Weaver's Week 2007-06-24

Weaver's Week Index

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


Starter for Seven


Yorkshire for Channel 4, 3.30 weekdays

"It's the first quarter-final for me," says Desso Connor. Goodness, so it is. In the nicest possible way, he's become part of the furniture – it feels as though he's been around for a lot longer than five and a bit months. OK, that might be because facing him across the studio is Gyles Brandreth, who will be making his 293rd appearance on the programme. Go on, book him for seven more.

QF1: 8) Stewart Gordon (5 wins, 553 points at +27 to Par) lost to 1) Aaron Webber (8 wins, 773 at -11), 81-85

We're claiming ten points from the first round, because we got STARTER. "How do you put up with him?" asks Des of Susie, and it only gets worse when SUPERMAN comes up in the fourth round. Honours were even up to that point, but Aaron was the only contender to spot the hero, and his lead goes up to 18 points at the anecdote, which Gyles neatly links into SURNAMES, another word from round four. Both players go 7-6-7-6 in the second period, but Aaron manages to mess up the second numbers game by suggesting 4x8=48. Stewart pounces on the error, and reduces the deficit to 11 points. There's no change in the remaining letters games – just one of the eleven changed the relative score. Another mistake from Aaron allows Stewart to pick up another seven points, and the Conundrum is crucial – if neither player gets it, Aaron has the win. IDEALSNOG is the word, and the seconds tick by so quickly. No-one buzzes in – ALONGSIDE is the answer – and Aaron has won by the skin of his teeth.

QF2: 7) Dundas Keating (7 wins, 661 at +140) lost to 2) Jean Webby (8 wins, 738 at +29), 58-84

We rather expected this game to be the least competitive match. Though Jean declares a non-existent eight in the second round, she spots STEROIDS to pull 21-20 ahead at the anecdote, during which Gyles manages to give incorrect pronunciations for "Newfoundland" and today's contestant, "Dundas". Neither contestant is allowed "comparer", but they are allowed BUNGEES, as noun and verb. Gyles is in his element when defining PIKELET, which is not a little fish, nor a friend of the Clangers, but is a small Welsh crumpet. Like the Mrs. Brandreth, we're told, and who are we to argue. Anyway, Jean had a winner with that word, and pulls eighteen clear – 52-34 – when Dundas flubs a simple numbers game. ATOMISED is the clincher for Jean in the final letters game, and both players miss the conundrum.

QF3: 3) Nick Wainwright (8 wins, 733 at +69) beat 6) Vivienne Mead (7 wins, 682 at +93), 104-74

Since we met them, Vivienne has been spotted in the supermarket, and Nick has graduated from university. Nick gets off to the better start, getting FLOORS in a very difficult opening round. Jo is making up words already; it's going to be a long week. Des gets very confused when PIMENTO and PIMIENTO are both allowed. No change in the remainder of the first period, including a surprisingly easy six-small numbers game, so Nick leads 37-31 at the anecdote. DEBATERS and BREASTED come up in the same round, then Vivienne misdeclares ASTOUND^ as an eight, allowing Nick to pull further ahead, 74-61 at the second interval. Susie deserves a medal for putting up with Jo's nonsense – we're tired of her nonsense already, and it's only Monday. Bring back Gyles! Susie has to disallow Vivienne's SWATTER*, it's only there as a compound word – FLY-SWATTER. That ensures Nick can't be beaten in normal time, and when she fails to declare on her impossible numbers game, it's game over. Nick gets the conundrum, his winning score is 104-74 – amazingly, it's his first century in nine games.

QF4: 4) Amey Deshpande (8 wins, 718 at +4) lost to 5) Anita Freeland (7 wins, 734 at +26), 71-86

Carol has turned up in a shiny silver outfit, like an elegant space explorer. Susie is in the extremely loud Gyles Brandreth Memorial Cardigan, Jo is wearing a swish green dress, one that would have been perfect for the Final, and would turn heads at Ascot. But before we get the Guardian moaning that this is turning into a fashion report again, let's get to the game. Anita pulls away in the second round with the filmic UNREELS, and then with BROWSES, but Amey pulls back with DIVOTS. A reasonably simple numbers round makes it 30-22 in Anita's favour at the anecdote. It's an irritatingly low-scoring game – there's a six in every round, but only four of the first eight letters games have a seven, and but one of them has a valid eight. The second numbers game provides a break in the score, Amey comes closer in a near-impossible round, and goes into the intermission trailing by just one point, 56-55. Anita increases her lead with DIALECT and DOMAINE, but the letters have been truly abysmal today – just the one eight-letter word all game. Anita somehow manages to get the final numbers game spot-on to seal her victory, and after Amey takes the conundrum, her winning score is 86-71.

SF1: 5) Anita Freeland (8 wins, 820 at +27) beat 1) Aaron Webber (9 wins, 858 points at +6), 97-86

The Wednesday of Finals Week is always a cracking game, often the greatest show of the entire seven. It's another abysmal start on the letters – a five in the first, and nothing better than FIXATE in the second. That's enough to give Anita a slender lead. Her lead is TRANSIENT, as Aaron comes through with the best word we've seen in ages – it's the first nine of the Finals Week. He's 37-25 ahead at the anecdote. One of the more traditional traps is sprung in round eight – Aaron offers OPALINES*, but Susie has always disallowed it under the mass noun rule, and the gap halves to six. He offers POETRIES* in the next round, but Susie is again having to disallow it – there's no pluralisable sense listed in the governing dictionary. Anita has a one-point lead, 61-60 at the second intermission.

Aaron's challenge AMOUNTED to something, as he snatches a 68-61 lead, and we're having a right ding-dong battle here. Anita CORRODES the lead in the next round, and is back ahead 69-68. No changes in the final letters, and ten points all round in the numbers takes Anita into the conundrum 87-86 ahead. If neither player gets it, she goes through, and the players shake hands *before* the conundrum is revealed. IDLEDONNA sees a bell from Anita on about two seconds. "DANDELION," she says, and she says correctly. Anita has won, 97-86, and we have yet another Wednesday Classic to add to our burgeoning collection.

SF2: 2) Jean Webby (9 wins, 822 at +50) lost to 3) Nick Wainwright (9 wins, 837 at +63), 74-107

The statistics show that there's very little between these contestants, and each declares for seven in the first round. And the second. And the third. It's not until the fourth letters round that one of them breaks the streak of seven sevens – Nick offers SPRAINED and moves into an eight-point lead. An easy numbers game ensures it's 39-31 at the anecdote. After the break, we have something that the gnome in the next studio never could – DEALINGS. In the same round, two words, DINGLES DALE, almost form a former habitat of that strange creature. Back to Yorkshire, where a six and two more sevens are the order of the day, though Jo has come up with something for us all to be grateful about – CRATEFULS. A very difficult numbers game gives Nick another seven points, extending his lead to 74-59. He goes further ahead with DANDIEST after the break, then sevens all round. Both are MAESTROS at their game; this second semi-final has been of top quality right through, and Nick's margin of victory is two letters and two numbers rounds – he gets the last one spot on, and though both contestants miss the conundrum, Nick has seals his victory with his second century in a row, 107-74.

Final: 3) Nick Wainwright (10 wins, 944 at +61) v 5) Anita Freeland (9 wins, 916 at +21)

Readers will recall how Tony Warren was the carry-over champion in last May's finals week, and Anita was held over through the December finals tournament. From the form we've seen, it would not be at all surprising were the current James Hurrell to appear in the final at the end of December. That is six months away, and we have a champion to crown right now. Des has turned up in a very smart black jacket, Carol in a bright red cocktail dress, and Susie and Jo are in matching black numbers. Nick is also wearing black, and Anita a dark maroon. Sober and respectful, but not sombre. Des points out that it's the first final in ages without a number 1 or number 2 seed; we suggest that shows there's been very little to choose between the big winners.

Champion Nick Wainwright, seen here unscrambling the conundrum

There's very little to choose between the contestants in the first two rounds, but Nick's offer of SPLUNKED* is deemed incorrect – he was probably thinking of SPELUNKED, the caving term. Anita therefore takes a seven-point lead, but Nick's perfect six-small numbers game gives him a 28-25 advantage. It's seven points all the way through the next period, with BADDEST amongst the words turning up. Nick's offer of LIMIEST sends Susie's fingers scurrying through the pages, but she has no problem with the word. A simple numbers game looks set to put ten points on all scores, but Nick finds that he's messed up, so Anita has her lead back, 63-56.

That could prove costly, there's been very little to choose between these players. Nick goes for tactics, and rather misfires – a five-vowel selection leaves both players stuck on six. Four vowels from Anita's final selection gives Nick the winner LARDIEST, and the game is level at 69 each. Parity lasts only one round, as Anita offers HASTEN, and moves 75-69 ahead. CECIL has been criticised in the past for offering easy targets in the finals. Not so this time, but solutions for the last two numbers games – (50+1)x(9+5+2) and (50+1)x(10+8) – have a certain similarity. But we have the Crucial Conundrum. Nick unscrambles PUSSYFOOT in the twinkling of an eye, and he has won the game, 89-85. A worthy final, a worthy winner.

This Week And Next

Somewhat after the event, OFCOM has issued its finding into Shipwrecked. Readers will recall that repeats of the first episode were pulled owing to remarks made by one contestant. We were therefore unable to see that her views had been vigorously contested by other participants in the programme. The watchdog's conclusion was as follows:

"There is no requirement that all people who take part in a reality television programme must be shown to only express views which meet generally accepted standards. This would not be a justifiable or proportionate limitation on freedom of expression. One of the consequences of reality television is that it can present to viewers attitudes which are not often aired on television but which are held by an unpredictable range of people. The fact that the contestants and many viewers found Lucy Buchanan's views offensive did not mean that Channel Four was not entitled to broadcast them in context.
"OFCOM reached the view that Channel Four took appropriate care in creating adequate context for Lucy Buchanan's views, which justified their inclusion in this programme. The context ensured that her behaviour and views were not encouraged or condoned by the broadcaster, but were instead robustly challenged."

(emphasis in the original)

Readers may wish to compare and contrast against a similar incident in Big Brother recently.

Eckoh Communications, fired following the Richard and Judy call-after-the-winners-were-selected scandal, has announced that profits were down. The firm is now reviewing its involvement with call-and-lose television, and will look to renegotiate its contracts with broadcasters.

BARB ratings for the week to 10 June show that Any Dream Will Do. The series bows out with 8.3 million watching, the second highest rating for a BBC1 game show this year – only Eurovision's 8.75m proved more popular. The Apprentice also hit a series high, 6.6m tuning in for the penultimate week, but ITV's hotshot Britain's Got Talent scored 6.75m for the opening Sunday of the short series. Grease Is The Word finally took its leave, just 4.3m people could be bothered to tune in, below the peak rating the show achieved opposite Eurovision. BBC1's Great British Village Show was favoured by 4.3m, Celebrity Masterchef cooked up a 4.15m audience, but Challenge Anneka was seen by just 2.9m.

On Channel 4, Big Brother's best score was 5.05m for the racist judgement on Thursday night; 2.5m stuck around for Big Mouth immediately afterwards. 2.45m had seen that day's Deal or No Deal. On BBC2, The Apprentice You're Fired also had a series best, 3.15m on Wednesday, and 2.45m on Sunday for another recap show. Link had 2.1m, an old HIGNFY 2.05m, QI 2m. Daytime staples Ready Steady Cook, People's Quiz Wildcard, and Let Me Entertain You all mustered 1.4m.

On the digital channels, BB Big Mouth was seen by 695,000 on Tuesday, and BBLB by 625,000 on Thursday. Deal repeats attracted 205,000. Top digital performer was ITV2's Britain's Got More Talent, with 925,000 turning over on Saturday night. QI's repeats of HIGNFY continue to pay off, with 155,000 seeing Tuesday's episode; 145,000 remained for QI. Challenge's top show was a Sunday afternoon episode of Bullseye, 69,000 hit the mark.

Round Britain Quiz has returned, after an absence of two years. The Scottish team was on form, but took forever to work out the reality show that linked to George Orwell.

Viewers on the other side of the Atlantic will have a new television host next week. The daytime version of Millionaire will be hosted by Tim Vincent. Viewers of a certain age may remember him as one of the hosts of Blue Peter in the mid-90s.

Over here, there's not a tremendous amount of new game show content next week, thanks to the demands of a well-known tennis tournament in the Wimbledon area. Highlight, perhaps, is the original and best quiz based on what every schoolboy should know, School's Out (BBC1), which returns at 5.40 next Saturday, contains Patrick Kielty, and is subject to delay in the event of a Brit doing well at the tennis, so do watch out.

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