Weaver's Week 2005-11-13

Weaver's Week Index

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


The Mastermind Champion - 13 November 2005

This week, we remember Harry Thompson, who died this week aged 45. The man who first produced Have I Got News for You, trained on Radio 4 (The News Quiz, The Mary Whitehouse Experience), Mr Thompson also worked with Harry Enfield, Ali G, and on the recent smash Monkey Dust. He's survived by his wife, and two children from a previous marriage.


The Grand Final, 2005

Mark Grant has offered Christopher Wren and Benjamin Britten; for the final, it's the Life and Work of Vermeer. As we'd expect from the grand final, this is a superlative performance, and Mr Grant ends on 17 (0).

Following that will be Hadrian Jeffs; the logical follow-up to Arthur C Clarke and William Colenso is, er, Penguins. Perhaps a little too wide-ranging for a final, Mr Jeffs finishes on a respectable 11 (0).

Peter Wright has chosen the Icelandic Family Sagas, after the Maya and Welsh princes. It's another very good score, finishing on 13 (1).

Robin Chapman has done One Foot in the Grave and Igor Stravinsky; tonight it's the Science-Fiction Novels of Philip K Dick since 1963. He wonders why so many academics go in for Mastermind - perhaps they go in for all shows, but only this programme is honest enough to accept them. The round starts well, and finishes decently, but surely 8 (8) will prevent a come-from-behind comeback.

Patrick Gibson has done Iain M Banks and Quentin Tarantino; his topic for the final is the television series Father Ted. There were about 25 half-hour episodes, all of the other subjects on offer tonight are a degree of magnitude larger. He manages to squeeze in an error, but ties the leader on 17 (0).

The last finalist is Neil Crockford; adding to George Crabbe and Raymond Queneau is Georges Brassens. He struggles over one question about the French poet-songwriter, but 14 (0) keeps him very much in contention.

By popular lack of request, here are the answers for the Two Ronnies sketch featured here recently:
Good evening; Charlie Smithers; Yes, absolutely correct; A study of old fossils; Burke's; One's a trade union leader, the other's a member of the cabinet; They're both the same; "That is the question"; He is a fat man who tells blue jokes; The Right Reverend Robert Runcie; Hassocks; Large flies; A parachute; A nutcase; A form of athletic support; Paint-strippers; Erm, he is a kind of artist; Erm, pass; A Singer; British Leyland; "Charley's Aunt".
Thank you, Ronnie.

The show proper featured a short piece from Shaun Wallace, last year's winner, and some brief clips from the programme's history.

Back in the game, Mr Chapman finishes on 17 (15), Mr Jeffs "Why penguins? Because they're cool!" remains in contention with 25 (0).

Mr Wright explains that the sagas were promulgated by the church as an alternative to singing, drinking, and dancing. He gets the William G Stewart memorial question, and correctly guesses who is the home secretary at the date of recording, but forgets which show inspired Top Cat. 26 (3) is enough to take the lead.

Mr Crockford has picked another Francophile subject, but none of them are particularly famous in the UK. He doesn't have the fluency of the last two contestants, and 27 (0) is enough to take the lead.

Mr Grant suggests that Vermeer's unique selling point is the sense of mystery, that something is always about to happen, though we never see it. Again, this contestant is a little more shaky on the general knowledge, finally scoring the point he needs with the last question. 28 (0) is his score.

So, Mr Gibson needs twelve points to win this programme, and add this title to his top prize on Millionaire. He races to 26 points, but then begins to stall. Could he possibly lose it, especially after last week's storming performance? No is the answer; a Prokofiev opera takes him past the winning post, and he finishes on 31 (0).

Which means that the man who won the first show, back in March, has won the entire series. The only other person to complete the Mastermind - Millionaire double so far was David Edwards, the champion here back in 1990.

The Deadly Knowledge Show

(Princess Productions for C4, 0930 weekdays)

It's a garish set of titles, all black lettering on primary colours. Dave Berry's the host, he's a young comedian, claiming to know all about knowledge. Including something embarrassing about one of the member of the audience, which he proceeds to reveal. We know something else about the audience: they're all standing up. Could Princess not afford a set of chairs, or something?

There are four rounds to the contest, played by pairs of contestants. The opening round is a set of convoluted questions, such as "In the film Chicken Run, a number of fit birds are escaping from Mrs Tweedy's farm. Another fit Tweedy, Cheryl, is part of Girls Aloud. To which Premier League footballer did she get engaged this year?" Four options, first on the buzzer gets to answer. The budget for points on this programme is remarkable - no fewer than 100 points are given away for a correct answer, but 100 points are removed for each incorrect answer.

The second round is very reminiscent of Every Second Counts, the superior Paul Daniels show. Each pair nominates one of their number to play, and the leaders get the pick of the two subjects on offer. They'll be given a list of items, and must determine whether they fit into one category or another. For instance, the first show had Rich People, with a benchmark of whether they're richer than Paul McCartney or not. 50 points for each correct answer, but 50 away for each incorrect response.

After the break, the two rounds - effectively - repeat for double points. There are some changes - in the buzzer round, contestants can buzz and have their team-partner answer, a nod to The Waiting Game. In the category round, the opponents choose who will answer the questions, though not the subject.

Whichever team has the higher score wins, and one of them - only one of them, curiously - will go on to play the end game. Six famous people are put up on a board, and up to three questions will be asked about each, aiming to get a correct answer for each person. One correct answer wins a small prize, three right wins a decent prize, five gains a trip to Europe, and six correct answers will win all three prizes.

There's nothing particularly original about this show, but it is very well put together, and is a good diversion for half an hour. Perhaps 9.30 in the morning isn't the greatest slot for the programme - it would fit better in the 6pm wind-down slot. Channel 4, however, prefers to schedule imported comedy and home-made wood-puppet animation in that hour.

But we have one question: where's the Deadly part of this Deadly Knowledge programme? There's a clear preponderance towards contemporary popular culture. Not that there's anything wrong with that, except Headjam did it so much better, and Totally Top Trumps was more entertaining. And for a show claiming to "do" high culture, where are the questions so obscure that they were rejected from the Mastermind Final for being too hard?

The people of a town between Warley and Walsall are very clever, they'll appreciate the joke. This isn't the Deadly Knowledge quiz. No, this is Dudley Knowledge.

University Challenge

First round, match eight: Sussex v Sheffield

Sheffield are regulars on UC, making the semis three years ago, and falling to eventual champions Corpus Christi Oxford in the second round last year. Sussex were with us two years ago, squeaking past Wolfson Cambridge before losing a tight match to Magdalen Oxford.

Sussex's side tends towards the scientific, Sheffield's towards the biological and medicinal. The Sussex team have turned up in matching sky blue shirts, which always looks good, and both captains are mature students.

Neither team gets a spectacularly inane question about Gandalf leading the Spanish Armarda. Nine-second wonder questions like that might raise a wry smile when they're set, but don't make any sense when they take to the air many months later. It's very much a one-man buzzing match - at the first visual round, about bridges on the pound coin, Noel Cooper has helped score 70 for Sussex, and no-one else has buzzed at all, so Sheffield has 0. We do get confirmation that at least one other buzzer works when Cooper gets a question wrong.

Five medics and biologists leap for their buzzer on a question about cell growth; Sheffield gets their first, and pick up a set of questions about noxious substances. It's all words to Thumper, it's 20 points to Sheffield. This is the only interruption in the Noel Cooper Show - by the audio round, he's answered seven starters for Sussex, no-one else on either side has managed more than one. That audio round is on Stevie Wonder songs, handled with ease by Anna Fuller, and Sussex's lead is already a commanding 155-15.

We mentioned earlier that these questions were written some time ago. Neither side knows Kevin Pietersen when he's described to them. They might know him now. It's a slow scoring third period, and at the second visual starter - pictures on dance - Sussex's lead has been slightly extended to 190-45.

Thumper always gives a clue in the question:

Q: What is the SI unit of power?

Thanks to this dead giveaway, and Thumper being very kind in allowing Weller and Pickwick after an extreme delay, Sheffield ensures that the team's not disgraced. It's not going to bring them back, though, Sussex run out clear winners, 235-100.

The repechage standings remain unchanged, with six weeks remaining:

1) St Hugh's Oxford 190
2) Durham 130
3) Exeter 125
4) Strathclyde 115

Noel Cooper was, far and away, the night's top buzzer, answering ten of the twenty starters in the entire programme. His contribution is rated at 138; Ian Birkinshaw was Sheffield's best, with 39 points. Sussex made 21/39 bonuses, Sheffield had 9/24 with three missignals.

It's a tasty match next week, as Gonville and Caius Cambridge take on Edinburgh.

This Week And Next

Graham Norton will produce School's Out, in which celebrities are quizzed about the national school curriculum. There will be footage of the contestants' old teachers. It'll air for a week next April, presumably in the BBC2 6pm block.

Another week, another huge payout on Aussie Millionaire. But this one has a familiar ring. Martin Flood reached the AUD 250,000 mark using only one lifeline, but was noticeably coughing during the recording. Always-alert host Eddie McGuire spotted this hacking, and at one point asked Mr Flood to ease up on his coughing. Viewers, perhaps remembering the Curious Case of Charles Ingram, put in one or two calls to Channel Nine. He will return on next Monday's programme; it's not known whether he will win the million. Maybe losing the Ashes was a good omen for Australian quiz buffs.

Still in News From Down Under, Variety reports that for one contestant in Australian (Pop) Idle, time ran out - literally. Just 27 votes separated the last two places in last weekend's poll, and Queenslander Peter England lost the squeaker. Some in the state have cried fowl, because Queensland doesn't bother with daylight savings, so lost an hour compared with the rest of the country. State governor Peter Beattie clearly has nothing to do with his day, and spoke publicly for his chap's reinstatment.

The World Scrabble championships will take place next week in London. Many favourites from Countdown and other television word games will take part - Mark Nyman is a previous grand winner, and we recognise the names of Russell Byers and Harshan Lamabadusuriya on the England team, Allan Simmons for Scotland, and Gareth Williams for Wales. Regrettably, the tournament looks set to run without Nigeria; the British High Commission has declined to issue visas to all of the 10-person delegation.

After their successful Gameshow Marathon, Antan Dec are touring the world, next stop Australia for the fifth (count 'em!) series of I Claim To Be A Celebrity, Get Me On National Television, beginning on the 20th. Before then, we've Street Cred Sudoku (UK-G2, tonight), the return of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (Radio 4, Monday) and Dragons' Den (BBC2, Tuesday).

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