Weaver's Week 2005-02-27

Weaver's Week Index


27 February 2005

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

We were hoping to have a review of Alan Sugar's The Apprentice. However, we need to consider the programme a little further before coming to a conclusion.


Another month in the world of Twice Nightly, and champions have been coming and going as if the new fashion was to spend just one day in the winner's circle.

When last we looked, Judith Young was the reigning champion. She duly completed her octochamp run, aggregating 707 points. She'll surely be back for Finals Week, and must be favoured to make the semis at least.

Sonia Cordas won the first game after Judith's run, and when leading 62-34 after the ninth round, looked set to make more wins. However, Nicky Lyons recovered to win their match 85-79, only to fall to Peter Berridge the next day, and Peter fell to Frank Mulvey on his first defence.

Frank, we think, is going to go down as one of the more easily remembered Countdowners. A genial Scouser, he charmed the viewing public during four good wins before delivering one of the greatest performances of all time. His fifth win came with a score of 133, only the second century of the series, and included some superlative letters and numbers work. He's bound for Finals Week we thought. It wasn't to be so; Frank had to withdraw from the competition after that episode was recorded, so he remains undefeated on 5 wins and 458 points. It's not clear if he will be able to return for the finals.

After Frank came some more one-day champions - Margaret Roper won the vacant title, defeated by Rose Benson, who in turn fell to Gary Buxton. John Mayhew defeated Gary, and has managed to retain his title against six further opponents, scoring three centuries so far. He's not had everything go his way, and a couple of matches were still competitive going into the final period. John currently has a score of 703, so needs a win with 5 points or more to take the top seeding.

As matters stand, the seedings are:

  1. Judith Young 8 wins, 707 pts (+34 to Par)
  2. Fred Reynolds 6 wins, 599 (+74)
  3. Frank Mulvey 5 wins, 458 (+40)
  4. Brian Roles 5 wins, 427 (+87)
  5. Toni Ryan 4 wins, 427 (+97)
  6. Sonia Cordas 1 win, 177 (+12)
  7. Gary Buxton 1 win, 154 (+8)
  8. Nicky Lyons 1 win, 153 (+24)
  9. Peter Berridge 1 win, 140 (+41)
  10. Rose Benson 1 win, 126 (+38)
  11. Margaret Roper 1 win, 120 (+48)

University Challenge

Second round draw

  • Edinburgh bt Royal Holloway
  • Manchester bt Newcastle
  • St. Hilda's Oxford bt Leicester
  • Corpus Christi Oxford bt Sheffield
  • Balliol Oxford v Durham
  • Lancaster v Reading
  • University of East Anglia v University College London
  • Jesus Cambridge v University Oxford

Feb 14. Second round, match 5 - Balliol Oxford -v- Durham

Balliol downed Downing Cambridge in short order, and Durham made sure Kingston was never going to be in their game. Neither side has been particularly stretched, though Thumper drones on about how Balliol has never won. Durham has won twice in the past. Could this be a hint about how he'd like the series to end?

"Polymethalmetalcrylate" is the beginning of a starter that drones on and on. So does a set of bonuses on herbs and spices. There's a place for long questions, but there are too many of them tonight. The picture bonus is Name That Olympics From The Top End Of Its Medal Table. A couple of missignals in the first few questions means Durham's lead is 40-25. It doesn't last long, thanks to Interruption of the Week.

Q Which fictional character is being described in the following verse? "The clever men of Oxford..."
Peter Baker, Balliol: Mr Toad.

And the question-setters are clearly making a point here.

Q: First recorded in the United States in 1989, and referring to a supposed condition in which men are unable to resist offering answers to questions, even ones outside their field of expertise, for what do the initials MAS stand?
Mark Wallace, Durham: Men answering syndrome?
Jamie Lee, Balliol: Masculine answering syndrome?
A: Male Answering Syndrome.

Thumper is a little generous to Balliol when he accepts "Canterbury - cantering" with a clear pause between the parts. We'll expect him to redress the balance before the end of the show. The audio round is Name That Whistling, after which the sides are tied at 75-all.

Places that Thumper can't say: "Kiribati." The last syllable is "bass," not "batty."

Thumper is very, very generous to allow "Republic --- Commonwealth" in connection to a bank holiday celebrating 19 May 1649. There's enough of a pause - three seconds - for Thumper to screw his face up and audibly "erm," and this again goes to Balliol's advantage. Durham will need some serious redressing by the end of the show. The second picture round is Name That Arthur Miller play - it's coincidence that Mr Miller passed away a few days before broadcast. Balliol's lead is 145-125.

One starter asks the contestants to spell "squalor." Does Thumper think he is Nina Hossain all of a sudden? In spite of his best efforts, Durham takes the lead with three minutes to play, and pulls further ahead with a set of questions on hammers. But Balliol has a starter, and Thumper is surely breaking the speed limit, going at 42 points per minute over the last couple of minutes. Even the announcer is getting excited, and this never ever happens. Durham misses the star sign between Taurus and Cancer, and that just about wraps up their chances.

In the end, Thumper showed subtle but detectable bias towards the Balliol side, and that really does taint Balliol's 215-195 win. We're not calling high foul; Durham missed chances to put the match beyond reach; the Balliol side is clearly very good, and we suspect that they could easily have won the match without the host's assistance. We don't begrudge them their place in the quarters, only the way in which they were assisted. The two captains were the best buzzers this week - Jamie Lee made 71.8 for Balliol, Alex Hooper 119.5 for Durham. Balliol had 18/37 bonuses and one missignal, Durham 19/33 and two missignals.

Feb 21: Lancaster -v- Reading

Both sides won their opening games at quite a canterbury; Lancaster beat York, though the opponents scraped the last place in the repechage. Reading overcame St John's Cambridge.

Honours are even in the opening exchanges, including a fairly odd session when Reading were naming the Balkan country described in the question after the one they've just heard. After the first picture round - Name That Foot Bone, aka Just Say Metatarsal - Lancaster leads 50-35.

Lancaster gets a set of bonuses about tenses of the verb "to be," and misses them all. The only linguist on the panel is playing for Reading. The audio round is Name That Russian Composer, during which Lancaster is able to correct Thumper's poor pronunciation of some Russian Composers' names. Lancaster's lead is 95-45, and this game just isn't really taking off.

Thumper is giving slight assistance again, in a question asking after two of the branches of government, a member of Lancaster gives the one already given, but corrects himself very quickly. And he's being sniffy at Reading, saying that a French philosopher "couldn't possibly" be Rousseau. As Mr Tarrant used to say, they're only easy if you know the answers, and Thumper does redress the balance by suggesting Reading's captain listens to his team. The second picture is Name The Scientist From Their Work, and Lancaster has stretched the lead to 135-60.

What were Dutch and Spanish slops? Ships? Shoes? Food? No, it's trousers. Lancaster are confident enough of the win that they can afford to waste time giving each other handshakes during the contest. Thumper doesn't so much stumble over some complex scientific names as completely trip over them and land flat on his face.

Lancaster's win has an air of inevitability about it, but 175-60 doesn't do Reading justice. Alasdair Anderson (76) led for Lancaster, the side made 14/36 bonuses and three missignals. Reading's best buzzer was Lydia Massey, responsible for 39.2 points as the side made just 4/15 bonuses and two missignals.

Flyweight, Ready?

Antan Dec's new series includes a brief segment where the two hosts battle against each other for the honour of winning. The opening show, a couple of weeks ago, brought back John Anderson, Wolf, and other stars of Gladiators in a game that might have been called, "Pick on someone your own size."

If the two-headed Geordie is the acceptable face of Saturday night television, then Richard "Dosgby" Park and Patrick "Shutit" Kielty are the unacceptable face. The two engaged in a running spat during the second series proper of Fame Academy, and we remarked at the time how they were both in the wrong, and if they couldn't talk through their differences, they should both be removed from the project. The same immature attitude has been the touchstone of pre-publicity for Comic Relief Presents Star Fame Academy, which began last night. Mr Shutit launched into a vitriolic attack at the press launch, Mr Dogsby told Teletext that he still didn't like the way Mr Shutit tried to hog the limelight, and Mr Pot said that that was rather rich coming from Mr Kettle.

Away from the pro-celebrity boxing, there's a team of thirteen tuning up their voices on the new academy near a London bridge. In no particular order, they are:

  • Edith Bowman, a presenter on the BBC's popular music service;
  • Jon Culshaw, a comedian best known for his wide range of impressions;
  • Kim Medcalf, who appeared in BBC timefiller East Enders;
  • Jenny Eclair, a regular alongside Susie Dent;
  • Nick Knowles, who hosts an antiques show;
  • Reggie Yates, one of the frontsteam for the long-suffering Top of the Pops;
  • Al Murray, a pub landlord;
  • Adrian Edmondson; a former Young One who already has a Comic Relief single to his name;
  • Gina Yashere, a professional funny person;
  • Debra Stephenson, who appears in ITV timefiller Coronation Street;
  • Christopher Colquhoun, who will have to dash off and appear on Casualty;
  • Dawn Steele, from BBC drama Monarch of the Glen.

The regular tutors - Carrie and David Grant, Kevin Adamson, and hosts Cat Deeley and Claudia Winkleman - will be joined by guest judges including Lesley Garrett.

This Week And Next

It's also A Song for Europe week. No longer do we have to endure the pre-selection on the radio, just some classic songs performed by the best singers in the country. But enough about Sweden, this is the UK. We have:

  • Andy Scott-Lee, performing "Guardian Angel," written by Lee Ryan (formerly of Blue) and Rob Persaud.
  • Gina G, performing "Flashback," written by Gina G, Zuriani, and Richard Adlam (wrote the regular bed on the Chris Moyles show.)
  • Javine Hilton, performing "Touch My Fire," written by Javine Hilton and John Themis.
  • Katie Price, performing "Not Just Anybody," written by By Misfits.
  • Tricolore, performing "Brand New Day," written by Jon Cohen (not the Play School pianist,) Jem Sharples, Stuart Pendred and Scott Ciscon (the three group members, formerly known as Tenors Unlimited.)

The songs will be played on Radio 2 all week, ahead of the voting on Saturday night.

The Lottery Corp has asked us to publicise their new show, Come And Have A Go. Anything to do with the Nicky Campbell interactive-fest last year? Quite possibly: a champion pair will compete against twenty teams of two. The first show will be taped, but subsequent shows will air live from late April until the end of June.

Also this week: a BAFTA tribute to Bruce Forsyth, the Superstars final, and the Battle of Hastings. And that's just on the BBC tonight!

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