Weaver's Week 2004-03-06

Weaver's Week Index

6 March 2004

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

Another Song For Eurosong

"So that means the Blazing Squad are completely stuffed" - Paddy O'Connell.


Pull up a fine white wine, it's time to Pick Another Plucky Loser. The show opens with the familiar strains of last year's winner, Sertab Erener, who (completely coincidentally) has a new album out on Monday.

Our hosts for the night are Terry Wogan and Gabby Roslin, and they ruminate on what went wrong last year. Lorraine Kelly was drunk, Carrie "Betcha" Grant says our reps were out of tune, and comedian Harry Hill was Cliff Richard.

Song 1 is Enrapture's "Weekend," an upbeat funky number, all about "living life for the weekend," and comes complete with an arms-above-the-head dance routine. It's not particularly adventurous, and would have been completely in place about six years ago. After each song we get a brief filmed insert about the show. First up is Betcha about the fashion disasters, including Celine Dion's infamous lace skirt, and the Greeks wearing lawsuits.

Second up was his regular slot on Star Academy last summer. James Fox is performing "Hold On To Our Love," and this sounds far more like our winner. Channelling the not-quite-lost-yet-love ethic that has done very well in the past, Fox strums his guitar like he means it. Doesn't sound like an overall winner, but should be in the shake-up.

In the huge audience, Terry's found the Norwegian contingent, and points out that scoring the grand non-total of nothing didn't exactly hurt them. The staging is the biggest the BBC's done in a long time, an audience of perhaps 2000, in front of a glass stage supported by translucent columns lit from within and without, and the obligatory back-projection screen behind and to the sides. It looks like the corp has actually spent some money on the selection, for the first time since about 1996.

Song 3: Haifa performs "Me Without You," a song that is very much Eurovision-by- numbers. Gentle, unthreatening, the obligatory key change at just after two minutes, and completely anodyne.

Terry Wogan's talking about the voting, then finds he's standing on the glass bit of the stage, and stages a link to Fearne Cotton, who is at a club in Brighton, and links into a retrospective on ABBA, then talks to Katrina. She's without her waves, but with support for James Fox. Fearne will be giving the results from the South East. The other regional vote-givers: Colin Jackson (athlete) in Cardiff, Hayley Evetts (Pop Idle 1, 4th) is in Birmingham, where the contest took place in 98. Malachi Cush (Star Academy 1, 3rd) is in Belfast, Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister (who?) are in Glasgow, rather than the 1972 host city Edinburgh. Sharron Davies (Gladiator and swimmer) is in Plymouth, and Sonia (Eurovision 93) is in Manchester - the BBC evidently couldn't find 1982 hosts Harrogate, or are they quietly plugging the host city of this year's Junior Eurovision?

"Leading Me On" is the boyband entry. Hyrise is four blokes wearing warm jackets, as it's a bit nippy out. The vocals have been too far down in the mix all night, and our first singer's contribution is almost inaudible. C'mon, BBC, you can do better. The song is upbeat singalong stuff, not an obvious winner, but then neither was Estonia's champion three years ago. The bookies have this lot as favourites. Interspersed with clips from BBC presenters talking about the contest are clips from Katrina (again), Samantha Janus and Sonia. No clips of Jemini yet. Viewers from ITV's karaoke contest STARS UP THEIR NOSE join us around now.

Song 5, Haydon Eshun, lost Reborn in the USA last year, performs "With You I Believe." Smooth, almost saccharine soul, but it washes completely over this correspondent. Great lounge music, but it won't excite anyone. Harry Hill is wittering on about a top with removable arms exposing tattoos of previous winners. As opposed to tattoos of Tatu, natch. Betcha wants something that will do well in Europe, Lorraine knows her faves and the one that will do best in the contest.

Final song, Madison Taylor performing "It Just Gets Better." She's quite deliberately going for the Britney Spears circa 2000 look, and that didn't do too well for Croatia last year. Not the best song of the six, and certainly not sure about the tea-cosy on the head, but this would stand its own in the contest.

Before BBC1 leaves, the phone numbers over Abba's "Ring Ring," and a single from erstwhile Spice Girl Emma Bunton. Couldn't they get Brainstorm in the arena? A minute into the BBC3 broadcast with Patrick "Paddy" O'Connell, and finally a chance to see the lowlights of Jemini's performance, then link into Dundee University's new rector, Lorraine Kelly. Betcha liked James, Madison, and Haydon; Harry Hill liked Haifa and has clearly been rehearsing his lines. Loz has nicked Antan Dec's over-emphasised "Slash!" while giving the website, but puts her hand the wrong way.

Also appearing with Paddy International: Gina G (UK 96), Dane Peter Schmeichal, one of the Flopstars, Liam the Eurovision expert, Sinead Quinn (SA1), and some recollections on last year (though no interviews with the ultimate contest deciders, Richard Anjudy, Irish Telecom, or the Cypriot politicians) and the truism "Your judgement will be influenced by alcohol."

The exit poll in the BBC bar showed Robert Nisbet is backing Madison. The audience exit poll had Hyrise 3rd, James Fox 2nd, and Madison just the winner. If that's reflected nationally, then the teacosy will be listed on Celebdaq by next Friday. Betcha and Lorraine reckon James will progress, Harry's plumped for Haifa.

The Scottish double act goes first, and a better argument for having one presenter there cannot be. They vote for James Fox over Hyrise and Madison, and it's the same result in the South West. This is all looking a bit predictable, as Northern Ireland gives the same 1-2-3. The South East? Same score. In a major shock, the Midlands gives the win to Hyrise over James, but the North (including the North East) follows the national trend and favours James. Wales puts local lass Madison second over Hyrise, but it's still local lad James who wins. Haifa came last.

Interactive and SMS votes come in now, and 1% of the vote is worth one point. Hyrise needs to beat James by 22% to stand a chance of winning. In the event, Hyrise gets 24%, James 40%, and he's won by a country mile. Hyrise, Madison, Haydon, Enrapture, and Haifa finish in that order.

Back on BBC3, Gina G is "worried" that James's song won't do well. Paddy O'Connell starts to explain how this year's two-stage Eurovision contest will work, but loses interest after about ten years of explanation. Honestly, this is a bit rubbish, he could handle the intricacies of multi-zillion dollar corporate takeovers when he was the BBC's man on Wall Street, so what's confusing about the entry process for a song show? It really is very simple: there's a semi-final on the Wednesday involving 24 countries that either didn't do too well or didn't compete at all last year. The top 10 join 14 pre- qualifiers (including the UK, because we fund the whole shebang) in the Saturday final. What could be simpler? The rules of QUIZZLESTICK? You may have a point there.

Lorraine's in the bar, with four poofs and a piano. Sorry, that should read, "Lorraine's in the bar, with Four Poofs And A Piano, and they're performing the Bucks Fizz classic." She's also joined by Alistair Griffin, who thinks James has a chance. Ali did make the final eight two years ago, so he knows what he's talking about; in full disclosure, he's also sharing his flat with James. Back with Paddy's paddy, and Betcha is quietly rubbishing Jemini's excuse of an excuse: "we couldn't hear the monitors" cuts no ice. The queen bee of Star Academy spotted that the backing singers could hear the tune, and reckons Gemma and the other one should have known their song inside out, so it was almost automatic, and they could sing in tune during a howling gale. And Betcha does it with such charm and style, too.

In the final analysis: three hours of pre-selection is more than the BBC's done in ages, was just about the right length of television, and proves once and for all that the Beeb can and should do this in prime time. Terry Wogan's overacting terribly these days and can't be doing this gig for much longer, Gabby struck just the right note, Lorraine and Betcha are big fans already, Harry Hill was a curious booking and may not have worked, and in spite of his tantrums, Paddy always cracks up this correspondent. We still miss Christopher Price, though.

The winning song was written by Gary Miller and Tim Woodcock, who must be the "brains behind Atomic Kitten" that this column thought included Andy McClusky of OMD. The winner of the British Songwriters' Association contest went to Madison. The winner popped up reading the weather on Radio 4, and apparently has done some work for CNN Turkey. As for James' chances: the fandom has likened him to Mickey Joe Harte from Ireland last year, but not so annoying. James could challenge Sweden for fifth place, and he should at least make mid- table mediocrity. He's most unlikely to finish last. Or, given the prospective German entrants, first.


We have the quarter final draw.
Next week: St Edmund's Cambridge -v- St Andrews

Then: Gonville & Caius Cambridge -v- St John's Oxford
Finally: London Metropolitan -v- Jesus Cambridge

Which means this week's Quarter Final 1: Magdalen Oxford -v- Royal Northern College of Music. The RNCM beat Corpus Christi Cambridge and Queen's Oxford in two very low-scoring games. Magdalen was equally unimpressive in beating Nottingham and Sussex. There's no evidence to back up this suggestion, but hopefully the teams can rise above themselves to produce a good match. Thumper points out the RNCM's aggregate is 330, which apparently is 5 more than Magdalen's 375 total. We knew Thumper can't do maths, but that's ridiculous. Has this introduction talked through Thumper's Tired Triple Top Tirade? Good.

Magdalen starts as they mean to go on, with a captain's missignal. The RNCM starts as they mean to go on, not knowing a malapropism when it slaps them about the mush. It's going to be a long night. The teams combine to make three missignals on the first three starters. It's going to be a very long night. "Your bonuses are on existentialism in American cinema." We'll take dawn on Thursday and no sooner. The first picture starter goes from Thumper talking about "big ears" to Stewart Manifold giving the Latin name for the African elephant.

Interesting and good starter of the week: Which word has been used in America since the 17th century to mean a large piece of wood placed at the back of a wood fire to continue smouldering for days, and from this has come to mean an accumulated reserve or a large amount of uncompleted work pressing to be done? [1]

RNCM had the lead early, but Magdalen took over in the second phase, and never looked like letting go. The audio round is name the Beethoven symphony, so that'll be 25 easy points to RNCM, their first score since the picture round. Except they only score 20, confusing the first and fourth.

That seems to have re-energised the RNCM, and they take back the lead, helped by this week's Blimey, That's Good moment:

Q: What name is given to those Zoroastrians, followers of the Iranian prophet..?
Manifold: Parsees.

Thumper lets himself down badly by suggesting that it's better to pass than to speculate. William G Stewart will be hitting him over the head with copies of his memoirs, "Even The Guesses Count." RNCM has built up a 35 point lead, but they've had three more starters correct. That's going to cost them. The second picture round is cities in Belgium, and Magdalen takes the lead with a question on Vivaldi. The composer.

Level on starters, Magdalen's lead is 35. RNCM will need to get the last three starters, but Magdalen gets one, a couple of bonuses, and the win is assured. 190-130 is the final score. It's not a convincing performance from Magdalen, but it's enough to give them the win. Further progress looks unlikely, though the draw is in their favour.

The box scores:

Cox 42.7 Holdcroft 71.9 McClements 32.7 Spero 42.7

MOX 10 70 30 75 [190] 19/33, 3 missignals
RNM 45 20 55 10 [130] 9/24, 1 missignal
Clarke 20.9 Manifold 35.9 Lewis 19.5 Butt-Philip 53.7

Overall, Manifold is RNCM's top scorer, the team's bonus rate is 37.9%, their strike rate 45.4%.

[1] Backlog.


Star Academy failure Patrick Kielty will take his anodyne and tedious presenting style to the USA. He'll be hosting new show DEAL OR NO DEAL on failing television network ABC, so not only will he be able to shout at anyone who annoys him to his heart's content, but he can do so in the luxury of not being watched by anyone. This didn't happen in the UK.

The Disney corporation chairman Michael Eisner was forced out of office by a shareholder revolt this week.

GSU has finally cracked the torture of 24 HOUR QUIZ. It's not torture on the contestants, but on the viewers. Armed with this evidence, shadowy GSU head "X" paid a visit to the chief honcho at ITV, who surprisingly agreed with GSU's conclusions and cut a quarter off the show's transmission. In its place: a repeat of You've Been Framed, leaving "X" banging his head against a brick wall (down a shadowy alley, naturally) in sheer frustration.

24 Hour Quiz has not been cancelled. Yet. Unlike Arabic Big Brother, which came to a sudden end after just seven days and a thousand people rallied against the show. The Middle East Broadcasting Centre said it did not want to be "the source of differences of opinion" and had decided to "reconsider the production" of the show. "This new kind of programming does not go any further than what's going on in the private or state channels. On the contrary it is more honest in showing the actual facts than series of soap operas."

The company said it had made what it believed were the "necessary amendments to comply with Arab traditions", including separate sleeping quarters for male and female contestants and a prayer room. The show, which was to offer a USD100,000 (GBP 54,300) prize, was filmed in a villa on an island off Bahrain.

Other MBC productions include a show where people were due to marry live on air, until the bride got cold feet; and Star Academy (a version of, er, Star Academy) that had one scholar fulminating on the "cheap imitation of immoral western programmes in pursuit of profit." Dogsby? Immoral? Never!

They leave charges of immorality to Germany, where public prosecutors are investigating the makers of ICH BIN EIN STAR after viewers complained about the deaths of a number of goldfish. Three fish were squashed live on national television when teenage pop idol star Daniel Kueblboeck put his head in a fish tank on the German version of I WAS A CELEB.

The German justice department confirmed that the killing of fish was a punishable offence. They're also considering charges of grievous bodily harm after lawyers said that the show's producers could be prosecuted even though celebrities had been paid to put up with abuse. In one scene a contestant was locked inside a glass sarcophagus and then had 30,000 live cockroaches dumped on him.

A number of people complained that IBES had broken the law. Investigators were following up the claims in parallel with complaints that broadcaster RTL may have breached agreed industry standards, and warned it may also have violated the national constitution. Host Antund Dec was unavailable for comment. The goldfish referred enquiries to their trade union, Goldfish United International, but the spokesfish "didn't remember" anything about the incident, adding that he had "a memory like a goldfish. What was the question?"

He should watch Memory Bank 0925 C5 Monday. Someone who isn't Paddy O'Connell brings Celebdaq to daily prime time at 2030 on BBC3, and next weekend sees the return of Without Prejudice? and the British bestseller, Antan Dec's Takeaway.

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