Weaver's Week 2005-01-09

Weaver's Week Index


9 January 2005

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

Happy new year.

Yuletide Notes

Test The Nation, The National 2004 Test aired on the 19th. We note that the average score in the nation was 39; the average according to the test's designer was 42. Given that internet viewers tend to be slightly clever than usual, what gives? There will be no moans about the rubbish prize for the top home score this time - the shepherds donated a large hamper of British farming produce.

We raised eyebrows at Peter Snow on Masterteam on Monday the 20th, for his unique way of saying the name of pop diva "Beyonce Knowles." Never knew it came with a hard "c." The same day saw Challenge viewers vote The Krypton Factor their best half-hour show. Good call, and we're seeing the rest of the 1992 series on weekday evenings.

An episode of Winner Takes All from 1976 popped up on Challenge on Tuesday. Jimmy Tarbuck looked very much younger, and the set looked like someone's front room. We were struck by the slightly insulting way he handled the contestants, and that he really didn't seem to have anything much to do beyond that. Don't think this could come back in the same format. Maybe it could come back in the daytime version we saw later in the week - host, devisor, producer, and general good egg Geoffrey Wheeler was contracted for a 60-programme run, according to his opening chat.

Sale of the Century, though, could certainly return. If The Price is Right was the first show where the prize was the star, it's fair to say that SOTC's contestants took equal billing with their prizes and the host. The rat-a-tat-tat rapid fire questions are so different from anything we have outside the Wonderwall, and everyone wants to win decent consumer durables. A possibility for ITV's still-troubled 5pm slot, perhaps?

In an unusual event, the X Marks the Spot team were detained for almost ten seconds on a clue - My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming (blank) - that went in moments on the Monday's UC. In fairness, these two shows were recorded some time apart, and the question was being looked at by Rod Liddle and not David Edwards.

For those who were a little annoyed at University Challenge - The Performing Arts not giving all of the SI base units, they are: metre (distance), second (time), kilogram (mass), ampere (current), Kelvin (temperature), candela (light), and the mole (game shows). The show also contained the unusual phrase "Your bonuses are on boiled eggs," and we noted that the teams have been issued with pens and paper - maybe the producers have learned that UC is not a test of memory. Still, any excuse to hear Brian Sewell say "Va-va-voom" is worth the license fee alone. His Reviewers team won the contest, thanks to their ringer, Russell Davies of Brain Of Britain.

The Grate British Public had their say as to the most memorable television moments of 2004 in a Channel 4 poll. No surprises to see C4 formats Friends, Big Brother, and Sex And The City top the poll. Strictly Come Dancing came fourth, ahead of I'm A Celeb. The X Factor placed in the top twenty, just ahead of Dick and Dom. The Farm, The Apprentice, World Idol, Mad Mad House, and Shattered all made it into the bottom end of the list. Raven has evidently flown right over these viewers' heads.

Celebrity Mastermind was won by Tom Ward, who scored an astounding 19 points on Philip Larkin.

Armando Ianucci's 2004 The Silly Version included some take-offs of familiar shows, including someone looking a bit like Amanda Platell exposing the comedy value in Crisis Command. "Tom Stoppard is putting on a new play." "We must evacuate London at once."

A month or so ago, we heard one of the 9 Live Quiz TV presenters claim that they'd be here on New Year's Day. They weren't.

And finally, Star Spell invited five celebrities to test their spelling using the Hard Spell lexicon, and the format of that show's final. Jo Brand (asked to spell indomitable), Richard Whiteley (cantankerous), Penny Smith (newsreader), Jeremy Bowen (somersault), and late substitute Richard McCourt (flatulent) were all put through their paces by the disembodied head of Nina Hossain and Eamonn Holmes, and supported by the winners from Hard Spell. Donal MacIntyre's absence meant the prime-time debut of Dick and Dom, bringing some light relief to proceedings by taking the mick from the format. This column reckons that "Which one's Dom?" will become the new "Which one's Ant?" We're only going to explain this once: Dick's the one with the highlights in his hair, and Dom's got black hair and is the slightly bossy and crotchety one. Richard Whiteley, meanwhile, is the winning one.


(RDF for ITV, 1900 Saturday)

The publicity blurb from RDF: "A reality show with a difference - this series fuses the entertainment-values of primetime reality TV with the fact-packed, water-cooler moments of natural history and science television. Zoologist, adventurer and TV presenter Nigel Marven pits his will against members of the public as they embark on the most extreme challenges from the natural world. Can the contestants withstand a battering by tornado-force winds? Can they their train systems to cope with zero gravity or take eggs from the nest of a mother alligator?"

In short: fourteen people from the UK have moved to South Africa for six weeks. Six of them have become the Yellow team, another six the Blue team. One of them is Nigel Marven, a reasonably famous naturalist, as naturalists go. The fourteenth person is Charlie Brocket, who did reasonably well on one of last year's series of I'm A Celebrity. They all live in a camp, and Charlie has a challenge every few days. There's a cash prize for winning the challenge, each team nominates their player, and the winner takes the prize. Mr Marven's winnings are going to the charity Birdlife International.

This isn't a particularly novel format - Fort Boyard features fit people undertaking challenges against time, Gladiators had fit people battling directly against the producer's champion. Perhaps the closest comparison is with The Crystal Maze, as the games test skill and intellect as much as they test physical fitness. The show is nominally hosted by a lord, and his upper-class accent sounds rather a lot like Ed Tudor-Pole.

Unlike any of the other shows, though, Scream is slow going. We see just three games each week, and they're shown in some detail, but it's not going to have the pace of any of the other shows. That said, it's not so slow as to be dull.

ITV2 has a back-up show, describing what goes on in the camp. The first episode showed some animus between Mr Marven and one of the other contestants; this appeared out of nowhere for viewers on ITV, and was explained on the ITV2 show.

Survivor this is not, the focus is on the games rather than the social interaction. Equally, Fear Factor it is not, as the contests are taxing, rather than fright-inducing. Scream isn't a bad show, it's just derivative of everything and not particularly interesting. Which is why it's got a dull review, probably.

University Challenge

Repechage 1: York -v- Univ Oxford

At least the scoreboard on Scream ticks over at 10,000 pounds per hour. UC's scoring rate is the slightly more sedate 584 points per hour, or 4090 in the contest so far. York scored 120 of those while losing to Lancaster's 250; Univ Oxford made 150 in their game, but Newcastle had 155.

Early in the game, it looks as if we'll easily smash the record for the all-time low set last time. None of the first four starters are answered correctly, and by not making any missignals, York leeds by 0 points to -10. Things pick up slightly after this, and Univ has a thin lead - 25-10 - after the first picture round, Name That Football Shirt. Both teams storm ahead with some good bonus work in the next few minutes, and by the audio round - Name That Film Tune - Univ's lead is 85-55.

As they did in the first round, once Univ get going, they really get going. Scandinavian geography, tombstones, all of these provide fertile ground for the Oxford side's knowledge. The second picture round - Name That Man Dressed As Presley In A Movie - goes to York, but Univ has a 145-75 lead. It looks insurmountable.

We're very pleased to see that the long starter question was notable by its absence this week, with questions asking "who was first to appear on a presentation pack" and "who was the first black writer to win the Nobel literature prize" in scarcely more words than those.

York briefly suggests Janis Joplin and Barbra Streisand have been protesting against the US government, but declines to offer these as answers lest they be sneered at by the host. And because they're incorrect answers. With about three minutes to play, Univ gets a starter, extends their lead to 75, and the game's just about up.

Univ's winning score is 200-85, which probably isn't an unfair reflection on either team. Ian Webb led for Univ this time, making 111.6 points; the team had 18/34 bonuses and two missignals. York's top buzzer was Katharine Richardson, on 28.3; all four players picked up one missignal, and 7/21 bonuses were correct.

Next: Jesus Cambridge -v- Queen's Belfast.

This Week And Next

In the early 90s, Tony Slattery was everywhere, including making a special drama for The Krypton Factor, currently showing again on Challenge. Mr Slattery said this week that he'd become the first person in history to decline a role on I'm A Celebrity, deciding not to make his comeback in the 2002 original series, lest he "took a machete to some of the other contestants." The thought of Mr Slattery winning a fight against contestant Nigel Benn is unlikely, especially if Mr Benn were to change into his boxing costume.

Speaking of machetes, a Sunday tabloid reported that Big Brother will see out its contract with a bang - C4 could be planning a relentless fifteen-week show, running from late May until early September. We'll get in the extra jars of coffee now.

Still on the machete file, we hear of a man who is suing NBC over a stunt on Fear Factor. The viewer, who we suspect is only after the publicity, told the Associated Press that the show caused him to suffer a rise in blood pressure, dizziness, and vomiting. He then ran into a doorway "causing suffering, injury and great pain," and promptly sued NBC and Endemol for $2.5 million (approximately two arctophiles.) He says that he is not really after a cash settlement, but he wants to send a message to NBC and other broadcasting networks. "The rat-eating challenge was going too far," he's quoted as saying. "It's barbaric, some of the things they ask these individuals to do." Perhaps we can summarise this case in three words: Where's the remote?

Eurovision has seen its usual run of spoof line-ups over the festive period (we're still laughing over the Cheeky Girls gag from two years ago.) News that Lebanon, Bulgaria, and Moldova will enter the contest, and Hungary will return, is very much confirmed. And be very ware, Alf Poier is in the Austrian final again. The new Gar(r)y Lux is hoping to bemuse Europe with "Good old Europe is dying," the follow up to that song about little bunnies and dromedaries.

Highlights of this week: the second series of Scrapheap Challenge's spin-off Scrappy Races series comes to C4 tonight; Spy airs again on BBC3, though now condensed to a half hour; Vote for Me begins and ends its run on ITV; and Davina McCall's all over C4 again.

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