Weaver's Week 2006-06-18

Weaver's Week Index

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


Winningest - 18 June 2006

The bad news is that Paul and Helen, sweet-hearts from Big Brother 2001, have a relationship that's on the blink, and have split. The even worse news is that their happiness didn't last longer than the programme that brought them together. More on that later, along with the latest Mastermind coverage, and a long-overdue review of a driving quiz, but we have something else to look at first.

Countdown Championship Of Champions

12 June: Conor Travers (12w, 1335 at -104) v John Brackstone (11w, 1148 at +61)

Here's something you don't see too often - Conor falling behind, through John's FESTOON in the second round. Both players are on the ESPLANADE in the next round, and falls further behind when John gets seven on the numbers, and leads 45-31 into the anecdote. But Conor's not one to give up, and he immediately halves the lead with MINORED - the logical equivalent to "Majored". No more ground is given in the letters, but Conor gets the numbers spot on. At the break, it's 68-65 in Conor's favour. The game's not over yet - John gets SORRILY in the penultimate letters game, and takes the lead by just four points. Then Conor impresses young Susie with BRESAOLA, more commonly known as beef prosciutto, and he's now four ahead. For being five off in a tricky numbers game, Conor extends his lead to eleven. We wouldn't have believed it five minutes ago, but this game isn't even going to go to a crucial conundrum. After a very long 15 seconds, Conor spots the word, and runs out the 101-80 winner. He has been given a remarkably close run by a top-notch player. Par was 100, John declared for 104, Conor for 113.

13 June: Jack Welsby (10w, 1096 at -53) v Paul Howe (10w, 1150 at -47)

Jack tries to go ahead with the comparative, but it's not allowed, so POROUS is a winner for Paul. A couple of very tough letters rounds, and a number round that is just beyond Jack take us to the anecdote, with Paul 32-19 ahead. Today's story is a rambling one about Liverpool. Another tricky round, then Paul moves further ahead with BURGONET, a type of hat. Paul's next offer is disallowed, but so is Jack's, the lead remains at 21 - a large enough lead for Paul to take a one-large numbers game, only for Jack to get the answer spot on with a way Carol had missed. 54-43 at the break, and the run of shocking letters games continues afterwards - no fewer than six rounds see nothing better than a six offered by either player. Another one-large numbers game sees both players hit the jackpot. To add insult to injury, no-one at all gets the conundrum, so Paul takes an 82-73 win. It's almost inevitable that there should be one low-scoring game, but even if the letters were against them, the quality was there. Par was 102, Paul declared for 90, Jack for 79.

14 June: Paul Howe (11w, 1238 at -35) v Mark Tournoff (13w, 1370 at -147)

Let battle commence, with Carol declaring that Susie Dent is "dirty and disgusting." Readers may put in their own jokes about "very adult entertainment" if they must. Paul is, perhaps, distracted by the mud flying from the side of the studio, uses a letter twice, and falls seven behind in the first round. Des is swotting up on his French with the appearance of TUNISIE in the next round, Kim and Susie declare CUTIES, but Paul comes back with a winning Richard Whiteley Memorial Word: NICETIES. He's now one point ahead. There's no advantage gained in the remaining rounds, so we reach the anecdote at 27-26 to Paul.

There's another word for our new host, SINGLETS, but he tuts at the concept of LOSINGEST, the logical opposite of "Winningest", a variant form of the young English "Conortravers". There are a couple of five-vowel selections in the second period, and Mark's declaration of TALIPO* is missing a T at the end. Paul's lead has increased to 63-56 at the break. More five-vowel selections follow, depressing the scores, but making word choice more difficult. Declaring second in the last letters game, Paul tries to put the game away with FORMATISE*, but Susie is on hand to disallow the word. Mark declared ATOMISER, so takes a one-point lead. A six-small numbers game comes down to an exercise in powers of two, meaning the conundrum is crucial. Mark buzzes on seven seconds and solves the problem, meaning he wins 99-88. Even if Paul had only declared eight in that last round, he would have faced a crucial conundrum. Par was 104, Mark declared for 106, Paul for 96.

15 June: Paul Gallen (12w, 1378 at -70) v Conor Travers (13w, 1436 at -117)

Barry Manilow's birthday is the topic of conversation today. There's nothing to choose between the two players, including the second appearance this week of MINORED. "Did you see it last time?" asks Des. "I offered it," replies Conor. The deadlock is broken in round four, where MOPING gives Paul a slender lead; it's 39-33 at the anecdote. The programme veers off into gibberish when both players offer RITENUTO, a musical term that (loosely) means to slam on the brakes. There's nothing else splitting this pair, with the scores rocketing to 77-71 at the second interval.

Discussing a numbers target, Carol points out that Countdown is filmed in the same studio as 3-2-1. Des can't do the hand actions, something he'll have to work on. It's one of those games that is heading towards a crucial conundrum - there's just been the one letter between them since round four, and a one-large numbers game ensures that Paul will go into the final round six ahead. Paul buzzes on two seconds, turns CHOPLOSER into PRESCHOOL, and has won the game, 118-102. Conor's run on the game is over, but we'll be surprised if he's not back in the future. Par was 103, Conor declared for 107, Paul scored with all 118 points. Just as happened in the last Championship of Champions, the most recent champion and resident Wunderkid (then Julian Fell) has fallen before the final.

16 June: Paul Gallen (13w, 1496 at -85) v Mark Tournoff (14w, 1469 at -149)

Has the past thirty months been for nought? This final is a carbon copy of the December 2004 final, which Mr Tournoff won on a crucial conundrum. And there is absolutely nothing between them in the first period, which ends 39-39. The tension continues to build, every round sees the contestants offering words of similar length, if not exactly the same. With his usual wit, CECIL rises to the occasion - a four-large selection gets the target 175. At the second break, the scores are up to double-deuce, 80-80. For those who will care about such things, Par for the game will be 104, the loser will declare for 106, the winner for 111.

Round eleven is the first time either player has offered a six, it's been four sevens and four eights previously. The deadlock is broken in round 12: COMETH the hour for Mark, cometh the TELECOM man for Paul, and the Irishman takes a seven-point lead. And there's more blues for Mark in the next round - he offers DEACONS, but Paul has DYSPNOEA. It means a shortage of breath, and the standard of play today - and all week - has been breathtaking, even though we've not seen a nine for some days. But the game's not over yet - Paul is in error on his numbers game, Mark picks up seven, and takes the game to a crucial conundrum. PRONEPIPE is revealed; two seconds later, Paul buzzes to say PEPPERONI, and he runs out the 111-93 winner.

In the 41 months since the last Championship of Champions, Paul Gallen emerges triumphant and rules them all. Here's the completed tournament schedule, with results.

  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 99  
   Paul Howe 88  
 Jack Welsby 99  
 Jon O'Neill 94  
   Jack Welsby 73
   Paul Howe 82  
 John Mayhew 87
 Paul Howe 117  
   Mark Tournoff 93
   Paul Gallen 111
 Conor Travers 124  
 Jack Hunt 91  
   Conor Travers 101
   John Brackstone 80  
 John Brackstone 86
 David Wilson 48  
   Conor Travers 102
   Paul Gallen 118  
 Paul Gallen 125  
 Eamonn Timmins 80  
   Paul Gallen 118
   John Davies 96  
 John Davies 106
 Gary Male 73  

The new regular series of Countdown begins on Monday, with Tony Warren looking to extend his run of six wins.


First round, heat 11

Nick Cockcroft talks about the Endurance expedition, 1914-17. The first question confirms that this was Shackleton's expedition. There's some very strange effects on the sound during this set of questions, which features the odd error, and finishes on 11 (3).

Julie Bowring is offering the Life and Work of W. Eugene Smith. He was a photographer from Kansas. Again, it's a good round, with some errors, and a final score of 12 (3).

Michael Williams takes the California Sound, 1965-75. This is a round on popular music. He starts with confidence, makes a relatively simple error on his second question, and the wind seems to fall from his sails. He comes back towards the end, finishing on 10 (2).

Chris Quinn has the History of Forensic Science. He has approached his studies with great detail, and though he leaves a little headroom, 14 (2) is enough to take a clear lead.

Mr Williams could clearly lecture on his specialist subject. Maybe there's a format that consists of competitive five-minute lectures. The general knowledge round finishes on 21 (5).

Mr Cockcroft wins our favour by knowing Percy Thrower's greatest creation, but passes rather more than would be best. The final score is 20 (9), an awful lot of passes.

Ms Bowring could also deliver a full lecture on her specialist subject. The contender's general knowledge round is hampered by two factors: her youth, and her Canadian origins - she's in the UK for a postgraduate year. The final score of 19 (8) will not win.

Mr Quinn confirms that forensic science was not invented by television actors in Miami. He needs eight to win, gets five off the bat, but then falls into pass hell. He just manages to stagger over the line, scoring 23 (8).

Crazy Drivers

Optomen Productions for Bravo, 2003

(Now repeated on FTN, Tuesday 9pm)

The concept here is not particularly demanding. Ed Hall (shaven-head) and Shelley Blond (redhead, but we suspect it comes from a bottle) ask questions of people who drive about a bit. These aren't any old questions, oh no. These are questions about driving in general, and bad driving in particular. Some of the questions are observations on clips of staggeringly inept driving we've seen, but most of the questions are moderately banal road-related trivia.

Let's be honest, this isn't exactly ground breaking television. Reduced to its essentials, this show is little more than a chance to dig out some clips that have appeared on such schedule-fillers as Police Camera Stop, and Bobbies, and that black-and-white classic Excuse Me, Sir, Are You In A Hurry, It's Just That Your Man With The Red Flag Is Walking Behind Your Chariot. Oh, and to throw a few questions about them, just to give the pretence that this is both a game show and slightly educational, and not an excuse to fill half-an-hour with very cheap footage.

If there's one advantage over some other shows listed above, it's the Grant Fulton voice-off. Unlike Alastair Stewart or the Americans, it's not patronising, but witty and a bit silly. That's just about the only attraction of this show, which we've somehow managed to completely avoid for three years, slightly wish we'd made it four, and are only reviewing because there's a small space to fill.

This Week And Next

It's been 70s Week on Challenge's 9pm Gameshow Gods slot. With half the week hosted by one person, this is the Bob Monkhouse mini-season we've wanted for the past few years. Family Fortunes on Monday, with the very brown set, a brown suit, running jokes about the spot prizes (please don't leave them in the car-park, there's a bin provided) and a family from Pakistan. Wonder what their ITV region is? Central - they're from Leicester. And, yes, these were programmes from 1982, but who cares?

Tuesday was an incomplete and rather unsatisfactory edition of 3-2-1 - not only was it shorn of the Yorkshire Television fanfare, not only was it remembering the 60s, but it was from that well-known 70s year of 1986. On the upside, we saw one of the couples win £720, saw Miriam Stockley in her pre-Adiemus days, and Tom O'Connor singing. Wednesday's programme was "The Quiet Ones" episode of The Golden Shot, originally from December 1970, which we reviewed in detail in February last year.

On Thursday, the 1970s season visited 1993, for the first in that year's new series of Celebrity Squares. Of all the games, this has perhaps aged the worst - ten pounds for a question in a show that's prepared to give away a car? Very odd. We also saw a 1984 edition of We are the Champions, featuring Duncan Goodhew. This column doesn't recall how the show worked, and it looks like the whole thing was made up as it went along. Ron Pickering went on and on about "the spirit of We Are The Champions", as if it was something different from the amateur ethos of sport in general. At the time, perhaps it wasn't. Finally, Friday gave New Faces, a talent show that was moderately interesting to watch, but completely forgettable within ten minutes.

Ratings for the week to 4 June, and another new number one game show - and this time, one that might actually defend its title next week. X-List Celeb Factor (which we'll review very soon, promise) led with 6.3 million viewers, ahead of Jet Set (5.8m) and Big Brother (5.4m) Here's the rest of the significant action:

  • 4.4m Dance Fever (BBC1)
  • 4.1m HIGNFY (BBC1 Fr)
  • 3.9m Millionaire (ITV)
  • 3.3m Deal (C4)
  • 2.7m 8 out of 10 Cats (C4)
  • 2.6m Eggheads, GB Menu (both BBC2)
  • 2.2m Link (BBC2)
  • 2.0m HIGNFY (BBC2 Mo)
  • 1.9m QI (BBC2)

Countdown failed to register in the C4 Top 30, and Mastermind is also missing, presumed unwatched. On the digital channels:

  • 828,000 X-List Celeb Factor Extra (ITV2)
  • 827,000 BB Mouth (E4)
  • 292,000 Deal (More 4)
  • 140,000 Bullseye (Challenge)

The most significant programmes this week actually snuck out at midnight last night. Cash Call was a call-and-lose programme aired on 38 local radio stations, going out in the wee small hours of Sunday morning. If this experiment looks to be a success, expect one of the national radio stations to have a similar programme at a less anti-social hour very soon.

This week, Celador is selling Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The series will be sold lock, stock, and re-runs. It's a shame there's nothing of note on the telly.

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