Weaver's Week 2004-02-21

Weaver's Week Index

21 February 2004

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


"The powers of tedium are plotting to turn the television schedules into a wasteland of tawdry soap operas and cheap makeover shows. GSU has only twenty four hours to save them."


Previously, on 24 Hour Quiz:

Three people: locked away in a studio, away from friends and family. A disembodied voice asks questions. A disembodied voice provides three possible answers. Three contestants press buttons A, B, or C on their keypads. The person who scores closest to 100% is that day's winner. Game Show Unit special agent Jack Bauhaus is on their case, and he's asking GSU investigator Michelle Dissassembler for more information.

"It started with 100%, Jack. That game show defined Channel 5 from its launch until summer 2001. It condensed a century of questions into 25 minutes. Though the quizzing on 24 Hour Quiz is less frenetic, it goes on and on all day. Many questions are asked, and most of them are worth one pound."

Agent Bauhaus knew that the last time anyone asked a question worth one pound, it was Bob Monkhouse on THE $64,000 QUESTION. That was back in 1990. Jack also knew that over the course of the day, these questions would add up, and people could score over £2500 per day.

The three are being tortured in a Quiz Pod, somewhere in a run-down part of London. Agent Bauhaus infiltrated the "audition" process by which the torture victims are selected. "You're too old," said torture agent Nena Memar. For reasons the plot doesn't adequately explore, Jack had to send his daughter, the attractive but aptly named Dim Bauhaus, on the mission.

Dim's entry into the Quiz Pod Of Torture started amongst a hundred or so people in the studio complex, playing the usual Endemol audition games all morning. These exercises, involving balloons and bits of string and larking about is, apparently, an induction into the state of mind approved by the mysterious Yandermol, chief torturer. Fourteen of the finest (all under 40, all a bit mad, all "up for it", in short, perfect applicants for Big Brother 5 - and perfect descriptions of Dim Bauhaus) make it to the studio at 2:30. To cut a long format short, they were paired off, and each pair faced one question. If one gets it right and the other doesn't, that person goes through. Otherwise, the three in the pod pick which player they want to progress. They might go for a weak quizzer, or someone they can live with, or someone very attractive. Either way, Dim's progress was assured.

One of the Pod players will face a challenger in a play-off for their place in the Quiz Pod Of Torture. The pod player who scores most during "the afternoon"

(between 3 and 5pm, live on Pod Of Torture channel ITV2) is safe. On the opening day's show, the mysterious gestalt entity known as the Grate British Public voted between the other two; since then, premium rate phone lines chose one of the three to take a ten minute time-out from answering questions, with the lowest score by 5 facing the chop. On Monday's show, it wasn't clear whether the Mysterious And Unseen GBP was voting to evict or voting to save, and at 25p a throw, that's expensive.

The entry process picks up at 5, when there are a whole two questions on the buzzers. The first two to give a correct answer become the team captains, and pick two more members for their teams. The seventh person is out of the game. Michelle Disassember noted this manner was not unlike Shafted or Greed.

The team containing the first person to give a correct answer steps up to three podia, and is asked a general knowledge question. If the team can give at least as many correct answers as the pod contestants, they remain at the podia; if the pod outscores the challengers, then that team of three steps down to be replaced by the other three. Whichever team is in position after four questions stays on. This really is as arbitrary as it sounds, and the inevitable happened on the first show: the first team survived three questions, only to fall at the final hurdle, allowing the second team to progress without facing a single query. GSU's plot to have Dim Bauhaus wear a wire almost came undone at that point, but she didn't quite stick out her chest too far.

After another break, the three members each pick one of the pod members to play against. Yandermol's torturer-in-chief Shaun Williamson reads out some more multiple-choice questions, and the challenger must reply with the answer. One point per correct answer, a second point if they've beaten the pod player. Usually, three or four points from four or five questions will suffice to win.

The highest score now faces the loser of the public vote, with five credit-card sized pod passes on the table for each player. Only one of each player's five will open the pod, and the chance to win large amounts of money. Three questions, still multiple choice, each correct answer removes one incorrect pass. After the three queries, the challenger has a chance to pick a pass from between two and five remaining on their table; if that doesn't open the door, then the defending player has their chance, and so on until someone gets in. Disassembler noted: Yes, this is a gimmick borrowed from Every 12 Yard Production Ever. GSU managed to remotely control the "unlock" mechanism so that it indicated "open" when Dim Bauhaus picked her first pass. It's funny how often that happens.

As is always the way in these comic book adventurers, the torturers have clearly spent a lot of money on the 24 Hour Quiz set. It's big, it's primarily red and purple, the Pod has a glass front looking onto the audition area, and it's a minor work of art. Shattered may have brought us the idea of everything taking place in one studio, and the whole Pod is probably no larger than Shattered's main room. 24 Hour Quiz has certainly set the standard for good- looking shows.

However, Jandermol's fine plot has a number of large holes in it. Shaun Williamson on a live show, there's one large hole. Especially on Monday, he had what chief Albert Meyda called "a slight outbreak of Mel Sykes Syndrome" - reading out what's before him on the autocue without really meaning it. GSU notes report Mel took about three shows to sound natural, and Shaun was clearly better by the end of the week. On the upside, Shaun and the contestants coped well with a technical glitch on Monday's show - the Pod podia didn't work, and the contestants held up cards as if it was completely natural.

Another large hole: quizmasters who can't pronounce their questions. Anne Robinson doesn't get away without being slated for her mistakes (Pavlov's dogs, Jean Alesi, aluminum) and we'll have to point out some of the weaknesses of the pod torturers.

While watching the qualification process, Jack Bauhaus remembered that he'd heard Matt Brown before, as host of Radio 4's children's programme Gopher It. And was the Speed Seminar a torture device Jandermol's chief minion O'Bleary inflicted on sleep-deprived people just last month? Bauhaus ruminated that this was the perfect job for him: though it claimed to be a 24-hour programme, the torture victims were allowed to sleep solidly for seven hours. Similarly, on his last television missions, commercial breaks and editing had ensured that what appeared to be a 24-hour day actually lasted 17 hours.

GSU's intelligence analysis amongst the Grate British Public indicated 24 Hour Quiz is a format that takes itself seriously, doesn't have too many loose ends - certainly fewer than Big Brother, and is more than prepared to let its hair down and have some fun. However, the show is pitched on a low level, and aims squarely at the Big Brother audience rather than ITV's natural, slightly older, audience.

Jandermol has already promised some changes as the series progresses. With six weeks to run, this column would strongly suggest a more representative set of contestants (including people over 40), perhaps some more taxing or varied questions.

But will Dim Bauhaus's infiltration of the quiz pod save the nation from a fate worse than her acting? As cliff-hangers go, this one takes the biscuit, so long as it's a boring digestive with no chocolate.


Second Round, Match 7: London Met -v- Durham

London Met proved the undoing of St John's Oxford, and any side that can beat the repechage winners has to be doing well. Durham overcame Bristol, and both sides scored well over 200 points. A good match is in prospect.

Except it doesn't start well. The first two starters are missed, and the match is briefly drawn at -5 all. Then we get the obligatory question on Jade, leading to BTR contestant Ms Goody via a quote from Piers Moron. Thumper encourages Durham to "take a punt" on a bonus question, suggesting that they might have cut out some more questions here.

The first picture round is of religious leaders, and sees London lead 35-30. The pace picks up somewhat thereafter, and London's lead is 90-60 going into the audio round. It's another monster, requiring the contestants to listen to three pieces of music from films to answer each question. The four questions take two minutes 56 seconds to complete, and Durham has two "don't knows" and 15 points.

Five of these points go in this textbook example of How To Write A Bad Starter: Q: Beating the time of 2h 18m 47s set by Catherine Ndereba in 2001... Durham, Barraclough: Paula Radcliffe Q: ...a new world record for the women's marathon was established by Britain's Paula Radcliffe in October 2002 when she completed the course in which US city?

All starters should be guessable from their first phrase, and there's no way that "Beating the time" can lead to Chicago. This three and a half minutes should hang in shame outside the UC office, it's perhaps the most shoddy piece of television they've yet produced.

It's taken almost three quarters of the game, but Durham finally gets 3/3 of a bonus set. Going into the second bonuses, London's lead is 120-110, and the 250 Rubbish Aggregate is passed with just four minutes to play. A missignal from London and pickup from Durham allows the northern side to take the lead, but if they think the Indytab was around in 1971, they're sadly mistaken.

London takes the lead back with about a minute to play, both sides miss two starters, Durham gets one, but there's no time to play any of the bonuses. London Met has won, 150-140.

Andy Horton led for London Met with 74.7 of the side's score, they made 15/27 bonuses with three missignals. Mary Falkner was best for Durham, making 63.2 points as the side put up 10/27 bonuses and two missignals. The 290 aggregate is the lowest of the second round, and is 40 points below the round's average. This column claims 235, 81% of the screen aggregate.

Next: St Edmunds Cambridge -v- Warwick


"He doesn't do general knowledge," said Chris Tarrant of one of the contestants on Saturday's Millionaire. The two couples playing over the hour take home the grand total of £9000. UKGameshows analyst Travis Penery confirms this is amongst the lowest show totals ever.

The ten for a second series of C4's The Games have stepped forward: Charles Ingram (court regular), Jodie Marsh (glamour girl), Charlie Dimmock (gardener), Shane Lynch (20% of Bozone), Pat Sharp (50% of Pat and Mick), Mr Gay UK, Linda Lusardi (p3 cutout), Romeo (5% of So Solid Crew, and didn't he win last time?), Katy Hill (Blue Peter), Lady Isabella Hervey (it girl.) They're now committed to twelve weeks of training before a week of live events in late April.

We've been trying to watch Back to Reality, honestly we have. Only the combined attractions of Johnny Vaughan and the BBC news and some dramas have proven more of a draw. Press coverage of the show has been small, and viewing figures have been even smaller. For this column, the final straw came when they invited two of the bores from the recent IBES3 to "brighten" up the place. Things could only get worse if they invited in The Cheeky Girls. Next day, who should pop up but The Cheeky Girls. Endemol has lodged a formal objection that BTR is a bit too much like their own Big Brother, while viewers have lodged their own formal objections and turned off in their droves. Even the prospect of "Rik Waller To Be Shot On Live TV" failed to attract any viewers, and the first tedious nonentity leaves tonight.

To boost their viewing figures, C5 will air extra shows at 0925 each day. Thursday's evening contribution will be a single show at 2200, following coverage of Liverpool -v- Levski Sofia. Also this week: Bargain Hunt weekend on UK Style, Jimmy Carr pops up a lot, along with this week's X Marks The Spot treasure Richard Whiteley.

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