Weaver's Week 2005-10-09

Weaver's Week Index

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


Hard Hat Area - 9 October 2005

This week, we pay another visit to the enchanting land of Taufa'ahau Tupou.

Antan Dec's Gameshow Marathon

Week Three: The Golden Shot

This is probably the toughest challenge of all seven programmes. Can Antan Dec hold together a live programme with a format that's complex enough to confuse anyone, and still entertain? Lest we forget, Jackie Rae couldn't do it. Charlie Williams couldn't quite manage it. Bob Monkhouse made it look effortless, but he was Bob Monkhouse, the greatest thing on ITV during the 1970s. Can he possibly be matched by the greatest thing on ITV during the 2000s?

Well, almost. The show was almost a direct re-working of the Charlie Williams-era programme, albeit without the guests to sing or talk while the crossbows were prepared. Like the original, Antan Dec's show went out live, with real people shooting real crossbows into real targets to win real prizes, or cause real injury. The opening round was the "left a bit, right a bit" round played over the 'phone, with the four remaining contestants trying to hit their allocated apple. Then came the remote control round, during which Eamonn Holmes managed to let off his bolt accidentally. Finally, William Roache and Ruby Wax were let loose with the crossbows, and there was a slightly nervy moment when Ant passed in front of a loaded crossbow, with the scarily out-of-control Ruby Wax behind the trigger.

As a spectacle, it was so far so good. The hostesses had been appropriately dippy, but they hadn't been asked to do any maths. The concept of a time bonus had clearly been deemed too hard for the viewers to understand, and we didn't recognise the name "Anne Aston" anywhere in the credits. Television technology has improved, so we can now see the bolt in flight. In its slightly reduced form, the game had flowed well, and only the archery had been wildly off target. Perhaps the only criticism was that the phrase "Bernie, the bolt" had a comma in it. Antan Dec's script called the person loading the weapon "Bernie-the-bolt", which led to some clunky exchanges.

However, the finale left a lot to be desired. The week's winner, William Roache (an actor from Manchester) picked a number out of thin air. That revealed an excited telephone caller, who had won the gold, silver, bronze, and consolation prizes (and let the record show that only one of these prizes came with obvious sponsorship, but it was excessively obvious sponsorship). The caller would now direct William via her television set to fire at the jackpot target. Cut the string in the middle and she'd win a car. That's an excellent device to ensure an occasional win, but time expired before the shot could go off. The problem? William isn't as well trained as a professional cameraman in the sensitivity of these things, and twenty seconds was too short a length of time. Perhaps if William had been shooting on the caller's behalf, or the caller had had a trained marksman, the entertainment would have been better. On Usenet, David Boothroyd made the accurate observation that digital television introduces a further delay into the system, making the caller's task even harder.

In addition to the guest entertainers, one other item was missing. The Golden Partner - where viewers would write in and nominate others to receive some largesse from the programme - didn't turn up because this show wasn't part of a series. Were Shot to return as a fully-fledged series, and nothing we've seen this week would argue against that, Golden Partner would be a useful touch of humility, and a guaranteed feel-good moment.

As it was, the show ended on something of a flat, and we came away with the impression that Antan Dec is a great host, but hasn't mastered the Shot format quite yet. There were just too many points that could have been improved with a little briefing - trigger-happy Eamonn, the middle part running into time trouble then having to stretch at the end - for this to be a Monkhouse-standard performance. In many ways, this is good for Antan Dec, as it shows there's still something to aspire to, and the pinnacle of the career lies in the future.

Will it be on Sale Of The Century? Tune in and find out.


The death was announced this week of Ronnie Barker, the comedian who was one half of The Two Ronnies. One of their funniest sketches involved a take-off of the popular quiz series Mastermind. As a tribute, and because it's nowhere else on the internet, here's the start of a short series, containing the questions - and only the questions - to the "Answering the Question Before" round.

  • "And so to our first contender. Good evening, your name please.
  • "Last week, your chosen specialist subject was answering questions before they were asked. This time, you have chosen to answer the question before last each time. Is that correct?
  • "And your time starts... now. What is palaeontology?
  • "What's the name of the directory that lists members of the peerage?
  • "Who are Len Murray and Sir Geoffrey Howe?"

The punchline will be revealed next week, as we continue the sketch.

Final Eliminator 1/6

Good grief, we've reached the Final Eliminators at last! It's only been about ten thousand years.

First up is Mark Grant, who is taking the City Churches of Christopher Wren. He won in March with Benjamin Britten. Even for a second phase match, this is sterling work, with every question correct and 17 (0).

Ian MacKillop talks on The Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh. He qualified from Parliamentary Scandals in August. A couple of errors towards the end, and Humphrys starts a question fractionally after the buzzer, means he also finishes on 17 (0).

Peter Richardson has the Life and Work of George Eastman, after Richard Trevithick in May. After the last two contenders, anything else is going to look shaky, 11 (4)

Isabelle Heward has been swotting up on the Life and Films of James Stewart, following on from March's Judy Garland. She starts shakily, but finishes on 15 (0). Lest we forget, this contender took her victory in the general knowledge round.

Mr Richardson tells of how George Eastman made up the Kodak name because he liked the letter "K". He never really gets to grips with this round, and finishes on 21 (8).

Ms Heward tells a story about how Mr Stewart once left hospital without his wife or new child. Unusually, she drops four of the first six questions, and never quite recovers her step. The final score of 24 (0) doesn't feel like a winner tonight.

Mr Grant talks of the hard work and celebration that Mr Wren put into all his work. Hard work is Mr Grant's hallmark, and he makes his way to 29 (1).

Mr MacKillop reckons that Mr Waugh's work was funny in parts, but isn't a comedy. He stumbles occasionally, and finishes, agonisingly, on 28 (0). So close, yet so far away.

University Challenge

First round, match three: Magdalen Oxford v Trinity Hall Cambridge.

What is there to say about Magdalen Oxford? The 98 champions were amongst the greats of the UC revival, though this column was less impressed with the 97 winners. A narrow defeat to Open 99 prevented the hat-trick, and first-round defeat in 02 was forgotten after a third series victory in 2004 - albeit one made possible only by a ludicrously easy draw and a curious alignment of questions. By comparison, Trinity Hall's one and only appearance came ten years ago, when the team lost a close match to Keele.

It's a history week, with two future PhDs on the Trinity Hall team, and one undergrad on Magdalen, where there are also two classicists. An engineer makes up the Magdalen team, a management postgrad and a maths undergrad the Cambridge side. We note that all four Magdalen students come from the south-east of England, surely not the inclusive image that Oxford in general, and this college in particular, wishes to project.

Let's begin with one from the pile labelled Good Starter:

Q: Whose last words were reported as being, "I feel here that this time they've succeeded," after he'd been stabbed with an ice-pick...
(Incorrect answer from Trinity Hall)
... by Ramon Mercader..? [1]

That's the third question out, and is the only starter Magdalen gets in the opening stanza. Thumper is a little harsh, but strictly correct, to disallow "head of the US troops in Iraq" when he was describing the nominal governor, and looking for the country's name. The picture round is naming ocean races from route maps, after which Trinity Hall has a 65-15 lead.

Another Good Starter, please:

Q: If you had been given a quarter, a nickel, and a dime, how many cents would you have received? [2]

Magdalen are in trouble by this stage, Thumper is already saying, "maybe you'll get this question" in an effort to spur them on to greater things, and it's not even half-way. Which was the last team to get a sympathetic gee-up before the audio round? Was it the entertainingly rubbish New Hall Cambridge side? That next question is on maths, and the mathematician for Cambridge gets the answer. To add insult to Magdalen's injury, their opponents get a question about Oxford terms. And get it right.

The audio round is to name a prime minister. Magdalen buzzes in with "Ramsay", but they can't get out the surname, "Macdonald." Notwithstanding the encouragement that Magdalen seems to get on this show, if there's one thing that's sure to turn off Thumper's help to make a contest out of it, it's messing up a question on his specialist subject. Macdonald Ramsey indeed. Trinity Hall picks up the bonuses, and has a slight lead, 220-15.

The very next starter goes to Magdalen, and they more than double their score. But then, Trinity Hall resume normal service. The second picture bonus comes on in no time at all - it's Name That Mushroom - and after missing a chance to say "Fossils!" at Thumper, Trinity Hall's lead is down to 250-50.

That mistake let Magdalen in for the fungi bonuses, and they then get a second starter in a row. The guesses count, as Trinity Hall correctly guesses the length of a dog watch [3], and that just about wraps it up for the game. Highlight of the week, though, has to be the thought of Thumper saying the name of island king Taufa'ahau Tupou IV [4], and saying it well. It pays to rehearse!

Every remaining correct answer comes from the Cambridge side, and they have secured a memorable victory, 320-70. Some of the knowledge they came out with was quite remarkable, and this looks like a side to go far.

Even though they seemed to take the foot off the pedal in the last five minutes, Trinity Hall made 29/51 bonuses, their opponents 7/12. Both sides suffered from one missignal. Magdalen's top buzzer was Katie Low on 43 points; Iain Mathieson got the final starter and best buzzer honours with 101. Thumper didn't give a single word of support to Magdalen after the audio round.

Next: Liverpool -v- Hull.

This Week And Next

Answers to the UC questions:

[1] Leon Trotsky

[2] 40
[3] Two hours
[4] Tonga

BBC-4 continued its reinvention as The Fourth Programme with a look back at panel shows of the 1940s and 1950s. Hugh Dennis narrated a respectful documentary, done without intercutting the clips with the contributors. About half the show centred on What's My Line?, and it really felt as though other programmes would have received a better crack of the whip if only more footage had survived.

Highlights included Denis Norden and Frank Muir exchanging looks of "Is this what our expensive education was for" during one of the more mind-numbing programmes; and one contributor comparing Gilbert Harding with Simon Cowell. From what we saw, it's a better comparison than Mr Harding with Ian Hislop. But if the comparison with Mr Cowell's is correct, then surely the mix of intelligence and style of Isobel Barnett would make her a precursor to Carol Vorderman.

Mr Dennis then presented a modern version of What's My Line, which was done with a liberal sprinkling of humour, and they managed to find enough interesting and unusual jobs to make a good programme. This column is not entirely convinced that there's an entire season of this show to be made. Nor is there a full series of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, which provided a full-length programme afterwards. Perhaps The Fourth Programme might like to resurrect The Brains Trust, which just scrapes into our purview by being an antecedent of Round Britain Quiz. They can't do worse than the Radio 3 and BBC2 revivals of ten years ago.

We'll be able to see an example of the original this coming Tuesday night, along with Hugh Dennis and the Fourth Programme Panel presenting a version of The Name's the Same. Other highlights include Star Spell on BBC1 each night, Have I Got News for You on Friday, and the return of Strictly Come Dancing.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Back to Weaver's Week Index

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in