Weaver's Week 2007-02-18

Weaver's Week Index

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


Stranger and Stranger

"They may be children, but these questions are not child's play."

Junior Mastermind

The Final

Callum from Leicestershire begins, and he's taking the Life and Career of Andrew Flintoff. He's been to Lords' Cricket Ground to see the original Ashes urn, and the crystal trophy that's traditionally waved around by the victorious Australian side. He also meets Mr. Flintoff, the well-known Dermot O'Leary lookalike who doesn't do his own washing. We didn't know that Freddie was a member of the chess club, or that Smallhead would ever say, "I've started, so I'll finish." Good catchphrase, that. And Callum has a good game, 19 (0).

Robert from London will be discussing (deep breath) Herge's Adventures of Tintin. Almost inevitably, he's been to the Tintin Museum in central Brussels. There are far worse ways of spending a rainy afternoon. Robert gets a chance to see a rare original of the Tintin bande desineé. To save the letters, the Tintin mural is in the Stockel metro station, in the city's eastern suburbs. Our contender does very well, scoring 17 (0)

Ethan from Northamptonshire will tell us about the History of Jackson Pollock. His research has taken him to The Tate Modern gallery near Blackfriars. Pollock is the bloke who waved his paintbrush around to create almost random work; Ethan is able to educate the Tate's curator. A slightly shaky round, but assisted by something we saw him discuss in the clip, leaves him on 11 (0).

William from London has the Battle of Waterloo. He's used the other half of Mastermind's block booking on Eurostar and visited the site of the battle, where he can see the whole battlefield where the armies of Napoleon were routed by Wellington, Blucher, Bjorn, and Agnetha. Wellington's crossroads is now marked by some traffic lights. A bloke in battle dress advises him to be commanding. Then he's off to see the current Duke of Wellington, who seems to have a most comfortable sofa. If you're watching, Mr. Wellington, your lad hasn't done badly, finishing on 11 (2). We'll politely not mention the host starting the last question after the buzzer.

André from Preston has Liverpool Football Club, 2002-5. Almost inevitably, he's been to Anfield and their Trophy Wing, lifted the European Cup, run out of the tunnel, and bumped into John Barnes. Let us be thankful that no-one has yet offered Football Songs Since 1970 as a specialist subject. His final score reminds us of the time Liverpool played third-division Fulham in the Milk Cup (as it then was) 12-0.

Before the general knowledge round, there's a piece on the audition process, voiced by Mark Radcliffe. Auditions in June, heats in just one day in October, then the two days of filming.

Ethan joins us first, and tells us about Pollock's dripping paintings. On behalf of mothers everywhere, let us say, don't try this at home. He'll do a sketch for our small-headed host before leaving. Before that, two minutes of general knowledge takes his score to 26 (1).

William has been helped a little by his brother Alex, who initially wanted to charge £255 a day for coaching assistance. William brought him down to single figures. And has a potato from the battlefield in his pocket, as one does. He had a bullet, but he lost it. Is there a game show in this madness? Indeed there is, though William misses the thinly-disguised plug for the BBC's Robin Hood, his final score is 27 (3).

André is next, and he's never seen the team play at Anfield. He's seen them in the Charity Shield, one of the many games Liverpool have played against Chelsea. He is also the captain of Preston's basketball side. His general knowledge round finishes on 23 (4).

Robert found the adventures became a little tedious as he got older, and is perhaps too young to appreciate the newspaper-style humour of the strips. Though he starts with a pass, Robert does very well in his remaining questions, and finishes on 33 (1).

Robert with his trophy
Robert with his trophy

About ten thousand years ago, we saw Callum meet Andrew Flintoff in the video clip. So why does our host begin his questioning with, "Have you met Andrew Flintoff?" They discuss his disguise during the 2005 Ashes victory parade, drawn on by his team-mates. Callum's mother doesn't like cricket, preferring to go shopping or do the ironing. "That's what mothers are there to do," says Humphrys. Letters of complaint to him, please, we just report this. Callum's style is to lean forward and shout out the answers. Though it's effective, Callum finishes just short, on 32 (3). He's visibly disappointed, but will receive a trophy, all finalists do.

As is traditional, last year's winner Domnhall is on hand to pass the trophy on to this year's champion, Robert.

Perfect Strangers

Celador for BBC2, 3.15 weekdays

The central conceit of BBC2's new daytime show is that the contestants have never met before the show, but will eventually be taking decisions based on their estimations of each other's knowledge. For three of the couples, though, this factor will never really be tested.

Prior to the show, eight contestants have sat a 100-question general knowledge test. While they were doing that, the producers put them into couples. The twosome that had the greatest total score in the test will be referred to as the "Perfect Pair", and the couple that did worst will be the "Ripe Pair." Well, that's what we understood host Adrian Chiles to be saying, and it wasn't until consulting the subtitles that we found he was actually calling them the "Right Pair." As in, "right pair of plonkers." Anyway, other than giving some slightly superficial labels, and providing an excuse for a very bored sociology student studying the idea of framing to watch loads of television, this test plays no further part in proceedings.

Round one is a quickfire buzzer round, in which contestants step down once they've given a single correct answer. The last person standing is out, and their assigned partner will go too. The questions are simple, and this round does rather degenerate into a buzz-and-hope session. Mercifully, Adrian keeps the game moving at quite a clip, and in no more than four minutes, he's telling one of the teams, "That's it, it's over, you're out." This is the programme's best attempt at a catchphrase.

Round two, pictures and a two-part question. The player buzzing must give one of the parts, their partner must give the other part. First two pairs to give three correct answers progress to the next stage, the other leave the studio to a slightly over-snarky voiceover. The third round is 90 seconds of questions on a subject of the pair's choice - in the episodes we've seen, players have the choice of traditional Trivial Pursuit categories. The objective here is to create a chain of correct answers, and the longer chain wins. It's a far superior metric than "last incorrect answer loses", though quite why the players have to face each other is not clear.

The winning team can now play for some big money. One of them will bet, the other will answer four multiple-choice questions. Everyone can see the question and answers, both parties must tap their responses into computer keypads before the reveal. From a £500 starting stake, it's possible to build up to £8000. For the fifth question, the roles are reversed - the person doing the betting must now answer the question, and their companion will decide to walk away, or risk the entire prize fund. Get the question right, and the prize is trebled; get it wrong, and the prize is lost.

Host Adrian Chiles is a perky chap, who keeps the game geed up and running along at a fair clip. This can count against him - the late rounds can sometimes feel a little too stretched out and fall rather flat. Overall, though, it's a competent performance. The show also feels competent, but it's difficult to warm to. Put this down as an amiable little daytime filler, better than anything on the other side, but not really in line for a promotion to the 6pm hour.

University Challenge

Round 2: Royal Holloway v Wadham Oxford

These were the two highest scorers in the opening round, dispatching Newcastle and Robinson Cambridge for an aggregate of about two. After two starter questions, we begin to wonder if we can get these sides back, as Royal Holloway has opened up a lead of 0-(-5). This stasis doesn't last long, as Wadham gets two starters and accompanying bonuses in very short order. Holloway's first bonuses are on properties of enzymes; judging from the blank looks, they may as well have played "how many fingers will I hold up?"

The first visual round is Name That Cat, featuring the conference, "It's not an English Longhair because it doesn't have long hair." No, it's a British Shorthair, and Wadham's lead is 45-30. More starters go missing at the start of the second stanza; in the bonuses, Wadham say "It's not Germaine Greer". It's Germaine Greer. The audio round is Name That Chorus, and you might know the composer's Handel, and Wadham's lead has crept up to 80-30.

Not exactly setting the scoreboard alight tonight, the aggregate could be lower than the team's winning score from round 1. Especially when the bonuses begin with the dread phase, "Your bonuses are on South Dakota." Neither side is able to pick up any steam, and is that Thumper reaching for the pile of questions rejected from Junior Mastermind as too simple? Second visual round is Name That Queen, after which Wadham's lead is up to 100-70.

Perhaps Thumper should be reaching for the questions box labelled "what is your name?" because this is getting a little tedious. Wadham's answer of "obfuscate" pushes the aggregate over 200, the side runs away with it in the final moments, and the final score is 170-95.

Bryn Harris got six starters for Wadham, but two missignals means that Oliver Clifford-Mobley beats him on the individual points tally, 69-67; the side made 13/36 bonuses with three missignals. John Bradley got three starters for Royal Holloway, but his three missignals allows Sophia Nash to pip him, 31-25. Eight of 19 bonuses, and three missignals there. Wadham's winning score in the first round was 295, the aggregate missed by 30.

Next match: Girton Cambridge v UCL

This Week And Next

We've been rather entertained by the repeats of The Krypton Factor on FTN for the past few week-ends. We've seen the 1987 series, when the Response round had a mad pedalling-forward-and-back game, and three of the four groups were won by women, culminating in Marian Chanter's victory. Currently showing is the 1988 series, starring Andrew O'Connor's comedic talents, and with contestants including Trevor Montague, who would go on to achieve minor fame on Fifteen-to-One and One Versus A Judge.

One Versus One Hundred, meanwhile, has been slightly depressing, because they're featuring so many old friends from Endemol programmes. It's all very well using contestants from Deal or No Deal, but they've already had a chance to win a very large amount of money. Okay, some of that was compensation for being stuck in the same room as Noel Edmonds for days on end, but it wasn't as though they didn't know what they were letting themselves in for.

Over on ITV, The Con Test (or whatever they're calling it this week) is nearing the end of its second series. This time around, contestants have been given £1000 just for turning up, which adds a little spice to the early rounds. Having one episode per week would not be too bad, but the show has been moving all over Saturday night television, which makes it difficult to catch all the episodes, or to remember contestants from six weeks ago when we get to the grand final.

The Search continues on Channel 4, and one of this week's games invited the contestants to seek, find, and translate some tablets written in unusual glyphs. You know, these Codeces could form the basis of a decent game in themselves.

OFCOM's fortnightly complaints report has come out, and Channel 5's call-and-lose strand has come in for criticism. "Add the pence in this photograph of loose change", said the presenter. After about ten thousand years, no-one had won, and they moved on to something less boring, like watching paint dry. "The answer is 425 pence," said the host. Except it wasn't; it was 626. OFCOM said that this was a fault in the game's methodology, and as no-one had lost money, they would take no further action. We say that this is a lily-livered response, if they're going to invite callers to guess a number at random, they might at least have the decency to guess a number first. If it had any gumption whatsoever, OFCOM would be cracking down on this social menace like a ton of bricks.

Nick Hancock is to host a Euro Squillions programme for UK Gold. Hancock, the original host of Room 101, will front one of two entertainment programmes made by one of the many Endemol tentacles. The Euro Squillions draw has previously been shown on Challenge, and other more obscure channels.

Telefonica is to sell off its 78% stake in Endemol. The asking price is a two thousand million euro. Anyone got that sort of cash down the back of the sofa?

Ratings for the week to 4 February saw Dancing on Ice retain its lead, with 9.2 million tuning in. The Con Test (6.4m) just scraped past One Versus One Hundred (6.35m), with TV Burp (6m) in close pursuit. Question of Sport pulled 5.15m, and Junior Mastermind rates with 4.45m. Deal or No Deal peaked on Wednesday with 3.8m, Link on Thursday with 3.15. Both Anne and Masterchef Goes Large (3.1m) beat University Challenge's 2.9m. Mock the Week had 1.9m.

Pop Idle US picked up 1.05 million on ITV2, Dancing On Ice Chiller Cabinet half a million. 355,000 saw the top-rated More4 Deal, 200,000 for QI on G2, where HIGNFY took 130,000. Challenge's top rating was 95,000 for Play Your Cards Right at 3.30 on Sunday afternoon.

Next week includes a repeat of Our Survey Said at the unearthly hour of 1.50 on Monday morning.

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