Weaver's Week 2004-09-04

Weaver's Week Index

4 September 2004

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

Summer review - Weaver's Week

It's not called "Rock Revolution" for nothing.


It's this column's view that The Vault had just about run its course. There's only so much evidence we can gather about the Great British Public's lack of knowledge about politics, literature, science, and almost anything that isn't popular culture. There's only so many times we can see a host wearing a black dress. There's only so many times we can hear the host asking about shows on the same channel, and having it pedantically referred to as "ITV1." It's ATV, from ATVland, fer cryin' out loud! There have been examples of intelligent game play and supreme knowledge; these have been vastly outnumbered by examples of gross stupidity and foolishness. Here's the final crop (sp?)

Things we learned from The Vault:

  • The youngest ever British PM was Mister Tony Blair.
  • Everyone knows which pop group featured Lisa Scott-Lee.
  • Judas Iscariot did his work in the Garden of Eden.
  • Former League Division I, containing Arsenal and Manchester United, is now known as the Championship.
  • The Chihuahua takes its name from a province of China.
  • One of the books of the Old Testament is called "Moses".
  • No-one knows the secretary of state for the environment, food, rural affairs, and commas.

[Pitt the Younger, Steps, Garden of Gethsemene, Premier League, Mexico, Margaret Beckett]

Perhaps it was appropriate that one of the weakest studio jackpot players ever should actually drop from £11,650 to £10,350 over her two minutes - she earned the grand non-total of minus £650 a minute, perhaps the biggest cash loss since Endemol removed money from the Big Brother prize fund at the rate of £10,000 per minute. And perhaps it was appropriate that a female caller should stumble on a geography question, and the £300,000 jackpot should go away unspent. With

£100,000 from the first series, £200,000 from the second, and £200,000 that was never added to the jackpot this year, ITV has saved itself £800,000.

So The Vault is gone, almost certainly never to return. Perhaps the only contribution it has made to the language is giving us a faintly-useful shorthand for the rarely-used sum of £700,000: "an arctophile."


Heat (rifles through notes) 17/24, so we're now looking for the grand final on 22 November.

Phil Jordan is taking British Top 30 singles, 1960-1989. That's a large subject, though we do get the opportunity to nail the urban myth that Bob Holness played the sax on "Baker Street." Phil starts strongly, but gets completely thrown off his rhythm by a question about a 1995 hit. He finishes with 5 correct (5 passes), and surely has grounds for an objection.

Anne Miller has Cesar Frank. The classical music round is only slightly more to the contestant's liking, she scores 5 (3).

Anirudh Chari takes the films of Satayjit Roy. He knows his onions, scoring an almost perfect 14 (1).

James Greenfield takes perhaps the biggest subject of the week - the life and reign of Queen Victoria. It's a big subject, but it's a big score. James also scores 14 (1).

On the general knowledge section, Phil does somewhat better, advancing to 16 (8). Anne is only slightly less successful, finishing on 13 (5).

Anirudh is still a student, and there are those (step forward, Chris Tarrant) who suggest that students don't have the life experience to do well on general knowledge. He's the third contestant to miss the Opening Sitter question, but does have the fortune to get one on Indira Ghandi. Going at a clip, he finishes on 24 (5).

James is somewhat older, though not old enough to remember Queen V from first- hand experience. He also misses the Opening Sitter, and never really recovers from there, finishing on 20 (7).


The North American version of Millionaire has made some significant changes for its new season. Contestants who correctly answer question 10 will activate a "Flip" lifeline, allowing them to throw out a question and have it replaced by another top tier question. To the best of our knowledge, it's the first time that any regional version has varied from the format pioneered here six years ago.

The cash tree also changes: ten questions drops from USD 32,000 to USD 25,000. Eleven is now worth 50,000 rather than 64,000; twelve drops from 125,000 to 100,000; but question thirteen is still worth USD 250,000 cash. The half- million and million dollar questions are still paid in the form of an annuity, so are worth significantly less than the figure announced.


We were going to give a full review to the made-up sports show INTERNATIONAL KING OF SPORTS, but from the draft, it would turn into something of a repeat of the recent HOUSE OF GAMES review. This column is not the BBC and deems repeating itself within two weeks to be a bad thing.

The salient points: IKOS is filmed in such sports centres as Cheltenham and Northampton, and features no less than four commentators - a bloke who explains the events in a (presumably put-on) Dutch accent, commentary from Alan Parry and Mark Robson, and someone called Helen Chamberlain presenting.

Events include Association Bobbage (jumping off a platform keeping one's head above water) and the 3m sprint (it's a sprint of 3000mm) which could yet become genuine sports; underwater shot put probably won't. Sliding along the mat has surely turned up on the soon-to-be-axed INTERREGIO, as has at least one contestant. It's an Endemol production for Channel 5, and bears a 2003 copyright date.

Bizarre sight of the week: Sharron Davies' shoulder pads and bouffant hair when she appeared on BULLSEYE 1984. That, and an original Psion Organiser, the size of about four modern mobile phones, the computing power of about 1/400th of a phone. This week's repeats also cleared up two eternal mysteries: what happens if there's a tie in the pounds-for-points round (it's fingers on buzzers) and what if all three teams turn down the prize gamble (Jim still shows it.)

The Grand Slam domination of Brain of Britain looked set to continue last week when we heard one of the contestants announced. "David Edwards, a retired physics teacher from Staffordshire," said Robert Robinson, omitting to announce David's previous victories on Mastermind and Millionaire. Surprisingly, he's unlikely to complete the hat-trick by winning BOB, falling to a superlative contestant by a single point. David's hopes now rest on making the highest scoring losers semi-final; this is possible, but not certain. We've not yet heard from the North of England, and could a famed bow-tie wearer from Cumbria be in store?

This week's gratuitous game show link came in BOB's second music question, on the piece composed by after Chopin's enforced exile to Paris following an insurrection in his native Poland. It's the Revolutionary etude, not the "chase yuppie couples wearing backpacks round the country with a helicopter and laser gun thing etude."

In Eurovision news, the lessons of Turkey are going unheeded. Ireland is pressing ahead with its "You're A Star" format, though with a new panel of judges, after their entry finished with only a handful of points. That's still one handful (metric; 2.66 imperial handsful) more than Switzerland, where "MusicStar" is also to be revived. It's the show that brought Pierre And The Failed Tweenies to our screens for three unforgettable minutes. While these talent search contests are great to promote Eurovision to the public, they will lead to songs that are popular in the local country, and don't have the gimmick to win outright.

Stateside, the battle between NBC and FOX has been settled in the latter's favour. The News International channel will air Endemol's "The Next Great Champ" from September 7, beating the GE network's "The Contender" - co-produced by Mark "Survivor" Burnett - by a couple of months.

Or so we thought, until independent producer Leigh Burton turned up for her day in court. Burton told the court that she conceived of a boxing-based reality show in August last year. She registered the concept with the Writers Guild of America, and pitched the idea to GRB Entertainment, TNGC producer Oscar de la Hoya, Richard Schaefer, and Golden Boy Promotions. They expressed interest and negotiated a production deal last November. Burton said she discovered in March that the defendants had reached an agreement to develop TNGC with Endemol and Fox, giving rise to her belief that the series' concept was misappropriated from her concept. Golden Boy productions said that the claim was "without merit."

Harry Hill was right. There's only one way to sort this out. Fiiiiiight!

It's the first week of September, so taking a deep breath, here are the new series starting this week:

The BBC has Test the Nation: The National Music Quiz at 2030 tonight; the Junior Mastermind final at 1900 and the last Init at 1950 make this quiz night. Crisis Command tries once more to guide the country through a crisis with only slightly less damage than reality at 2100 tomorrow, that's on BBC2; according to the blurb, the BBC4 show at 2200 will be something completely different. Eggheads comes back for more hand-picked foolishness at 1230 on BBC1, while Gyles Brandereth invites some minor celebs (well, Paul Daniels, John Fashanu, Jim Bowen, and Dogsby from Star Academy) to guess what the public thought of them - that's 2320 Monday, so expect strong language from the start.

The Vault may be locked away, but ITV has brought back Jungle Run (1600 Tuesday) and brings us Scary Sleepover (1600 Thursday.) Lest we forget, Bognor or Bust should have a second show at 2200 Thursday, but with this channel, one can never tell. There should be a review here next week, but one can never tell. Talent highlight of the night is Junior Eurovision The National Final (1835 tonight and 1900 Sunday on, er, ITV2); overexposed talentless bore of the week is Simon Cowell, so no change there.

Channel 4 launches Scrapheap Challenge once more at 1830 tomorrow; before that, another chance to see Harry Hill's Eurovision Top Ten at (er) 0225. Isn't that a more appropriate slot for Fifteen To One? Channel 5 has cut down on the Memory Bank, it's now just 35 minutes from 1125.

Elsewhere: Fort Boyard comes to FTN, 2000 Saturday and Sunday; the channel has Casino Casino from 2300 weeknights. RTE1's Winning Streak resumes at 2010 Saturday.

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