

Millionaire Moaner

Dean, Liz Avoid Press Coverage For Seventh Week

Let the games commence.


Another storm. Jackie isn't clever enough to be devious, apparently. Big Trousers shows the team short video clips from home, and then sets them a challenge. The person who gets furthest along a course off the ground in 30 seconds can see the complete vignette. Charlotte does well, but Richard does better. He declines the prize, giving Charlotte her tape. Big Trousers sees this as an emotional game; it left me reaching for the sick bucket. Completely contrived emotional scenes tend to do that.

Richard and Jackie plot against Zoe, try to get Charlotte on board. Z reckons Charlotte goes, unless she's immune and Jackie subs. Eve wants to ditch Char and Jack. What can the team whinge about today? Char scraping the rice bowl, the heat, Richard floating at sea, that the island is totally barren of fruit and edible roots. It isn't, but they're barred from damaging the island structure. This may be the biggest problem the show has faced: it's a paradise where the contestants can look, but they can't touch. In that respect, it's totally artificial, even though it pretends not to be. Big Brother is totally artificial, but has no qualms about admitting that.

Big Trousers has another challenge. Build a stretcher raft, rescue a diver, and bring them back to shore. First one back gets immunity, and that's ex-Army officer Eve. There's a surprise for Richard - the diver he completely failed to rescue is actually his brother. Ha very - well, yawn, actually.

Is it voting time yet? Not for another 12 minutes, but here's a commercial break. Zoe alleges that rice is missing, and leads Jackie to think Mick is responsible. Both Jackie and Zoe think they've got Mick's vote in their favour.

Voting time. NGE - Deut 13:35 is on Pete's shirt. All three evictees have their original tribe on their sleeve, though all shirts are yellow. Big Trousers asks some long, winding questions. You are a trained journalist, these people have been facing withering questions for the past month, and they should be able to cope with difficult questions. Mick's swing vote is first, but we don't see it. Jackie goes with her team for Zoe. Eve calls Charlotte underhand, selfish, greedy. Zoe goes for Char, as she's boring. What, cast someone dull *off* the show? Shome mishtake shurely.

Big Trousers opens the dairy pot. Charlotte 3, Zoe 3. In the event of a tie, it's not the strongest link (Eve) that has the casting vote. It's not like the Conservative leadership contest, where both players figure that they've no chance and retire from the game. If only it were - we'd be two episodes nearer The Finish by now. No, it's votes from the previous councils that are summed; Char had 1, Zoe 5 and exit. She was wrong to trust Mick.

Apparently, there's to be a book after the series ends. Reserve your copy for £10.98 by calling the number on screen. Or buy it in a bookstore for £9.99 if - sorry, *when* - the series ends. Or buy it in a remainder store for 50p next January.

This episode scored 5.6m viewers and a 25% share. That's about average for the series, though not much more than half ITV's hopes.


Ten years ago, Richard Fairbrass was on top of the world. His group, Right Said Fred, recorded a novelty track entitled "I'm Too Sexy," and had a massive worldwide smash. Sadly, the hit records dried up quickly, and Richard needed something else to pay the bills. He's been recording the theme for the German Big Brother - "You're My Mate" may see the light of day here - but the media profile needs more.

Richard, with co-host Gabby Richens, join us in the Jordanian desert, along with pairs of super-fit people. There's also a "poetess" (doesn't read poetry, played by Melanie Wingier) who explains the game topography, perhaps adding to the eastern mysticism of the show. The teams are given challenges against each other. The challenges remind me a fair bit of CRYSTAL MAZE's physical and skill games, albeit on a far larger scale than that show managed. These are spectacular challenges, ones that would be taxing in a studio, but take place under the desert sun. Rather than the all-pull-together ethos of Crystal Maze, this show is hand-to-hand combat. Winner of each challenge gets a flame.

Four such challenges bring us to the endgame. This can be a 4-0 drubbing, a 3-1 mismatch, or a 2-2 tie. Ties are broken by a sumo-like bout between the two female contestants; loser of the bout loses a flame. Winners are shackled at the wrist. Four more challenges await, to boost the prize fund. Each challenge has a time limit - how long it takes a candle the team carries to burn out. Or be blown out, dripped on, or otherwise extinguished. After each challenge is won or lost, the team is asked a mathematical puzzle.

If a team fails to complete a challenge in time, they lose one of the flames they won earlier. Lose all their flames, and the team loses control of the next game to their opponents. Whoever has control after the final challenge gets to go for gold. If the team that played the last game lost it, there's a tie; the men's heads are positioned in a small tub of snakes, and the first to move their head loses.

The winning team goes to the forges. If they've got the number puzzles right, they may be able to deduce a sequence that will unlock the vat later. But it's always a race through physical obstacles to reach the portcullis control mechanism, fit the cogs, raise the grate, push the rocks down the path, and don heatproof suits. If they have the number, the vat to transport metal is unlocked already; if they don't, they have to do it by hand. Then pour metal into the vat, and pour into the containers. That gold is turned into money (at a pretty shoddy exchange rate) and given to the winners.

The story behind the show strikes me as a little over-cooked, but it's part of the charm of a quietly fascinating show. Could be a winner, certainly isn't a loser.

Hmm. That means Channel 5 has made three decent game shows in the past year or so (see also THE MOLE, JAILBREAK.) The BBC has given us FRIENDS LIKE THESE, DOG EAT DOG, and maybe more. C4: NUMBER ONE, BIG BROTHER, TRUST ME, CHAINED, BANZAI, the list is almost endless. ITV: two goes needed to perfect THE PEOPLE VERSUS, a flop SURVIVOR. More MILLIONAIRE, anyone?


An embarrassingly large number of errors slipped into the review of The People Versus last week. * The host is Kaye Adams (formerly of ITV's lunchtime chat show) not Kay Alexander (who has been reading BBC news in the Midlands since I was knee- high to a grasshopper.) * The Strachans who composed the music are father and son, not brothers. * Changing the name of the other lifeline in the original from Cash For Questions to Answers For Questions must count as a Freudian slip.

Apologies all round.

A correspondent writes how they enjoy the bong segment, as it "does bring tension into the game." I don't deny that this is a tense situation, but I maintain that it is wildly out of pace with the rest of the programme. I'd sooner see a change in the rules where if contestants err in (say) round 4, they keep the money from round 2, with the balance going to the question setter.


Richard Rosner, a former contestant on Millionaire-US, has begun legal action against ABC-TV. He says he was told he had incorrectly answered this question, for $16,000: "What capital city is located at the highest altitude above sea level?" but that the right answer was not listed in the four choices given.

Rosner was asked to choose between Mexico City, Quito, Bogota and Kathmandu. After using his "phone a friend" option, Rosner said he picked Kathmandu, but the answer was Quito.

Rosner claims he has "determined that not one of the answers forced upon him was the singularly or absolutely correct answer. Most sources recognise La Paz, Bolivia as having the highest altitude."

A quick flick through my usual sources shows: La Paz 3658m. Quito 2850m. Bogota 2640m. Mexico City 2239m. Kathmandu 1372m.

The phrase "where there's a hit, there's a writ" springs to mind. If that's the *exact* question he was asked, then it deserves to attract opprobrium: the short phrase "of these" would remove any doubt.

Given the facts above, I can't see that Rosner has any real case. He could have called for the producer during the game, and didn't have to play in any event. He chose to play, chose the worst of the four available answers, and deserves to go away with not much.

What isn't clear from the publicity this case has attracted is that Rosner is a member of a number of Ultra-Hi-IQ societies, and expected to waltz away with a six-figure sum. He was unlucky to face a dodgy question, which brings another phrase to mind. Something about pride, and a fall.


Congratulations to Luana, the former exotic dancer, who has won Loft Story, the French version. She's been front-page news over here. There's a male winner as well, but he's been totally overlooked.

Correction: An aerial shot at the end of BBLB reveals the bridge actually runs east-west, which means the studio door is to the east, not the north. In turn, that suggests the earthy Davina should take the left seat in the interviews, not the right.

Just for a change, this week's recap is mainly from Big Brother's Little Brother, the daily discussion show on E4.

Crossover ahoy, as Krishnan Guru-Murphy (C4 NEWS, NUMBER ONE) pops up on BBLB. Josh has a lot of clothes. Almost as many as The Clothes Store.

This week's task is to dismantle a drum kit, move it over an obstacle course, and re-assemble it in eight and a quarter minutes. The remaining six bet 36.4% of next week's budget. In another C4 crossover, the producers call Carol Vorderman (COUNTDOWN) who informs them this is £15.28 of the £42 budget for next week. After a lot of practice and more than a bit of excitement, the team gets round the course in 6m46, plus five penalties. 8m01, target 8m15, so that's a win. Not by much, but £57.81 is in the kitty for next week.

The Shrink on BB spots that Brian's attempts at being funny with Josh are falling flatter than a pancake that's been under a steamroller. This is because Brian, Bubble, and Narinder all followed the code of Being Nasty Politely. Lots of eye contact and sticking to a mutually agreeable subject, apparently. Brian doesn't even look at Josh when the insults fly, so they *are* insults.

Why does everyone wear dark clothes on Saturday. Is it something the team has decided, or an unconscious expression of grief at the loss of a friend? The Shrink is remarkably quiet on this one.

The shrink has noticed that Paul uses mirrors a lot. He doesn't know if he's getting a positive vote from the public, or he's surviving because people hate his opponent. Paul touching the back of his head is a signal that this is what he'd like others to do to him, he's also flexing his shoulders in a semi-aggressive stance.

Paul would be annoyed if Josh turns out to be straight. Annoyed, we can see the blood rushing to his head. Paul tries to defend that it would be a big fib; Josh and Liz raise the spectre of homophobia, and Josh compares it to saying someone had lost their parents in a car crash. This raises the spectre of someone who claimed their wife had died in a car crash, the otherwise missing Nick Bateman character.

Paul talks in his sleep. He's dreaming that he's won the show. This causes a few fun scenes when he finally wakes. Please don't let this be a prophetic dream. Turn to the nominations.

Brian nominates Paul and Josh. He doesn't get on with either. Dean guns at Helen and Josh, for the same reasons. Helen puts up Dean and Josh because they don't gel. Josh says Brian, they've not hooked up well; and Helen, not on his wavelength. Liz goes for Paul, enough is enough; and Helen, for no good reason. Paul hits at Brian, annoying; and Josh, vain. Summary: Josh 4, Helen 3, Brian 2, Paul 2, Dean 1, Liz 0. The bookies are showing Josh as a racing cert for eviction, taking around 63% of the vote. Paul is ranked below Helen in the betting, even though she's up for eviction and he's not.

Josh promised "fun and frolics, nudity, nocturnal activities, and naughtiness." He's not kept any of his campaign promises, and hence has to go. Westminster calls, I think.

Helen gives Paul one of the batteries for his mike. Paul's lying in bed, and is putting on a bit of a show. Liz has a woman-to-woman talk with Helen about it. A few minutes later, Brian is screaming after another prank in the boys' room. Helen goes to see what is happening. In the dark, she holds hands with Paul, who lets her.

The nominations are revealed. By chance, Josh and Helen are next to each other on the couch, holding hands. When they hear the news, the handclasp breaks. Paul says, "...so where's my name?" Then he checks Josh and Helen are fine... and does a leap of joy. Not that this appears on C4. Boo.

There's more canoodling between Paul and Helen. Lots of canoodling. Helen opens a big hug, and the pair chase and frolic like honeymooners do. By Wednesday evening, bookies were offering 2-1 against the pair having a snog; 5-1 against them frolicking naked in the hot-tub; 7-1 against them sleeping in the same bed. If Josh leaves this week, I suspect Paul and Helen will be up against each other for eviction next week. This is the situation when Bart and Sabine crept under the sheets in the original Dutch BB. Amma on BBLB reckons it's not going to happen.

"There's no chance of this happening," says Michelle from London, a caller to BBLB. "There's already a relationship happening in the house, between Paul and his reflection." All the ladies calling would go to a dinner party with Brian, interestingly.

Big Brother has set up a dinner party for pairs of contestants in the den. A BBLB viewer chooses red candles. Helen and Paul are dancing like dancing monkeys. They'll go in the den, Liz and Dean will go to the conservatory, and Brian and Josh will eat in the girls' room. "There'll be luurve-making tonight," promises Brian. Ironically. He thinks. But he and Dean quiz Helen about what might happen.

Brian and Josh treat the meal as a fake date. They could have made *such* a good comedy double-act. Josh and Liz are their usual sensible selves throughout. Just for once, sensible is not the interesting option, though Liz seeing sex as a heightened form of communication does sound like the interesting side of the Open University. Dean makes good points. Paul and Helen discuss sleeping, together, in the den. Lots of commas in that sentence.

Brian reckons Josh is a really nice guy, and repeats this all night. Josh jokingly asks for a Monica, after a good ten seconds, Brian eventually remarks how nice a guy Josh is. Paul is discusses cow dung. Some big hugging, Paul playfully dumps Helen on the cushions. Davina reckons that the two were almost at it. Dream on, dear.

Brian and Josh join Liz and Dean for after-dinner mints. Helen is wiping her mouth very delicately, and wondering if she's coming over as posh. Back in the house, Helen performs a very drunk number about how she'd like to shag, but she can't.

The night of lack of passion was sweet music to the ears of E4 controllers, attracting a record 626,000 viewers just after 11pm. This put the baby channel ahead of both Channel 5 (300,000) and its own big bro C4 (400,000.) It's the channel's record audience, and could well be the biggest audience on cable and satellite all week. The main programme takes 5.1m, the highest of the run so far, and the most-watched show in the slot.

Thursday, and why is there a checkerboard quilt in the boys' room? That's girls' room decor? And who's that in Bubble's bed? It's Helen! The team is given a painting task. Who writes, "I love sex" on her back? (Hint, it's not Liz.) And who prints from that paint onto his chest. (No clues.) And who remains talking in the conservatory till 3am?

In the Friday almost-live broadcast, we learn that Gareth, Helen's on-off boyfriend, has decided that he doesn't want to go out with her any more. He declines to appear on the programme. Helen won't be on the programme much, either; it's Josh who's out, and by a country mile - 84%-16%. The sound cuts immediately afterwards, while Josh quietly uses the s-word in a gesture of resignation. Helen squeals with joy.

Josh evidently packed in a hurry. He couldn't even do up his shirt all the way. He's in no hurry to come down the catwalk, taking probably the longest of any contestant since Craig. The photos in the paper are of Josh and his granny, Gladys.

Josh has spotted the flirting between Helen and Paul, and is giving them enough room to make the headlines. Front page, front page, front page. Josh can't believe what he said in the dinner party. It was all a wind-up, aimed at taking some control over Brian and maybe shutting him up a bit. Things were difficult after their discussion a week ago.

It was hard to bond with the existing housemates, certainly. He felt somewhat subdued by his late entrance, would probably have coped better had he been in from day one, and the others didn't really get to know him. Josh admits that the nudity didn't happen, fun was a backgammon set, and don't mention the sex.

Discuss how Paul doesn't get that being gay is not a way into seeing women naked. "He's stupid," says Josh to wild applause. He likes Liz, to a polite ripple. Brian is cited as loud and screechy, while Helen is herself. There's animosity behind the diplomatic facade.

Of the remaining five, I still rate Liz highly, perhaps Brian just over Dean - the coming few days will show Brian without his worst relationship.

My ranking: Liz - Brian - Dean - Helen - Paul. Bookies: Brian - Dean - Helen - Liz - Paul.

Expect to see Helen and Paul (at least) up for eviction next week, possibly joined by Brian. That could make interesting viewing.

Our earth girl Davina hosts OBLIVIOUS on ITV Saturday, review here next week.

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