Weaver's Week 2005-10-02

Weaver's Week Index

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


Pick Your Own - 2 October 2005

Fancy owning a bit of Big Brother? Telefonica, the Spanish company that owns Endemol, is to float between 20% and 30% of the company on the stock market. Seek professional advice before investing on the stock market, and remember that the price of shares (like ratings) can go down as well as up.

Antan Dec's Gameshow Marathon

Week Two: Take Your Pick

As if the presence of ITV's golden couple wasn't enough to ensure the series was going to be a popular hit, they've brought in some other friends to make guest appearances. This week: the star of 3-2-1, Mr Dusty Bin. Since retiring from his hit show in 1988, we learn that Mr Bin has been living the celebrity high-life, opening waste recycling plants and rubbish dumps across the country. After the show, Mr McPartlin promises to go out on the town with Mr Bin, and get trashed. On a serious note, there must be some good reason why Dusty Bin wasn't used as an attractive figurehead to help promote recycling. Slogans like "Reject the bin: prize the planet" never appeared in anger.

Anyway, back to the game. This week's talking heads include Joe Pasquale, who claims to have watched Michael Miles on the programme. Surely he's too young to remember this? Fast-forwarding to the start of the contest proper, and just how good is it to see the Thames start-up sequence again. Far better than the blatant promotion given to the prize suppliers. Cecil Korer, the man who gave his name to a random-number generator in Leeds, fulminated in the Telegraph last week: "When I was producing Jeux Sans Frontiers, I was offered a brown envelope if I would allow a car dealer's name to be placed in full view of the camera. The man and his envelope were removed. As the industry deteriorates, so do standards. In those happier days, the only names that could be seen on screen or mentioned by name were Steinway, Rolls-Royce and, oddly enough, Harrods." All eight of this week's substantial prizes contained a verbal or visual clue to the manufacturer.

Who is playing this week? Er, the same people as played last week, which rather reduces the element of surprise in the series. William Roach, Eamonn Holmes, and Vernon Kaye all get to spend the Yes/No Interlude with Dec, and only one of them lets slip a banned word. Patsy Kensit and Ruby Wax talk with Ant, and both are gonged out well before time. Don't remember all the hugging of the hosts after the game before.

In previous incarnations, the Yes/No Interlude decided who would qualify for the final game. This time, it's only used to decide the order of play; the contestants are asked a pifflingly easy question, pick a key, and then are offered some money in exchange for that key. What's the best tactic? There are three booby prizes, and seven decent prizes; a car, a holiday, flowers for a year, and various consumer durables. If one's looking to maximise the value one gets, perhaps the best approach would be to work out the probability of winning each prize, multiplying that figure by its value, and taking roughly that much cash. By this column's reckoning, any cash amount above £1500 would be worth more than the prize.

It's clear that none of the celebrity contestants had twigged this approach to the game, and were all determined to open the box rather than take the money. In a slight change to the format, all the "take the money" "open the box" negotiations took place in one segment of the show. Only Ms Kensit found out her prize - a trip to New Zealand - in this part, and then because she'd picked the mystery prize in Box 13.

The big reveal came at the end of negotiations - Mr Holmes won a cucumber, Mr Kaye won Dec's Best Chat-Up Lines, Ms Wax turned down £2000 and won a dresser, Mr Roach a pair of coats. Ms Kensit had turned down a car, but her holiday was still the biggest prize actually won that night.

So Patsy Kensit, a singing Cheesy Wotsit from Yorkshire, will face Carol Vorderman in the first semi-final - Play Your Cards Right - on 15 October. Next week will see some hot crossbow action, in The Golden Shot.

University Challenge

First round, match two: Exeter v Lampeter

It's been quite some years since we saw either institution. Exeter's last appearance came in the 1998 competition, when the lost to both Robinson Cambridge and Jesus Cambridge. The university made the quarter-finals on its only other appearance in 1996. Both times, the sides advanced as high-scoring losers, meaning that Liverpool John Moores is the only side to lose to Exeter.

Lampeter, a college of the University of Wales, has actually won a first-round match, against King's College of Medicine and Dentistry in 1995. That was the first year of the BBC revival, when no-one knew their place, and Lampeter were promptly beaten by Birmingham, the only side ever to have suffered that particular ignominy. No Welsh side has qualified since Aberystwyth three years ago, and none has made it past the first round since the 2000 contest. Why does this match have all the makings of a no-score draw?

Exeter say that their major problem has been getting to know each other; Lampeter have two sisters-in-law and three postgraduates on their side. Lampeter is very unbalanced towards archaeology, Exeter a very well-rounded side.

Lampeter get the first couple of starters, and a long and tedious set of bonuses on Ted Hughes' descriptions of animals. Exeter get this hugely long question:

Q "I have a notion that gamblers are as happy as most people, being always excited; women, wine, fame, the table, even ambition, sate now and then, but every turn of the card and cast of the dice keeps the gambler alive - besides, one can game ten times longer than one can do anything else." These are the words of which Romantic poet, writing in 1821? [1]

At 21 seconds, this is possibly the longest question we'll hear all year. At least, we hope so. The first visual round is naming the lakes in the Lake District, which allows Exeter to pull back a little, though they trail 50-25. Some questions on science allow Exeter to pull back to within five, but Lampeter's knowledge of polari takes them ahead again. A set of bonuses on archaeology also helps. We're not quite sure why this is funny:

Q Work this out before you buzz: what number in decimal notation can be written in octal as 111?
(You may not confer, Lampeter!)
David Oakley, Exeter 56
(No, anyone want to buzz from Lampeter?)
Alistair Nottle, Lampeter Zero point one.
Thumper No, it's 73. Guffaw!

but it sets Thumper laughing. Had Lampeter been watching Mastermind last week, they'd have known who said "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right" [2]; Exeter were watching last week, when there was also a question about Roman Abramovich and Chelsea. The audio round is "Name that radio theme tune", for programmes aired during the war, which leaves Exeter running for Granny. Lampeter don't do much better, but still lead 110-55.

Thumper has a quick sneer when Exeter doesn't know a quotation from Twelfth Night, Ian Barrs for Lampeter has a sneer at the ease of a question giving the ingredients of glass. The second visual round is actors who used to be sportspeople, and Lampeter are 150-80 ahead with four minutes to play.

Lampeter take a long time to come up with incorrect answers to bonus questions. Exeter do well to remember the first interim PM of Iraq (June 2004 - January 2005) [3], a question that appeared to stump even Thumper. They try their hardest to run up the score, in the hope of a third return as high-scoring losers, but the questions go against them. Lampeter are the winners, 160-125, but don't feel like a side to challenge for high honours. Thumper suggests that we won't be seeing Exeter again.

It was a particularly poor week on the bonus sets: Lampeter made 12/33 bonuses and two missignals, Exeter a rather rubbish 5/29. Lampeter's captain, Ruth Russell-Jones, was the top buzzer with 74 points, Neil Pickup led for Exeter on 47.

[1] Byron. A hint to future contestants: learn the death date of Byron, for Thumper knows it by heart.

[2] Lord Randolph Churchill.
[3] Iyad Alawi.

Next week, something of a grudge match: Magdalen Oxford v Trinity Hall Cambridge.


Two quick footnotes to last week's edition: Radio Gloucestershire's sports correspondent, Paul Furley, challenged Dave Berry to a short quiz on Status Quo. Mr Furley won by a sizable margin. Also, an observant correspondent points out that ice dance specialist Danielle Monnier was captain of the Corpus Christi Cambridge side in the 2003-4 University Challenge series. Their opponents were the Royal Northern College of Music, in the episode that degenerated into Sing The Answers. RNCM won 150-80.

"Welcome to television's most difficult quiz," says John Humphrys, who has just ruled himself out of the running for The Krypton Factor.

First up is Hadrian Jeffs, taking the African missionary William Colenso. A well-rounded, if slightly long, set of questions gives us a good insight into the historical figure. Mr Jeffs scores a flawless 16 (0). Readers with long memories will recall that he lost a first-round match just last year on pass count. Will history repeat itself tonight?

A less obscure subject for Catherine Slater, the Anne of Green Gables novels. An almost perfect round on PEI's most famous export, and shorter questions allows Mrs Slater to finish on 16 (1).

Edward Towne will offer European Birds. Large subject alert! The round starts shakily, but it's more hit than miss, and he's done well to finish on 12 (0).

Ann Kelly is here to talk about the Work of Galton and Simpson. The subject wrote such comedy classics as Hancock and Steptoe; the round falls into pass hell, unfortunately, finishing on 6 (5). Mrs Kelly suggests Galton and Simpson invented the half-hour television comedy; this column would beg to differ, offering up a Bob Block comedy that was repeated as part of Fifties Night on BBC4's Television on Trial series earlier in the year. (Did they mention how Mastermind filled the gap left after Galton and Simpson's "Casanova" incurred the wrath of Mrs Mary Whitehouse? - Inquisitive Ed.) No, they didn't. Mrs Kelly finishes the contest on 11 (10).

Mr Towne is not a "twitcher", he does not prize the obsessive pursuit of rara aves. "A birdwatcher will do me fine." The general knowledge round never really picks up steam, and finishes on a slightly disappointing 20 (6).

Mr Jeffs regales us with the bizarre tale of his relative who was a prune-smuggler in the First World War, so that the Germans could dye their uniforms. He's good at this general knowledge lark, though not entirely infallible, closing on a thoroughly respectable 29 (1).

Mrs Slater recalls how Elizabeth Montgomery changed from being a children's writer to one for all ages. We wonder if J K Rowling will receive the same rehabilitation in years to come. Mrs Slater is correct when faced with the Richard Whiteley Memorial Question, about the TANGELO, but her charge slows slightly towards the middle of the round. She finishes on a perfectly creditable 26 (2), but it won't win.

This Week And Next

The two or three people who are still watching ITV's The X Factor were surprised to see Haifa appearing. She was one of the people beaten by James Fox in last year's Making Your Mind Up for Eurovision, and had previously been on Pop Idle alongside Gareth Gates and Zoe Birkett. The next series will surely see the start of the much-awaited Paris Campbell-Edwards comeback.

On Channel 5, Richard "Dogsby" Park has continued his long-running feud with Patrick "Oi" Kielty. The two began their spat back in August 2003, and it's continued ever since. There has been name-calling, there have been interviews where both men voice negative opinions about each other, there has even been an iconic hand gesture. This week, we heard from Carrie Grant, who reckons the whole thing's a bit of a hoot; Dogsby doesn't like it when people disrespect him, and Oi-man was not showing respect. For his money, Dogsby said that he never sees Oi, who had a far larger cabbage patch than he ever had. Dammit, Carrie's right. This is entertainment, and this sort of pantomime is surely half the attraction of any proposed new run of Celebs Singing Badly For Charity.

No CSBFC this week, but BBC4 spends most of Tuesday night looking back at the television panel games of the 40s and 50s.

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