Weaver's Week 2002-12-14

Weaver's Week Index

14th December 2002

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

This week, Antan Dec hoped to watch Newcastle play football in Barcelona. The match was postponed due to heavy rain. That'll teach 'em to stage an impromptu concert in the city square!


The Top Losers Board (four highest scores qualify):
185 Emmanuel Cambridge
180 York
165= UCL, UMIST and Brasenose Oxford

As last year, we have a tie for the repechage. In the decision of the UC producers, Brasenose loses out. Again, the tie-breaker is the apparently arbitrary "shortest time and fewest mistakes." Both years, the advantage has gone to the team or teams with the higher percentage of bonus questions answered correctly. It would be useful to have a clear, on-screen statement of the tie-break from the producers.

With that brief editorial, onwards!

Repechage, match 1: UCL -v- UMIST

UCL shot themselves in the foot when losing to Jesus Cambridge by ten. UMIST lost to a Cambridge college, Clare, the previous week.

As in the heats, UMIST gets off to a very slow start, taking nothing before the first picture round. UCL doesn't take advantage, scoring just 4/12 on their opening bonuses. The bonuses this week seem tailored to expose the team's weaknesses: UMIST is a specialist science institution, and UCL has a reputation for excellence in sciences. This clearly explains how barely 10% of the available points in the first half go to science questions.

It's almost dead level after the music round. Thumper harshly fines UCL for a missignal when he'd started the final word, then gives UCL the benefit of the doubt on a starter and subsequent bonus.

As last time, though, UMIST is pulling away in the second half. And, once again, there's no urgency in UMIST's play. This could cost them dear in a later round, if not sooner. With three minutes to play, we're tied at 135. It's a four starter shootout, UCL gets three of them, and wins by the slightly exaggerated margin of 205-150.

The Fingers On Buzzers Round: In the controversial vaccine MMR, for what do the three initials stand? UMIST's Andrew Ruddle wins the race.

Where in the world? Thumper asks about an Indian Ocean island. UCL's Arthur Lovell suggests that well-known Indian island, Tahiti.

Thumper doesn't know maths... but neither does UCL's Scott Hudson. After Howard Towner feeds Scott three indefinite integrals, Thumper asks if he had any idea what he was talking about. "No," is the honest answer.

David Conway's 60 for UCL was the biggest of the week, his colleague Towner and UMIST's Robert Lawrence both bettered 50. UMIST made 13/27 bonuses and one missignal, never scoring nothing on a set, but never scoring three. UCL made 21/33 bonuses and two missignals. Science eventually accounted for 20% of the points on offer.

Next week: Emmanuel Cambridge -v- York, oddly enough.


If I wanted to be awkward, this could be summarised as "Daly's daily day of the day award, awarded daily by Daly on a day by day basis." This line of thinking will not only fail to convey the structure of the show, will not only confuse the reader, but will bring forth a visit from Jasper Carrot for ripping off his Bad Week Award.

Eight contestants gather for the half hour show. They'll play two rounds from the regular series. First comes eight multiple choice questions, with the top four progressing to the second phase. Then the remaining four will be seeded by a Codebreaker quiz before picking two categories from eight. Top two scores go through to the annual final. Ties at any stage are broken by a Link Words puzzle.

I'm very pleased to report that Tess Daly is a better host than I expected. She clearly shows empathy with the brainy contestants, isn't afraid to allow quiet time during the first round, but lets the show explode into life during the fast-and-furious second round.

This sets me thinking: could BRITAIN'S BRAINIEST work in a daily format? Eight contestants on Monday, top two go through to the Friday final. Repeat for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Then perhaps carry forward the scores from the daily show before having everyone pick one subject at two points per correct answer. Top three go forward to the Battleships final. Winner to the Grand Final, perhaps with twelve contestants and held in primetime.


At last! PAIN ACADEMY, the BBC's prime-time investigation into pain and suffering by a group of innocent people who have paid for the privilege (the viewers) has ended, and was won by the winner, who wasn't even in the house when the show began. The Friend of DAME ACADEMY, Mariah Carey, released a new album on December 2. It was the second highest new entry on the LP lists, in with an anvil at #52, just ahead of new disks from Simon Cowell's friends Robson Green and Martine McCutcheon. 52 is, of course, the aggregate viewing figures, in ones, for GAME ACADEMY. That'll be the high point of the winner's career, whoever he or she is.

Loyal to the last, BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey said the program "wasn't derivative," had "brought a younger audience to BBC1," was about "maximising talent," and had been "a success." I don't have figures to dispute the audience demographic, but the rest of Heggessey's claims are suspect.

The show is not about maximising talent, unless one defines talent as the ability to perform other people's songs in a way calculated to maximise short-term profit. The show is clearly derivative of Endemol's STAR ACADEMY format, for the screamingly obvious reason that it's the same format; that, in turn, owes a lot to their own BIG BROTHER and the imported POPSTARS formats. 6.3 million viewers for the penultimate episode is not an utter disaster, but is scarcely more than C4's BIG BROTHER attracted in the same slot during the summer.

The winner's first single will be in a record store too near you on January 6. The cast album is on the shelves now, and will remain there until it gets slung into the bargain bin. The winner will descend into obscurity faster than that bloke who won SURVIVOR 2.

And if anyone wanted further proof that Heggessey was barking up the wrong tree, just ask BBC Director, General "Custard" Dyke. The pink cat told other Top Corp Brass that FA had FA novelty.

Still on the Good Idea, Woeful Implementation tack: The administrators of defunct digital terrestrial broadcaster Monkeyvision (RIP) announced plans to reclaim their set top boxes. Those people who were renting boxes when the DTTV provider ITV Digital collapsed in March will be asked for £40 to buy their boxes outright. Liquidators Grant Thornton will initially deal with those who want to pay up, a move that might bring in almost a hundred pounds. We're still waiting to receive schedules for Ftv, the Freeview channel that might or might not contain some programming from Challenge?.

NEXT WEEK AND A HALF (14 - 24 December)

Another outbreak of Rubbish Movies On One, allowing SATELLITE DELAY TO THE HEAD (1935) to be the only quiz dancer. ITV offers MILLIONAIRE at 1945. ITV2 offers another chance to see RUSSIAN ROULETTE at 2245, so at least I get to see it before compiling the review of the year.

This week's SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE invites the producers to put together a new show from bits and pieces of previous challenges. 1735 Sunday C4.

The benefits of getting rid of Witanhurst show already. CBBC channel puts up RAVEN, a bit like KNIGHTMARE perhaps. 0830 and 1735 weekdays.

The much-awaited BBC edition of TREASURE HUNT gets to air at 1800 weekdays on BBC2. Dermot Murgnahan plays Kenneth Kendall, Suzi Perry plays Anneka Rice, and the part of Wincey Willis will be a surprise. Venues: Folkestone, Canterbury, The Weald, Dover, and Tunbridge Wells. If you're setting videos to catch these episodes, allow a few extra minutes at the start of Thursday's transmission: the show straight after is trying to compress 51 minutes of action into a 45 minute slot.

If you want to see how it all began, Challenge? is currently repeating the 1983 debut season. Kenneth Kendall plays Kenneth Kendall, Anneka Rice is played by Anneka Rice, and the part of Wincey Willis is a surprise absentee. 0140 and 0700 each morning, or set tapes.

ITV still has to burn some editions of CATCHPHRASE with Mark Curry. 1705 from Tuesday. Tuesday's WEAKEST LINK is the Star Trek special. Thursday's is also from the USA. There's one last episode of JUDGEMENTAL to air, that's at 1455 Friday.

On radio, BBC7 launches on digital radio, digital cable, digital satellite, and digital terrestrial television this Sunday. The regular schedule includes vintage (well, 1997) I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE at 1200 and 1900 daily. The regular show's guest this week is Dame Sandi Toksvig. 1830 Monday, repeated (er) 1200 Sunday. Clever listeners will be able to listen to two shows at once, and play Spot The Difference.

This week, Angus Deayton is played by a tub of lard. The Smart Alec for COUNTDOWN's finals week is Hugh Fearnley-Wittingshall, whoever he is. Another hint for those setting videos: Friday's FIFTEEN TO ONE final begins at 1530.

Saturday 21 December has a Brucie Bonus at 1735. FAMILIES LIKE THESE, the kinship version of Friends Like These, premieres at 1815 on BBC1. Eamonn's SDTTH is 1940, MILLIONAIRE 2005.

In the SCRAPHEAP MEGA CHALLENGE, teams from the UK, US, and France attempt to recreate the Wright Brothers' flight using materials and tools of the time, 1715 Sun 22nd on 4, allow 100 minutes.

Channel 5 still has a lot of TOPRANKO to burn, the first at 1100 Monday. Followed at 1130 (and 1900) by DEMOLITION, where Emily Booth asks teams to send objects to oblivion. First target: that flop show on the Beeb.

It's the BRAIN OF BRITAIN final at 1330 Monday, repeated 2300 Saturday 28th. UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE will run over the Christmas period.

Challenge?'s Christmas Cult shows run 1400-1700 and 2100-2400. Monday: Crackerjack, Knightmare, The Adventure Game, Bullseye. Tuesday: Name That Tune, The Generation Game, Sale of the Century, Winner Takes All.

Anne and Pip TEST THE NATION on news and current affairs at 2030, with results after the news. Anne's back on 1 at 1655 on the 24th, with the WEAKEST LINK PANTO SPECIAL. Oh yes she is. And a CELEB MILLIONAIRE at 2200 wraps up the Christmas Eve schedule.

Christmas Day through January 3 follows next week. Regular mailing list correspondent Travis Penery has written a preview, now available on the website.

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