Weaver's Week 2002-01-26

Weaver's Week Index

26th January 2002

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

Before we get under way, a plug for the Quiz League of London's Charity Night. Tuesday 5 February, further details at http://www.qll.org.uk/qll/about/charity_quiz_night.html


Antan Dec has a pop at the tabloids that reckon it's all a done deal. They say they have a poll of two million, but the hosts don't reveal the actual figures, or even how close it is. Or isn't. We have a fourth member of the Pap Panel, Nicki Chapman, who used to "do" PR for the Spice Girls. This is one of those Hidden Indicators that keep cropping up on UC.

The performances are all in the big band style, accompanied by Big House Band, Big Blue. The fearsome five have been working with them in the studio all week.

+ Zoë Birkett performs the almost-gospel "Get Happy," popularised by Judy Garland. Comparing anyone with Garland is not going to be favourable, but this is an uplifting performance. Cowell is "knocked out." Chapman is "blossoming." Fox reckons "fantastic." Waterman says "Incredible." I think they liked it.

+ Gareth Gates sings "Mack The Knife" - you may know it from Bobby Darin or Frank Sinatra. Gates is out of his depth, just singing the words, not investing any emotion. The Pap Panel disagrees. Chapman: "Delivered." Fox: "Brilliant." Waterman: "Great." Cowell: "You can't sing that song." Shame he had to go on and poison his barb with some praise. They liked it, I didn't.

+ Hayley Abbots is working on Billie Holliday's smoocher "That Ol' Devil Called Love." I always associate this with a gravel-voiced singer in a smoky bar, not a raw mezzo-soprano in a clean cut television studio. Abbots does a decent job, but it's not outstanding. Fox: "Fantastic." Waterman: "Smouldering." Cowell: "So sexy." Chapman: "Great." Is no one going to criticise the merely adequate?

+ William Young performs "We Are In Love," perhaps best known for Harry Connick Jr's hit a decade ago. It never quite soars, but it's surprisingly good. Waterman: "Brilliant job on a lousy song." Cowell: "Brilliant." Chapman reckons Young is well fitted for big band work. Fox: "Jam in my doughnut." That's just yucky, Fox.

+ Darius Danesh is singing "Let's Face The Music And Dance," the Nat King Cole number. There's a certain something in his voice, the way he almost sidles up to the note, that reminds me of the great crooners. Cowell: "Weakest of the night." Chapman passes her time recounting history. Fox: "Smooth." Waterman gets really animated and tells Cowell he's talking rubbish. Danesh suggests Cowell loosen his waistband, it's stopping blood flowing to his head.

In the results show, Waterman and Cowell had a real set-to about this comment, Cowell defending himself against charges of ageism, and using the B-word. Antan Dec is apologising. You can't say that on live network tv. Except they just did.

This would be the lightning rod to attract press attention next week, diverting it from the poor quality of Gates' performances. It diverted attention away from the amazing lack of backbiting, intrigue, or even public unhappiness amongst the remaining contestants. Indeed, one of the weekly celeb glossies led on the unity of the final five. It diverted attention from the rule - imposed by Nigel Lythgoe, the hit reality producer that no one's mentioning - restricting the search to those 25 and under. And it diverted attention away from the identity of the woman asking the question that sparked the handbags at 10 paces row: the managing director of the communications company sponsoring the show.

The judges reckon Abbots should go. The viewers vote off Abbots. Everyone is happy, almost.

Next week, the fair four tackle some Number One singles. Let's see, they could do "Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White," "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," "Mambo Number 5," and "Mr Blobby." But nothing that Antan Dec ever recorded.

Don't expect anyone to perform the GENERATION GAME theme - that show is being killed by POP IDLE, 3.3m to 8.9m. Do expect to see one reject, Jessica Garlick, again - she's performing one of the songs in consideration to be the UK's entry to May's EUROVISION SONG CONTEST.


[14] Christ's College Cambridge -v- Keele [10]

CCC beat Edinburgh in a low-scoring match in early August. Watch Lee Oliver, responsible for the majority of the college's points. Keele bested Nottingham on September 10. Ian Shepperson scored the majority of the points on that occasion. He's the identical twin of Paul Shepperson, a quarter finalist with Hull last year.

The smallest things can make a difference - Keele's Rob McElroy confused carbon-13 with carbon-14, a slip that lets CCC take 25. That side's Oliver Lee is allowed to mispronounce "gaol" as "goal."

Hidden student indicators of the week: CCC gets 3/3 on commemorative 50p pieces. Are they comfortable with small change in Cambridge? The teams combine to go 0/4 on football referees. The men in black (well, blue and red) may be famous, but not that famous.

Guess of the week:

Thumper: What name does BT give to ADSX exchanges, bought from [a company in] Sweden, in addition to System X?

CCC confers, and apologetically offers: System Y?

Thumper: Correct!

By the music round, Keele is in a deep hole, trailing 160-30. Some face is restored by the picture round, but 185-45 doesn't look good. CCC somewhat gives up when the lead exceeds 150 points, perhaps saving themselves for the next round. The final score is even worse, as an incorrect interruption brings Keele down to a series-equal-worst 40 points. CCC has 285.

The 245 point winning margin is this year's biggest. 40 ties St Andrews' low in the first round. Chris Martin took 98 for CCC, where the lowest member - Joe Dhesi - made 48. CCC took 26/48 bonuses, Keele 4/12.

I can't not mention the game show bonuses: TAKE YOUR PICK, WHAT'S MY LINE, and THE GENERATION GAME. The last, apparently, started as a Dutch format EEN VAN DER ACHT.

This completes the second round of competition. The full draw for the quarterfinals is:

[3] Newcastle -v- Edinburgh [5]

[7] St Hugh's Oxford -v- Imperial London [2]

[1] Somerville Oxford -v- Downing Cambridge [8]

[6] University College London -v- Christ's Cambridge [4]

The seedings are based on aggregate points: most starters break ties. For the record, I'm going for Imperial over Edinburgh, and UCL over Somerville in the semis.

The dream team: competitors scoring the most aggregate points:

Walker, Newcastle - 223

Kitson, Downing - 193

Austen, Somerville - 191

Kilford, Imperial - 174

The passengers team: competitors yet to shine on their teams:

Gooding, Downing - 68

Matthews, St Hugh's - 55

Lockley, Newcastle - 54

Ng, Downing - 46

Highest percentage of their team's totals:

Kitson, Downing - 48.3%

Walker, Newcastle - 46.0%

Foster, Edinburgh - 36.4%

Morton, St Hugh's - 36.3%

Most democratic team: UCL, who vary between 29.8% and 20.4%

Lowest percentage of team totals:

Lockley, Newcastle - 11.1%

Ng, Downing - 11.5%

Matthews, St Hugh's - 13.4%

Dhesi, CCC - 15.3%


Massive reductions on many great game show formats! FORT BOYARD must go - grab Leslie Grantham and some people in very small costumes indeed and you may get a free Melinda Messenger. Four seasons old, and still as good as ever.

GREED - free to anyone who can stump up a million pounds. Make it two and we'll throw in Jerry Springer's late night chat show.

UNDER PRESSURE has been sold to the Game Show Retirement Home at Challenge TV Acres.

And one barely used format, DESERT FORGES, is on the for sale list. Voted the Most Overlooked Game Show Of 2001 by a panel of game show columnist, Gaby and Richard's quest for the flame will have to continue in a new home.

Sealed bids and brown envelopes to Kevin Lygo, head of entertainment at Channel 5. He's also interested in bidders for NIGHT FEVER, but hasn't mentioned THE MOLE...


An opening sequence that reminds me of THE PEOPLE VERSUS, music that sounds a lot like THE PEOPLE VERSUS, lights straight off MILLIONAIRE. Anyone think this is a Celador production? Carol Vorderman, the woman best known as COUNTDOWN's Brainiest Vital Statistician, is our hosts. I'm reviewing the TAXI DRIVERS edition, aired Jan 16, 2002.

We meet the twelve finalists; all dressed neatly, most in suits and ties. They nominate a Specialist Subject, which will come into play much later. Each contestant stands behind a podium, arranged on a flight of steps leading into the audience.

In the opening round, there are 12 questions. One per contestant (like SHAFTED.) They're four-choice multiple choice questions (very MILLIONAIRE) with a 5 second response target (100%, especially with the slightly annoying music.) Carol gives the answer, says how many people got the question right, and lights dim on those who got the question wrong. That's actually quite very cute touch when you see it. The contestants can see the question and choices on some overhead projection screens behind Carol - when not in use, they display the show logo and coloured patterns.

After twelve questions, we need six to go through. Unfortunately for my review, they have exactly six players on eight or more correct, and six with seven or fewer right. There is a tiebreak procedure, but I'll have to come back to that at a later date.

After the break, the remaining six are arranged in a triangle on the Steps Of Destiny. Before answering proper questions, they have to crack a code using something similar to a telephone keypad. Letters are given to numbers (1=ABC, 2=DEF, ... 5=MNO 6=PQR, 7=ST, ... 0=YZ) and a number is given, along with a hint. For instance, Country 261512 is FRANCE; Inventor 223755 is EDISON. This takes longer to explain than to play. First to crack the code goes first; last goes last.

Twelve subjects on the board, first player has the pick. 45 seconds of rapid fire questions on the chosen topic, then down to the second player. After six players, return to the first player for the remaining six categories. The last person has no choice. The questions are displayed on the Big Screen, allowing the player to interrupt and pre-empt Carol's reading of the question. It also keeps the contestant looking up, at the camera. Highest three players on aggregate go through. Break after the first round of six; break again once the three to progress are known.

One of the suggestions on the ukgameshows Yahoo! Group was to have the first round last just 30 seconds, the second lasting 45. This gives contestants the dilemma of whether to ensure they take their favourite subject early for perhaps 7 points, or gamble on collecting 10 later. This would also shorten the second round, which does seem to drag on rather.

Anyway, we're down to three, standing side by side on the bottom Step Of Destiny. Again, a Codebreaker session determines the order or play. The three contestants are allocated a colour (red, yellow, blue) and choose squares on a 6x6 board. Five squares are given at random to each contestant's specialist subject; the remaining 21 squares are general knowledge questions. Everyone sees the colours on the board for 15 seconds, and then it's blanked again. Ten seconds to answer; one point for a general knowledge Q, two for one's own specialist subject, three for someone else's. This opens a decent tactical line of attack - should one go for 2-pointers, or spoil someone else's 2s, or go for the odd 1...

The noise when someone gets a question wrong in this round is, I think, meant to be like a gun failing to fire. It sounds a little more, er, watery...

Anyway, after five rounds of questions, we leave the board and declare a winner. The winner gets a nice piece of cut glass with the BRITAIN'S BRAINIEST logo.

Overall, this is a rather good show. Vorderman doesn't grate as much as many other presenters, and the visual presentation is perhaps the best I've yet seen in a studio show. The music isn't quite to my taste, more percussive than Matthew Strachan's usual work, but it doesn't distract from the overall impression.


Woof! DOG EAT DOG returns for its third series in slightly less than a year: 7 Saturday.

There's no MILLIONAIRE Sunday, but it does air Sa-Mo-Tu.

Readers who have only recently acquired ITV2 may wish to know that THE RACE repeats on Sunday from 8, with the Meet The Teams special. Over on BBC CHOICE at 9:30, Richard Bacon hosts RENT FREE, where the prize is a year in a house.

From my rusty old Radio Times for Wednesday: "8: WEAKEST LINK. Nine more contestants face termagant Anne Robinson." I've never heard her called *that* before! On ITV, Vorders tries to find BRITAIN'S BRAINIEST... Footballer.

Speaking of Vorders, the smart alec in Dictionary Corner is Tom O'Connor.

Radio active: RBQ has the North taking on Scotland. Freud, Fry, Merton and Liza Tarbuck are in a JAM. Durham, Bodycombe, and Val Gilbert are this week's Puzzle Panel. And listeners to the Russ Abbot Radio Show (Radio 2, 10pm Thu) may be entertained by MASTERBRAIN OF THE UNIVERSE. More Puzzle Panel and RBQ on the Radio 4 website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/

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