Weaver's Week 2002-05-18

Weaver's Week Index

18th May 2002

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

In the week when John McEnroe took control of THE CHAIR for the Beeb, this also happened:

- Ice-cool on the islands

- Equal prizes for gents and ladies

- Is it the same old challenge


Allow me to rant for a moment. It's now 2205, twenty minutes after SURVIVOR should have started, and we're still to see the first sight of Big Stumps. The football has overrun yet again. Last year, ITV got roasted for scheduling SURVIVOR at 2100 Monday and 2000 Thursday and running the interviews at any old hour. This year, the monkeying around with the schedules has meant to have every show (apart from one) start at 2145. They've actually begun at any time between 2144 and tonight's 2208. This foolish scheduling smacks of a desire not to garner big audiences, and to let the format drop. This would be a huge shame: this year's episodes have set a pace that might be tricky for other reality shows to follow.

Last week, Dave's time ended. For the first time in eight programmes - 24 island days - someone from South island must leave the game. Two weeks until the Phone Vote Of Power (Or Utter Pointlessness, Depending On Circumstances.)

Formerly North island (David, Drew, Alistair, Helen are on the jury.)

Formerly South island

+ Bridget, 42, Oxford. Getting on everyone's nerves.

+ John, 32, Winchester. Wet.

+ Jonny, 30, Edinburgh. Catching an alligator.

+ Susannah, 27, Wimbledon. The only married person left.

The South side have figured that they have to vote each other off. John is still trying to catch an alligator he saw in last week's show. The reward challenge is the same as at this stage last year: guess how much weight you've lost, best guess wins. Jonny, Suze, and John are all as (in)accurate as each other. They receive care parcels from their loved ones. Suze has a stuffed Mr Hankey and a T-shirt. Jonny has a bottle of wine, John a letter and a photo of his late father. Bridget has quiet time crying on her hammock.

Tree mail says that immunity begins at nightfall. The four are taken to a remote island. They're dropped off at points on the coast, and told to wait till they see a signal. The sun sets. No one knows what the heck is going on. I get it. They're going to keep them up all night, waiting for the signal, and then have some drowsy orienteering. It's also a chance for the four to be completely isolated for the first time since arriving.

Hmm. The whole show looks to be a repeat of last year's Four To Go: the weight challenge, and some orienteering.

Big Bats fires his flare gun, whistles blow. Each contestant gets a compass, a bearing, and gets going to the centre of the island. First there gets the amulet. John crashes on, Suze and Jonny are charging off in totally the wrong direction. Bridget trusts the fates and just wanders about looking for high ground. She gets to within the other side of the bush from Big Bails ... but then turns the other way. Jonny bumps into Suze, and then finds John's night shelter. Bridget has found something also, Jonny and Suze. John has a huge lead and arrives first. Good use of a picture of the island with everyone's routes marked on.

Any danger of Bridget teaming up with Suze to concentrate their fire on Jonny, coming to a pact on keeping each other to the final, and hoping Bree can beat Jonny in a play-off? No; neither she nor Suze knows about the J&J show. Bree prefers to discuss tea. She's as boring as the Sarah Kennedy radio show. If not worse. Will J&J be ganging up against Suze? Perhaps: croquet holds J&J's interest.

The care parcels included some spicy food. Baked beans and Parmesan cheese prove very strong. The next day, Suze catches crabs, and Snappy gets caught in the net. What does alligator taste like? C*i*k*n.

During the final break, turn to ITV2 and see who has been voted off. Interesting.

John and Jonny flatly deny having an alliance, but do admit to having an unbreakable bond. They share a birthday, and both started their record-buying careers with "DISCO."

The voting? Bridget 3, Suze 1. The mother hen is no longer clucking. Coming next, the News At Ten. Past Eleven.

To win tickets for the Survivor Live Final on May 29, visit www.itv.com/survivor and explain (in 20 words or fewer) why you should get the tix. Entries close at 9am next Monday, May 20.

Speaking of shows that were the victim of monkeying around in the schedules, X-FIRE returns on May 29.


The football season in England ended last Saturday. Not only is that the cue for Mark Nicholas to leave the Survivors in the undergrowth and start saying how rubbish England's cricketers are, but also the cue for Davina McCall to emerge from hibernation and take over the nation's television sets for the entire duration of the off-season. She'll be back in her box by the beginning of August, I expect.

Seven contestants wend their merry way to the studio. They're met by the usual meeters and greeters, and asked to scribble down a four figure number. This is compared with a four figure number that the Exec Producer (Patricia Mordecai) has scribbled down, and the three contestants with the most digits in common become the Players. The other four become Brokers.

The studio is rather similar to what I remember of SHAFTED's set, metallic and shiny and almost seeming to smell of chromium.

In round one, each Player takes their three minutes on national television. Davina gives them £1000 just for turning up, and asks ten questions. They can guess as often as they like, and a correct answer is worth £100. If it goes wrong, they can pass and come back. After attempting all ten, the Player can negotiate with the Brokers to provide a correct answer. If - for instance - the Broker agrees to trade for £300 and is correct, the Player gives them £300. If the Broker gets it wrong, they earn nothing. Answer all ten questions within the three minute limit, and there's a £5000 bonus. And, yes, there's a rule that says contestants can't end up owing money, though I think they can end up with nothing. Lowest score in this round takes an early exit. Hmm, I see no tiebreak rule...

So far, so good. Then comes round two, and the show begins to fall apart a little. The two surviving Players are given another grand, and invited alternately to answer questions for £200. They can negotiate with the Brokers, but have to get the answer out in 15 seconds otherwise it goes to the other player. Four minutes for the full round.

There are two things wrong with this: if none of the six people in the studio knows the answer, then we have thirty seconds of near dead air and forty seconds off the clock. Running the clock down by 20% is a lot, and half a minute where it's clear nothing is happening and nothing is *going* to happen is a very long time indeed. The other problem is presentational: we have the two contestants, their scores, a clock for the four minutes, a ticker for the 15 seconds, and a row of lights indicating who has the most correct answers. That's a heck of a lot of screen clutter - it's even worse with subtitles.

In the rules on the website, the answer was required within 10 seconds. That's too short to allow for negotiation, but keeps the game flowing. 20 seconds allows for meaningful negotiation, but a panel-beater would stall the game for nearly a minute. 15 seconds is perhaps the worst of both worlds - too short for sensible negotiation, too long for quick movement.

The person getting the most questions correct in round two gets a £5000 bonus. If it's a tie, the bonus is split. The Player with the lower amount of prize in the first two rounds is eliminated here.

What, I wonder, would happen if the best player in the game were one of the Brokers? The best a Broker can get is £1800 x 3 contestants who get 9/10 in round 1, plus £2000 and the correct answers in round 2 (say £1000). That's a total of around £8400, versus the £5000 bonus dished out in round 2. This is not covered in the rules. Neither is how the Brokers line up from left to right: given the cultural preference to start at that side, the Broker on the left is in a far stronger position than the others.

The highest scoring Player goes to the live broadcast of round 3. Yes, the previous two are taped, but this is live. Ten general knowledge questions, again they can negotiate, but a correct answer must be given to progress. After nine questions, the clock is stopped and the contestant can pick a category from three. They must answer this question on their own for the Big Jackpot.

If the Big Jackpot doesn't go, then there's a call to someone at home. They must answer six questions on their own within a minute to win the dosh, and without asking the Brokers.

Again, there's the opportunity - in fact, the probability - of great dollops of Dead Air in this final section. One panel beater stops the game dead. UKGSP contributor Nick Gates came up with the brainwave of allowing the contestant to buy answer X from Davina, with a cost equal to answer (X+1). So they could buy an answer, but would have to answer the next question on their own to come out even.

Earth Mother Davina is up there with Antan Dec as the best people in British television for live television. This isn't a flawed show, but it seems to be on the verge of going wrong right through: the haggling makes for excellent television, and the overall effect is highly entertaining and very nail biting. There are a few holes in the rules, and the dead air later in the show makes me feel like it's all falling apart. But the outcome is worth watching.

This doesn't quite live up to the hype I've seen from overseas correspondents, and I'm not sure it's more worthy of a primetime slot than THE ENEMY WITHIN. It is a welcome addition to the canon, and I hope to see a lot more of The Vault.


Jesus Oxford 86 -v- Univ Oxford 83

Jesus won in the year when the teams were physically above the year, and there was this bizarre baton thing where one player from each team answered two questions on a specialist subject chosen by the team trailing for the chance to answer a set of bonuses. This is even more pointless than it sounds. Univ were runners up to St Andrews', and Howard Turner was the team dynamo. Both of this week's teams feature The Original Reserve, taking the place of a member who is unavailable. Jesus refers to earlier shows in the series.

A very fast opening, with the first four starters and bonuses going equally and at a rate of knots. Jesus goes 3/4 on characters from the Hitch Hiker's Guide television series, but their lead is just two less than the Ultimate Answer.

Univ gets a hat trick on hat tricks, but Jesus - well, Simon Batten - goes 4/4 on modern British "garage" "music," much to Thumper's bafflement. The side is 70 points ahead after the music round, and goes 4/4 on the architecture on the Euro notes.

The lead is reduced to 55 with four minutes to go, but Jesus pulls away and they're not going to be caught. The final score: 260-185.

Geoff While (Jesus) top scored with 81, all four members beat 50. Turner's 57 topped for Univ. Jesus took 29/36 bonuses and 1 penalty, Univ 19/28 and 3 penalties. These are astoundingly good performances from both sides.

I've had reports suggesting that only four of the teams will be invited back for the final stages. This strikes me as a bit of a shame, as qualification depends more on the opposition's weakness than the team's strength.

The top ten:

345 Somerville 02

260 Jesus 86

240 Imperial 96

240 Univ Ox 73

225 Trinity Ca 95

225 Imperial 01

205 Merton Ox 81

200 Lancaster 80

185 Univ 83

180 Bradford 80

There is no UCR next week: we make way for grown men playing with their flowers in Chelsea.


It's been the week for the US networks to unveil their schedules for the television year beginning in September. NBC led the way, confirming that WEAKEST LINK won't be part of the lineup - it will air over the summer, and a syndicated version will continue, but that's it. The elder Crimson Glow One will develop other projects for NBC, including a talk show and a version of TEST THE NATION.

Britain's version of TEST THE NATION aired last Saturday, hosted by Annie and Phillip Schofield. Seventy timed questions in short bursts in around an hour, with answers taking 40 minutes to read out. Annie took so long in saying "The national ... intelligence ... test ... two thousand ... and ... two" that it was nearly 2004 by the time she'd finished. I've a slight objection to the way so much reliance was placed on a self-selecting group of webheads who took the test online; and a far greater problem with the way that there was no measure of how uncommon a score was. The average, we were told, was 100, but what was the standard deviation? Does a score of (say) 130 put someone in the top 15% of the population (as it would if the SD were 25); or the top 2.5% (if the SD were 15, as appeared to be the case) and hence a possible MENSA member. That spoiled a rather enjoyable evening, which will have raised the profile of IQ testing.

ABC has dropped from first to fourth this year, and has dropped MILLIONAIRE from the schedule. I am interested in PUSH, NEVADA, which promises a riddle for a cash prize.

The following is excerpted from the Digital Spy website www.digitalspy.co.uk:

A new Channel 4 show aims to find out what the viewing public thinks of realityshows. THINKTV, a live television debate forum, will launch with a discussion of realityshows. The show is looking for "exceptional" members of the public who have strong opinions on the subject. Those on the show will be able to "investigate and report on the reality television genre and given the opportunity to exchange and express their views with the producers in charge." It will be "crucial" for the people to have "a valid argument with the ability to deliver it on live television." The search is nationwide; if you're interested, please call Katrina on (020) 7686 2689, or email katrina@rogerbolton.co.uk The programme will commence live transmissions in June.


At 1920, IN IT TO WIN IT is the lovely new lottery show on BBC1. Dale Winton hosts. Lovely! THE WAITING GAME and FAMILY FORTUNES continue at 1830 and 2015 on their usual channels. THE VAULT moves to 1830.

This week's FEAR FACTOR is the twins special. 2100 Tuesday Sky 1.

And why not? Tim Brooke-Taylor completes his stint as the Smart Alec, replaced by Barry Norman on Thursday.

The little matter of BIG BROTHER begins. HOPEFULS continue overnight all week on E4. HOW NOT TO GET IN is repeated at 2000 Saturday, 1620 Sunday and 1600 Friday on E4, also at 2200 Monday on C4. Season premier of BIG BROTHER'S LITTLE BROTHER at 2030 Friday E4; then to C4 at 2100 for the Big Entry. Live coverage on E4 begins at 2200 until 1700 Saturday; C4 joins from 2335 to 0110.

Previews of the EUROVISION SONG CONTEST at 2030 and 0045 nightly from Monday to Thursday on Choice. There's also a Eurovision edition of NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS at 2100 Monday on 2, an ARENA special on what last year's win meant to Estonia at 2200 Saturday on 2, and Mike Cable attempts to be funny in NOT ANOTHER ANGUS DEAYTON SHOW ON EUROVISION at 2130 Wednesday on 1. Jenny Eclair will be on BBC CHOICE come show night.

Challenge TV relaunches as "Challenge ?" on Monday. The primetime lineup is as follows:

1705 FAMILY FORTUNES - our survey said...

1735 TELLY ADDICTS - Noel Edmonds and a beard (repeated 2230)

1815 PLAY ALONG DEFECTORS - an interactive version of the channel's best new show (repeated 2315)

1855 TREASURE HUNT - stop the clock!

1955 THE CRYSTAL MAZE - there's never plenty of time



Jeremy the Beadle will air in the coveted 4am slot. The fan will have set his alarm already.

Great Danes! Sandi Toksvig is the fourth member as I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE returns at 1830 Monday on Radio 4. On 92-95 FM, 198 long wave, via digital radio, digital satellite, digital cable, digital watches, real audio (http://support.bbc.co.uk/ogg/) and Real Audio (TM) (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/).

And bad news for the remaining Monkey Digital subscribers: E4 and Film Four will close next Friday.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day (usually Saturday), receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

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