Weaver's Week 2003-02-08

Weaver's Week Index

8th February 2003

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

This week, Alistair Stewart proved himself the King of the Castle in the Weakest Link studio. We await Annie's return match in Ali's not so well remembered format. Except we don't, as that would mean having to watch KOTC again.

ALL OR NOTHING (CBBC original, 1645 weekends)

Let's get one thing clear. This is not a David Young Format.

Five pairs of children, gathered from around the country, and given one of five colours. Two hyperactive hosts, who have clearly had far too much artificial colour in their fruit drinks and need to become as calm as the contestants.

Each child has a ball, and they drop it into The Pair Picker. This is a direct descendent of The Plinko Machine, only it uses soft rubber balls, and bounces them into columns at the bottom. Each slot has a colour, and the team with the most balls in their column will play the opening game. That team then drops one ball to pick their opponent. Anyone trying their best to forget IN IT TO FALL ASLEEP IN IT will have jerked into a semi-comatose state here. Sorry. Remember, though, this is not a David Young Format.

The games themselves take between one and two minutes to play. Some of them are direct competition - build a cube using blocks, hit lit targets on a display. Others are timed events, one team performing and setting a target for the other. These mini games are by far the best part of the show, and are eerily reminiscent of the games of FRIENDS LIKE THESE and DOG EAT DOG. Lest we forget, this is still not a David Young Format.

The winning pair of each game stays on to play the next, and their opponents are chosen by everyone dropping balls into The Pair Picker. Repeat until we reach game five; everyone who hasn't won game five will go home with nothing. While it's useful to win game one, it's far more useful to win game four. Nope, this is not a DYF.

All of this messing about brings us to the endgame, and a decent enough prize - a mountain bike, or games console, that kind of thing. To win the prize, our team must crack a code consisting of the five colours used by the teams. They can do this by guesswork, but the hyperactive hosts are still suffering a sugar rush, and make them open little white boxes containing clues. One member puts in their hand and deciphers the clue, while the other types it in to a handily placed laptop. Correct answers reveal where each colour is in sequence, and cracking the code within the 150 second limit (not displayed on screen) wins the big prize. Failure means this team also leaves with nothing.

Here lies the point where the show stops being David Young cruel but fair, and becomes Just Unfair. Laptop. Keyboard. Eleven year old children. The vast majority of contestants aren't familiar with the layout of a keyboard to begin with, and that's without the added pressure of the studio and the lure of a big prize. Furthermore, the clues aren't always clear - is the piece of headgear leading to "cap" or "hat"?

Those clues that aren't ambiguous are trivially easy, so the finale boils down to whether the players know their way round a QWERTY keyboard or not. There's got to be a better way of doing this. Perhaps speak your answer in a speaking booth, reducing the endgame to a mad 60 second scramble.

No, this is not a David Young format. We criticise his shows as all the same. However, Young endgames are as much psychological as testing, and certainly don't test skills in a manner completely inconsistent with the rest of the show.

ELIMINATOR (Unknown for CITV, 1633 Monday)

Michael Underwood is our host for a show that owes a lot to some other, more familiar, television games.

Teams of three children are invited to race round the route faster than The Eliminator. The eponymous character is someone in a dark outfit, and whose direct shots are subjected to some video trickery. Those with longer memories are comparing him to the Dark Knight from the BBC's INCREDIBLE GAMES series of the mid 90s.

The teams face questions subjects, drawn at random; and must choose the level of difficulty, representing one, two, or three moves on the board. Each question has three options, and there's no opportunity to reject a question without answering it.

While the team is on the first level, Eliminator will move at one space per question. When the team advances to the second level, Eliminator moves at two spaces per question, and should the team make it to the third level, their opponent will whizz along at three spaces per question. Effectively, this forces a team on the final level to take difficult questions, and get all of them correct, to stand a chance of winning the top prize.

There is an opt-out: a team completing the second level can stop there, collect some smaller prizes, and go home with something. Should the team press on and lose, they leave with nothing.

Should the team get everything correct, they go on to face the Prize Path, where they have to name items in a certain category to increase their prize. This is a cross between the original 3-2-1 quiz and Winning Lines' Wonderwall, as each answer takes the contestants further from the studio.

The main game, however, clearly owes a lot to ITV's ratings banker MILLIONAIRE. Underwood asks if the team has settled on its "last answer", and uses the gambit "If you had said to me C, Panama [dramatic pause] you would have been wrong." It's a little strange to see familiar ideas here, but they're welcome.

Perhaps the only factor counting against Eliminator is its cheapness. In order to pay for some very expensive prizes (top prize: a safari in Kenya) it seems the studio budget has had to be cut to ribbons. The backdrop is fairly cheap painted cardboard, the playing area is wooden boards laid down on a runway with embedded lights, and the whole thing smells of a very low budget.

Given the financial constraints, this is a surprisingly good format. It could just be that part of the charm lies in the cheapness of the show; it could also be that a bigger budget would enable the producers to properly realise their ideas.


Second Round, Match 7: Leeds -v- Nottingham

Leeds downed Liverpool John Moores, Nottingham trounced Aberystwyth.

Thumper hasn't done his homework: pronouncing the detectives "Dalzeel and Pascal." They're written "Dalziel and Pascoe," with the first pronounced "De-yell."

Bizarre bonuses of the week: A set on the building blocks of life is suddenly interrupted by a reference to Gilbert and Sullivan.

Non-ending question of the week: "Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour those sidelights on the management of a Midlands shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion, this book cannot take the place of JR Mellor's private life of gamekeeping."

Jenny Ryan, Leeds: Lady Chatterly's Lover.

The above starter - which wasn't completed - takes fifteen seconds to read.

Eleven starters in, and Leeds has a 90-35 lead, but is looking far too fragile on the bonuses than is good for them. Biggest cheer of the night rises when there's a question about the Pun King, Richard Whiteley. This episode really is dragging, a confusing quote from Tracey Emin is followed by a tedious definition of viscosity.

Thankfully, the game comes to life when Nottingham goes 4/4 on Dutch footballers of the late 80s, then 3/3 on Goldwynisms and finds itself ahead. A missignal gives Leeds the opportunity, they take it, and sneak through 170-165. One of those rare occasions when the better side on the night lost. Also one of those rare occasions when University Challenge leaves this reviewer bored stiff. This week's questions were falling into the 100% trap - asking about esoteric trivia for the sake of asking about esoteric trivia.

Best individual performance was Matt Heath, 59 for Nottingham; James Webb made 55 for Leeds. Leeds made 55 of 60 points on literature, Nottingham a perfect 40 on history. Leeds 13/32 bonuses with one missignal; Nottingham 15/30 with two missignals.


Good news for just about everyone: news that the BBC won't be ordering a second series of FAME ACADEMY. [If only. - Ed] Richard Whiteley will be glad of the surplus puns. '

Canada is set to get her own version of POP IDLE. Cunningly called CANADIAN IDLE, auditions will begin in Vancouver, and visit Calgary, Winnipeg, Montréal, Halifax, St John's, and Toronto. The twelve week show will end with the winner announced around Labour Day. The competition is open to Canadians aged 16 to 26, so Céline Dion need not apply. Avril Lavigne is entitled to enter. The only other recent UK format to be directly exported to Canada was MILLIONAIRE, when Barbara Wallen hosted a two-part special in 2000.

In the UK next week, the Celeb Weakest Link Gala Championship at 1845 BBC1 Saturday. David Dickinson's Bargain Hunt returns to daytime in repeats mode at 1130 BBC1 weekdays, Pop Idle goes posh in Operatunity Tuesday 2100 C4, and Challenge? loses repeats of The Crystal Maze from the 2000 slot for the first time in living memory.

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.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in