Weaver's Week 2003-02-15

Weaver's Week Index

15th February 2003

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

Due to an editing error, last week's edition of this column contained no references to Antan Dec. It also contained references to people better known as Pamela Wallin and Michael Underwood.


Who said this, and about what was he talking

"I've watched the programme, twice. And I don't think I've ever seen a collection of more boring, more unattractive, more tedious people in one room. Ever. I really don't see how this can have any relevance to people's lives."

Was it:

A) Alex Sibley of Big Brother speaking about BBC3;
B) Nicholas Soames of the House of Commons speaking about Big Brother;

C) Lamar Anderson of Fame Academy speaking about Antan Dec;
D) Kiefer Sutherland of 24 speaking about Pop Idle US 2.

Answer later.


Second Round, Match 8: Merton Oxford -v- Sheffield

Sheffield just downed Homerton Cambridge, Merton displaced Selwyn Cambridge.

Sheffield remembers how "annus horribilis" turned into "one's bum year" back in the days before The Daily Tabloid spoke Latin. Merton only knows one forerunner to the KGB, the NKVD, and drops it into conversation often.

Gronda of the week: Thumper starts a long and detailed description of a pot plant. Roger Grimshaw (Sheffield) shuts him up by answering "aspidistra."

Sheffield is racing into a huge lead, pushing 100 after the first picture round. Merton comes up against some very tricky bonuses, and by the music round only one set has gone for more than one correct answer.

Then comes this starter, and it's getting beyond a joke:

Thumper: Producing a narrow beam of coherent light, capable of travelling over
vast distances without dispersion...
Subhaniel Lahiri, Merton: Laser.
Thumper: Wrong, lose five points... and of being focused to give enormous 
power densities, the device known as "laser" has what full name.
Grimshaw: Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.

This exchange neatly sums up everything that is wrong with University Challenge this year. Week after week, we have a run of starters that set out on one course, arrive there, and set off on a completely different course to find the answer. This column has been pointing out some of the more egregiously long starters; though long questions do serve to break up the staccato rhythm of short, sharp starters, they need the brief counterparts to establish that sound. Week after week, we have to listen to Thumper drone on in this manner. It's not the host's show, it's the contestants'.

More to the point, these unpredictable starters devalue University Challenge as a serious quiz. It's not entertaining television. It's filler, mental floss for the confused. Whether Granada and the BBC likes it or not, cares to remember it or not, UC has a heritage as a fair, fast-moving, exciting, and entertaining quiz. It is swiftly becoming none of these. One step to stopping the rot? Get new question setters. Now is the time to take action, and prevent this rant from appearing again next year.

Here endeth the rant.

Back at the game, Merton came within 15, but then Sheffield got a couple of decent bonuses, and pulled well clear. The final score is 195-125.

Grimshaw was the top scorer, with 79; Alec McCluskey led for Merton with 41. Sheffield made 15/39 bonuses with 2 missignals; Merton 9/27 with 4 missignals.


And other assorted University Challenge stats

That match completes the second round, and the teams progressing are:

1) UCL, 535 points (repechage and second round)
2) Warwick, 500 points
3) Worcester Oxford, 480
4) Birkbeck, 420
5) Durham, 415
6) Leeds, 400

7) Sheffield, 375
8) Cranfield, 355

For the first time on the BBC, the order that second round matches aired does *not* determine the draw for the remainder of the contest. This is probably a good move, as Worcester and Warwick were due to meet next week, with the winner probably taking on UCL in the semis. The bottom half of the draw would have been woefully unbalanced.

The best individual performers in the game so far have been:

1) Conway, UCL, 173
2) Towner, UCL, 166
3) Skinner, Warwick, 147
4) Murray, Worcester, 145
5) Lay, Warwick, 140

5) Grimshaw, Sheffield, 140
7) Joby, Durham, 134
8) Teale, Warwick, 133

As a percentage of the team's totals:

1) Grimshaw, Sheffield, 37.3%
2) Conway, UCL, 32.3%
3) Joby, Durham, 32.3%
4) Kidd, Leeds, 32.3%

5) Towner, UCL, 31.0%
6) Murray, Worcester, 30.3%
7) Arbuthnot, Cranfield, 30.0%
8) Marden, Cranfield, 29.7%

The team's performances on bonuses and (in brackets, missignals):

1) UCL 65.06% (3)
2) Cranfield 61.40% (2)
3) Birkbeck 58.90% (9)

4) Worcester Oxford 54.32% (5)
5) Durham 52.78% (3)
6) Warwick 49.43% (1)
7) Leeds 45.07% (2)
8) Sheffield 41.67% (3)

"You're only as good as the team you face" - margins of victory

Worcester Oxford 270 (135,135)

UCL 260 (55,205)
Warwick 215 (135,80)
Sheffield 135 (55,70)
Durham 120 (75,45)
Birkbeck 105 (45,60)
Leeds 100 (95,5)

Cranfield 15 (0,15)

Taking all these factors into consideration, my ratings for the tournament are:

1) Worcester Oxford. Commanding performances, with an extra gear available.
2) Warwick. Let down only by their poor record on bonuses.
3) UCL. Lost their opener, but recovered well since.
4) Durham. Strong all rounders, but lacking something.
5) Birkbeck. A strong all round team, but prone to missignals.
6) Sheffield. Great against Homerton, hit by atrocious questions this week.

7) Leeds. Scraped through by the skin of their teeth.
8) Cranfield. Correct on just 19 starter questions to get here.

Next week, UCL takes on Birkbeck. Should be a good match, my money's just on UCL. Warwick and Sheffield in two weeks.


The quote at the beginning was made by Nicholas Soames, talking about Big Brother. It came when BBC2 was talking about why young people don't vote at political elections, but do vote for reality shows. Philip Edgar Jones, BIG BROTHER's Big Brother, reckons that young folk engage with television shows in a way they don't engage with the political process. Though if we took that to logical extremes, the UK would now be run by Kate's Fitness Party, defeating Jonny's Fireman Party, Alex's Clean and Tidy Party, and Jade's Letsavva Party.

What links Michael Davis - the US producer of MILLIONAIRE - the WB network in that country, a soft drink company, and one billion US dollars? One thousand contestants will be chosen by finding specially marked products, and will then be whittled down, in true ULTRA QUIZ style, to one person, who could win the prize, potentially be the biggest since Radio 4's 99p Challenge.

The contestants for ITV's I WAS ONCE A POPSTAR BUT NOW MY CAREER'S GONE RIGHT DOWN THE PAN, HELP ME MAKE AN IRONIC COMEBACK BY TOURING THE USA have been announced. Tony Hadley, once of Spandau Ballet; Dollar; Elkie Brooks; Gina G, UK Eurovision 96; Mark Shaw, once of Then Jericho; Sonia, UK Eurovision 93; Michelle Gayle; Leee John, once of Imagination; and Haydon Eshun, who apparently was once part of some act called Ultimate Kaos. Earth Mother Davina hosts a Saturday night show from the spring.

Tonight's MILLIONAIRE goes interactive for viewers of satellite station KYTV and doomed terrestrial broadcaster Monkeyvision. WITHOUT PREJUDICE moves to Sunday nights, still at 2100. And Radio 4's science quiz INSPIRATION! - with Adam Hart-Davis - returns at 1330 Wednesday.

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