Weaver's Week 2003-08-09

Weaver's Week Index

9th August 2003

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

"I think I've got some sort of taxi company coming through." Suzi Perry, on the last TREASURE HUNT last week. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

LA CIBLE (France 2 / TV5)

A new show fills the gap left by DES CHIFFRES ET DES LETTERS and PYRAMIDE. Both shows go off air in the summer to allow coverage of the French cricket season.

The studio audience is seated in the round, with the studio somewhere between Millionaire's roundness and Playing For Time's orange glow. Each audience member has made a phone call (0.34 euro - about 25p - per minute), and twelve of their number will be invited to descend and fill the outer circle of La Cible (The Target). So far, so Antan Dec. In the middle is a remote-controlled camera, and standing round the outside is host Olivier Minne. He can act a bit like Ray Cokes, but is generally somewhat more suave and less manic. The voix-off is provided by Stephane Thebaut, clearly the French answer to Nick Rowe, and perhaps as likely to prompt mass drooling in bars. There's a credit to domestic producers Prime Group and "Face Off," a Twentieth Century Fox format.

The game is almost exactly the Eamonn Holmes filler PASS THE BUCK; contestants give an answer to a category question (par example: prenoms feminine qui commencent par "J") without hesitation, repetition, or deviating from the subject. One failure eliminates the contestant from the game, once we're down to nine, the category changes. The camera in the middle rotates to the next player, which can cause a little nausea for the viewer, so we rarely see this motion.

When we're down to six players, each will have their turn in the spotlight. A few games can be played here: one involves giving five responses that fit a category in 20 seconds; another involves getting six words beginning with a common letter in 30 seconds. Whatever game, the highest four scores progress, with the amount of time remaining used as a tie-break.

The last four are split into two pairs, each pair plays the first round with more difficult subjects, best of three wins. Losers here escape with something like a CD player. Winners make the final; in a move straight from WIPEOUT, they have to bid for the category. Failure to make the bid automatically gives the point to the opponent, and again it's best of three. The runner up wins a country holiday, so that'll be the oblique WINNING LINES reference.

The daily winner has 100 seconds to go for the Big Six. Give one answer in the first category, two in the second, and so on up to six in the final question. The finalist may pass a category even if they've partially answered, but only has three categories at each level. Successful completion of this THINK TANK-esque finale nets a large number of euro, and a trip somewhere in Europe. This is a very difficult final round, and at 500 euro per day, the jackpot can rise into five figures.

LA CIBLE is fast, fun, good-natured, and has that "shoutability" factor - even in a foreign language, one can't help but join in. It could well be the occasional replacement for WEAKEST LINK that we so need, or something Channel 5 can shove into their early evening lineup. Wonder if any potential British host is prepared to change their name to Andy Bang.


[1] Melanie Beaumont -v- Gavin Fuller [8]

[2] Said Khan -v- Michael Penrice [7]

[3] Olav Bjortomt -v- Clive Spate [6]

[4] Dee Voce -v- Graham Nash [5]

This week: Olav Bjortomt takes on Clive Spate.

In the opening round, Olav Bjortomt had a fairly easy ride against David Edwards, Clive Spate scraped past Mark Labbett. Mark reckons that if Clive Spate wins tonight, he's the overall winner; Clive himself reckons he won't be seriously challenged until Gavin Fuller or Michael Penrice in the final.

A change to the rules: there's a new round, Keyword, of which more in due course. Each round is still one minute, still three switches in the contest.

Olav Bjortomt takes a one question lead early in the general knowledge round, and Clive Spate uses a switch that comes straight back to him. Both players spend the last moments staring at the clocks, Clive Spate tries to switch the final question away, but he's just out of time. Olav Bjortomt keeps just 3.5 seconds.

Numbers next - no longer "Numbers and Logic," because there were never any logic questions anyway. Instead, we do get equations, such as 27-2y=9. Clive Spate went 100% in his heat here, and never looks like losing any ground here. Clive Spate keeps almost 32 seconds.

The Keyword round involves questions involving one word, which the players were given a day before recording. This week's keyword is "Brown." Clive Spate has a run of one correct answer in four questions, and uses a switch to relieve the pressure. Then there follows a very strange few seconds:

Q: Who had a number 2 UK hit in 1971 with "Brown Sugar"? 
Olav Bjortomt: Crystal ... Rolling Stones. 
Q: [clear pause] Rolling Stones. In 1911, which writer wrote "The Innocence 
of Father Brown"? [This question does not appear on the screen.] 

Between the answer being given and the second question being asked, there's a jump cut away to a long shot of both contestants. Just before the jump, Olav Bjortomt's clock freezes for one frame, and somewhere in the jump, one frame has been lost. Olav Bjortomt has since told the UKGS.com list that there was a ten minute delay at this point, while the techies reviewed the tapes and found out exactly what had been said. From here, it seems that the entire mess cost Olav Bjortomt perhaps as much as two seconds. Back in the game, Olav Bjortomt has clearly been knocked for six, stumbling over the next question, forgetting from where Paddington Bear came, and is visibly less confident than before the break. Clive Spate wins by 12.5 seconds. Such is the rub of the green.

In the half-time interview, Olav Bjortomt says he's disappointed with the keyword round. Very subtle criticism. Nick Rowe, playing The Questioner, counters with "Remember, I will only accept your first answer."

This column isn't particularly happy with the questions in the Contemporary Knowledge round. The colours of Poland's flag haven't changed since the country was established, neither has Brazil's language, and Manchester's dialling code has changed once since the 1960s. And it's The Round with the Quibblesome Question: "Which Anthony Gormley sculpture is seen by 80,000 drivers daily on the M1?" can't be the Angel of the North, because the M1 finishes at Leeds, and the statue is near Sunderland, over an hour's drive away, and by the A1. It may be trivial, but Grand Slam has positioned itself as the best quiz ever, and this column expects nothing less than perfection. In spite of stumbling on Colin Powell's exact position, Olav Bjortomt takes 14 seconds from the round.

In the Words round, Olav Bjortomt uses a switch on a taxing question; even though Clive Spate gets the answer correct, it's run down his clock the most. Clive Spate is correct to switch his final question away when Olav Bjortomt has 0.8 seconds left, but he's perhaps a little unsporting to answer the question after he's switched it. Maybe this could have been counted as a correct answer, and play returned to Clive Spate. As it is, Clive Spate takes another 20 seconds into the final round.

Olav Bjortomt has one switch left, but Clive Spate a time advantage of 47 seconds. The switch goes on a maths question, Olav Bjortomt briefly reduces the lead to 36 seconds, but Clive Spate pulls back that deficit and wins by 47 seconds.

Perhaps more than any previous episode, this week's instalment has shown that Grand Slam is going to find the best player in its format, not the best quiz player of the year. Clive Spate would have beaten Olav Bjortomt on any other day; the margin of victory is perhaps exaggerated by the vagaries of the format in his favour.

Clive Spate looks a firm favourite to make the final, with the semi between Michael Penrice and Gavin Fuller looking like a classic.

Next week: Said Khan -v- Michael Penrice.


Vault Watch

Suzi Perry: "What does a Scimintal cow look like?" 
Bruce: "A cow."

Sorry, that was Treasure Hunt Watch. This is Vault Watch, making the bovine query look sensible.

Well, it was all looking very promising this week. The first contestant raced through her opening ten with over a minute left, the second got through his with time on the clock, and the other two only left a couple hanging. One had to guess the number of acres in a square mile, has a minute to count up, but was never going to reach the correct answer (640) in time.

Round two begins by asking which POP IDLE judge went over to the US version. According to the live subtitlers, and according to this column's ears, contestant A offered "Simon Cowell," but was mysteriously deemed incorrect. Contestant B picked up the question, but only by purchasing the answer from one of the phone players. Host Mel Sykes claimed that contestant A had said "Simon Callow," which is not borne out by reviewing the tape. This suggests that the wardrobe budget (Ms Sykes is in black for the sixth straight week) didn't go on any hearing lessons or earwax cleaner.

Thankfully, that cockup didn't stop contestant A from making the final, where she escapes with over £20,000. The home contestant takes forever to figure out that Glastonbury is in Somerset, so the jackpot rolls over to £600,000. If it goes, it'll be the biggest prize awarded on UK television since Jonny beat all comers to win a million on Survivor Panama last May.

Two questions of note. The village in "The Archers" appeared on the previous day's Grand Slam. And then there was this sequence:

Q: What name is given to an animal that eats both meat and plants? 
Contestant: Zoo keeper? 
ZK: Deal for a thousand. 
C: Deal. 
ZK: Herbivosaur? 
Weaver: bats head against cushion.

From the ridiculous to the sublime.


Paul Emerson takes the history of Victorian Britain, 1837-1901. He has a fairly sluggish round, scoring eight points and one pass. Jeremy Owenson offers Deep Purple - the rock group, not the colour. He's picked a narrow topic, researched it well, and scores 14 points with one pass. Peter Hallam answers on the Life and Times of Winston Churchill. Quite a large subject, and eight points and three passes, including one after the buzzer. Lynne Ashcroft takes the Post-War History of Science Fiction. Another very wide field, probably too wide, but she comes through in the last moments to score nine points with three passes.

The second round looks like a formality, at least to determine the winner. Peter Hallam suffers a nasty attack of pass blindness, taking his score to 15, but racking up eight passes. Paul Emerson goes hell for leather, and boosts his score to 25 points with two passes. Seventeen correct answers in the general knowledge round is a great achievement. Lynne Ashcroft has a game attempt, increasing her score to 20. Jeremy Owenson has his work cut out a little, and he stalls in the headlights. "Pass ... pass .. pass .. pass." He advances to 21 points, and six more passes.

So, to the surprise of many people, Paul Emerson's general knowledge has seen him through a low-scoring week.


Star Academy 2 is losing viewers - Saturday's entry show dipped from 4.2 million to 3.3 million, and a share from 26% to 23%. Maybe they ought to take a lead from Spain, where the unexpected summer hit has been politicians trading insults live on national television. Actually, strike that, Prime Minister's Questions doesn't air in prime time for the rest of the year.

Confirmation of John Fashanu's next television role: the erstwhile GLADIATORS host and participant in Grobbelgaate will train and manage a London amateur football side. FASH'S FOOTBALL CHALLENGE will air three shows a week on Bravo. The show will not give the public a chance to vote players on or off the team; a planned show involving Stevenage Borough was scrapped in early 2002 for exactly that reason. Grobbelgaate is copyright When Saturday Comes 1994.

This week: Pop Idle against Star Academy tonight; television experts on Weakest Link beforehand, and the last week of Big Brother Diaries on E4. Ever get the feeling it's summer?

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