Weaver's Week 2004-03-27

Weaver's Week Index

27 March 2004

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

Saturday Night In

Confined indoors by the strong winds that hit the Midlands last weekend, the Week thought "Why not turn this into an opportunity," if for no other reason than to make doubly sure it goes out tonight and doesn't have to sit through this again.


Antan Dec Saturday Night roundup: Start with a clearly unrehearsed, self- indulgent, and hugely overlong skit based on cowboys that wasn't even funny on paper. This kind of rubbish does them no favours. At all.

  • Pete Waterman gets the "Train Enthusiast Of The Year" award. The segment would have been a cross-promo for POP IDLE had the old stager not left the show the week before.
  • Viewers are rewarded for knowing which ITV show led Will Young to stardom. Hmm. Tricky, that. Does the host know? Winners get to spin Carol Vorderman round a giant whirly wheel, and possibly win something from the prize cupboard.
  • The first scientifically-proven Guaranteed Pop Hit, deliberately tweaked to match algorithms based on previous hit singles. Shame it's so tedious.
  • No OB this week.
  • Twenty (count 'em!) JIM'LL FIX IT rejects get their dreams made true, with help from Keith Harris, Orville, Ruth Madoc, and some men in lobster suits. Clearly the highlight of the night.

Thence to the BBC, where celebs appearing on TEST THE NATION THE NATIONAL TEST included Clare Balding (BBC sports reporter), James Fox (BBC representative to Eurovision), Piers Morgan (host of BBC Tabloid Tales), Mylene Klass (from disbanded ITV house band Heraset) and some people from other BBC shows no-one watches.

There was an entertaining running spat between Mr Morgan and host Anne Robinson, with Mr Morgan referring to people in the US judging the UK from

"Tony Blair, Simon Cowell, Annie Robinson". Rosie Boycott added her usual dose of colour, and ripped into the Windsor family immediately before a set of questions on the Windsor family. Mr Morgan and Ms Boycott briefly held a discussion on the UK's place in the world order, vis-a-vis the recent Iraq conflict, only for Annie to steer the discussion back to the quiz at hand. Thanks to the unique way the BBC is funded, it's not possible to discuss weighty social-political matters on the main television channel during primetime, except on Wednesday nights. Outside of sport, there's been no intelligent discussion on Saturdays since 1998, or when Dick & Dom came off air that morning, depending on viewpoint.

Bonus points for entertaining us with clips of The Two Ronnies and Monty Python, according to our records the first time there's been something really entertaining and funny on Saturday night BBC1 since March 1995. Further bonus points for showing clips of Anne Robinson on QUESTION TIME - representing a national newspaper - from 1983, and Phillip Schofield's Kiwi exploits from the following year. Minus points as knowledge of BBC programmes is required for 10% of the questions, and helps on another 10%. Curiously, no mention of anything from any competitor networks.

There's no excuse for Annie making pronunciation errors - the humourist (Hungarian, not English) in one of the question is George Mikes, said MEE-cash, as a film clip demonstrated. Nor for film footage that gives the answer to the question posed immediately afterwards. And it's minus several hundred for the old canard "in which decade did women win the right to vote," where 1910s and 1930s are both correct answers.

As usual, the last ten minutes of the show were spent with Gopherman sprouting off all sorts of numbers, boiling down to "This tells us nothing significant." The average score, according to the quiz designers, would be 36/75, with a fifth of people scoring 43 or more. To get 80% confidence that the difference you report is statistically significant, a 7 point gap is therefore needed. The gap between the genders, between regions, between people's favourite foods - all are insignificant. Only the 8 point difference favouring people 45-64 over people under 25 carries any significance.

For those interested, splitting the questions into the old Trivial Pursuit categories gives this balance:

Geography: 14
Entertainment: 15
History: 14 (of which 4 were Politics and Religion)

Art and Literature: 15
Science and Nature: 7
Sport and Leisure: 11 (of which only 3 were sport)
7 questions required knowledge of other parts of the BBC output.


The quarter final draw.
Magdalen bt RNCM
St Andrews bt St Edmund's Cambridge

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

Last week's defeat put paid to the juicy prospect of a London Met - St John's rematch. The sides met in the first round, and cranked out a season-high 410 points, London Met winning by 60. The side then scraped past Durham, 150-140. Jesus has been on storming form, beating Oriel Oxford by a distance, and Bangor by a long way.

London Met goes 2/3 on patron saints of students. Is this a good omen? Perhaps not: the sides tie at 20 within moments. However, Jesus has already picked up one missignal, and when they get a second error before the first picture round (films in a language other than American), it's clear this isn't going to be the usual Jesus walkover. The Jesus side had to get this, though:

Q: Sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads ... [1]

And it has to be followed by a question on Wittgenstein, who whistled a lot. London Met are looking on the bright side as Jesus closes within 20, but then moves ahead again.

Is There No End To This Starter Of The Week: [Words in square brackets did not appear in the subtitles.]

Q: Which American mathematician and [computer] scientist won the Nevanlinna
Prize in 1998 for his theoretical work on quantum computers which, if
[actually] built, will be far more powerful than any currently available? As a
result, current [standard] encryption methods widely used for [electronic cash
and] online signatures would not be secure.

The audio round is on Jamaican singers, and begins with a Fingers On Buzzers question, won by Jesus. The following starter forms Jesus's fifth missignal of the night, and leaves them 60 points behind. Has the impregnable side met its match? The 250 point banner passes with ten minutes to play. London Met's MacDonnell benefits from two starters on Gilberts - WS and And Sullivan. 300 points has long gone by the second picture round (merchant navy sleeves.)

London Met has a 105 point lead after this round, and surely they can't be overcome from here. Or can they? It's down to 65 with three minutes to play, but then London Met gets a starter, and Jesus needs three full sets of bonuses in two minutes to tie. They do their level best, buzzing in after just a few words of the questions, but missing a bonus in each set. 35 points the gap, less than a minute to play, Thumper is reading like a racing commentator.

And then it's over. Jesus had left their comeback just a little too late, and would have picked up a missignal moments after the gong. London Met has pulled off perhaps the upset of the year, 225-210.

MacDonnell 70.5 Dawid 71.9 Horton 61.9 Grundy 20.7
LMU 90 45 80 10 [225] 23/36, 2X
JCC 30 50 30 100 [210] 23/36, 5X
Horsewood 10.7 Walkingshaw 116.7 Turney 33.5 Urquhart 49.1

Clearly, those five missignals did for Jesus. Andrew Walkingshaw's personal contribution is the second highest of the series, behind only Sam Urquhart's in the first round. Walkingshaw is the team's top buzzer with 267.3 points, Urquhart made 261.7. The Cambridge side leaves us with a bonus rate of 63/126, exactly 50%, and a strike rate of 54.55%. London Met has now participated in the two top-scoring games of the year.

[1] What the Romans did for us in the LIFE OF BRIAN.

In the final minutes, Thumper is reading at something like 40 points per minute, when he rarely breaks past 30 ppm even when the teams answer quickly. Perhaps if the host were able to talk swiftly without stumbling over his words, the scores might be a bit higher. Is Nick Rowe available?

Strictly speaking, this isn't London Met's debut on UC; the university was formed in 2002 from the merger of North London and London Guildhall (formerly North London Poly and London Poly, respectively.) It is, however, the first time any of the 1992 universities has made the semi-final of the quiz, for which the draw is:

Magdalen -v- St Andrews

Gonville & Caius Cambridge -v- London Metropolitan

With all due respect to St Andrews and Magdalen, the match in two weeks will decide the best student quizzers of the series.

Next week's Week will discuss the "new" universities further.


Without Prejudice? invites former winners onto its panel, an idea tossed around last year on the UKGS.com mailing list. Well done, everybody!

There are rumblings amongst the uber-rich in New York. The Post in that city reports how retailers in ultra-posh Trump Tower and along Fifth Avenue aren't happy at Donald Trump's latest self-promotion. Mr Trump is fronting THE APPRENTICE, a show that attempts to find a decent management trainee for his company. The show's turned into a surprise hit, and Mr Trump has used his landlord's prerogative to erect a large banner over his own tower. The ad shows Mr Trump, ten stories high, glaring down with the strapline "You're fired." The tenants at Trump Tower, and his neighbours across the street, are not happy at having their view spoiled by this "vulgar" banner. Presumably they're not happy about the shots of the Tower with their logos in prime view. The Apprentice will come to UK screens when they've negotiated a deal with a channel. (Based in part from posts to tvbarn.)

Fans at the Detroit - Denver basketball match set a new record for wearing wigs. No fewer than 6,213 people turned up with hairpieces and toupees of various styles. Reports that the next attempt on the world best will be at this summer's outdoor COUNTDOWN festival could not be confirmed.

The first Big Brother rumour of spring has surfaced: according to one Sunday tab, there's one room with a double bed, and a communal dorm sleeping up to twelve. The same report suggests there will be mudbaths in the garden. As usual, Endemol refused to comment on these reports, but our trepid reporter could have sworn he heard the sound of well-concealed giggling down the line.

Over in Germany, the phrase DAS FLOP BROTHER springs, somewhat unexpectedly, to mind. The 52-week programme is running out of steam after just 4% of its run, in spite of a striptease, sex, Tatjana Gsell (the German equivalent of Nell McAndrew, apparently), and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Or her ninth husband, at any rate. Nine contestants are battling to win a million euro, while ninety viewers say "Zzzzzz."

Back in Blighty, the final rites are being said for 24 VIEWER QUIZ. Next week, the early evening show on ITV2 bites the dust, and E-list celebs will attempt to win cash. It's not immediately clear whether they'll be winning for charity or their own careers.

The draw's been made for the Eurovision semi-final and final. Finland will open the whole show on Wednesday 12 May, with Andorra, Portugal, Malta, and Monaco appearing in what should be the useful positions 6-9. Just after the break will be Albania and Cyprus, with Croatia, Denmark, S&M, Bosnia, and the Netherlands rounding off proceedings.

The grand final, three nights later, will open with Spain. Austria performs second again, with seven qualifiers and Germany also in the top half. Belgium appears immediately after the commercial break, followed by Russia. The last seven: Ireland, Poland, UK, qualifier, Turkey, Romania, Sweden. This is a very, very good draw for James Fox; perhaps the biggest advantage goes to Romania's strong song in the penultimate position.

Next week: It's the University Challenge Boat Race (BBC1, 1800 Su), and also the Celebrity University Challenge Boat Race (BBC1, 1805 Sa). Scrapheap Challenge USA launches to C4 (1505 Su) followed by build-your-own superhero show Zero to Hero (1605 Su). Brainteaser moves to 1100, Memory Bank to 1330, and there's a radio tribute to Bob Monkhouse (Radio 2, 2030 Tuesday.)

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