Weaver's Week 2002-01-19

Weaver's Week Index

19th January 2002

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

This week's game show action:

- A sterling performance on UC

- The final of DiM

- Old friends on 15-1

But first, who will be:


In the beginning, there was POPSTARS. The format was exported from Australia right round the world, landing ITV with its only breakout hit of 2001, charting the creation and rise of pap group Herasey over two months last year. The group split last weekend. Rather than creating another five-piece group, the LWT execs will groom just one person for fifteen weeks of media ubiquity. And this time, the viewers will decide who will win. This is Pop Idle. And we can only blame ourselves...

We've already seen some "experts" reducing thousands of applicants to 50, and then the viewers reduced them to ten, then week by week down to six. Hosts Ant and Dec were, in the mid 90s, a B-list pop duo, recording such classics as "Let's Get Ready To Rhumble," and, er, their other ones.

Joining Antan Dec are some "celebrity" "judges," people who (allegedly) know something about popular music. The Pap Panel: Neil "Dr" Fox (he's not a *real* Doctor, but is a DJ for a London pap radio station;) Pete Waterman (responsible for more pap than any); and Simon Cowell (responsible for Sinitta and Westlife, and will sign the winner.) In the early shows, Cowell got a reputation for making some cutting comments against a lot of the less talented contestants.

Earlier in the run, there was an email campaign to drum up support for Rik Waller, but he had to withdraw before Christmas after contracting a throat infection. His replacement was Darius Danesh, one of the stars of the latter stages of last spring's POPSTARS show who failed to make the final 10.

Who are these people? They're all 20-ish, stereotypically pretty. Think the next Mandy Moore or a poor man's Robbie Williams. This week, our surviving six have been taken to a dance studio to provide footage, and they're singing 90 second arrangements of an ABBA song. Ouch. That's tricky.

+ Hayley Abbots, the one with the long blonde hair. Performs the upbeat "Take A Chance On Me" like a B-grade karaoke singer. Abbots argues with Cowell about the quality of her performance.

+ Darius Danesh, dark of hair, big of grin, and loose of limb. Performs slush ballad "I Have A Dream" almost as badly as Irish pap stars Westlife. The Pap Panel is not impressed. He's going soon.

+ Rosie Ribbons, the one that looks a lot like Britney Spears. Dance instructor says she wasn't much cop at the jiving. Performs torch ballad "The Winner Takes It All" very poorly, blowing some of the long notes at the end. The Pap Panel thinks this was the wrong choice, and spends some time discussing it. Antan Dec cuts the discussion short, as we're heading into A Commercial Break. This was not so much cutting the song to ribbons as to tatters.

+ William Young, also dark hair. Performing midtempo "The Name Of The Game." This is actually a good choice, the best performance of the night so far. Cowell is not impressed. How much is he acting? How badly does he not want Young to win?

+ Gareth Gates, dark spiky hair. Wasn't comfortable with the dancing. Performing another torch ballad, "One Of Us." An anodyne performance, though the Pap Panel is *much* more easily impressed. Unstinting praise for a less than brilliant performer in the pop world? Shome mishtake shurely.

+ Zoe Birkett, black frizzy hair. Performs yet another torch ballad, "Thank You For The Music." A rich, soulful voice, and just better than Young for performance of the night. The Pap Panel agrees.

[Full disclosure: Weaver cannot sing, cannot dance, and does not intend to leave his couch to perform on stage.]

After the performances, voting is by a premium rate phone line. Like France's LOFT STORY, but unlike BIG BROTHER, voting is to keep the person *in*, rather than to throw them out. Makes for more calls in the early weeks, and I suppose overall. Clever.

The staging is very Eurovision Song Contest, all swirling lights and stage presence. The theme tune is a dead ringer for "Te Deum," the music played under the EBU's ident at the start of each year's Eurovision Song Contest. Unlike Eurovision, we don't have a DOG to show the name of the performer, merely a caption part way through the song. Neither do we have the votes repeated in French - they're not even given in English. For each contestant, the format is: video clip from the activity - walk on to stage - perform - remarks from the pap panel - chat with Antan Dec.

In the results show, Antan Dec recaps the judge's comments, and then eventually gives the results. The judges reckon Ribbons has to go; the public agrees.

The show doesn't drag badly; Antan Dec *is* a brilliant, witty host, well trained on Saturday morning television. Overall, this is a decent way of spending a Saturday night, though it's no great shakes.

Next week, it's a Big Band Special. Another male friendly show, I suspect. Are we headed for Danesh, Young, and Gates in the final three? Will this be a great "Brat Pack" album for next Christmas? Will I be shot for mentioning Christmas when we're still paying off the *last* one? So many questions, so many theories.

Like BB, the tabloid press is filling lots of column inches with this show. Reports suggest that Cowell will head to US television once the Pap Panel's work is done. Other reports suggest that all bets are off, and Gates will win. We Shall See.


[11] Trinity Cambridge -v- University College London [13]

Trinity beat Magdalen Oxford in late September. UCL cruised past Cardiff the week after. Neither really broke sweat.

UCL is still is cruise mode, opening an 80 point lead after the first picture round. They get a set of questions on fictional school characters (Jennings, Buffy, Miss Jean Brodie). Trinity retaliates by getting a group of Pacific islanders who are going to rename their island Tam Dayell [1]. This is part of a slow comeback, cutting the gap to 45 after the music round.

Ammo for the theory that Thumper can't do maths? He's not sneering when Hugh Sutherland (Trinity) reduces 45/72 to 5/8 in moments.

Hidden Student Indicators of the Week. Trinity fails to name any of the military ranks held by the Prince of Wales. This clearly says something about the republican tendencies of students. UCL goes 4/4 on pictures of tenors, saying something about their cultural knowledge.

The comeback continues, UCL's lead is down to 25 just before the last picture round, but that's as good as it gets. Scoring their only maximum in the dying seconds of the contest didn't help Trinity, as they lose 250-200.

Highest individual scorer was Trinity's John Ferguson, on 77 points. UCL had Laura Emson score 74, and Lucy Brant 73. Trinity made 18/36 bonuses, UCL 25/39. The bare stats don't show how UCL had an unstoppable air right from the start, making a 4-4-3-2 split of starters, and look set to be strong challengers. Anyone for a UCL -v- Somerville semi, winner to meet Imperial?

Cannon fodder for UCL in the last second round match: Christ's College Cambridge -v- Keele.

[1] The islanders were relocated in the 50s to make way for an air strip, and Dayell - a British MP - has been campaigning on their behalf for many years.


Of the five men I mentioned last week - David Cowan, Eric Kilby, Michael Penrice, Brian Thomas, and Geoff Thomas - only four could make the four-person final for fairly obvious reasons. Geoff Thomas finished fourth in the first semi, David Cowan finished third. Mark Kerr and Graham Barker were the two to go through. In the second semi, Brian Wright finished fourth; Eric Kilby and Michael Penrice tied for the win. With two progressing, there's no need to break the tie.

Michael Penrice, a teacher from Cumbria, took English History 1603-1714, and made 7 correct. Eric Kilby, a statistician from Oxford, took the life and career of Ulysees S Grant. He got 11 right. Mark Kerr, a chartered surveyor from Merseyside, took The Beatles. He gets 7 right with two passes. Graham Barker, a dental surgeon from Rainham in Essex, took the Twentieth Century Conservative Party. He gets 7 as well.

In the general knowledge round, Mark Kerr increases his score to 17 points, but incurs two further passes. Michael Penrice moves up to 18 points. He has no passes. Graham Barker heads to 15 points, with two passes. Eric Kilby needs eight more right to win. He moves to 17 points and one pass, Clive just can't get the last question out in time.

This means that Michael Penrice adds the MASTERMIND 2002 title to his numerous FIFTEEN TO ONE titles. Magnus Magnusson is on hand to present the glass trophy.


EDEN, C4's "reality" game show - where you, the viewer, play the deity of your choice, got off to a slow start this week. All the halls of Valhalla, all the musings on Mount Olympus, just to pare the Twelve Heroes (And Heroines, Let's Not Be Sexist Out There) to six. We'll start the game proper next week. Or there'll be thunderbolts involved, mark Thor's words...

FIFTEEN TO ONE marked its 2000th edition on Thursday. Winner of the very first game, Gareth McMullan, was invited back. He scored 230 on that occasion, a score that wasn't bettered for some weeks, and made the inaugural Grand Final. McMullan never scaled those heights again, and was eliminated in autumn 1989. His return was a winning one, and a score of 213 looks good for a return to the grand final.

RATINGS SLUMP: Coronation Street scores 12.1 million. The immediate follow-up, BRITAIN'S BRAINIEST TAXI DRIVER, fell to 5.3 million. Opposite, BBC1's WEAKEST LINK made a massive 4.1 million. The daytime episodes of TWL have attracted more than both.


As well as the review of Eden, this column will contain a look at BRITAIN'S BRAINIEST.

On the box, very few changes. My rusty old Radio Times reports the last FRIENDS LIKE THESE is actually this week at 6:40. Mark "Big Trousers" Austin appears on IT SHOULDN'T HAPPEN TO A TV REPORTER at 9:30 Saturday on ITV. Readers can insert their own joke here. EDEN omnibus on E4 at 7 Saturday and 3 Sunday. COUNTDOWN's smart alec is Sir Tim Rice. BRITAIN'S BRAINIEST makes way for soccer. There is a Primetime WEAKEST LINK, but is there a viewer?

Radio notes: RBQ has Northern Ireland -v- North England; JAM includes Merton and Freud C; Puzzle Panel guests are Prof Angela Newing, Paul Lamford, and Victor Bryant. WIRELESS WISE, the quiz about radio on the radio, returns to R4 at 6:30 Thursday, and Brian Perkins teams with Jon Culshaw.

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