Weaver's Week 2002-02-02

Weaver's Week Index

2nd February 2002

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

This week:

- The fair four are pruned

- UC moves into the quarters

- And why a politics graduate was humiliated on national television


Over on BBC2 right now is an edited omnibus of WALK ON BY, tracing the history of popular music since the First World War. The entire series reminded me that a lot of pop music has been eminently disposable, but the construction has always been kept in the shadows until recently. Antan Dec introduces the remaining contestants as the "Fab Four."

The performances this week are Number One Singles of the contestant's choosing: one up tempo, one ballad. There's a live orchestra and backing singers, too. They've also staged a press conference.

+ Gareth Gates hums and haws his way through the press conference, then dresses as Robert Williams for a photo shoot. He looks totally out of place and ill at ease. The fast song is "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go," a chart topper for Wham! in 1984. Gates has picked a very tough track to emulate; anyone over the age of 25 will remember George Michael's sterling vocal work from first time round. There's a lyric that goes "I wanna hit that high," and heads to a high note. Gates doesn't make it. He fluffs a link, and then launches into "Unchained Melody," perhaps best known for Sir Jimmy Young's 1955 version. This has been recorded by a dozen other acts, including judge Simon Cowell's protégés Robson Green and Jerome Flynn. They sold a million copies in six weeks. Gates was better there, but not brilliant.

Cowell reckons Gates will have a #1 with this; he should know, he's the man capable of taking poor singers to the top. Westlife. Waterman is impressed with the way Gates recovered from the unexpected start of the second tune. Chapman reckons the backing vocals were overpowering. Fox spots the first was karaoke, but rates the second.

I've not mentioned Gates' stammer before now, but it's really noticeable this week. It's all we saw of the press conference, it hit the segue, and forces Antan Dec to ask and answer the questions.

On a sidebar, the choice of song invites comparison between Gates and Michael. It became very clear very early in Michael's career that he was not only a performer with shuttlecocks down his trousers, but also a highly talented songwriter. Gates is a one trick pony by comparison.

+ Darius Danesh is gobsmacked when he hears how Britney Spears liked his audition tape of "Baby One More Time." He poses as Arnie for the photo shoot - it's meant to be Bono, but isn't. He performs "It's Not Unusual," a chart topper in 1965 for Tom Jones. The stage presence is there, and while we'll never confuse Danesh with Jones, this is another stonking performance. He introduces Natasha from Atomic Kitten in the audience, and then performs "Whole Again," #1 for the group just a year ago. This is a scaled back, strings and little else performance. I think we have a winner. Waterman is blown away. Chapman has found the sexiness she's found missing. Fox spotted the stage presence. Cowell reckons Danesh was ... fantastic. Waterman makes faces.

+ Zoë Birkett's photocall was as one of Destiny's Child. She performs "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," Whitney Houston had the #1 in 1987. Birkett gives it all her considerable lungpower, and gyrates on the stage. A karaoke classic, "The Power Of Love" provided a 1985 best seller for Jennifer Rush. Rush's is the dictionary definition of power ballad, and Birkett tries to belt out the tune in the same way. It doesn't quite work; I think a more restrained approach might have worked better. Chapman reckons that these choices were beyond her capabilities. Fox doesn't say much. Cowell is amazed she got through the backing track. Waterman reckons this was a step too far.

+ William Young dresses as someone with a black frightwig. It was meant to be that bloke out of Jamiroquai? Oh. He performs "There Must Be An Angel," a chart topper for the Eurythmics in 1985, in a wonderful ballad version. No Angels, the winners of Popstars in Germany, made a straight cover of the upbeat original, but this is far better. The other is the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" from 1978, perhaps a song that exposes a weakness in his voice. There's gruffness, a bark that doesn't belong. Fox is happy, and upstages Cowell, who reckons Danesh pipped Young for performance of the night. Waterman also reckons Young has peaked. Chapman reckons these were strong performances. Young also reckons that he "doesn't know" what his style would be were he to win. Does he know where he's going in this?

What is the secret to Gareth's success? He's totally out of his depth, but he's cute, he's been picked up by one of the tabloids, and he appeals to young girls. That constituency will turn out and vote in Saturday evening television phone polls. It will vote early, and it will vote often.

The pap panel reckons that Birkett is on her last legs. Birkett does leave. Even in the last three weeks, it's been clear that the voting public has followed the indications of the judges without fail. Those who have been following the show since the voting began tell me that this has been the pattern right through. Is Cowell leading the charge to dump the other contestants in favour of the most pliable, most easily to sell model? Only time will tell.

3.7 million votes is, according to Antan Dec, the highest total ever for a UK phone vote. Not so, say the 6.7 million votes cast for last year's BIG BROTHER final. I've also noticed that we're not seeing the voting figures at all - there's no way for us to know if the majority removing a contestant is wafer thin, or clear cut.

Next week, the three remaining contestants perform tracks chosen by the judges. The tepid three have been in the studio, recording a version of "Evergreen," which (apparently) is on Westlife's most recent album. Cathy Dennis contributes "Anything Is Possible," with day-to-day management by judge Chapman.

Open question: how much of Gareth's (sorry, the winner's) royalties will go to the winner? There will be huge clawbacks for the studio, he won't have written any songs on the album, and the promo budget will be non-trivial. One for "Where Are They Now" in fifteen years, doubtless.


Into the Quarter Finals! My picks are marked with a star.

[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]

Newcastle had a winning tie with Downing, and beat Salford. Edinburgh lost to CCC, but beat Hull and Wadham. Thumper points out these are the only two institutions north of Spaghetti Junction to make it this far.

Thumper's in a tetchy mood (already!,) deeming "children of god" wrong for an answer that should have been "sons of god." There's a vague argument that it all depends whether one is using a politically correct bible translation, but best to let it pass.

Interruption of the week: Thumper: Which derived SI unit is defined as one unit of pressure... Mary-Ellen Foster, Ed: Pascal. Thumper [raises eyebrows] Pascal is correct.

Newcastle doesn't get off to the best of starts. In fact, each member of the Edinburgh team answers at least one starter correctly, and the team aggregates 100 points, before Newcastle scores.

Sartorial note of the week: Two of the Edinburgh gentlemen have turned up in suits with very large flowers in their buttonholes. We won't forget that in a hurry.

Hidden Student Indicators of the week: Edinburgh goes 0/3 on the works of Emile Durkheim, the founder of modern sociology. Newcastle thinks that Belgium has a flourishing bobsleigh team. These are crucial to pinpointing the gaps in the knowledge of the modern student.

Familiar answer of the week: Which Scottish MP succeeded Ted Heath as Father of the House after the June election? [1]

Though they don't do too well on the bonuses, Edinburgh gets most of the starters and runs out winners by an almost embarrassingly large margin. When they did get starters, Newcastle got most of the bonuses. Again, the stats don't give justice to the bonhomie of the programme - the contestants were clearly enjoying themselves, making this a great, almost fun-packed, show to watch.

Quarter scores: taken after the first picture, music, second picture, final:

NEW 0 45 50 20 (115) 13/18 bonuses

EDI 80 55 50 105 (290) 28/52

Foster is the top scorer, accounting for nine starters and 117 points. Walker finishes top scorer for Newcastle, amassing 255 points, 42.5% of the team total.

[1] Tam Dayell, an answer here just a few weeks ago.


According to the blurb, this is the show where the viewer plays %deity%. Which deity? On Mount Olympus, Mercury wouldn't take my calls. From Valhalla, Loki deemed the idea "a joke." Coryfalcon hadn't spotted any unusual activity, while Navitcu said he would have watched, but reception of satellite telly just doesn't happen from a north facing cave. The only deity I've found who has seen this show is Perry Vale, native deity for what is now a suburb of west London.

After the selection tapes, the Eden six boarded a plane for Australia, and endured a ten hour hike to their camp. Along the way, a stash of chocolates and sweets was discovered. The viewers were asked if they should be confiscated, as bringing food is against the rules. Perry wondered how come, if the viewers were playing %deity%, there were such prescriptive rules in the first place.

When they arrived, the producers appeared to have a bit of a problem on their hands. No one wanted to assume the role of leader. Without a leader, the game that the producers planned falls to bits. Eventually, one of the group steps forward. But even this doesn't satisfy these rule thingies, which insist on an election for leader. Again, Perry wonders from where these rules spring, and doesn't this mean that the viewers are only being asked to decide the trivialities within a framework set by the producers.

Once again, the leading deity in a square mile of west London strikes the nail on the head. We can't have viewers taking on the role of "deity". As a quick gander at the web forum - http://www.channel4.com/eden/ - will demonstrate, this will reduce the show to the equivalent of the adult channels before one can invoke Al Petton. The world is not ready for a real TRUMAN SHOW. Viewers do not have the power to dictate when someone eats, sleeps, shaves... and this is no bad thing. Sadly, this was the show's main selling point, and without it, there's not much to distinguish it from other shows involving people being isolated from the world.

Oh, there are a few other gimmicks. The viewers vote on some of the contents of a weekly airdrop, following or ignoring the requests of the contestants. And there's a web hut, allowing the contestants to read the comments of the viewers, and reply to a few. The voice over is an unremarkable female, the title music and graphics are decent, but nothing to write home about.

Some of the votes are done by internet poll, others by premium rate phone lines. The show is a miracle of satellite technology: events are shot in Australia, edited on site, and beamed back for transmission in the UK. It resembles BIG BROTHER in other ways: people are voted in and (presumably) out, and there are arguments over how much to eat and how much to save for later.

As with all reality shows, this stands or falls on the quality of the contestants. So far, this show has been astoundingly dull viewing, but it might yet improve. I am surprised that C4 would commission a series that treads such similar ground to their massive smash BIG BROTHER; there's already plenty of series showing people isolated from the world, and yet another might well lessen the likelihood of viewers accepting a third series of BB.


Monday's team on WEAKEST LINK tried to start with nine correct answers. They came so close, answering seven correct to face what is (I think) the first £800 question ever: Anne: Which Australian artist published his autobiography, "Can You Tell What I Did Yet..."? Link: (er) Kylie Minogue? [1] She's off by the end of the round.

Later in the show, a young politics graduate received the following question: Anne: In September 2001, who was elected leader of the Conservative party? Link: [thinks] [looks down at his shoes] [thinks some more] [you can see the panic all over his face] [12 seconds later...] Pass [2]

To complete the review last week: The tiebreaker for the first round of BRITAIN'S BRAINIEST is a fill in the missing word, such as: Paper --- Letter. [3] Hardly worth it, really.

A press release from ITV proclaims Bruce Forsythe's Back! The host will bring back a version of PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT, unceremoniously axed by the commercial channel less than two years ago. The new show, offering a top prize of £250,000, may well air under the US format name, CARD SHARKS.

[1] Rolf Harris

[2] Isn't he the guy that sounds like Tony Hawkes? [4]

[3] Chain

[4] Hawkes, the comedian; not Hawk, the skateboarder


Sunday MILLIONAIRE makes a comeback this week, at 8. CALL MY BLUFF returns to BBC1 weekday daytimes at midday. We have US WEAKEST LINKs on Monday and Thursday, UK versions on Tuesday and Wednesday, and tennis on Friday. ITV seeks a brainy estate agent on Wednesday, which is better than looking for an honest one. That's opposite Prime Time WEAKEST LINK.

On the radio, the Midlands and Wales meet in Round Britain Quiz; Graham Norton, Iain Duncan Smith, Jenny Eclair and Sir Tim Rice battle in JAM; Angela Newing, Rob Eastaway, and Victor Bryant guest on Puzzle Panel.

Radio 3's LEBRECHT LIVE (Wed, 6:45) will cast a snooty eye over Channel 4's plans to make a series out of singers' auditions for the English National Opera. Watch this space... coming soon... OPERA DIVA!

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