Weaver's Week 2003-01-04

Weaver's Week Index

4th January 2003

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

This week, Vic Reeves proved he was no pirate, and Adam Hart-Davis no general.

RAVEN (CBBC Scotland for the CBBC channel, 0830 and 1735 weekdays)

Back to the days of Yore for CBBC's newie...

Six contestants gather to compete in Raven's weekly tournament. They will face perils, they will face challenges, and they can garner rich rewards. Each week of the qualifying heats has seen the six face similar challenges, four tests per day.

Challenges range from the clearly physical Swim Across A Lake challenge, to the cerebral Riddle Of The Troll and Riddle Path challenges. Courage is tested in the Jump From A High Tree challenge, skill in the Walk Across Wobbly Stepping Stones In The Water Like In Takeshi's Castle challenge, and teamwork in the Spider Cave challenge. Each of the first four days ends with the Surely Impossible Way Of The Warrior, where one person will run an assault course. As yet, no one has won this challenge.

A lot of thought has gone into the arrangement of the games. The first day has two individual challenges, and one where pairs of contestants play off against each other. The next three days feature one all-against-all challenge, one individual challenge, and one where only the leader can be pegged back. It's possible for a contestant to run out of lives before the Surely Impossible Way Of The Warrior, but the design makes it highly unlikely.

Failure in any challenge costs the contestants a life. Success is often rewarded with gold rings, used as a tie-break for contestants equal on lives. Success in challenges on the final day results in contestants regaining their lives, to gain advantage on the Say What You See Finale.

Just to annoy those who found the first two weeks a bit samey, this week has seen some variation in the order of games, and a two-stage Step And Say What You See Finale.

RAVEN is set entirely out of doors, with everything used being carved out of nature, though with little additions like safety ropes and flotation devices. The contestants dress in mediaeval garb, are given made-up names, and there is a charming mystical air to the whole show. Demons are introduced in the opening two games, but they don't recur during the rest of the week. This might be an opportunity missed.

The only item that chimes against this fantasy is the speech of the contestants. James Mackenzie, who plays Raven, is perfectly credible as an ancient Scots warlord. Though most of the contestants have come from stage school, these thirteen year olds haven't been asked to speak in ancient language. It slightly jars to hear modern patois interrupt the mood.

The show clearly hasn't had a huge budget, but it more than makes up for that in inventiveness and ingenuity. The games compare well with those on previous Childrens' department productions INCREDIBLE GAMES and SUB ZERO, and a few would not have been out of place on THE CRYSTAL MAZE. Indeed, the Spider Cave Challenge is a dead ringer for something out of the SCAVENGERS playbook.

Raven's unstinting praise of the contestants can be a little cloying, but when one finds oneself cheering on contestants for diving through the correct ring, the show is clearly on to a winner. Raven's courtesy extends to insisting that everyone "leave the tournament with honour."

The Supreme Champion will be found this week.


Time for some utterly useless first round stats. In the first sixteen shows, the teams' best subjects was entertainment and popular culture, with 59.38% of the available points collected. Maths and physics made 58.82%. The weak spot was history, where only 51.15% of available points were made. The setters favoured literature, accounting for 17.55% of questions; both geography and the combination of politics and religion had 9.5% of available points.

Second Round, Match 1: Newcastle -v- Worcester Oxford

Newcastle came from behind to beat York in week 1; Worcester Oxford downed Liverpool by a mile three weeks later.

Though Newcastle gets the opening starter, Worcester takes a significant early lead thanks to bonuses on economists, stars, and plots. By the first picture round, Worcester's lead is a rip-snorting 95. Maybe the mascots on the desks are the key. Maybe it's that they didn't get the preposterously difficult round on quantum numbers.

Either way, Worcester's lead just grows, and grows, and grows. 140 after the music round, then they rather give up. 145 going into the second picture round. That marks a run of seven starters where just one correct answer is given. The final four minutes are played out in slightly more than two, and Worcester romps to a 215-80 win.

Interruption of the week:

A test rig, consisting of a tin of cat food inside a...
Matt Edmundson, Newcastle: Hovercraft.

Not quite getting the question of the week:

What collective name is given to the five regular polyhedra all of whose faces are
congruent regular polygons.
Worcester: Regular.
Thumper: Yep. Oh, that's the answer, you're not repeating part of the question?

Just not bothering: In a long and tedious picture bonus round on dives from pictures, Newcastle offers the not strictly correct "Upside down forward dive pike."

Keith Owen made 58, Jonathan Gordon 57, and James Murray 51 for Worcester. Ed Lawrence's 44 is the star for Newcastle, who got the majority of their points from entertainment and sport. Newcastle took 5/21 bonuses and 3 missignals; Worcester 22/36 with three missignals.

Second Round, Match 2: Warwick -v- Southampton

Warwick demolished Wadham Oxford, while Southampton didn't impress when eliminating Edinburgh.

Though Warwick gets the first two starters, Southampton takes the next two, and the lead. Southampton goes 1/4 on old houses, but Warwick doesn't recognise a Samuel Goldwyn quote when it smacks them in the face. They do know an Alan Coren quote when they meet it.

Thanks to some missignals, Warwick very quietly grinds out a lead exceeding Southampton's score, and then effortlessly pull away. Southampton allows eight starters to pass, then gets a maths starter - Warwick has the only two maths students on the panel.

Southampton keeps the score respectable, but they're never quite going to stage the comeback they need. Warwick wins, 225-145, and their match against Worcester will be a cracker.

Interruption of the week:

Which unit of length is one sixtieth of a degree of arc...
Andrew Teale, Warwick: Nautical mile.

Honesty of the week: "I did it in history, but can't remember" - Andrew Lay, Warwick captain, on Spanish history.

Unlucky buzz of the week:

Andrew Teale, Warwick: Joseph Chamberlain. 
Shirley Matthews, Southampton: Neville Chamberlain. (She's correct.)

Teale's 76 led the way, with Sandra Delemare and Simon Lindsay tying on 43 for Southampton's best. The Warwick side made 17/42 bonuses - compared with 30/45 last time. Southampton took 15/30 with all six missignals of the show.

Next week: UCL -v- Emannuel Cambridge


1) It's always entertaining to see Christopher Biggins get covered in gunge.

2) The difference between KNIGHTMARE and THE ADVENTURE GAME is smaller than we might think.

3) Of all the game shows for C5 to revive, they had to pick NAME THAT TUNE.

4) SALE OF THE CENTURY would fit into an off-peak schedule slot right now.

5) WINNER TAKES ALL is about due for a daytime revival.

6) THE GOLDEN SHOT. Didn't that turn into Antan Dec's SPLATOON?

7) A pan-European quiz would be really good fun. Given that C5 is owned by pan-European broadcaster RTL...

8) We waited nine years, but Henry Kelly never made the joke "Hans on the buzzers."

9) Yes, that was future FIFTEEN TO ONE champion Glen Binnie, almost but not quite winning GOING FOR GOLD and following in the footsteps of future FTO champ Daphne Fowler.

10) Any game show that wants to run forever and a day needs to have Janice Long as a contestant.

11) 3-2-1 revival. Long overdue.

12) But it's gotta be the fast-paced funny early episodes starring Chris Emmet. Not the pompous, inflated 1987 yawnfest.

13) No prizes on WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. Olympian spirit at its best, or skinflint BBC bosses? You decide.

14) "Never walk away from a loser," said Tom O'Connor. Sage advice.

15) Zoe didn't tell Johnny how the Vortex worked.

16) Argonds round the pool? Put your finger on it.

17) Musical guests on THE GOLDEN SHOT: Clive Dunn performing "Grandad," *and* the theme from RUPERT THE BEAR, all compered by Bob Monkhouse. If there's a more kitsch hour of television, we've not seen it.

18) Challenge? will have difficulty topping this next year. The Greatest Foreign Game Shows Of All Time, starring Original French Boyard?


Celeb Mastermind was won by Johnathan Meades, the only player to take the whole event seriously.

Ho hum, looks like last year's Most Improved show has gone the same way as 2001's Most Improved. SURVIVOR 3 will remain a pipe dream, as ITV has decided not to renew the hit book franchise and its accompanying television series. There is a second run of MINOR CELEBRITY TORTURE AND BICKERING, pencilled in for March. Names in the frame include Daniella "Septum" Westbrook, Emma "John's daughter in law" Noble, and Paul "Exeter Reject" Gascoigne.

Britain's Brainiest Child is Christopher Guerin, answering questions on Thomas a Beckett. He wins a nice perspex block trophy, rather than bits of perspex attached "artistically" to a log. He also led King Edward VI school of Aston to victory in Radio WM's Super Schools Challenge. No-one can overcome a 16-0 deficit after the opening round.


The very best of the coming seven days...

Tonight at 2110 on C4, Without Prejudice?. A panel of public people presides over five contestants and award one of them £50,000. Liza Tarbuck moderates. Review next week.

Monday at 1615, the beginning of Countdown's three week Champion Of Champions season. This week's Martin Jarvis is Martin Jarvis.

Wednesday at 2000 on BBC1, it's Weakest Link with Edwina Currie, Terry Christian, Cheryl Baker, Rik Waller. Spot the reason this couldn't go out in November, if you can.

And some new shows on BBC4 (yes, BBC4) on Friday. 1900, University Challenge. I'm not clear which episode this is. Followed at 1930 by Mind Games; Simon Singh, Richard Wiseman, Kathy Sykes, Alain de Boton, and Damini Kumar solve what the website calls "puzzles, anagrams, and conundrums." Evidently the listings aren't prepared by the BBC4 team.

Challenge? Weekends include these new shows:

1030 Ice Warriors [1]

1500 The Adventure Game (also 0800)

1700 Knightmare (also 0900)

1730 It's a Knockout (also 1200)

2100 The Desert Forges (also 1100)

[1] I thought Ice Warriors was a one hour show. Maybe they've cut out the rubbish and made a decent format. Hmm. Dream on.

Wed 1330 on Radio 4, the return of Puzzle Panel. Val Gilbert, Geoffrey Durham, Victor Bryant; Chris Maslanka chairs. Any resemblance to a show on BBC4 is surely coincidental.

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