Weaver's Week 2006-06-25

Weaver's Week Index

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


Scrambled X - 25 June 2006

What with Eurovision, Countdown's month of wonderfulness, and everything else that's been going on, there's quite a backlog of reviews to get through. Coming up in the coming weeks will be Saira Khan's Beat the Boss, a look at Never Mind the Full Stops, the French version of Fort Boyard, and maybe a word or two about Big Brother. Before the first review, some commercials.

Water. It's wet. If you drink it, you live.

Do you have too much money? Want to give some of it to a celebrity with a smiley face, like me? Well, Ripoff Finance can help. One simple call can consolidate all your money into my bank account.

Bob's Car Wash Is Great!

Coming up in two pages, this week's Mastermind, and shortly afterwards is the elephant in the room. But now, it's time for

The X Factor - Battle Of The Stars

Fremantle Media / Syco for ITV, 29 May - 5 June

This review is based on the broadcast of 31 May.

That, as you'll have appreciated, is no way to begin a column. For ITV, it's standard programming practice to monkey about with the schedule. It's six minutes past nine, and the interminable commercials and trails for upcoming programmes have finally finished. The host says that the cracks are beginning to appear, not least in our patience with this baying, screaming crowd. The mentors - Mr Simon Cowell, Mr Louis Walsh, and Mrs Sharon Osbourne - wave to their public as if they were minor royalty. Then on come the remaining performers to more stage pyrotechnics than a Lordi gig. No one has actually done anything yet, but there's fire coming out of the stage, even if there isn't glitter coming out of the set.

Who's on first? No, Who's on Saturday, Lucy Benjamin's on first, the moderately famous daughter of Floella. (Is that right?) She's performing a rant entitled Get the party sa'aed. Nothing much has changed from the amateur performances we reviewed previously - the voting still features the picture of the mentor, not the performer; the stage is still angular and aggressive. Unlike the amateur show, about 20% of call revenue from this programme goes to charity. Compare and contrast with the typical 40% donation from BBC shows. Mr Cowell says it's hen-night karaoke, which is polite. The chat afterwards goes on rather too long to be interesting, which is nothing new.

Walking onto a field of dry ice is Nicky Sanderson, whose is performing a number we've never heard but is probably by Mariah Carey or someone equally tedious. The song is rather ruined by having the vocals too high and too low in the mix at the same time. How do they manage that, and were they trying for the effect? Might she benefit from some tuition from those well-known live performers Jemini?

After the commercial break, Chris Moyles is auditioning for his inevitable position hosting the dribble-time show on Radio 2, performing the popular standard What a wonderful world. Which, in true Moyles style, suddenly gains a guitar runaround solo. "This shouldn't be working, but it is," says Mr Cowell, before Mr Moyles gets in a plug for his radio show. Alarmingly, we're agreeing with Mr Cowell here.

Who's next? Michelle Marsh, daughter of Radio 2 announcer John. She's performing Ironic, the Alanis Morissette track, and she's putting in a perfectly reasonable performance. But not reasonable enough to delay the commercial break that's looming over everything, even the giant X suspended over the stage.

Next up is two-thirds of the Lithuanian Eurovision entry - the bald bloke, and three of the interchangeable slightly shifty-looking ones. They're performing To all the girls I've loved before. Unlike the Lithuanians, they are trying to croon, and it doesn't work. At all. Stick to yelling through megaphones, chaps. For some reason, the mentors reckon that this is the best performance since sliced bread, rather than calling it the worst thing since Pierro And The Tweenies.

Number six on the hist list is Mike Stevens, performing I don't wanna miss a thing. Wasn't he out of hoary 80s rockers The Alarm, and hence not quite qualifying for the under-25 category? It isn't a novel choice of song. Leafing back to Star Academy II - the touchstone by which all other performance shows are judged - that was one of Barry's better performances. If our long-term memory doesn't fail us, that is. The mentors' short-term memory fails them, because even James Fox would have made a better stab at it than this bloke.

Finally, two people who are best known for activities other than singing, Rebecca Loos and James Hewitt. It appears that Miss Loos's microphone is malfunctioning, for there are annoying dips in her vocals - the performance is of Rock DJ, made famous by Robbie Williams. There's no particular reason to boo this pair, unless they've done a Sylvia Night on a previous edition.

Tomorrow's edition of Het Graniuad will try to read something into Mrs Osbourne's refusal to speak of Miss Loos. The paper will forget that Mrs Osbourne is here to beef up the ratings, and nothing else. Just be glad she's not throwing glasses of water over the pair. After his performance tonight, Chris Moyles said that he wants to be better than Mr Williams - well, Mr Hewitt and Miss Loos are better than the original (in the sense of being so bad they're more entertaining), and Mr Moyles is better than them (in the sense of being closer to something that might pass for a tune), so mission accomplished.

There's plenty of reason to boo the technical competence of the directors, as cues are being missed all over the place, and the anodyne host is clearly out of her depth. In fact, this is the first time we've mentioned the anodyne host, who really does blend into the background, and could be replaced by a recording of the speaking clock, or a bowl of petunias.

Now, there's going to be ten minutes of voting, which begins at (checks watch) - well, it's not clear. Lines open "any second now", says the host. Let's call it 10.10, and surely the network wouldn't leave ITN hanging on a second past 10.30 for the news. Would they? A recap, the (count 'em!) fifth commercial break in the programme, the result, and then straight into the news.

Well, that's what we expected. Instead, voting lines close after ten minutes that lasts about 500 seconds, and after the usual interminable reveal nonsense, the last two must perform again. The stronger performer is Miss Marsh, so it's clear that she must go. This just about sums up the entire format - complete light entertainment nonsense that just breezes past like gossamer on the wind. If we wanted to get annoyed with the content, we could, but we'd rather get annoyed that Britain's leading commercial channel has set its sights so low as to produce a mindless, tedious waste of an evening.

Oh, and the news? Two minutes late.


First round, heat 12

Richard Green will tell us about the Life and Career of Richard Goodwin Keats. From the questions, we learn that this gentleman was a naval commander in the early 19th century, and a rather victorious one at that. Suppose it would only take one defeat to end his career, really. Anyway, 8 (2) is Mr Green's score.

Sally Budd is discussing the Life and Career of Bette Davis. Though not her eyes, which rather ruins the joke we'd like to run. Apart from a huge gap answering one question, this is a rapid-fire round, finishing on 12 (0).

Andrew Grealy has been swotting up on the American Revolution. The dates used, not displayed on screen, were 1775-1783. Slightly mishearing, one of the questions seemed to refer to a current member of that country's supreme court. We knew they were old... It's not a classic round, ending with a deflated "My mind's gone blank" and 6 (2).

Laura Campbell will talk about the Life and Works of Douglas Adams. Everything from ring-tailed lemurs to scripts for Dr Snuggles there. And, like Mostly Harmless, the round is a Marvin the Paranoid Android-free zone. 12 (0).

One of Mr Grealy's questions is answered with the game of rock, paper, scissors. He'd have better luck than with these questions, a final score of 13 (2) won't win. Mr Green finishes on 11 (6), but does identify Dad's Army from the name of its first episode.

Mrs Budd could apply a lot of pressure with a good general knowledge round, but it's just not happening. The annual question about the Wimbledon tennis tournament creeps in, but the final score of 16 (0) sets the bar very low.

Miss Campbell requires five, and talks about the time she dresses in costume and goes out to improvise a role. "Why?" asks John Humphrys. "Because it's fun." So is answering John's questions correctly, even though she misses "Who followed the current home secretary in his last-but-one job?" Mrs Mopp, wasn't it? Anyway, 20 (3) is the winning score, and it felt as though she was leaving something in reserve there.

And that, finally, brings us to the end of the first half of the heats of this year's competition. Twenty-four heats is too many; by rights, we should now be moving towards the second round, perhaps with just four more heats to go. Instead, the second phase won't begin before the start of September. We hope it's September this year.

This Week And Next

The BBC has decided that sports quiz They Think it's All Over has run its course. There's a strong argument to suggest that it's never been any good since it left the radio.

A similar argument almost applies to Quiz TV, which closed on Friday after 26 months. The prime call-and-lose channel says it's quitting the UK because it believes the regulatory climate is moving against it. Could this be linked with the forthcoming OFCOM compliance paper, set to include fierce limits on the number of calls per line per day? And is this a tacit admission that the channel - and, by implication, the entire industry - has been operating on an immoral basis since day one? Time will tell.

Eighties week on Challenge this week, with Max Bygraves on Family Fortunes on Monday. There's got to be a good reason why he replaced Bob Monkhouse, and we fear that the reason was that he was cheap, because he certainly wasn't any fun.

Tuesday was It's a Knockout, with Stuart Hall, Eddie Waring, and the South-West heat, from Sherborne in Dorset. Host and the team captains (the Lyme Regis town cryer, Miss Dorchester, et al) dressed up in Elizabethan costume, as this was the execution place of Walter Raleigh. Games included bees running for a flower, giant fluorescent pink budgies carrying worms diving through hoops, and constructing a rope to bring down a drawbridge. There was a remarkable game in which two players climbed a rope, balanced a bath between them, water was poured in, and they had to try and balance the bath between them - no-one wore a safety harness or even a crash-helmet - these really were more innocent times. Another game was smashing up a wooden crate to get through a letter box, proving there wasn't much new in Demolition.

Another game featured a bizarre contraption - two wheels with people on top, connected by a rod. Half-way through the rod was a pole which slid through the rod; the fastest team to get down the course won. "We've never seen anything like this on Knockout before," said Stuart. He taught Noel Edmonds everything he knows. Such as how to commentate on an event where two young ladies were on poles over a bath of water, balancing a cannonball between them, and trying not to fall in. The marathon was competitive ship-rigging - climbing up a near-vertical board, pinning sails to the mast, while attached to a rope-contraption and being held by their team-mates.

This year's tournament was remarkable for the scoreboard - for the first time ever, the team's colours reflected on the board. "That's for those of you watching in colour," said host Stuart Hall - the board itself still used cut-up bits of conveyor belt with numbers stuck on. Sherborne won the game at a canter, played in sunny Lugano - other weekly winners got Lisbon, Annecy, Charleoi, and (er) Sunderland, and they'd all play for the Radio Times Trophy in It's A Championship Knockout from Charnok Richard, a service station in Lancashire. Our faint memory suggests that Sherbourne would go on to win the grand prix on Jeux Sans Frontiers.

The rest of the week? Wednesday was Roy Walker's Catchphrase, which we reviewed in August 2004. Thursday the first Krypton Factor of the 1987 series, featuring the introduction of the handbike-and-video-wall Response Round; Blockbusters followed. Eager-eyed readers will have spotted this column looking a fool doing the hand jive during the closing credits; we're not going to say where! Friday was two early editions of Family Fortunes: The Les Dennis Decade.

Next week is 90s week, and we really should mention the 1992 first season repeats of Gladiators at 7pm each night. Remember when John Sachs had to explain how they played Hang Tough, or what to do with The Wall? Actually, what can you do with a thirty-foot tall slab of rock, other than climb up it? Get it to host The X Factor?

BARB audience ratings for the week to 11 June, and the combination of superheated weather and some football tournament mean that ratings go through the floor. No change at the top - X Factor Battle of the Stars finished with 6.6 million, Jet Set had 5.3 million, and Big Brother 5.2m. If aggregated, the two editions of HIGNFY had 5.8 million. Millionaire recovered to 4.1m, and the first foray of Sunday Night Deal took 3.7 million. Cats 2.7m, Link 2m, QI 1.7m, Eggheads 1.6m, and Mastermind failed to secure the million-and-a-quarter viewers required to tickle the BBC2 top 30.

On the cable channels, X Factor remained ahead of Big Brother, winning the head-to-head 749,000 to 723,000. Deal recorded its best on Tuesday, 296,000; 240,000 saw the new Full Stops. Challenge's best figure was for an International Gladiators, while CBBC led with an unbilled programme called Raven Shorts.

It's good luck and good schedules to Celia Taylor, the new head of Challenge television.

Set your calendars - next year's Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Helsinki from 10-12 May; rehearsals for the semi-finalists will begin somewhere around the second of May.

For those of you following the email programme guide, the football changes are as follows:

Schedule A (ATV and other ITV matches) - 8pm Sunday, 4pm Monday, 4pm and 8pm Tuesday.
Schedule B (BBC matches) - 4pm and 8pm Saturday, 4pm Sunday, 8pm Monday.

Full details are up on the website. All of this means that the best new show of the week, and this column's favourite new show of 2005, Cash Cab, will be back on Wednesday, and not on Monday as we rather hoped. Ah well, means there's two more episodes for the prime-time version later in the year. Bamzooki comes to CBBC2, and we will have French Fort Boyard on Saturday night, and at 5.33 on Wednesday afternoon. Eat that, ITV.

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