Weaver's Week 2001-11-05

Weaver's Week Index

5th November 2001

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

This week:

- University Challenge: the evidence so far

- Evidence that question setters do learn from each other's mistakes

- And further evidence that Britons tend not to be mathematicians


First round, match 14: Leeds -v- St Hugh's Oxford

Leeds appeared in the 2000 contest, losing to Christ Church Oxford. St Hugh's hasn't appeared in the revival.

Honours are just about even through the opening rounds. Leeds goes 1/3 on a set of bonuses about The Beano; this is the sort of indicator that is crucial to understanding the intellectual future of the UK. Weaver has no idea what it means.

St Hugh's has a minor lead after the music round, and extends it as Paxo begins a long and complicated description of the process behind the dodgems. Though Leeds doesn't take the lead, it continues to run the Hugh's close until the second pictures. Paxo allows Leeds a re-stated bonus, taking that side to 145.

St Hugh's pulls away through the last few minutes, Paxo stumbles over a long and confusing bonus, and the result is St Hugh's 220, Leeds 145. Stars of the show: David Holdsworth (68) and Ken Morton (87) for Hugh's; Will Howells (63) for Leeds. Hugh's went 21/35 bonuses, Leeds 12/27.

The final loser standings:

220 Downing Cambridge

185 Hull

150 Edinburgh

145 Cardiff; Leeds

We have a tie, team. Paxo explains that, according to rules we've not seen before, Leeds reached their total "more quickly and with fewer mistakes" than Cardiff, and hence progresses. Scooting back four weeks, we find Cardiff got just 8/33 bonuses.

Next week, the first part of the repercharge: Downing Cambridge -v- Leeds. Both sides going for their first win of the revival.


The first round has ended, and fourteen teams are through to the knockout phase. They'll be joined by two of the four highest scoring losers.

The teams progressing are unofficially seeded as follows:

(Total score, then most starters correct, then fewest incorrect interruptions.)

[ 1] 300 Somerville Oxford

[ 2] 250 Imperial London

[ 3] 235 Wadham Oxford (16)

[ 4] 235 Christ Church Oxford (13)

{220 Downing Cambridge (12, 0)}

[5=] 220 Newcastle (12, 1)

[5=] 220 St Hugh's Oxford (12, 1)

[ 7] 215 Churchill Cambridge (14)

[ 8] 215 Keele (13)

[ 9] 210 Trinity Cambridge

[10] 200 Durham (14)

[11] 200 University College London (12)

[12] 190 Christ's Cambridge

{185 Hull}

[13] 180 Bristol

[14] 155 Salford

{150 Edinburgh}

{145 Leeds}

This ladder will be revised in two weeks; the repercharge winners will be credited with their better score from the two shows.


Twelve contestants stand in a semi-circle around the host. If it weren't for the lack of podia, we could be watching FIFTEEN TO ONE. While William G will ask a hundred or more questions during his half hour show, NWNF host Paul Ross will ask no more than eleven. Ross will only get paid for doing the show if he can win the game, hence the title.

In the first part of the show, one of the twelve contestants is selected "at random" to join Paul in centre circle. Call this person Contestant X. They choose one of two questions, then pick someone (Contestant Y) who they think will get the question wrong. If Y answers correctly, he progresses and X leaves the game; if Y is wrong, he is out and X goes through to the next round. Repeat this process until the original twelve have become six.

In the second round, X is chosen at random, but now chooses their Y without knowing the question. There's an added twist that X must predict whether Y will get the question right or wrong. There are three possible outcomes: If Y gets his question right, he returns to the semicircle and X is out regardless of prediction. If Y gets his question wrong, he is out. If X predicted Y would get the question wrong, X returns to the semicircle. If X predicted Y would get the question right, X is eliminated for giving a wrong prediction.

Repeat until two or one contestant(s) are left standing. If two remain, they play in the normal manner, with the winner picking up a £4000 prize. If both are knocked out, host Paul Ross is deemed the winner, and pockets the fee himself. If only one remains, Ross takes the role of X and asks a question of the contestant for the prize.

This is a quiz show with many good points - the set design is spectacular, and in the familiar BBC Daytime house style. The music is subtle, and there's no Canned Crowd (TM). Paul Ross is a great presenter, combining politeness with a will for the contestants not to win. A softer version of Anne Robinson, which goes down well.

The show is let down by two flaws: one minor, one so large we could drive a bus through it. The minor flaw is the slow pacing and random element. It's possible for someone to win the game without once answering a general knowledge question correctly. While the round 1 questions are not taxing, they do prove sufficient to stump some contestants. It doesn't strike me as particularly good to award £4000 of license-fee payer's money solely on the fall of a few lights.


Glenn is on a powerboat this week. "Not some ordinary game... the only real expert here is the mole."

Last week, the prize pot stood at £17,500.

Chris Lintern, 27, company director, Chapmanslade Wilts

Karrie Fox, 50, artist, Truro Cornwall

Jim Anderson, 40, garage owner, Kilmarnock Ayrshire

Paula Mason, 23, ground steward, Spennymoor County Durham

Paul Tregear, 29, firefighter, Westcliff on Sea Essex

Tanya Buck, 33, fitness instructor, Barnet Herts

Dafydd Williams, 27, event co-ordinator, Cardiff

Mel Brookes, 30, information associate, Fleet Hants

It's one in the morning, and Glenn is waking everyone up with a five minute warning to get downstairs.

Glenn performs a tube check. Does everyone have the tubes from episode one? Chris L doesn't, and that's cost the team £1000. We can call him Chris now.

Is that it? It is. Goodnight.

To the lake at Kolona, and split into two teams of four. Team A will be on one boat, team B on another, both being pulled behind a speedboat. Team A must swap places with team B, and vice versa. Anyone falls in, start all over again. Do it inside an hour, win £5000. That's five forgotten tubes, Chris.

They try to pull the boats together. One team ends up wet. What's plan B? Link hands at the back, and everyone ends up in the drink. Have a committee meeting in the lake.

Chris leaps across, only to find the boats are unstable with no weight at the front. But they can't swap at the front. The only thing getting somewhere fast is the clock - 15 minutes remain.

Trying to step across might make the boat stable. The six at the back transfer fine. Chris makes a leap for it, makes it, Paul leaps, lands, and scores the win. That'll be a success, then.

Weaver's suspicions: This was a challenge where you had to be there - those of us at home don't get much of a clue. In the post mortem, Karrie seems very knowledgeable. She's down as an artist - perhaps in the same way that Judith Keppel was a gardener.

Off to the cabin for dinner. As last night, the sounds of a helicopter are never too far away. Glenn - for it is he - invites the team to assemble outside in 30 seconds. The objective: to guard a bowl of green liquid from some highly trained operatives using paintballs until dawn. Yes! It's the return of the Grants, last seen on X-FIRE. Defend the liquid, and £10,000 is in the kitty.

Dafydd, Paul, and Jim all want to be generals. They build some battlements out of hay round the liquid. The first challenge is repulsed; one of the Grants goes down. Karrie is taken down on patrol. "Ow, those paintball thingies really hurt." Chris exacts revenge. Glenn has a paper map, but there's the obligatory computer-aided map.

Paula and Jim are taken out from a weak defensive position. Paula is taken down with a yellow shot - friendly fire. Dafydd and Tanya come under fire, and go down fighting.

[Commercials: Oh. My. Gawd. Is that Helen Big Brother advertising Bananarama?]

Chris is in the centre, Paul and Mel at the side. Paul goes on a scheduled patrol. Mel goes, Paul goes, but they'll have to get past Chris. The first to try it dislodges the green liquid.

Where was Chris? Hiding under the straw. Laying too low.

Weaver's suspicions: Chris was valiant early on, but vanished right at the end. Who shot Paula? It's not clear, but looking at the map and the range these paintball thingies have, it's most probably Chris.

Glenn leads the team to an exercise bike that will charge a car battery. While one person in turn pedals to charge it, the rest will clean up the painting mess. Chris reckons that no one needs sleep.

After two and a half hours, the battery is taken to an electromagnet holding a metal ball in place. The challenge is to catch the ball when it falls. £10,000 if they make it. The team decides to go in the same order as they cycled, except Chris makes a big thing about dropping from sixth to last on the catching "to make it boy girl boy girl."

Tanya feels reasonable. Jim is shattered and starting to feel dizzy. Mel wants it to fall down quickly. Paul is not too bad, but tired. Paula feels a bit shaky. Dafydd is confident. Karrie has waves of tiredness and waves of alertness. Chris reckons tiredness won't come in till it's over.

During breaks, the team is allowed to phone home, on a chair that just might be the Big Brother Diary Room chair, without the padding.

There's a clue on the wall of the barn: "Although I may be taking money from you, in the end you'll see the mole is okay. OK?" Would that be Old Karrie, or Chris - the only person who was unhurt after the paintball exploit.

Eventually, as all things have to do, the ball falls. Chris is taking over from Karrie. It falls through Chris's fingertips. Karrie is describing what happened, but no one's listening.

Weaver's suspicion: Had they followed the arranged order - the same as they went on the bike - Chris would have been nowhere near the barn when the ball fell. Paula "could have bet" that it would fall during a changeover.

This brings us straight to elimination time. Does no one sleep on this show?

As ever, last week's nominations are in square brackets.

Jim: Paul, Karrie, Chris [Paul, Chris G, Mel]

Karrie: Chris, on the paintball [Chris G]

Mel: No nomination (least: Dafydd, Paula) [Chris G]

Chris L: Karrie - no use on the paintball [Karrie]

Tanya: Karrie - not pulling her weight [Chris L]

Paul: Karrie [Karrie]

Dafydd: Tanya - strong, single minded; Jim; Karrie [Jim or Tanya]

Paula: Reckons it's female, so Karrie or Mel [Two or three]

Weaver is changing his nomination. Last week, he thought Tanya. On viewing the replay, Karrie became more of a contender. But anyone who can arrange to be in the wrong place as often as Chris is doing must be my prime suspect.

So, what does that mean?

Jim ... remains. Paula ... goodbye!

£21,500 will go through to the next episode. The free spirit will be missed.

Next week: jump into a lake, and get stopped by the fuzz. Another quiet week, then.


LOST!: To Azerbaijan, and the following surreal exchange...

Contestant (in English): Where are we?

Local farmer (in Azeri): Azerbaijan

C: Azer-boo-zhan? [gesticulating more] Where ... are ... we?

LF: Why do you think I can understand you?

The route went through Iran, which must be new territory for Western game shows. Going north would take the contestants through Chechnya, where there's a war. Going west takes them through Azerbaijan and Georgia, where there's more war. Going east takes them over the sea, which is just wet.

The show very nearly became NICKED! when one team was escorted from hosts after not paying for their meal. No one had mentioned money. These culture clashes can be trouble. Another team was NICKED! when they left their passports at the travel agent. The third team won.

THE RACE: To Cambodia, and a trip from Phnom Penn to a Thai island via some temples and a dish of cooked insect. This show is beginning to make me yearn for the all-action format of SURVIVOR.

OUR FAVOURITE MOUNTAIN ANIMAL: A round one question from a recent TWL Daily... Anne: What continent is home to the llama? Link (strong): South America

A BAD EGG: And one from TWL Weekly's final... Anne: In tennis, what is the least number of points a player normally has to win to win a set? Link (strong): 24

A variant on this question - how many *strokes* does a player have to play to win a set - caused a major kerfuffle on Millionaire back in March 99. There was no "normally" in the Millionaire question, and the correct answer was not in the options. The Millionaire player offered 24 (12 aces, 12 service return winners), which was deemed correct. The alternate option, 12 (12 aces, the opponent serves twelve double faults) would have been wrong. The correct answer, 7, (7 aces, lots of double faults and an opponent who serves first, insults the umpire at 0-40, is fined first a point, then a game) was not in the options.

MILLIONAIRE itself is in something of a ratings slump. The much-watched show has become the not-so watched show. Saturday's episodes have been dropping behind the BBC's medical drama CASUALTY, Tuesday's episodes have been dropping behind the BBC's medical drama HOLBY CITY, and Thursday's episodes have been so sporadic that I can't discern a pattern. The BBC doesn't show a medical drama on Thursday nights, which confuses matters terribly. Maybe there will be a pick up when ITV's poorly-rated football highlights show moves away next week, to be replaced by BLIND DATE.


A quiet week, but there's a *lot* due in the next few weeks.

No UNDER PRESSURE on 5 this week, we've motorcycling and DARIA instead. Millionaire is in a 65 minute slot from 8:10. THE RACE and MILLIONAIRE repeats move to 10:40 and 11:40 on ITV2, making way for PAP IDOL results.

Second look at THE MOLE 9:25 Sunday morning, new episode at 8.

Videos at the ready on Monday night: the suave Robert Kilroy-Silk gets SHAFTED on ITV, while Alice Beer looks for HOT PROPERTY on 5. Both run at 8:30, straight after UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE.

Lost has concluded, replaced by a series of short films.

MILLIONAIRE has its two women-only editions: Tuesday at 8 for 60, Wednesday at 8:30 for 40. THE AMAZING RACE continues its whirlwind tour of the planet on SKY1 at 8.

THE PEOPLE VERSUS retreats under fire to Monday and Friday only.

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