Weaver's Week 2001-10-08

Weaver's Week Index

8th October 2001

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

This week:

- Paxman gets nasty

- Celador gives away another million

- And a very polite invitation to get lost.


Back on schedule, as University College London takes on Cardiff.

UCL lost to UMIST two years ago, but crept back at the bottom of the high scoring losers pile. Beating Warwick handsomely landed them with a plum tie against Christ Church Oxford, which they were unlucky to lose. UCL got off to a strong start last year, defeating New Oxford, only to crumple in the face of Manchester in the second round.

The University of Wales in Cardiff lost to Queen's Belfast in 97 and Birkbeck the following year. They did take a place as a high-scoring runner up, overpowering Aberdeen before being soundly trounced by eventual champs Magdalen Oxford in the quarters.

There's no such thing as easy points, unless you're identifying Hanna Barbarra characters as Cardiff did. Confusing Baloo and Huckleberry Hound is not good, but Cardiff still has slightly the better of the exchanges. Nick Harrison (Cardiff, captain) has a brilliant opening section, at one point responsible for 62 of the team's 75 points. His buzzing gives the team a 35-point lead by halfway. UCL takes the lead just before the second pictures (US states from their flags - v. difficult) and slowly pull away. UCL wins 200-145.

Katie Bramall (UCL, captain) buzzes on a question about the heart's movements, gives some long and complex answer, only to be told it's something else. She's a medic, and could be giving the technical term. Paxo lays into Harrison when he doesn't know about DU (depleted uranium,) on the grounds that "I thought you were studying journalism."

David Marsh very quietly amassed 5 starters and 74 points, but UCL's was a good team performance. Harrison finished with 8 starters and 96 points. All of Cardiff's bonus points came from his starters, but they got just 8/30. UCL took 16/36.

Cardiff lands in the thick of the running for a high-scoring loser slot. The standings, after 10 of 14 matches: 185 Hull 150 Edinburgh 145 Cardiff 140 LSE, Magdalen Oxford

Next: Downing Cambridge -v- Newcastle


Robert Brydges, that's who. The investment banker turned author became the fourth person to leave Celador's studio with a million pound cheque - but only the third to bank it - after shooting up the ladder with surprising ease.

There was a sticky point for Brydges when he didn't know a question about cars, but 81% of the audience is rarely wrong. There was a dramatic moment at £250,000 when he gambled on a gut feeling that Little House On The Prairie was set in Walnut Creek. After that, it was plain sailing.

Not as sticky as the moment on Tuesday's parent-and-child show, when a pair of contestants asked the audience what a postillion rode. 83% thought it was a stagecoach, no doubt remembering the famous phrase that sums up 100 year old French guidebooks, "My postillion has been struck by lightning." Only 3% Got the right answer, a horse.


Let me set out my biases early. I'm a sucker for people doing silly things on network television. I'm in favour of people being honest and open, forgetting the camera is there. I like the romance of a good travel show, and the thrill of a race. Maybe it's the combination of these factors that explains why I liked WANTED so much.

The concept behind LOST! is simple. Three couples are blindfolded and taken to a secret location. They have three days' rations and 200 US dollars. This week, it was the edge of Anzer (65 09N, 36 14E), one of the Solovetskiye Islands in the Onezhskaya Gulf, just east of Finland. Next week, it's somewhere a little hotter. The week after, who knows, it could be the north-west tip of Spain.

But let's face it, who wants to be in Finisterre? Especially when there's a big cash prize for the first team to touch Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London. The primary objective is simple: get from there to here as quickly as possible.

This week, the route a crow would take was over Finland, Sweden, and northern Denmark. Our teams are too heavy to jump on a crow's back, and don't have the money to charter a larger bird, so have to take the train and coach. One goes well out of their way through Moscow, Warsaw, and eventually a coach to London. Another seems to be playing more for the experience than the prize, and dallies in St Petersburg and Minsk before heading home. The third team spend all their money on the express train to Berlin, hitch-hike to Belgium, and eventually sell their tent for ferry tickets.

This show works on many levels. At its most basic, it's a race. Who will be first home? Whose trail on the map will lead to London first? Will it be the annoying businesswoman? Will it be the personable Rastafarian gentleman, or the curt Scouse lady?

On another level, it's a travel show. We see the perils of travelling without a ticket on a Russian train. And the joys of international cuisine behind the remnants of the Iron Curtain. A well-known fast food chain is everywhere there.

On yet another level, we have the way the teams cope with each other, and the people they meet. The annoying businesswoman carried her team-mate; he could drink and went off on many delusional ramblings caused by lack of sleep while she shrugged it off, convinced she was winning. The Rastafarian gentleman spoke openly of how he was missing marijuana, but he and his companion clearly had a whale of a time. The Scouse lass was open with her feelings, telling one busy-body lady in St Petersburg "Yeah, my breath smells, but so does your country."

Perhaps on the most important level, LOST! works as thoroughly good entertainment. The remark above is one of many, many classic nuggets from this week. There's double-crossing aplenty at the start, there's confidence and pride and falls aplenty. The whole programme makes gripping viewing. I think what works best of all is that we have the time to get to know these people, see them at their most raw, and figure what makes them tick. Each viewer will have their own good guys and bad guys, a team they want to win and one they might rather leave somewhere unspeakable.

There's a sense that this is proper reality television; while people wouldn't normally be travelling through remote parts of Russia or begging on the streets of Warsaw with a cameraman in tow, it's something that just could happen in real life. And this is honest television: the cameraman is acknowledged, sometimes stepping into shot, travels with the team, and doesn't know where the heck he is.

Five years ago, WANTED had four significant flaws. LOST! addresses all of these. The show is not live: this week's episodes were filmed almost a year ago, allowing for plenty of editing and still maintaining the suspense of who will win right up to the closing minutes. Viewers don't have to decide whether they want the tracker or the runner to win: instead, we get to follow three teams and form our judgement through the week. The game is one coherent task: get back to London. Contestants don't meet the mayor each day for a week then hide out in phone boxes for an hour on a foggy Wednesday night. They just get to London. And finally, there's no over-bearing host who ought to shut his trap, merely a narrator in the style of BIG BROTHER. Making an ass of themselves is the contestants' job.

This is a very, very impressive debut show. Indeed, I'm hard pushed to recall a better debut show this side of THE MOLE. I strongly recommend it.


Newcomers to Saturday include CHALLENGE OF A LIFETIME, in which Brookside and Celeb Big Brother's Claire Sweeney invites members of the public to try a death-defying stunt. No one mention THE LATE LATE BREAKFAST SHOW and we'll be fine. (ITV, 5:40) Also a late-night omnibus of the very satisfactory LOST!

This week's LOST! times: Monday 10:30, Tuesday 10:35, Wednesday 10:55.

ITV challenges with THE RACE, in which four teams travel the world on a puny budget. Boyzone and Celeb Big Brother's Keith Duffy present. 11pm Monday on ITV; action switches to the cable and DTTV channel ITV2 on Wednesday for episode 2, which airs immediately after a repeat of episode 1 at 9pm. This episode may or may not be repeated at 10pm Thursday. No doubt ITV will point to the confusing scheduling should this show not work well. They will have a point.

Less confusing, at least from a scheduling point of view, is X-FIRE, C4, 6pm Tuesday, repeated noon Saturday.

MILLIONAIRE continues the Parent and Child theme all week. You'll miss it when it's gone. Or not. (8:15 Saturday, 8pm Tuesday and Thursday.)

I'm intrigued by STUPID PUNTS (9pm Tuesday and 2am Friday, BBC CHOICE.) Patrick Kielty invites a celebrity panel to bet on the outcome of bizarre challenges. No one mention BANZAI, please.

Not strictly a game show, but more than a sport, LATE NIGHT POKER returns to C4 at 00:35 Friday morning.

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