Weaver's Week 2004-03-13


Don't Forget To Miss It

Do not reset your calendar, this edition really is going out on a Friday morning.

Memory Bank

(Endemol Midlands for Channel 5, 0925 weekdays)

Many years ago, John Sachs worked on a hugely successful game show. Some years before that, he had been the warm-up man for Henry Kelly's pan-European game show. In Four Square (BBC, 1988-9), John challenged people to remember where on a 6x6 grid nine symbols had been hidden, and gave bonus points away if they could make a square of four in their colour. Four Square, described on the UKGameshows website as "an affable little show," is perhaps best remembered for its groovy music, especially during the Maze round.

Enough history, on to the new daytime cash machine from Endemol. Like its stablemate Brainteaser, Memory Bank is broadcast live, and pays its way by inviting viewers to call in and answer a screamingly easy observation question.

Three players take part, and if any contestant gets their question wrong, the question is passed on to the next player. Should the second player also err, then the answer is revealed, the third player doesn't get a chance to play. Where there are two contestants of similar strength, the one sat on the left of the pair will win; there seems to be an advantage to sitting in the third seat, as scores in the opening round seem to be lower than elsewhere in the show.

All rounds are played on a grid of 16 squares, and in this round the first fifteen are filled with similar pictures. We've had simple faces and national flags, amongst others. Twenty seconds to remember what you see, then the sixteenth square is filled by one of the other pictures. In turn, the contestants have to pair the squares. There are no bonus points for completing a square, and the final contestant has to describe the last shape to win their points - this question can't be passed on.

After that, a reminder of the Stunningly Easy Phone In Question.

Round two sees sixteen answers put up on the grid, and the host reads out the questions. The contestant gives the number, and if the answer is the one they're looking for, points are awarded. This round could almost be played with pictures.

For those who missed it, the first Stunningly Easy Phone In Question gets answered, only to be replaced by a Second Stunningly Easy Phone In Question For Double The Money. Then there's a commercial break. And another chance to see the SSEPIQFDTM.

The third round is exactly the same as the second, except it's with different answers and questions. As the show is live, if time is not on the contestants' side, this round can be curtailed early. Indeed, as the show is live, fluffs between the host (such as when they read out the answer to the question) and contestant aren't edited out.

These last two rounds suffer from a Really Silly Buzzer Finale: the contestants compete on the buzzer to name the last square, but have to wait until the host gives them permission to buzz, making it as much a test of reaction as memory.

The highest score after these three rounds goes through to the finale, but first has to sit through yet another chance to see the Second Stunningly Easy Phone In Question For Double The Money.

The grand final sees twenty words appear on screen, one each second. The host then witters on at the competitor, explaining what will happen. They'll have 45 seconds to remember as many words as possible: £50 for the first ten, £100 for the next five, £200 for the last five, so a potential jackpot of £2000.

So, why does this show bring back a barely-remembered daytime filler? It must be something to do with the way the squares revolve to show pictures and colours. Can't help thinking that the hybrid of Four Square's memory round (with four-point bonuses for a square of four, naturally) and this show's general knowledge round (bonuses for completing a square at all, perhaps) with the added distraction of a commercial break and the Stunningly Easy Phone In Questions, would make compelling viewing. And it would give us an excuse to hear the groovy Maze music while the contestant fails to remember prize words.

University Challenge

The quarter final draw.

Magdalen bt RNCM
---> St Edmund's Cambridge -v- St Andrews
Gonville & Caius Cambridge -v- St John's Oxford
London Metropolitan -v- Jesus Cambridge

St Edmund's hasn't been stretched in victories over the LSE and Warwick. St Andrews trounced City, and showed up Queens Belfast by surprisingly large margins. This quarter final has the air of mystery about it.

"Three questions on the BBC's Great Britons Poll." Do we have to, that was old hat when these shows were recorded last year, and ancient history now.

Slightly overlong but still creditable starter of the week:

Sun, New, Idle, Hidden, Strange, and Ray are the literal meanings of the names of the elements belonging to which group in the periodic table? Their collective name refers to the fact that they were formerly believed to be totally unreactive. [1]

Thumper needn't look so surprised at anyone getting this:

Although "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" was the first of the seven Narnia books by CS Lewis to be published, which novel..? [2]

Anyone who has ever read the collection through will be able to anticipate the twist this question's taking as early as the first word. That's a good starter.

St Andrews has a commanding lead early on, but how often have we seen a side start strongly then fade away? Do starter questions to which the answer is "Jerry Springer", and bonus questions about "Sex and..." help? It's telling that Edmund's Irish captain misses the starter about Irish history.

By the audio round (modern classical music), St Andrews has a 90 point lead. The phrase "Your bonuses are on physics" is music to the ears of a team with an astrophysicist sitting down, but they score nil. St Edmund's scores nil in the third section, and starts the fourth with a missignal.

The 250 mark is passed with about three minutes to spare. One of the later answers is "Violet Elizabeth Bott," far too close to Bonnie Langford for good taste. Also far too close to good taste is St Edmund's score of 35, which would tie the lowest score ever in the revival. Thankfully for them, the Cambridge side gets a starter with a minute to play. That's where the scoring ends, St Andrews winning 225-50, and they must be favoured to beat Magdalen.

The box scores:

Nath 4.5 Goldman 17.3 Conroy 0.9 French 27.3
SEC 10 30 0 10 [ 50] Bonus: 5/12 Missignals: 3
STA 75 55 55 40 [225] Bonus: 19/39 Missignals: 0
Rainey 75.5 Fotheringham 17.1 Wilson 69.7 Bulmer 62.7

Brian Conroy was the St Edmund's top scorer, making 150.8 of the team's total. The side made 45.3% of its bonuses, and a 44.41% overall strike rate.

Scores of 50 and below in the revival:

50 - St Edmund's Camb (QF, 2004)

40 - Keele (R2, 2002)
St Andrews (R1, 2002)
Oxford Brookes (R2, 1998)
Birkbeck (R1, 1997)

35 - Bradford (R1, 2004)
New Hall Camb (R1, 1998)

Next week: Jesus Cambridge -v- St John's Oxford. In their first two matches, Jesus has faced 90 bonus questions. In their first three matches, Magdalen Oxford has faced 93 bonuses.

[1] Noble (inert) gases.
[2] "The Magician's Nephew" - first in the septology.

Do we get danger money for reading this? No? Oh.

From the file labelled: I'm A Eurovision Fan ... Get Me Out Of Here! Ireland has selected her song for the planet's biggest festival of popular entertainment. It's co-written by Westlife's Bryan McFadden, who just happens to be the husband of Kerry Katatonicviewers-McFadden, the winner of last month's tedium and bickering session. Less than 36 hours after winning the prize, Mr McFadden announced that he was leaving Westlife to spend more time with his songwriting career. Clearly the baton must now pass to the other stars of tedium and bickering, so next year's UK entry will be performed by Patrick Kielty and Richard Park. We can hardly wait. Can Patrick explain the rules of the semi-final to us again?

At a loose end this week, we've been reading that well-known media bible the Arsenal FC magazine, and came across an interview with Dermot O'Leary. He's looking forward to the forthcoming fifth series of Big Brother, and hopes it proves better than last year's. "Though we made some brilliant television, it did rather drop off towards the end." While we thank Mr O'Leary for his honesty, we do slightly wonder if his critical faculties have been slightly impaired. Could anyone call Big Brother's Little Brother "quality television" after, say, the one with the bomb scare? It just degenerated into the same show every single day. Dermot can do a lot better, and perhaps moving more shows back to E4 would help.

This Week and Next

When is an answer not an answer? On Saturday's Jet Set, one contestant answered a question about Bjork's origin "Nor--Iceland", and was marked incorrect as "Nor--" was deemed her answer. Another contestant, asked about the scandal that brought down Nixon, answered "Water--pass", and was also marked incorrect. If the first half answer were incorrect, then surely the second half answer would have to be given correct. Later, someone was asked about a comedian, answered with their character "Ali G" and was given a second bite at the name, "Sacha Baron-Cohen."

Millionaire Dropped! (But Only The Interactive Game.) ITV has pulled the interactive TV application that allowed viewers to play along with Chris and the increasingly gormless contestants on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. The weekly cash prizes of £1,000 have also gone. Jane Marshall, head of ITV's interactive TV arm, ITVi, said that the decision digital satellite only gimmick went because "neither ITV nor Celador were happy with the financial performance of the application." This is a very curious statement, as Millionaire Interactive first launched on digital terrestrial television in late 2001, only emerging on satellite a couple of years later, after ITV's Monkeyvision service had closed.

Elsewhere, ITVi's SMS service for the third run of IBES was "extremely successful," according to the company. The service allowed viewers to send in messages for display on screen during the show, and generated over half a million SMS messages during the 15 day run. Pundits estimate ten pence profit per message.

Next week: The Observer still hasn't got the plot about Without Prejudice? (C4, 1930 tonight) saying the show "inexplicably won an [international] Emmy last year." It's not about the people revealing their lives to win cash, it's about the discussions of the panel, hence why it appears in C4's Sneaky Subtext slot. Far more obvious: the third series of Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV, 1900 tomorrow)

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