Weaver's Week 2002-09-14

Weaver's Week Index

14th September 2002

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

In the week when Comedy Central threw BATTLEBOTS on the scrapheap, this also happened:

- A new UC spinoff?


- And the Losers Doc


First round, match 2: UMIST -v- Clare Cambridge

UMIST lost to Edinburgh in 95's first round, made the semis in 2000, and were the first side turned over by Bailliol Oxford the following year. It's Clare's first appearance in the modern era. Their nude calendar wins friends, but not an appearance on NAKED UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE. That's ITV's new hit show.

It's not a high-scoring week, Clare having the better of the opening exchanges. The Cambridge folk pull away, and but a run of concise and science starters allows UMIST to pull ahead by the music round. It's neck and neck through to the second picture round, a study of earthworm biology. This is the first of three Clare starters that result in 0/3 bonuses. The lead extends to 65, but then UMIST comes back. Not quickly enough, Clare wins 200-165

Gratuitously long starter of the week (1): What name was given to the translation of the bible published in 1976 by the American Bible Society, derived...

Richard Eyre, Clare: The Good News Bible.

GLSotW (2): The Cobbler, Foinavon, and Ben Loyal are among 221 Scottish hills given what designation ...

Richard Flower, Clare: Monroes

Thumper: Wrong ... being over 2500 feet high, but under 3000 feet?

The answer is Corbetts.

Good starter of the week: What word can mean all of the following: a small Roman coin; one sixtieth of an apothecary's fluid drachm, a short vertical stroke in calligraphy, or a musical note with the value of two crotchets? James Bench-Capon, Clare: Minim.

Footlights of the week: Clare goes 3/3 on stage directions. UMIST responds with 3/3 on amino acids.

Obvious starter of the week: Which war followed the death in 1700 of the childless Charles II, last of the Hapsburgs to rule Spain...

Bench-Capon: The War of the Spanish Succession.

Thumper Does Know Some Science: -273 is absolute zero on the Celsius scale, not the Fahrenheit.

Andrew Ruddle was the week's top scorer, making 75 for UMIST. Bench-Capon took 70 for Clare. UMIST 16/30 bonuses, 3 missignals; Clare 17/36, 1 missignal.

Next: University College London -v- Jesus Oxford


(Talkback for E4, 1733 and late night weekdays)

So, who has gone up to people in the street and told them that they're far less good to look at than you? And how many of you who answered "yes" to the last question haven't had to repair a broken nose very shortly after? This show allows the contestants to say exactly that to other people, and win money if a bunch of total strangers (the studio audience) agrees. Our contestants are a male-female couple, who are in a long-term relationship.

Simple format, simple gameplay. The show starts with the quickfire round: ten pairs of celebs are shown, and our pair have to work out which the audience voted more highly before the recording. Ten pounds per correct answer, one minute to sort ten pairs. This is a nice aperitif to the next course.

In round two, the contestant is pitted against random strangers, and has to judge whether they or the picture is deemed more attractive. Ten pairs between the couple, £25 per answer. So far, so so.

It gets better after the break. Six people known to one or other (or both) of the contestants are brought in, and the contestant has to judge whether the audience voted for their partner, or the guest. This can cause some rows, or strife, or mass hilarity. The stakes go up at this point: each correct answer is worth the total winnings from the first half.

For the finale, the contestants have one final pair of faces to judge, in a double-or-quits situation. This tends to cause non-trivial strife, as both must agree on what is a personal decision. This is also the only time that the audience is asked to vote on a male-female split.

June Sarpong and Jimmy Carr host the show, and keep it bubbling along. It's never going to break speed records, but neither does it end up plodding along. It's a relaxed show, with everyone in informal, comfortable sofas and armchairs.

From the basic format description, one would think the show could get catty and snippy and generally nasty. It's none of these: it's good humoured, polite, and everyone has a bundle of fun. One really can't ask for much more than that.

One episode was a BB special, in which we found that Nick Bateman has been signed as The Narrator in the touring Rocky Horror Picture Show. This might actually be a sensible choice.


(Tiger Aspect / Mast Media for BBC1, 1231 weekdays)

The opening sequence suggests this is going to be a mid 90s throwback, with a cheesy light orchestral backing and orange colour scheme. The set, all silver circles and illuminated podia, could be yet another WEAKEST LINK clone. The arrangement of players, three down one side and four - referred to only by their occupation, and collectively as The Workforce - is straight out of THE VAULT. Don't be fooled by appearances: Judgemental is none of these.

The gameplay is different from the norm, but nothing earth-shattering. Each member of The Workforce is introduced by age, job title, and location. No name. The Players - the three on the other side of the studio - have to guess how long it will take this person to answer four general knowledge questions correctly. The maximum guess is one minute; there's no minimum stipulated, but it would be very difficult to rattle off four questions and answers in under 20 seconds.

At this stage of the game, the Players can only draw on their stereotypes of age, occupation, appearance, gender, eye colour... The format seems to encourage shallow thinking, but there is a twist. The closer one is to the actual answer, the fewer points one scores. Get it spot on, and any points accrued previously in the round are wiped out, the score going down to zero. Stereotypes have their place, gut instinct has its place, but getting it spot on relies on luck. The highest aggregate score after all four Workforce members have played has been least accurate, and leaves the game.

Strategies: For the Players, almost all completions will fall in the range 20-60 seconds, and are probably Normally distributed with a mean around 40 or 41 seconds. In the absence of any other data, a guess in this area would usually result in qualification. For the Workforce, it's advantageous to not do brilliantly in this round, and give the illusion of weakness for later in the game.

After the first round, each member of the Workforce gives three facts about themselves and their interests.

In the second round, six specific categories are presented. Something like "Spanish Painting" or "DIY", rather than "Art" and "Crafts." The two remaining Players pick a category in turn, and their opponent picks one of the Workforce to answer questions against the Player picking the category. The Player scores one point for each question they get correct during 45 seconds of questions; the member of the Workforce is graded on the number of questions they block from being answered. Each Player picks two categories; members of the Workforce can be chosen more than once. The higher score at the end progresses.

Strategies: For the Player, it's obviously good to pick a category you know something about. Less obviously, pick a category that seems to fall between the interests of the various Workforce members. This is where the Workforce member who did well but not too well in the opening round profits: they're likely to get picked, and to do well here.

The day's winner is then invited to sweep the board. They must answer 10 questions, on the buzzer, against the Workforce, in 90 seconds. Four against one, three against another, then two, then one. The prize starts at £250, and doubles with each person completed. The winner can stop after completing a person, but if time expires, they fall back to the previous level. The winner is entitled to pick the order in which they play the Workforce.

It's to the Workforce's advantage to be picked early - the first person to play will certainly face four questions, and probably a lot more; the second person will probably play, but the last in line almost certainly won't. If the Workforce member doesn't play, they can't block, and can't rack up their grade.

All this strategising pays off at the very end of the show, as the most successful member of the Workforce will return on the next day's show as a Player. Quite how the "statistics" are worked out is a mystery (more shades of WL?) but it appears to be weighted heavily in favour of answering questions correctly, slightly against the Player getting it right, and more heavily against incorrect interruptions. Performance in the opening round may be factored in, or used to break ties.

The host is Sophie Raworth, staying up late from the BBC's Breakfast programme. She's not quite at ease yet, but she's putting in a creditable performance, and is ahead of Anne Robinson after nine episodes. Raworth may yet develop a barbed tongue, as she's capable of both empathising with the contestants and magnifying their shame at an utterly wrong prediction. Whether the BBC will allow her to combine this show with her new job on the 6pm bulletin remains to be seen.

The questions themselves are supposed to be things one learned at around 11-15. Some of the specialised subjects are more difficult, and the final round can be a little easier, but this is a reasonable characterisation. It's also a reasonable level for a daytime quiz on a mainstream channel. There's no canned crowd, and the music is limited to a quiet whirr in the background.

If you had handed me the format for this show, I don't think I'd have given it much time of day. Behind the superficial veneer, there's a game of remarkable complexity and strategy from all sides. It's not the best daytime format of this year - that honour still goes to THE ENEMY WITHIN - but it is a quality show that could just transition to primetime.


(LWT for ITV, all week)


+ Christine Hamilton - still looking like Anne Robinson.

+ Tara "Tommers" Palmer-Tomkinson - everyone's favourite?

+ Tony Blackburn - slow but sure progress.

Saturday: Hamilton retrieves lunchboxes from a pond. While the campers are away, the crew wreck the camp. Janet Ellis pops out to condemn this mindless vandalism. Hamilton gets her marching orders.

Sunday: Blackburn wins the race round a super assault course, and wins breakfast. Tommers opens her chest, and gets chocolate. It's clearly the last day of school. Blackburn triumphs, 55-45 on 1.5 million votes.

And that's it. The fifteen days of C-list fame for the winner are almost half done, but he's exploiting it to his best advantage.

Why has this show worked when SURVIVOR proper fell over so badly? Two reasons spring to mind. Firstly, the show has been stripped across the schedule. 9pm every night is a check-in time to laugh at what these mad people have been doing down under. Survivor 1 tried to air in four different slots across the week, and sat well in none of them. Survivor 2 was billed in a consistent slot, but the actual start time was anywhere from 2144 to 2208.

The second reason: it's a celeb show. Britain still likes to take the rise out of the famous, and the show aired in this spirit.

D-LIST CELEBRITY MINOR TORTURE AND BICKERING will probably be exported to the US. Start the bidding for around eight people to go spend two weeks in the wilds of Scotland right now. Uri Geller will be involved, Chris Moyles won't.


The fifteen weeks of fame for the BIG BROTHER 3 contestants are over. Proof? Jonny Regan will appear in pantomime this winter, alongside John Inman and Stu Francis.

GAMESHOW LOSERS: We got Duncan Bickley reliving his £218,000 loss, the COUNTDOWN null points, the FAMILY FORTUNES null pointers, a MASTERMIND loser, the RAISE THE ROOF flaw, then failing on WAITING GAME, the Quizzing Vic, the New College Cambridge, Ireland's equivalent of the Llama Moment...

For IRP500: What is a female rabbit called? A) Jenny B) Queen C) Sow D) Doe "It's not sow, it's not queen. I think it's Jenny." Gay Byrne reminds Patrick of his lifelines. He asks the audience. The show's creator pops up, and reminds us that sometimes the audience is completely misinformed, and generally knows nothing. 56-7-2-35. The rule of 70 applies; the audience is right only when 70% of them agree on something. "I'll go with Jenny." It turns orange. "You know ... you're wrong. The correct answer is a doe. You leave with nothing."

...but not the original. And, just for good measure, the three most commonly requested outtakes in one segment: 1) Handel 2) Porker 3) Organism

This wasn't a bad show: the working title, something along the lines of LIFE AFTER GAME SHOWS, was more accurate.

BARGAIN HUNT Primetime took 7.5 million viewers on Thursday, level with that night's cheap as chips soap on ITV.


The return of DOG EAT DOG at 1805, with THE CHAIR at 1840 and WINNING LINES 1930.

Still only the one episode of MILLIONAIRE all week: ITV Sa 2015, ITV2 2325 and 1015 Su, repeated on ITV next Saturday afternoon. There's no danger of overkill at one episode per week.

A new series of SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE begins on C4 1725 Su, with last year's season repeated on E4 at 1700. The person responsible for this scheduling blunder has been taken out and given something less taxing, such as scheduling COUNTDOWN.

It's CELEB WEAKEST LINK week on BBC Choice, airing 2000 Monday, 2010 afterwards.

ITV2 has a new game show, called GAGGING FOR IT, in which people are invited to tell funny jokes. Heard the one about the monkey that thought it could run a television network... 2200 We.

This week's TARRANT ON TV (Th 2230) features daft game shows from around the world, including the Ukranian show where the top prize is vitamin pills, and the British show where two brainless girlies give people silly things to do. Also: ALRIGHT ON THE NIGHT 15: THE SILVER JUBILEE (Sa 2115) may feature some of the Usual Suspect outtakes.

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