Weaver's Week 2005-06-18

Weaver's Week Index


Mock the Cats - 19 June 2005

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

Paxman is going to spend the next two years in Mexico. Before you all send your application forms off to Granada, that's Giles Paxman, Jeremy's younger brother, who will be the new British ambassador in Mexico City.

8 Out of 10 Cats

(Zeppotron / Endemol for Channel 4, 2130 Friday)

Typical. You wait years for a new celebrity panel game to turn up, then a zillion arrive at once.

This particular show has a resident host - Jimmy Carr, possibly the most inexpensive man on television. And it has resident team captains - Sean Lock, a comedian; and Dave Spikey, another comedian. Four other guests appear on each episode, drawn from the worlds of comedy and from other Channel 4 programmes. There's probably going to be some cross-over with Back in the Day during the run.

The foundation stone of 8 Out of 10 Cats is the opinion poll. Each week, Endemol commissions respected pollsters Harris to ask a thousand people: what's in the news this week. In the opening round, our invited comedians try to guess which have been the five topics most mentioned in this poll. Rather than an attempt to dissect the interests of the Great British Public, or to analyse the way they're led by the mass media, this is an excuse to trot out some topical jokes. Let's be honest, many of these gags really are funny, and the chairman is polite enough to ensure that his guests get all the best lines.

Then comes a "Poll with a hole." We see a survey result, but with a crucial word or phrase blanked out. What was the subject? And if you don't know, what would make a funny joke there? Anyone who says this is HIGNFY's Missing Words round under a new guise may have a point.

After the commercial break comes - actually, what does come after the commercial break? Ah yes, "Face off," in which the captains are quizzed on which of six people came top in a particular category, such as "Who would make the best spy." The buzzers make another appearance in the final round, "And The Winner Is...", but the show doesn't sustain interest after the break. This'll be where Ten Cats falls down, it's essentially a one-joke programme, with some elements of topical silliness.

If we're going to make the working assumption that Ten Cats is the new HIGNFY, one point stands out. Thanks to commercials, and having six people on the show, a fair amount of material is edited out. This works to the detriment of the show; even an extra couple of minutes would give the programme a chance to breathe without feeling so rushed. Further, Jimmy Carr is sometimes a little too insistent that someone gives him the correct answer that he rather neglects the comedy. Not so good for a comedy quiz.

One missing point: it's slightly surprising that Endemol hasn't negotiated for the "most popular answers to a silly question" idea from Family Fortunes.

As a game show, 8 Out of 10 Cats is thin to the point of nothingness, but the strength of the panellists usually allows the show to work as quite decent comedy.

Mock the Week

(Angst for BBC2, 2202 Sunday)

We've already established that Ten Cats is the new Have I Got News for You What about the show the BBC wants us to think is the new HIGNFY?

Six comedians, Dara Ó Briain hosts (as he's done on HIGNFY in the past). This is more improvisational comedy than anything, with props such as The Spinning Wheel Of Spin, guessing the headline from a picture and initial letters, famous people making dating videos, "Scenes We'd Like To See", and a take off of Prime Minister's Questions that might just become the show's trademark.

Most of the strength of the show comes from its performers. In the opening shows, Rory Bremner and Hugh Dennis have been joined by trained topical comedians, including Linda Smith, Andy Hamilton, and Mark Thomas. Were they to be joined by weaker performers, the show would surely suffer as a result.

Scoring on the show is completely arbitrary, the host simply points to someone who has performed well in that round, and awards it to their team. Most rounds at the end of the show wins. This device clearly lends itself to being completely invisible to the audience, who don't much care who wins, so long as they have some laughter.

The jokes are perhaps stronger here than elsewhere, though some of that would be from the comedy genius of Rory Bremner and Hugh Dennis on the opening episodes. The laughs-per-minute count here was something like twice on Ten Cats, and comfortably above HIGNFY. Mock the Week also benefits from not coming to a grinding halt half-way through for commercials.

In summary, Mock the Week is not the new HIGNFY, but the new Whose Line is it Anyway? And a jolly good job, too. A promotion to Friday night BBC1 is very possible.

The Week took another look at this show in 2012.

Countdown Final Preview

When we last looked to Leeds, there was no champion. Dominic Marsh won his game, but fell next time to Anthony Endsor. Slightly surprisingly, he turned out to be a one-game winner, falling 66-65 to Amy McMaster. She notched up a pair of wins, before falling to Richard Heald. Richard completed his octochamp run on Monday, scoring four centuries and 795 points at -1 to Par (the declarations of the player measured against those of a notional "decent player", minus figures are the target. Compare with golf.) With only seven more heats before Finals Week, Richard immediately knew he would be the fourth seed.

Magda Greensmith took over the vacant champions' chair, lost her first defence to Rod Barry, and set the finals week line-up in stone.

Six octochamps and two six-game winners make it to the last eight, and here's how the seedings have worked out:

John Brackstone (1st seed, 822pts, +27) v Fred Reynolds (8th, 6 wins, 599, +74)

Fred was the carry-over champion from the end of the last series, and consistently scored in the 90s. John Brackstone made five centuries during his run in early May, but only beat Par twice. John will surely win the day.

Richard Heald (4th, 795, -1) v Ross Allatt (5th, 741, +30)

Richard will be well-practiced, his octochamp run finished just this week. Ross picked up a couple of centuries in his run during late April. Richard, perhaps, is just the favourite.

Jon O'Neill (3rd, 804, +2) v Judith Young (6th, 707, +34)

Jon O'Neill had five centuries in a row during his run in early April, and must be a strong contender for the prize. Judith was the first octochamp of the series, in early January, but she picked up just one century. Can't see Jon losing this one.

John Mayhew (2nd, 813, -7) v Chris Hunt (7th, 6 wins, 715, -11)

John Mayhew clocked up four centuries during his February sweep, and never looked challenged. Neither did the man who directly followed him, Chris Hunt, who was cruising towards octochampdom and a sure-fire number one seeding when he was derailed by Sue Drinkwater in March. Five centuries in six wins for Chris, and a classic match in prospect for the viewer.

Last time, the contestant with the best Par score won the championship. If Par is a worthwhile metric, the three contestants with significant leads should carry their days, and Richard Heald would sweep into the final. The bottom half of the draw looks more closely matched than the top half, and we wouldn't care to predict who will fill that final slot.

Series producer Damian Eadie has promised that this will be a classic of television, and he was there when the shows were recorded, so he should know.

Big Brother

Three weeks in, here's the run-down of who is winning the battle in the only arena that Endemol cares about - the press. Proof that Channel 4 really doesn't know what it's doing came when the BBC alerted us to a fourteenth contestant, one who hasn't appeared in any of the publicity.

14) Doctor 200.40 (nc) 13) Vanessa 1093.71 (nc) 12) Mary 1280.30 (-11) 11) Craig 1577.78 (-2) 10) Science 1772.25 (+1) 9) Derek 1928.57 (+3) 8) Kemal 1981.71 (+2) 7) Anthony 2206.64 (+1) 6) Lesley 2238.47 (-1) 5) Makosi 2513.93 (-1) 4) Roberto 2556.36 (+3) 3) Saskia 3033.82 (+3) 2) Sam 3744.95 (nc) 1) Maxwell 4219.31 (+2)

This Week And Next

Many congratulations to Mark Austen, appointed the new face of ITV News this week. He'll be hosting the News At Ten Thirty from the autumn, replacing Trevor McDonald. No-one mention the flop that was Survivor and he'll be fine. At least it's better received than ITV's next flop format, Celebrity Osama Hunt.

Special thanks to Nick D for assistance this week.

We'll be looking into The Big Call next week, and Cash Cab at some ill-defined point after that. Mastermind returns after a few thousand years off, and University Challenge The Professionals finally gets underway with the Today Programme playing some Masters of Wine. Wonder if Thumper will get as good as he gives..?

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