Weaver's Week 2004-10-09

Weaver's Week Index

9 October 2004

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

There are more people listening to Radio 4's long-running mike-on-the-wall documentary about real people living on farms than are watching Channel 5's short-running camera-on-the-wall documentary about minor celebs flouncing off farms.


Jungle Run

(1600 Tuesday, ITV)

The annual plug for the children's version of The Crystal Maze, as the parallels are becoming clearer by the week. The host (the third, if we're not mistaken) is Michael Underwood, who was himself a team captain on one of the junior versions of TCM. Games this year have clearly had some money spent on them, and include one spectacular game where the team have to manoeuvre statues around a fire with cans that really explode.

Maybe we've just been unlucky in the past couple of years, but we've now seen the lock-in mechanism in use. Children really do get locked in, and can leave the game with nothing more than a consolation prize.

While we may still be a little unhappy that CITV never developed its option on the Crystal Maze format, we can at least take comfort that their existing show - now in its sixth series - has almost become a clone.

Scrapheap Challenge

(RDF for Channel 4, 1830-ish Sunday)

Five weeks into the year, and we've already had a battle of Sand Racers, which are to race along sand, testing for speed and manoeuvrability. Will skid steering prove more successful than your regular dune buggy, and can either team beat the unseasonable hail and cold during their July build?

The Dam Busters challenge was to knock over a small wall of oil barrels that someone (no names, no pack drill) had left lying about in the middle of Scrapheap Lake. The game pitted a glorified clay pigeon firing device against a motorised trolley contraption, with hilarious results.

Human Bowling Ball, as the name suggests, was to construct a frame that would roll a person into some giant skittles made of oil cans that someone (and who's that sniggering over there?) had left lying about at the end of Scrapheap Runway. The small device fitted a moped between two very large wheels. The large device put a small car in a large metal frame, and tilted over with a very heavy piece of concrete.

The Recovery Challenge was to remove a car that someone (and it can't be coincidence that all these terrible things happen on one show) had left stranded in Scrapheap Muddy Duckpond. One team used a tractor and some hydraulic rams; the other a small dumpster with added car-carrying platform. Quite why all recovery workers have to ruin the vehicles in order to save them is something we'll never know.

Last week's challenge saw the teams try to build their own jet boats out of used cars, bits of metal tubing, converted air-conditioning units, and exploding car radiators. After the complete silliness of the previous three weeks, this was an unspectacular show, the straight races tend to be a bit - well, straight.


Heat 22/24

Jane Ann Liston is offering the life and works of Jacques Offenbach. The obligatory cancan question comes up fourth. Indeed, she rarely errs, yet only scores 12 (0) thanks to some unusually lengthy questions. They belong in the next show.

Tony Luxon has British Films of the 1960s. He performs credibly, making 8 (3).

Julie Cox has been reading the life and times of Arbella Stuart. We don't know who this person was, but we know she died in the Tower of London in 1615, four years after attempting to leave the country, attended at the court of James VI, inherited a claim to the thrones of England and Scotland, married William Seymour, but we don't get a clear idea of her place in history. Julie finishes on 10 (3).

David Perrin is taking Wild Cats of the World. Like Tony's offering, this is one of those portmanteau subjects; like Tony, he finishes on 8 points, but with no passes.

Tony is first in the general knowledge hotseat, and gets a question about a cartoon featuring stout little girls and their stout little ponies that seems awfully familiar from somewhere. He finishes strongly, making 17 (6) in all. David gets a non-Herculean question about Pandora's box, but never really hits his stride, finishing on 13 (0).

Julie explains about Arbella, a cousin to James VI, and a contender to follow Elizabeth I in 1603. Simon Sharma never told us any of this. She gets a question about Artemis, but never hits her stride either. A pass on the final question means she finishes on 17 (7). Jane needs six to progress; she gets there, but only just, finishing on 19 (3).

University Challenge

The reader postbag has been full to overflowing with a letter this week. It's from a Mr Trellis of South London, who correctly points out that Univ Oxford made the semi-finals as recently as 2001, before falling to St John's Oxford. He also makes the salient point that Univ are going for their third win, yet this fact went unmentioned by Thumper, unlike the spiel he gave at the start of almost every episode last year.

First round 4/14: Warwick -v- University College London

Three historians on the teams tonight, and not a linguist amongst the eight. Thumper makes the claim that Warwick has appeared in all eleven series since the revival began. This is nonsense, though tonight marks their third consecutive appearance, and eighth in total. Warwick sides have only once made the semi-finals, but haven't lost their first round match since 2000. UCL were last with us two years ago, coming through the repechage to fall in the quarter finals.

The UCL gets the better of the early exchanges, before Warwick briefly ties the scores by winning the first picture starter on "early" arcade games, such as Tetris.

Q: Tony Benn, Stephen Fry,...
Luke Parks, Warwick: Pipe smoker of the year.
Thumper: You do know some trivial things.

Almost praise from the host there. Warwick trailed by almost fifty at one point, but briefly takes the lead following a superb display of knowledge of their King Henrys. The audio round is Name That Tune - from karaoke backing tracks. UCL gets that, and extends their lead to 30.

It's a high-scoring game this week, passing 200 points shortly after the audio round, and 250 before the second picture round. The second picture round is Name That Australian State From Pictures Of Its Landmarks. UCL gets that, just as they've got most other things, and has a lead of more than 100.

Warwick needs to get a lot of starters to peg back UCL, but the London side just goes further and further ahead. In the end, it's not even close, though Warwick does get a final starter just before the gong. UCL runs out the winners, 265-100. Warwick didn't deserve to be beaten out of sight, this side would easily have been good for a couple of wins last year.

UCL's top buzzer was Ivan Polancec, being on target eight times, and amassing 113.8 points. The side made 22/46 bonuses and picked up one missignal. Warwick's best was Luke Parks, responsible for 59.7 points, the one missignal, and five starters. The side made just 7/21 bonuses, and no-one ever wins games with bonus conversion rates below 40%. This week's aggregate of 365 is the median first round score over all ten years; only one match last year produced as many points.

After four matches, we can begin to look at the repechage entries.

Univ Oxford 150 Jesus Cambridge 145 York 120 Warwick 100

Next: Balliol Oxford -v- Downing Cambridge

This Week And Next

It's been a slow week. An ITV spokey has "let slip" to a Sunday tabloid that minor celebs are "desperate" to get on I'm A Celeb, Get Me Some Exposure 4. Amongst those turned down are Myleene Klass (formerly of ITV house band Heraset), Lisa Scott-Lee (formerly of top pop popsters Steps), and The Cheeky Girls (formerly of, er, The Cheeky Girls). "It's amazing how many has-beens think they have a chance of getting on IBES," said the anonymous source. Evidently they all hope to revive their career for five final minutes of fame. No doubt they'll all be hoping that their five minutes last longer than Peter Andre, who was bottled off stage in Manchester last weekend, before calling the crowd a load of "fork-headed tizzies." At least, we think that's what he said.

Antan Dec returned for the fourth (count 'em!) series of Saturday Night Takeaway last, er, Saturday. The show included even more ITV cross-promotion, so much that we're wondering if this is an entertainment show starring Antan Dec that happens to have some other monkeyvision celebrities, or an ITV promotional hour that happens to be hosted by the Geordies. The new game was Box The Box, in which Kelly Holmes (an athlete) was winched up over the audience, punched some boxes, they split, and soft items (including giant foam numbers) fell out. It didn't quite feel ready for prime-time. There was also a Pub Olympics, which we can neatly summarise as "Like House of Games, only done in a pub, and hosted by Dickie Davies."

In Brain of Britain, the dream of a Grand Slam final has come to an end; John Bates, an editor from London, has become the first person into the final, beating Gavin Fuller by two clear points.

Next week: we've seen good notices about Spy, a show in which real people train to be real spies. 6:45 weeknights on BBC2. Also the first in a new series of Mind Games, and the return of Have I Got News for You

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