Weaver's Week 2001-08-14

Weaver's Week Index

14th August 2001

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

This week:

- Unconfirmed rumours of Countdown

- University Challenge

- Happy Returns

- The Heat Is On

- King Of The Castle


Last week, I pointed out that COUNTDOWN has kept the exact same format since Channel 4 launched in 1982. As if tempting fate, news at The Countdown Page suggests that there may be changes. Richard, Carol and the team may be moving from Leeds to Newcastle, with the show extended from 30 minutes to 45 from late September. [Jeremy Rogers adds: "Some editions have already been made in Newcastle. Wellbeing was coming from Leeds resulting in a studio shortage there."]

I strongly suspect that this is connected with Channel 4's latest signings, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, former hosts of ITV's This Morning show. The married couple left the long-running daytime series last month, to host a daily chat show on C4 from late September. It could be that RICHARD AND JUDY will run for 45 minutes, Countdown will run for 45 minutes, and the programmes currently airing in the hour from 5pm will be quietly cancelled.

As they say, watch this space for further updates.

If the series is to end in September, it will be the shortest series, since the 27 shows of the 1982 debut. Thirteen weeks, less three days for each of five tests, and two days for a cup match, gives just 48 playing days. Maybe only six seeds, as in the last Championship of Champions.


EDINBURGH had a great run in 1995, defeating UMIST, Keble Oxford, and Robinson Cambridge before falling to New Oxford in the semis. The uni returned in 98, taking easy victories over Jesus Cambridge and Newnham Cambridge, but surprisingly fell to Birkbeck in the quarters. They lost their 2000 opener to Peterhouse Cambridge. Lost the 2001 opener to Hull, and a repechage to St John's Oxford.

It's the first appearance for CHRIST'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE in the Paxman era.

Christ's get off to a good lead, but Edinburgh's picture round on pigs, some buzzer errors, and Edinburgh have a small lead. Christ's regains the lead during the third quarter, pulling away on the bonuses (rivers in New South Wales.) Edinburgh comes back, Christ's (Chris Martin, to be exact) incurs a lot of penalties, but it's not enough, Christ's wins 190-150.

I don't share Paxman's optimism about the losers coming back in the repechage. Note that Ian Griffith of Edinburgh didn't buzz once; also that Oliver Lee of Christ's got seven of the team's 12 starters, and I credit him with 97 of the team's points.


Paul Healy debuts on Tuesday's show. He returns on Wednesday. And Thursday. Eventually takes £9,502, the biggest jackpot on the show so far.

Many happy returns for The People Versus, which debuted one year ago next Monday. Next Friday is the one-year anniversary of Nick Bateman being slung out of the Big Brother House. And happy birthday for Tuesday to The Weakest Link. There will be a celebrity edition on August 18, opposite ITV's football coverage - I think this will be the first new UK edition of TWL since May.

This celeb edition will feature contestants from Reality Shows. Caggie, Nick, Darren from BB1; Penny and Narinder from BB2; Zoe and James from Survivor Etc; and a couple from Castaway (the show that inspired The Heat Is On - see next article.)

Remember: no-one *ever* voted against Nick in the BB house, and he didn't face one public vote before being slung. Will this be a good August for the dean of nastiness? Don't hold your breath.

THE HEAT IS ON (BBC1, Tuesday)

Though it's not *strictly* a game show, I include this show as it's a lot like I hoped Survivor would be.

The opening episode features 14 people (who become 13 by mid-show) are given the chance to go on an adventure expedition to Places Unknown. There's no prize money, just the satisfaction of the experience. And possibly a media career as a D-list Tough Guy (Or Gal) celeb.

Though the rest of the series will be in the South American jungle, the opening show sees our mob larking about in the Scottish Highlands. It's not intended as a comedy show, but almost half the hour is spent watching the groups following a treasure hunt. The Blues hijack a 4x4 conveniently left lying around; the Yellows walk it. It's hilarious viewing. It's the sort of crazy silliness that some other reality shows have lacked. They didn't leave me laughing out loud. This show did.

There's also a focal point, a real intermediary between the viewer and the competitors. Lofty, a big, gruff, ex-army bloke uses humour rather than fear to get his way. Robert Lindsay, the voice over artiste, is somewhat more doom-laden.

An outmoded voting off routine will reduce the group from 13 to seven who will go to the jungle. It's so outmoded that people debate and vote in public, hoping for unanimity. No secret ballots, still less the single transferable vote.

Things that Survivor might profitably take away:

- The Lofty character, explaining why the contestants are doing something to keep going.

- A voice over artiste that has more uumph than Mark Austen. He's a fine reporter, but he wasn't cut out for Survivor.

- A cold climate. Sometimes it feels that anyone can survive on a desert island. The cold presents a more extreme danger, but no shots of girls in bikinis.

KING OF THE CASTLE (Challenge TV, weeknights)

Alastair Stewart liked being in Countdown's Dictionary Dell so much he thought he could present a great game show. This is not that show. The review elsewhere on this site covers most of my problems. Nine become seven on a buzzer round. Then there's the show's gimmick - contestants on a video wall. A series of targeted and open questions leaves us a winner.

Alistair tries to be as nasty as Anne Robinson, but he really does come across as nasty for the sake of it. Growling "don't even *think* about answering the next question" at contestants who err isn't threatening. It's risible.

As a host, Stewart makes a decent fist of it. As a quiz format, this shows possibilities. However, this isn't the programme to show either at their best.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in