Weaver's Week 2002-03-16

Weaver's Week Index

16th March 2002

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

In the week when it emerged Bubble and Dean from BIG BROTHER 2 will be recording a record for the forthcoming World Cup, we also saw:

- The end of one challenge

- The beginning of another

- And the book of something else


[2] Imperial London -v- Somerville Oxford [3]

Minor correction of the week: some of the references to Imperial in the semi-final were to UCL. University College is one of Imperial's most deadly rivals, and I'll clearly never be able to walk down Exhibition Road without being shot at. Not that I'm likely to be walking down Exhibition Road. Or Woodstock Road.

Useless fact of the week: Somerville won the opening match of the season, back on July 23.

Somerville gets off to a cracking start. After three starters, they've scored 65 and lead by 75.

Religious fact of the week: Somerville goes 3/3 on dancers in the Bible, and 1/4 on pictures of St George slaying a dragon. This is turning into a rout; after the first picture, their lead is 100, and it's not until starter eight, and a deficit of 140, that Imperial gets something right. It's by three quick questions on scientific measures of light, to which Imperial applies the "The Answer Is Lux" method. Imperial gets the music round, allowing Darius Fidgett to pronounce "Bob Dylan" as if he didn't know who he was. I'm sure he does, really.

This starts a massive revival for ICL, reducing the gap from 145 to 25 in five starters. Though if the twelve steps are used by The Sealed Knot - a Civil War re-enactment group - I'd be amazed.

Game on! Sirola goes 4/4 for Somerville on Olympic mascots, Imperial replies with 20 on "Usher"s. Somerville takes chaos theory to extend the lead to 50.

Three and a half minutes. Imperial's Irises carry no bonus, but rods prop them up by 5. Literary characters cut the gap to just five.

Sirola gets a starter on Rabalet, and Somerville has bonuses on teeth. The team gets none of the three, but run the clock down... and out. Baroness Mary Warnock hands over the trophy. This was the best match of the series by a long way. I'd put the Edinburgh - Newcastle quarter final as the next best.

Hayes 72 Rao 42 Fidgett 18 Kilford 53

ICL -10 35 95 65 (185) 18/33 bonuses, 3 penalties

SVO 90 60 20 30 (200) 20/33 bonuses, 2 penalties

Pitcher 73 Sirola 81 Austen 26 Wood 20

Imperial's top scorer overall was Kilford, Hayes falling just 14 behind. Somerville's Pitcher led with 382. Both Kilford and Pitcher scored fractionally over 30% of their team's points.

A special fortieth anniversary series of UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE begins soon. Details next week.


7500 applied, twelve went, only one can win. In the immortal words of Richard O'Brien, who are these people? We get snatches of footage from home while the dubious dozen are en route.

The Red team, North island

+ Alistair, 34, Motherwell. Superfit, swam and played rugby for Scotland. Ex-RAF, now oil company boss.

+ Drew, 27, Abingdon, female. Cop turned fire-fighter, terrified of starvation and dehydration.

+ David, 54, Newcastle. Fireman and Newcastle Utd supporter.

+ Helen, 22, Sheffield. Hotel worker, lives with mother, loves to travel.

+ Meetah, 34. Financial manager, says she's a nice guy, may get mean.

+ Tayfun, 27, London. Latin American dancer, fitness addict. Relying on humour to survive.

The Blue team, South island

+ Bridget, 42, Oxford. Shepherd with two daughters.

+ John, 32, Winchester. Barrister and ex-Marine.

+ Jonny, 30, Edinburgh. Detective, relying on honesty.

+ Lee, 25, Essex. Car sales manager and DJ. Has no patience.

+ Sarah, 22, London. Trained on a sun bed.

+ Susannah, 27, Wimbledon. Teacher, married, missing hubby already.

Purely from these descriptions, I nominate Lee as first off, Bridget as the winner. I have no idea how inaccurate these predictions are, but the word "very" springs to mind.

What we need round here is less ritual, and more fun. First error is Tayfun of North Island, and it's a classic. A machete does not float. Tayfun is a Cambridge graduate; from this performance, he might have been rejected by St Andrew's (40 points). He will surely be the first person off team red, and they're still clearing the boat. Drew, also of North, is spewing, South have mispacked their canoe and take on a lot of water. Less ritual and more fun already.

Tayfun says to camera that he had a plan to make a few mistakes. Losing the machete was not one of them. Alistair leads there, while Sarah is sitting around doing nothing on the South side.

Cut to the immunity challenge. Jeremy is wearing a very natty red neckerchief. The challenge is a super-Krypton-Factor assault course, over bog and through jungle, to retrieve a chest. Then open the chest, pick out the matches, wade out to sea, light the beacon. Very spectacular. Very muddy. Very good fun. Don't forget to go over the gate, not round it. South is first alight.

Wasn't there a sting in the tail about here last year? "However," said Big Scarf, "Susannah failed to clear one of the obstacles, so lost South the challenge." And some matches and an axe, the prize for North's winners.

On Isle du Sud, Bridget reckons there are no alliances. Johnny and John think about taking Suze under their wing, Lee's approaches look like they'll be spurned.

Big Scarf walks down the Avenue of Fire. And the tedious-as-anything fire representing life on the island gubbins. This is the Less Ritual, More Fun show, so don't go forgetting that!

The voting is, once again, first past the post. No danger of anything so democratic as Concordat voting here. Not that it makes much difference, the voting is unanimous: Sarah's out.

If you came in late and wanted to watch Raw, you've missed almost ten minutes of the 17 minute edited highlights show. The schedule looked so good on paper, but that's reckoning without ITV's notorious inability to stick to even a vague approximation of the published schedule. The next programme, NEWS AT TEN, begins at 10 o'clock. And 56 minutes.

I don't think it's too far off the mark to say that last year's season opener was one of ITV's worst hours of programming ever. This is a better hour. It *had* to be a better hour. It's not - yet - an unmissable hour of television, but this show shows more signs of promise.

Last year's fiasco seemed to be on the minds of viewers: the show picked up 4.2m / 23%. The interview show, broadcast at the deathly hour of 11:15, puller 2.2m / 21%. By comparison, Charlie's Dimmock took 4.1m / 18% earlier in the night.

Next week: the enigmatic eleven, and I might cast my eye over RAW.



Michael Wylie and Damian Eadie

Granada Publishing, £9.99

The latest tie-in for Richard and Carol's television institution proclaims that it's "All you'll ever need to know about the Channel Four show." This is not strictly accurate, but it's more right than wrong.

Eadie wrote most of the book, and in a very readable style. With the book structured into short chapters, this makes for a straightforward read that tends to be a bit moreish. There's an opening section telling the origins of Countdown, from DES CHIFFRES ET DES LETTRES through CALENDAR COUNTDOWN, and goes into some detail about the bizarre scoring system used in the YTV version.

The producers dedicate eight pages of the book to themselves, and 16 to studio stars. There are long profiles of just about everyone involved in the recording. I found this to be the only disappointing section, as some of the profiles are overlong and tend towards too many in jokes.

There's an excellent section describing the audition process, ten pages to "Richard and Carol" then 22 to the celebrities in Dictionary Dell. Contestants only get six pages, which I feel doesn't do the parade of intellect full justice. There's hardly any mention of luminaries like (to pick two names at random) Scott Mearns and Wayne Summer, without whom the show would be nothing.

A brief explanation behind the New Oxford Dictionary of English, then a blow-by-blow account of a recording session. There isn't an actual shooting script, but this is not a serious omission.

The final section is rather bitty, mentioning the Edinburgh Countdown Club and the 3000th programme celebrations. The junking of nineteen years of history by extending the show to 45 minutes is covered in barely a page, with some chapters still indicating the show is 30 minutes long.

This is not a book to help you win Countdown - for that sort of tip, look to Newby and Meade's COMPLETE COUNTDOWN COMPANION (Boxtree, 1990). There's no mention of early 90s curio COUNTDOWN MASTERS, little note of 98's CELEBRITY COUNTDOWN, and - rather oddly - no picture of Carol Vorderman. Susie Dent is on the cover, so all sins are forgiven.

These quibbles aside, this is an eminently readable book, with plenty to interest the serious Countdown aficionado, and something for the occasional viewer.


Another Saturday night, another BBC1 line up. QUESTION OF SPORT at 5:35, GENERATION GAME 6:05, DOG EAT DOG 7, JET SET 7:35. Tonight's MILLIONAIRE is at 8:25 and is not interactive - an extra showing for SURVIVOR:RAW airs on ITV2 instead. CLASS OF revisits 1977.

THE RACE journeys on from Varanasi to Kolkota. Still to break its stride, I feel.

Patrick Mower is the Smart Alec in dictionary corner.

BBC2 has nightly coverage of the TECHNO GAMES, featuring all sorts of mechanised contraptions being given silly things to do. Philippa Forrester hosts at 6:45 weekday evenings.

The usual four hours of SURVIVOR on Wednesday night begins at 9:45, with ITV2 repeats Friday 8:30 and one or more next week.

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