Weaver's Week 2007-04-29

Weaver's Week Index

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


Four Against One Hundred

"It's stealing money from the poor" - Greg Dyke.

Get 100

BBC2, 7.32am weekdays

It's refreshing to see a game show that spells out its aim in the title. The objective of Get 100 is to score precisely 100 points. Whoever can achieve this most elusive of goals shall be feted across the land. Their name shall be sung in hymns of honour, and they shall be granted a reward beyond price. That, and they get to clear out Reggie Yates's personal stash of consumer durables and electronic gadgetry.

However, the whole point of Get 100 is that it's almost impossible to score 100 on the nail. So there's a rather clever little setup. On Monday, we're introduced to four friends, who will play the game. The person who is closest to one hundred points is declared the winner. On Tuesday, four new players, rinse, repeat on Wednesday and Thursday. For the Friday final, the four daily winners turn up, and play for something - just one thing - out of Reggie's little stockpile of treasures.

The game works in a reasonably straightforward manner. One of the players is chosen, at random, to start. They pick a card, any card, and they're asked the question on that card. All the answers are numbers, ranging from 1 to 99. If the player gives an incorrect answer, play progresses clockwise around the circle until someone is correct, or everyone is wrong. Assuming someone does give a correct answer, then they have control of that many points. If the answer to the question was 32, then there are 32 points in play. They can choose to add the number to any score (their own or someone else's), or deduct it from a single score (their own or someone else's). Scores cannot go below 0, but they can increase above 100. The winner is determined as the player closest to 100, and scores of 84 and 116 are treated as equivalent.

Twelve questions complete the game, with one of Dave Chapman's many voices announcing them from "Question 1" up to "Question 6", then down through "Last 5" to "Last 1". We don't tune in for him; instead, we tune in for an absorbing game of knowledge, skill, and tactics. Is it best to put yourself on 98 points with two questions to go, secure in the knowledge that anyone who answers the last question will move you out of the way, but it might be a small number, or will go round the circle back to you. Is it best to allow for this to happen, and push one of your opponents up to a game-losing 175? Can you rely on your friends to push you to 100 if the opportunity arises, or will they take the win for themselves? The tactics are endless, the permutations ensure that no two games will ever be the same. And the tension is palpable - it's built up through the basic set, with the four players in a sunken circular pit, and through the host's patient reminder of where we're at in the game.

Reggie Yates is the host, and it's a credit that we're having difficulty pinpointing his influences. There's a certain amount of Anne Robinson in there, being harsh on contestants who underperform - he's not afraid to remind competitors that they're yet to answer a single question correctly. But there's as much, if not more, of the showman in him; Reggie encourages the youngsters to do little chair-dances to some of the music clips that appear from time to time, and he always comes across as having bags of enthusiasm. Indeed, perhaps the best comparison is with Paul Daniels, whose game show formats were quirky, entertaining, worth watching for themselves and for the host. Reggie even manages to slip in a little magic of his own: watch to see how he gets rid of the used question cards. Had us confused for days, that did.

Get 100 comes from one of the most prolific homes of high-quality game shows, the BBC Scotland children's unit. They gave us 50/50, which ran for many years; they gave us some long-running show about a crow, or something. Yes, we've got to the end of the review before mentioning that Get 100 is a children's programme, which might give some indication of how the format would work for a more senior audience with few - if any - changes. If game shows as a whole are a ghetto for television reviewers, then children's game shows are so deeply unfashionable as to make tartan loon pants look quite normal. This is wrong, in the same way that Get 100 is just about right.

Countdown Update

Since the Cheltenham festival, there's been a tremendous turnover of champions, and most of them have been ladies. Ian Volante, whose three wins in January meant he was the number five seed, remained in that lofty position until well after Easter.

We left the game with Raj Kailasam in the champion's chair on three wins. He lasted no longer (3 wins, 289 pts), yielding to Sara Kingdom (3 wins, 301). In turn, she lost a cracking match to Judith Carn (2 wins, 258). She lost to Sarah Milsom (2 wins, 222), before John Verlaque became the thorn amongst so many roses (2 wins, 237).

Sheila Booth (1 win, 146) was a little unlucky to come across Cathy Cooper, who took her title by getting precisely 100. On Countdown, that achievement doesn't win a galaxy of prizes, perhaps not even a Despot. Cathy did win the game, and two others (324), but lost to Kate McNulty (1 win, 140). Over the Easter break, Kate lost to Chris Dufton (1 win, 162), who lost to Norma Fisher (1 win, 125).

Robin Scott finally ended the run of one-day wonders, and consistently scored in the eighties, running up 4 wins (419 at +51 to Par). He was vanquished by Pam Smith (5 wins, 486 at +46), who became the first person to win all the games in a week since Jean Webby at the start of March. However, Pam's luck didn't hold into a second recording day, and she fell to Aaron Webber. His first-day winning score of 111 was the second-highest of the Desso era, and only the eighth century this year. Four more very good scores have carried Mr. Webber through this week's games, and it would be a surprise were he not to complete his octochamp run next Wednesday.

By our reckoning, there are 38 games left until Finals Week starts. Time for five more octochamps, including Aaron Webber, so Jean Webby, Amey Deshpande, and Anita Freeland are assured places somewhere in the last eight. It would be remarkable if Vivienne Mead didn't join them. Pam Smith's five wins may just prove sufficient, but history is not on her side. Here's the Finals Board, including games to 27 April:

1Jean Webby8 wins738
2Amey Deshpande8 wins718
3Anita Freeland7 wins734
4Vivienne Mead7 wins682
5Aaron Webber5 winsso far
6Pam Smith5 wins486
7Robin Scott4 wins419
8Ian Volante3 wins353


Just when we thought that we'd written the definitive history of 0898gate, up pops yet another allegation. This one comes from the BBC's Panorama programme, and claims that GMTV viewers have been swindled out of money. If we're to believe the BBC, the list of potential winners is drawn up some minutes - on occasion, hours - before the published closing time. Both GMTV and its sub-contractor, Opera Telecom, denied the claims, and John Stapleton and Wotserface off of The Krypton Factor read out a statement to this effect. It didn't stop GMTV, the breakfast contractor for the ITV network, from terminating its contract with Opera as though it was a particularly hot potato, deep-baked in a steaming hot oven, and shot out of a cannon with a jet pack behind it.

It should be noted that all premium-rate telephone quizzes were absent from GMTV this week. We also note that, almost two months after leaving the airwaves, Channel 5's Brainteaser has not returned from its absence.

Other developments to come out of the Panorama investigation: Tim Suter of OFCOM said that he would be happy to call a premium-rate competition line, but that he never had. Greg Dyke, who was part of last year's NTL bid to take over ITV, intimated that he would have ordered the closure of ITV Play. Why hasn't Michael Grade done this? Does he not care that his already-damaged television station is looking even worse? And, given that NTL's bid was blocked by a hostile purchase by BSB, can we blame Rupert Murdoch for this? No? Spoilsports.

Anyway, the programme covered ground that this column's regular reader will find familiar, including the improbability of actually getting the correct answer, and some of the tactics used to boost phone calls. There was evidence of slipshod practice when drawing up lists of potential winners, and evidence of faking winners, including further questions about Blue Peter's lapse of judgement. Including the same-night repeat of the offending programme, with the phone number (for a competition that closed 75 minutes before) still prominently displayed, merely a small "lines have now closed" indication in the corner.

OFCOM has published some draft rules for the call-and-lose sector. Competitions will have to have "reasonable" solutions, as in "not unfairly obscure". Answers would have to use a consistent methodology, and broadcasters must be prepared to show their working. It should be noted that broadcasters are beginning to walk a tightrope - if the questions are too difficult, OFCOM will come down on them, but if the questions are too easy, they'll be deemed lotteries, and subject to regulation and a mandatory 20% donation to charity.

And one final point from Panorama: the budget for a tripod is approximately £100. Please purchase one, and stick it under your camera. Trying to balance the camera on Jeremy Vine's mouth does not work, because he keeps moving it.

This Week And Next

The BBC has confirmed that it is to host a Eurovision Ballroom Dancing championship in September. Professional couples from across the continent will show their prowess and strut their funky stuff in two dances, before being ranked by viewers' fingers dancing across the telephone dials and SMS pads. Graham Norton will host the show, scheduled to air on 1 September.

The Crystal Maze has been sold. Or, to be specific, the rights to make the programme have left Chatsworth for Scottish company Dynamo Games, who propose to make a version of the game available for mobile telephones towards the end of the year. It's not entirely clear how they'll fit Richard O'Brien's harmonica into the setup.

BARB ratings for the week to 15 April saw Any Dream Will Do retain the number one spot, attracting 6.3m viewers for the results. The return of HIGNFY attracted 5.8m, and The Apprentice gained 5.3m on Wednesday night. ITV's decision to put Grease Is The Word up against the cup semi-final proved to be a disaster - the casting show scored just 4.45m viewers, behind Millionaire's 4.6m, and scarcely ahead of Gameshow Marathon's lacklustre 3.9m. Question of Sport had 4.05m on Friday night.

University Challenge continued to rule the roost, 3m tuning in for a part-networked semi-final. Eggheads (2.75m) just beat Deal or No Deal (2.7m). Weakest Link fell away to 2.4m, Great British Menu had 2.2m, Apprentice Fired took 2m. The repeat of HIGNFY had 1.9m, just ahead of The Underdog Show, in turn just ahead of QI.

Interior Rivalry had 850,000 viewers on Channel 5, compared to 600,000 for Pop Idle US on ITV2. Deal on More4 had 195,000, scarcely beating CBBC's The Slammer (180,000 there). Challenge's most-viewed show was the 9pm Sunday episode of Fear Factor, which attracted 98,000.

New shows are rather thin on the ground in the coming week, thanks to BBC2 spending most of the time showing snooker. Highlight of the week is a second series of Annually Retentive (BBC3, 10.30 Monday), the panel game-slash-sitcom.

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