Weaver's Week 2006-06-11

Weaver's Week Index

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


More Big Words - 11 June 2006

Big Brother's Big Brother Quits! Joaquim Agut Bonsfills, chief exec of Endemol Productions, has resigned for personal reasons. His replacement will be selected by the shareholders after viewing them round-the-clock for ten weeks, and eliminating candidates at intervals. The new chief exec's annual salary will be contained in one of many sealed boxes.

Coming up, what's been happening for the past few weeks, and this week's unmissable Mastermind, but first:

Countdown Championship Of Champions

5 June: John Brackstone (10w, 1062p at +51) v David Wilson (7w, 831p)

John lost the tie-break conundrum in last July's final; David fell in the summer 2003 final. The winner will face Conor Travers; everyone playing this week is with Anne Widdecombe and her shocking hairdo. John sups from the ELIXIRS of an early lead, and moves further ahead with DEVIANTS. David goes for it as early as the fourth round with BILLETER*, so John's BELTER puts him well ahead. John blobs on a numbers game seeking 112, allowing David to close slightly, to 27-13. John advances further ahead with REPUTES in the second period, and a superlative numbers game puts him 64-33 ahead at the second break. WRENCHES immediately after the commercials puts the game beyond doubt, and David's FRONDES* has an aberrant E. "They think it's all over," suggests Des. That would be a good name for a show for him to host. For Carol's career, it almost is, because she takes forever to work out that 75/25 is 3. The conundrum is a panel-beater, so John wins 86-48. Par was 96, John declared at +5, David at +14.

6 June: Paul Gallen (10w, 1135p at -33) v Eamonn Timmins (6w, 711p)

Paul was the runner-up in December 2004, Eamonn lost the final a year earlier. Anne Widdecombe delivers a party political broadcast on behalf of the D-Day Memorial Society. Eamonn moves ahead in the second with FENCES from an obnoxiously difficult round. In the next round, Eamonn risks DENOTERS*, but the asterisk of invalidity is academic when Paul chimes with RESONATED. He's 42-30 up at the interval. Paul moves further ahead with STOICAL at the beginning of the second, and then offers RESHAPING. We're not even half-way through, and this has already become an exhibition match, Paul is 38 ahead. With eights and tens in the remaining games, Paul leads 93-56 with a third of the programme left. DIORAMAS is yet another winner for Paul, and he's going to have a cracking match on Friday. We'll go through the motions here - a simple numbers game, a panel-beating conundrum, and Paul's won by a stonking 125-80. Par was 113, Paul declared for 130, Eamonn for 95.

7 June: Matthew Shore (10w, 1105 at -47) v Chris Cummins (11w, 1184pts)

Matthew lost the final a week or so back to Young Conor. Chris won the series in December 2003. Matthew takes first blood with INRUSHES, though there was a nine on offer in that round. Honours remain even through the remaining rounds, so Matthew leads 38-30. Des suggests that Susie is here to be the serious face of academe, and leave the jokes to the guests, but we have had a review and concluded that the poor joke from Anne Widdecombe does not work and can be scrapped. More Susie would be fine.

Back at the game, there's not a letter between the players, and they're both on course for a ten-under performance by the conundrum. Chris gets a six-small numbers game in a flash, spotting factors of three; Carol is confused when Matthew thinks of a number and doubles it. It's 77-69 at the intermission, and there's going to be absolutely no difference in the remaining letters games. The numbers, though, are crucial - Chris solves a six-small that's beyond Matthew, and he has a two point lead going into a crucial conundrum. The lead lasts barely two-and-a-half seconds, as Matthew squares TRAPEZIUM and wins, 109-101. Par for the game was 102, Chris declared for 108, Matthew for 116, Susie's off to swot, we are absolutely exhausted, and Matthew will do it all again tomorrow!

8 June: Matthew Shore (11w, 1214 at -61) v Mark Tournoff (12w, 1246 at -125)

There's a good reason why Carol Vorderman is wearing half the set, and why Des Lynam is reading out some used insults from The Weakest Link. The harridan's meant to be in dictionary corner! Honours remain even through the first letters rounds, but Mark moves ten clear with a surprisingly simple numbers solution. Carol's explanation is beyond Des, and that Widdecombe woman's anecdote is best seen at 30x normal speed. It's 37-27 to Mark here. The scores are blown open with PAINTIEST, but both players got it. Susie is unable to use the word in a sentence. Again, there's no splitting the players on the letters during the second period, or on a four-large numbers game, so 86-76 at the second intermission.

HERNIATES is another nine-letter winner for both players. Mark tries PURSIEST* in round 12, but it's a two-syllable adjective without a specified superlative, and Susie rules that it can't be allowed. Those are the rules we've had for many years, and Matthew's back within three. The deficit turns into a profit with the surprise six-letter winner FORMAL in the last letters round, and a very easy numbers means that Matthew holds the advantage into the conundrum. But it's Mark who buzzes on one second with SOLILOQUY, and wins 124-117. Matthew will, yes, be remembered as a loser, but his is the highest losing score ever, and for anyone to lose to Travers and Tournoff - the favourites for the tournament final - is no shame at all. For the record, Par was 102, both declared for a 22-under-Par 124.

9 June: Paul Gallen (11w, 1260 at -45) v John Davies (12w, 1172)

On a day when the temperatures are higher than yesterday's scores, how can anyone possibly think about football? This is the match of the day. Nines all round in the first round - GRATINEES* and STINGAREE are the opening offers, but John's word is only in the book as an adjective, giving Paul a huge lead already. There's no further difference between the contestants, so the score is 49-31 when the nation reaches for its remote control. Anne Widdecombe defines OARSMAN as a bit like a politician - looking in one direction while travelling as fast as possible the opposite way. Susie points out Des's favourite word, RIDDLER. You can't squeeze a cigarette paper between these players, it's 86-68 at the intermission. Finally, there's a break in round 11 - John risks CABBIE, and cuts the gap to 12. He'll still need to win another round to force a crucial conundrum. There's no further change in the letters, and both players are one off in a Carol-beating four-large numbers game. Paul gets the conundrum, and cements his win, 118-96. Par was 98, John declared for 96, Paul for 123.

Next week's line-up:

  • 12 June: Conor Travers v John Brackstone
  • 13 June: Jack Welsby v Paul Howe
  • 14 June: Mark Tournoff v Tues
  • 15 June: Paul Gallen v Mon
  • 16 June: Wed v Thu

Zero tolerance for Anne Widdecombe - Kim Woodburn joins Susie next week. And here's that massive scoreboard graphic once more.

  First Round Quarter Finals Semifinals Final
 Mark Tournoff 119  
 Steve Graston 83  
    Mark Tournoff 124  
   Matthew Shore 117  
 Chris Cummins 101
 Matthew Shore 109  
    Mark Tournoff  
   Welsby / Howe  
 Jack Welsby 99  
 Jon O'Neill 94  
   Jack Welsby
   Paul Howe  
 John Mayhew 87
 Paul Howe 117  
   Winner SF1
   Winner SF2
 Conor Travers 124  
 Jack Hunt 91  
   Conor Travers
   John Brackstone  
 John Brackstone 86
 David Wilson 48  
   Travers / Brackstone
   Paul Gallen  
 Paul Gallen 125  
 Eamonn Timmins 80  
   Paul Gallen 118
   John Davies 96  
 John Davies 106
 Gary Male 73  


First round, heat 10

"The original quiz without cash prizes," says our host. Wonder what the team behind Brain of Britain will make of that, and if Russell Davies will sing.

Ron Hogg will discuss Civil Heraldry of the Russian Empire, 1500-1918. This is a complex subject, and Mr Hogg takes it well to finish on 13 (1).

Dave Tilley has the History of the Crossword. There's a surprisingly large number of questions on this subject, and mentions for John's Today programme and for the iconic Will Shortz. Mr Tilley finishes on 15 (0).

Amanda Hill offers the Life and Work of the Venerable Bede. There's no question about the trinket-obsessed sixth-century game show Bede Or No Bead, but it's another quality performance, 11 (2).

Mark Eves swotted on the History of London Zoo. Again, it's a tremendous standard, Mr Eves resumes his seat on 14 (0). That was almost a winning score last week!

Mrs Hill talks about how Bede prefixed his book with "Good luck to the reader." It's good luck to the contender, that's what's needed, as Mrs Hill responds "Pass" to many a question, and she finishes on 15 (10).

Mr Hogg talks about the aims of a coat of arms: to rally one's own troops. He starts cautiously, but advances to 20 (3).

Mr Eves explains that the Zoo was as much for scientific research as for entertainment. His general knowledge round is a fantastic effort; it's rare for any contender to score just one more on their specialist subject, but Mr Eves manages it - 27 (2) is his final score.

Mr Tilley suggests that there was a time when wives preferred to do the crossword than the ironing. For crossword in 1920, think sudoku in 2005. He knows he's got his work cut out, and a couple of early errors make the task almost impossible. He never really recovers, and finishes on 23 (0).

This Week And Next

There's an awful lot to get through. X-List Celeb Factor and Beat the Boss will get reviews in coming weeks, so no spoilers here.

Back on 20 May, just before Eurovision began, there was a lottery draw programme. Nothing ever happens on these lottery draw programmes, right? Wrong. From out of the invited audience came some protesters from a pressure group, visibly distracting presenter Sarah Cawood in her prepared speech about that night's prizes, causing the other presenter Eamonn Holmes to walk off-stage, and eventually forcing the director to cut to a still caption with voice-over by Alan Dedicoat. Mercifully, all the formalities were completed before the fixed junction, for Athens won't wait for the Campaign Against Rubbish Telly to finish horsing around.

A reader wrote in about the 22 May edition of Eggheads. The question was "Who wrote the song Always On My Mind?" Answers available were: Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash. As a quick check of the song's credits will tell (we used the Pet Shop Boys' album, other recordings are available), the correct answer is the team of Johnny Christopher, Mark James, and Wayne Thompson. It's not, as intimated by the programme, Mr Cash. As this question favoured the resident team of boffins, it would be fair to give the visitors another match.

Great British Menu also reached its conclusion. This was a cookery show, demonstrating the skills of many chefs. And the inability of the show's judges to wear more than one outfit, though there was necessary because the shows were edited together from different recording sessions. The final, though, was a bit of a curiosity. Rather than employing some professional gourmets to judge the quality of the dishes, or some other chefs to find something good, the contest was decided by - a telephone vote. By the Grate British Public. Who, lest we forget, were unable to sample any of these dishes, nor even able to smell them, or to see them in real life. All the talk of taste, texture, and aroma is reduced to "Which combination of food and chef looks the most appealing?"

Channel 4 has bought up rights to show Unanimous, in which a bunch of strangers are locked in a bunker until they all agree on who should win the prize. Other twists - removing people, reducing the prize fund, or being asked to watch Davina McCall in conversation with anyone - are introduced to speed the show along. There will be eight hours of this nonsense, which was a minor success Stateside but only because it aired directly after their Pop Idle.

Darrien Wright and Hollie Robertson, winners of Dance Fever last week-end, have been snapped up by the producers of West End musical Footloose. They will join stars including David Essex and Cheryl Baker at the Novello Theatre from 3 July.

The other judges for Who Wants To Be a Mar-I-A? have been announced. Zoe Tyler, a voice coach; David Ian, named as the most powerful man in theatre by The Stage in 2006; and John Barrowman, the third wheel on Andi-and-Emma era Live and Kicking. They'll join Andrew Lloyd Webber, named as the most powerful man in theatre by The Stage in 2005.

Viewing figures for the week to 28 May, and it's another Number One Gameshow. Soccer Aid secured 6.4 million viewers for its Saturday evening final; the weekday shows had a respectable 4.7 million. Dance Fever finished ahead of Jet Set by a whisker, both had 5 million viewers, with HIGNFY coming an inch behind. 4.1 million for Test The Nation, 3.9m for Question of Sport, but Millionaire finished outside ITV's top 30 for the first time ever.

Second biggest game show, though, was Big Brother, 5.7m for Wednesday night's show. Deal secured 4.3 million on Monday, Cats has 2.9 million, and the Countdown final secured a respectable 2.5 million. Link (2.7m) had more, Great British Menu (2.5m) slightly fewer. Mastermind took 2.2m, Eggheads 2.1m, and QI repeats 1.8m. Add together the two airings of HIGNFY and there are 6.8 million viewers.

For the digital channels, Big Brother's best was Tuesday's Big Mouth (974,000), ahead of the Pop Idle US final on 626,000. 441,000 saw the Soccer Aid backup show, pushing Deal down to fourth on 306,000. Full Stops had 203,000, and nothing on Challenge broke six figures.

Coming next week, a failure of nerve from Channel 4's commissioning editors sees the Countdown championship finals air at 3.30, and some regular editions of Deal or No Deal bunged out at 8pm. According to a message purporting to come from host Noel Edmonds, Friday afternoon's show will see him strip to his skivvies and plug the Deal Or No Deal Boxers. Other new runs include Bargain Hunt (BBC1 weekdays 11.30), and last new year's Celeb University Challenge specials (BBC2, Tuesday at 10).

But the highlight of the week is Challenge's 9pm Special, a sequence of classic programmes airing for one night only. During the week, there's an hour of Bob on Family Fortunes, an hour of classic 3-2-1, some Golden Shot moments, Celebrity Squares, and there's even some sport in We are the Champions.

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