Weaver's Week 2004-08-14

Weaver's Week Index

14 August 2004

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

Let the challenge -- begin! - Weaver's Week

We're wishing all the best to Jeremy Beadle, who had a cancerous kidney removed last week. The game show legend has been released from hospital already.

RAVEN II (CBBC channel, 0828 weekdays)

Finally, the second series is getting a repeat, albeit on digital television only. We reckon that this series is far superior to the first, for reasons we'll dissect game-by-game below. Needless to say, this review contains hulking big spoilers for anyone who wants to wait and see the show on terrestrial channels, and also gives hints about what's to come in the series.

The basic premise hasn't changed at all. Raven (still played by James MacKenzie, he now actually looks like a raven, not a bloke in a black cloak) is joined by six warriors. The best two from each week progress to the grand final, where someone will win a small prize, and the honour of being Raven's champion. There's a distinct presentation change - each contestant has a symbol on their standard, shown before their challenge, and the contestant wears the predominant colour from that symbol. Rather than six youngsters all wearing shades of brown with coloured sashes, we have six youngsters wearing bright - but not lurid - shades.

The scoring system has changed somewhat - contestants still lose one of their seven lives for each challenge failed, but they're rewarded for success by treasure rings. Seven rings can be exchanged for one life.

Fire Demon. In which the neophyte warriors are blindfolded, and wave about a big white stick with knobbly bits, hoping to hit a water-filled balloon controlled by wires before the balloon hits them. Thanks to some CGI trickery, the balloon is transformed into a blazing fireball. This is just about the least convincing game the contestants play, as the CGI robs the viewer of proper perspective and comes across as a bit cheap. And the game returns on the final day of the week - indeed, we'll see this eight times during the series, and that's a bit too often.

Treasure Ring. In which our contestants race off, one at a time, in small coracles. The object is to haul oneself to the middle of the course, and claim the gold ring. Winner of the race stays on, winner of the final race keeps a life. A fairly basic test of strength and technique.

Deep Loch. Swim across a deep, cold lake. First three to the other side win rings, anyone who needs help loses a life.

The Eyeless Demons. In pairs, the warriors race down the course, hoping to unhook a ring from its pole. Barring their way are Eyeless Demons, who will hear them from the bells on the end of their hooks. Of all the games played on Raven, this test of skill and tactics is the signature game.

Ring Climb. Climb up a ladder of rings and beat your opponent to the top. A simple test of strength and technique.

Riddle Bridge. A reprise of last year's Vale of Dunan, but with slightly less of a peg-back-the-leader element. A book gives a clue to a word, the contestant must step on stones to spell out that word. Intellect is at stake.

Spider's Cave. Tied together in pairs, contestants go through a series of spider's webs to collect pairs of gold rings. Take too long, and the rings and a life is lost. Tests teamwork as much as physical prowess.

Dragons' Blood. Collect four saucers of dragons' blood, and put them in a chest to gain a gold ring. Spill a drop, and a life is lost. This is a clever game, as the saucers have to be picked up on a horizontal pole, and that pole has to gently traverse an up-and-down maze. Perhaps deserves more than the one outing, especially as only two can play - the two seem to be picked to break ties.

The Surely Impossible Way Of The Warrior. Hasn't much changed from last year, so it's quite possible that some inventive youngster will have worked out their technique for dealing with each obstacle. This year, only the warrior in last place at the end of each day plays TSIWOTW, ensuring that it's likely to remain uncracked until finals week. There's a presentation change - in the first series, TSIWOTW was filmed using strange filters, so that everything in the game took on shades of brown. This year, the segment is in its natural colours, and that actually robs something of the atmosphere.

High Tower. Oh, this is fun. Contestants stand about ten feet in the air, on towers of enlarged brown sugar cubes, and bat each other about with oversized cotton wool sticks. The towers are stuck together, but are unstable, and the first person to fall off, or topple their tower, loses. Often, a vigorous approach will be someone's (literal) downfall. The idea wouldn't have been out of place on Gladiators. Another of those winner stays on games, with only the ultimate winner retaining a life.

Demon Square. A bush asks true-or-false questions in rhyming couplets: contestants must get five answers right to claim a ring; two errors will cost a life. Shades of general knowledge, but with everyone playing, the effect is more Runaround than Fifteen To One.

Burning Battlements. Effectively, a solo skill test - shooting a catapult at those water-filled balloons against the clock. Again, CGI turns the balloons into fires, and this time the effect is more credible. CGI appears to work best in two dimensions.

Thrall Demons. The leader is blindfolded and someone else calls out to guide them round a course containing rings and threads. Touch a thread, the bell will ring, and the demon will get you. Tests communication skills, and is played twice over the week.

The Dark Path. Blindfolded, the contestants must follow a trail of vines and avoid false leads and beat their opponent to the finish. Probably the most atmospheric game of the week, testing touch and thought.

Leap Of Faith. In turn, jump off a high platform and grab some rings. Openly tests courage.

Dragon's Lair. Climb up a rope ladder faster than your opponent, collecting rings en route, to retain a life.

The High Walk. Walk along a small wooden path, high in the trees, collecting rings as you go.

Burning Mountain. Pull up a sled containing a 3d jigsaw that will make a statue. First to erect their statue wins.

The Last Stand. Nevar (you see what they did there?) sits atop a portal. He has scattered pieces of a key to open the portal around the field, and there are a lot of wooden walls around. Yes, this is paintball, only without the paint, and with only one person being able to shoot. The player who can gather the pieces of their key and turn it first will win, go through the portal, and come back in finals week.

Not played this week, but will appear later in the series:

Stepping Stones. A two-person race along the stones. Best not to fall in. We'll only see this once, and that's a bit of a shame.

Swing Ball. Like High Tower, only played with a large leather-covered ball. Another one that should have been on Gladiators.

Water Battle. Like High Tower, only played on unstable floating stones in the water.

From last year, we've lost the Hunt For The Standard, there's no Forest of Chains, and the teamwork of getting a ball into a hole hasn't returned.

Overall, the standard of games is vastly improved from last year, especially the weekly final. We've not lost any of the period charm, and Raven is now a credible raven. Even better, the main criticism from last year - the anachronistic language of the young players - has been improved.


Jenny Dunn, taking Richard III. That's the War of the Roses king, not the Supergrass single; even Mastermind finds that too restrictive a subject. She scores 8 (4).

Tony Dawber, Burnley FC. He knows his onions from his onion bags, scoring 13 (2).

Don Young, Homer's Odyssey. That's the ancient Greek poem, not the Simpsons character. Don is a bit of a Trojan horse candidate, looking nervy, but scoring 14 (0).

Simon Surtees, Films of Billy Wilder. The most pop culture offering of the week, he makes 11 (2).

Jenny opens with an entertaining twist on an old classic:

Q: Which Conservative leader was the first since Chamberlain not to fight a
general election?
A: (thinks for about ten seconds) Pass.

She improves somewhat after that, finishing on 19 (8).

Simon finishes on 16 (6), Tony has a hot-and-cold round and advances to 20 (7).

Don, therefore, needs just seven to be assured of victory, and wraps that up without breaking sweat. It's exhibition stuff after that, finishing on 29 (0). We have a strong contender for the semis.

Mastermind will return after the sport.


With just a hundred grand up for grabs, we don't really need to be on Huge Prize Watch any more, so the summary can be that bit shorter.

The bills, however, seem to keep growing. First Gabby hands over a million pound cheque to last week's winner Karen Shand, then some astute brokerage ensure that both of the first two contestants get 10/10, and ITV's coffers are depleted by another 14 grand. The giveaway continues after the break; the third contestant gets nothing on her own, but is able to earn £5150 for knowing absolutely nothing. There's another ten for contestant four, and contestant five runs it down to the last few seconds, and makes it the fifth tenfer of the night. ITV's bill for the last half hour is £1,035,000.

The second round is somewhat more difficult, with only eleven correct answers being given. ITV's still given away £1,046,200, and the show's not over yet.

Tony is our studio jackpot player, he's already got two bonuses and more than £12,000. He gets delayed by the pronunciation of "Raphael Benitez," and stumped by the author of "The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." He escapes with £12,750, having added just a grand in the two minutes. Alexander McCall-Smith was the answer they wouldn't have got in two months.

The home caller is a lady, for the umptitumpth time in umptitump-and-a-few calls. She seems to have someone blatantly searching the interweb in the background, but gets stumped by Humphrey Bogart's oscar - "The African Queen"

was the stumper.


According to Endemol head honcho Peter Bazalgette, "It's no coincidence that most of the critics of Big Brother are old men. Older people cannot stomach younger people's lack of problem with nudity, sex and so-called bad language, and the reactions to Big Brother are obvious manifestations of that." This column has no qualms with any of those matters. We do have a rather large problem with television that makes entertainment out of other people's misery, and with television that glamourises and rewards violence. We also have a bit of a problem with producers who prefer to attack their critics than to offer any evidence that their programme is much cop.

Anyway, sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that we didn't declare a winner of the contest last week. Our theory, developed almost two weeks ago, is that the press coverage is what Endemol is after, so who has been the newspaper favourite? Who has been the real winner of Big Brother 5? Thanks to the hard- chewing Celebdaq hamsters, here's the result.

13) Bekki (0.29% of the winner's score). Came in late, grew quickly, went out quickly.
12) Kat (0.39%). Led the field by a mile after two weeks, stopped for a couple of months, then surged enough in the last week to move off the bottom. Still bitter after she was thrown off the show for trivial reasons, and others were not.
11) Ahmed (0.88%). Slow and steady growth.
10) Marco (2.25%). Never really caught the press attention, in spite of his pivotal role in the show.
9) Emma (4.21%). Three weeks doubled, one week trebled, then held station for the rest of the contest.

8) Vanessa (4.26%). Strong showing while in the house, fell away badly after she left, but picked up following a publicity stunt this week.
7) Daniel (6.57%). Some growth every week, and a 250% Growth this week was his best.
6) Shell (31.75%). Never less than 38% Growth in a week; doubled in three weeks, 350% this. Getting her buns out for the papers helped.
5) Jason (40.68%). Doubled his value in the penultimate week, and gained more press by boycotting the BBLB Barbie after some crass and insensitive questioning by Davina.
4) Michelle (47.70%). Until this week, had the biggest one-week increase - 274% in week two. Biggest dividend for the last week of competition.
3) Nadia (48.49%). Second favourite in the opening week, then fell away badly. The biggest growth of the contest, 380% this week, lifted her from sixth.

2) Stuart (52.85%). Only once failed to register a 50% Growth, and this week's biggest dividend.
1) Victor (100.00%). Registered 200% Growth for four consecutive weeks.


Advance notice: the Eurovision Song Contest dates for next year have been confirmed. The semi-final moves to a Thursday, 19 May, allowing the BBC to cook up one night of Euro Kiev goodness before the final on Saturday the 21st. Our money's on Slovenia.

Enjoy INNITTER WINNIT tonight, because it's the last game show on BBC1 or 2 for eight days. Pick of the week is probably Vintage FRIENDS LIKE THESE on UK Gold at 1100 today, or HOUSE OF GAMES on Challenge all week. A review here next week.

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