Weaver's Week 2002-05-25

Weaver's Week Index

25th May 2002

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

In the week when twelve entered the BIG BROTHER house (details next week), this also happened:

- Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

- Musical chairs without the music

- Brainstorm!


Only three minutes late this week, and preceded by a trail for the hopelessly rigged Ecclestone Car Circus. Before the opening titles, a Previously On Survivor... I'm reminded that we've seen five challenges similar to one from the last series: the assault course in show 1, the holding your breath reward challenge from show 5, Standing On A Log from show 6, and last week's weight loss challenge.

Incidentally, does anyone else think that publicist David Blaine's "feat" of standing in the middle of New York on a coffee table for a day and a half pales into insignificance compared with three grown men spending more than a day on a log just six inches round?

Last week, mother hen Bridget was told to cluck off. One week until the Phone Vote Of Power (Or Utter Pointlessness, Depending On Circumstances.)

Formerly South island

+ John, 32, Winchester. Wet.

+ Jonny, 30, Edinburgh. Catching an alligator.

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

(Bridget is on the jury)

Formerly North island

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

Sixth familiar challenge was last year's final immunity. It's this year's final reward: how much did our contestants remember about their challenges? Suze walks this one easily. The challenge - but not the reward - is done in front of the jury members. Her prize is a pen and paper for an hour to prepare her speech. She is also given a mobile phone to call for a pizza and chocolate cake and drinks all round ... or anyone else in the world. She chooses husband Barnaby over lots and lots of food to share. J&J appreciate the dilemma.

The power of three will have to be broken. The winner of immunity today will choose their opponent in the final. The triad face their future philosophically before heading back to South Island. The challenge, Your Time Is Up, is amazingly simple. Big Shorts will give a signal, wait exactly one hour without artificial stimulation, light a torch, and leave a circle. The circle is symbolically decorated with the nine who failed to make it today.

John lights, then there's a long hiatus. Eventually, Suze lights, then Jonny waits a good minute before lighting his torch. Odd strategy.

The winner of immunity will be revealed tomorrow.

Suze reads Shakespeare to the other two. John was distracted and may have lit ten minutes too early. John wants to take Jonny to the final, but figures it might not be a smart move. Jonny reckons Suze would take John, but John figures Jonny would be the one, unless she figures John would be less popular. John and Jonny both figure that Suze is most likely to go through.

A surprise for next year? A challenge like this, but with the contestants completely isolated from each other. Two closest to the hour go through to the final and there is no vote.

At council, J&J pay tribute to Suze's intelligence, J&J to each other's friendliness and humour, qualities that Suze also praises.

Who has immunity? Jonny picked his torch at 1:09:39. Suze at 1:08:29. John picked his torch at 0:49:30. Susannah has immunity. Only she need vote, eventually deciding to eliminate John. He's played a blinder, but let down at the end.

Susannah -v- Jonny in the final.

I reckon John will vote for Jonny, with Drew and Dave also leaning that way. Suze might well be able to count on Alistair, with Helen and Bridget up for grabs.

Giving the viewer vote to Jonny, my prediction: Jonny, 5-2. I suspect John would have gone 6-0 on the island.

Last year's host, Mark Austen, has taken his big trousers back to South Asia, where he will be reporting on immunity challenges involving red cards and hyperbolic commentators. I rather preferred last year's tedium.


Top voiceover artiste Alan Dudleycoat introduces black and white shots of five people arriving at Television Centre. Each person is given a colour and a seat on Contestants' Row, and a Random Ball Blowing Thing blows out a coloured ball. That person walks across some circles in the middle of the floor to Winners' Row, made from the high-backed chairs borrowed from the FRIENDS LIKE THESE set. Didn't we see the circle thingies on FLT as well? The show's host, perma-tanned Dale Winton, asks the contestant some multiple-choice questions. Get one right; put £5000 into the prize fund. Get one wrong, and that contestant is off to the Red Area, and a replacement is drawn from the Random Ball Blowing Thing.

Before that new contestant answers a question, the contestant In The Red (oops, that was JET SET) must answer a question without choices. Get it right and the contestant returns to Winner's Row; get this wrong as well and it's back to Contestant's Row and hope for luck from the Random Ball Blowing Thing, which has had the balls for people on Winners' Row or In The Red subtly removed. The net effect is that no one can get drawn straight back to replace themselves, but it's a very clunky way of achieving a laudable aim.

As people in the Red Area get their question right, more and more people get to sit on Winners' Row, and Dale moves down the line of these people until someone gets one wrong. Even then he finishes going down the line before summoning the next contestant.

This stage of the show is a timed game, and when time expires, anyone sitting on Contestants' Row is eliminated. There's a tracking shot of them leaving the set. No one mention the Walk Of Shame. No one mention the possibility that someone can sit on Contestants' Row for the whole game without being drawn out by the Random Ball Blowing Thing. And no one mention the way this part of the show is like musical chairs, albeit without proper music.

After an advert for the Lottery Corporation, those on Winners' Row are asked one further question. Get it right, and they get a share of the jackpot accumulated during the first stage. Get it wrong, that share will be redistributed to the other contestants and they will leave ... with ... nothing. This would be the same finish as FRIENDS LIKE THESE, then, but without the emotional payoff of bonding a group of friends regardless of result. Cheques are presented after a further commercial for the Lottery Corp, and the contestants gush over significant sums of money.

The set is coloured blocks poking through a chrome background, looking perhaps like the insides of an igloo. Looking down on the proceedings is Relatives' Balcony; all they can do is wave and look concerned. Good idea, but they've done nothing with it. The sounds are strings and chords and it all sounds a bit like they've reused the notes from WINNING LINES.

The main part of the show quite literally goes round in circles - it's possible for a contestant to appear three or four times on Winners' Row and cycle to the red sofa half a dozen times. The contestants are encouraged to explain their answers, hum and haw on camera, and take a long time to answer a simple question. Dale occasionally reminds us that the clock is ticking, but we have no idea how long the game is, or when they'll cut to an insert for the Lottery Corp. An on-screen clock would add to the tension. Perhaps they don't want to make the show tense, but the lack of a clock makes it all seem rather arbitrary; the all-or-nothing final format and distinct chance that someone will leave without a moment on national television adds to that feeling of arbitrariness.

Dale is that bit too charmingly nicey-nicey lovely-lovely for what could be a very cruel format. Perhaps it would profit from being hosted by a menacing figure in black who would make the contestants feel about two inches high, but then Sean O'Kane was probably unavailable. This show is sponsored by the Lottery Corporation, and they want to promote themselves as kind and generous and people who pat kittens on the head, not a group associated with taking huge amounts of money off the innumerate, squandering it on white elephant projects, and generally being a nuisance to society.

To summarise: this could be a decent format. It really needs to speed up, a clock to add tension would be useful, and a more hard-nosed presenter than Dale might go down well.


In last week's review of THE VAULT, I mentioned how two of the home player's questions are answered on the show already. This week's home contestant was stumped by one of these questions. Earth Mother Davina rescued an embarrassing situation by making a joke of it, not by calling the viewer on her lack of observation skills. Reports that the production staff has named this section "Phone A Plonker" are just the rantings of a hyperactive imagination. If it turns up in Media Guardian, my fee's a monkey (woollen or cash.)

From our Bad Questions department: In It To Win It asked "How many megabytes are there in a gigabyte? 10, 100 or 1000" [1]

The BBC will pay a five-figure sum to a man misrepresented on the reality-show-that-wasn't-a-gameshow. Ron Copsey dropped out of the CASTAWAY project just before halfway, only to find the editors had put together footage that made him far more aggressive and unpopular than he really was. This opens the way for other contestants to sue their editors for using misleading footage.

Interesting to read the capsule review of FRIEND OR FOE, a show that will debut on the US Game Show Network (their equivalent of Challenge ?) in June. Players form teams of two and endure a multiple choice question-and-answer phase where both must agree. When a team leaves the game, they must determine how their money will be divided - two "Friend"s will split, two "Foe"s mean they both go with nothing, a split vote gives the money to the Foe. I hope this show fares better than a British show with very close similarities, SHAFTED.

Channel 5 will launch a new daytime game show in the 1330 slot formerly occupied by OPRAH. BRAIN TEASER will begin July 8, and give away the suspiciously precise amount of £4750 per show. It'll run till the end of the year.

The first BIG BROTHER eviction will take place this Friday, and it's the reverse of the usual model. Viewers vote for which two of the 12 they want to put up for removal, and the housemates decide which one goes.

[1] Er, 1024.


Deep breath...

This Saturday's line up: (BBC One) 1735 Friends Like These, 1830 Waiting Game, 1910 In It..., 2000 Eurovision (to 2300) More Eurovision on BBC Choice from 1900 to 0000. (ITV) 1750 Blankety Blank, 2015 The Vault. That'll be more monkeying about with the schedule.

YOUR WORLD CUP PITCH appears 1735 Sunday on ITV; this may be regional. It's a quiz about some football tournament or other. ITV has sent Mark Austen there, so they evidently don't expect anyone to watch.

CALL MY BLUFF returns to BBC1 at 1230 Monday. FLOG IT! invites people to sell their antiques at auction; BBC2 1530 weekdays.

Anthony Wilson and Charlotte Hudson host TOPRANKO!, a general knowledge quiz on C5 at 1900. Review in the coming weeks.

UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE REUNITED pits St Hilda's Oxford 65 against Dundee 84.

This week's FEAR FACTOR is the Playmates one that was pitched against the Stuporbowl. 2030-2115.

Martin Jarvis: This week's Martin Jarvis is Barry Norman (Mo, Tu), Martin Jarvis (from Wednesday.)

X-FIRE makes a belated return to C4 at 1800 We.

A repeat of the Footballer's WEAKEST LINK at 2000 We.

Survivor Raw: Sa 1135; Su 1430, 2330; Tu 2340

The SURVIVOR FINAL runs from 2100 on ITV. After a break for the NEWS AT TEN at ten, we find out the winner from 2220. Audition tapes on 2 during the news, scenes from the party afterwards. The whole thing is repeated from 2030-2320 on ITV2 on Friday.

THE RACE (remember that?) finishes at 2350 Thursday on ITV2.

All the Big Brother coverage: C4 Live: Sa 2300-0035; E4 Live: Sa 0600-1530, 2005-2100 Su 0100-1645 Mo 0000-1900; Other weekdays from about 2300-1900. C4 (all one hour): Su 1300, 2200 Mo 0105 (30 minutes) Weekdays 2200 and early next morning. BBLB on E4: Monday - Thursday, 1900 and about 2230. Friday: BBLB on C4 at 1830, EMD hosts the first eviction 2030-2100 and 2200-2235; live coverage on C4 2305-0115.

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