Weaver's Week 2007-08-12

Weaver's Week Index

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


Wage seekers

Image: Square The Independent.jpg

Conor Dignam wrote in last Monday's Independent, "Q: Where do you find television's best quizzes? A: Children's channels". He's particularly enamoured with Get 100, a show that really should be in prime-time for us old fogies.

Win My Wage

(Hotbed Media for Channel 4, 4.15 weekdays)

We've actually found it quite difficult to review this programme. Not because we don't understand it – the mechanic is simple to the point of triviality – but because our cable box keeps changing channel. Rather than recording Channel 4's summertime replacement for the Bad Shirt Casino, our box gave us footage of the new Treasury Secretary's discussions with the select committee, a press conference by the Foreign Secretary, and a concert by a hoary old seventies rock group.

Eventually, though, we saw an edition by the simple process of staying at home and watching it live. The set is eight people, all dressed in black sweatshirts with their name stencilled on the front. They're sitting on comfortable sofa-like seats, and host Nick Hancock tells us what each person earns. But not who earns what. The objective of the one contestant is to keep three people to the end of the show: if he can select the one of these three with the largest annual wage, that's what he wins.

Round one involves each of the Workforce (oops, wrong show) stating their name, and asking, "Do I earn today's top wage?" Based on this information, and what he can see of them, the contestant eliminates one of them, who reveals what they earn by turning over a card, then saying what they do for a living. So far, so Without Prejudice?

There's another chance to see the computer graphics and growling strings while the eliminated person leaves the set before the second round, in which Nick Hancock sits on the couches next to each remaining member of the Workforce, and reads out five interesting facts about them. These are interesting facts in the same way that the captions on the ITV Chart Show were gripping. The Workforce remains mute while they're talked about, and eventually one of them is eliminated. "Eventually" is the key word here: it takes Nick and the contestant an eternity to go round the semi-circle, discussing each, and we begin to wonder if our cable box was hinting when it recorded a discussion about public sector borrowing with Ed Miliband.

Round three, questions on what people do with their lives. These are yes/no questions, answered yes by pressing a button and turning the set's red backdrop green. We don't like backdrops that are so red, they dominate the picture terribly. What's wrong with a nice bit of purple? Three questions here, the next elimination is prolonged only by the gratuitous use of Thinking Music, all beat and close-ups on the Workforce. Round four, though, is another long and tedious one, discussing childhood in facts kept in the arm-rest of their couch. Though this is only discussing five people, not seven, it seems to go on even longer than round two, and we find our mind wandering towards something less boring. Or the speeches of Dave Miliband. We take the second commercial break after this round, but before revealing how much the eliminatee earns.

The fifth round is another Yes/No Interlude, leading to another elimination. That leaves us with the three remaining people, and the prize is the highest of their remaining wages. Nick offers a piece of assistance: he will tell the contestant the three jobs that the remaining members of the Workforce do, but it'll cost them half of their prize. There is a slight twist: whoever is named as the highest earner of the three will win £3000, whether it's the right answer or not. Should the contestant have picked the wrong person, they will leave with nothing.

We like Nick Hancock. We like Nick Hancock a lot. He's a funny chap, he's the best host Room 101 has ever had, but even his considerable talents can't save this show from its own tedium. Because the Workforce speaks an average of ten words, the show is a conversation between host and one contestant, and it's notoriously difficult to turn an internal thought process into a conversation. Maybe the show would work better with teams of two or three in the contestant seat. It's an interesting experiment, but it really doesn't work. A bit like some of the long rock wig-outs by The Eagles.


Heat 5

Okay, here's how John should start the show: "One chair, two minutes, and no questions. Except these." (and wave about the pile of questions.) More laughs there than in an entire episode of Win My Wage, or a Steve Miliband concert, but we'll get on with the matter in hand now.

James Knight will take the Life and Career of the First Duke of Wellington. He was the hero of the Battle of Waterloo, latterly a Prime Minister, and advocate of clearing sparrows by the remarkable idea of using sparrowhawks. In spite of a pass after the bell (take a guess, it costs nothing), he finishes on 14 (1).

Jocelyn Henderson has the Horror Novels of Stephen King. After a shaky start, this contender gathers pace later on, ending on 6 (4).

Jim Scott tells us about the Life and Work of Johannes Keppler. There's a clear re-record of one of the questions in this round – the sound quality becomes very muffled, then clear again. The contender never quite hits his stride, finishing on 11 (4).

Tom Rutherford has the first non-biography round for what seems like months, taking The West Wing. That's not a series of questions about Deal or No Deal contestants who stand on the blues side of the board, but a television drama that used to air on Channel 4. It's a fast-moving round, finishing on 16 (1).

Like the mythical quarter of a million pounds, John Humphrys will mention the Five Question Playoff far more often than it actually happens – in the 115 episodes of the main series revival, we've seen precisely one of them.

Ms Henderson tells us how Mr. King is an interesting character, and ends her round on 12 (7). A Jim Scott appeared on Perfect Strangers (the second best studio quiz of the year so far) in February; it's not clear if he's the same one who discussed the square-cubed rule linking distance and planetary orbital duration. His round finishes on 14 (9).

Mr. Knight reminds us that Wellington's army was made up of people who had nothing better to do with their lives – drunkards, the idle rich, people with a death wish. It's remarkable that the British ever managed to beat San Marino, never mind Napoleon. The contender starts well, but has a few passes in the middle, ending on 22 (5).

Seven to win for Mr. Rutherford, a civil servant who doesn't so much walk and talk as sit in comfortable chairs. They're civilised at the Scottish Assembly, and now we know where David Dimbleby's pink shirts got to. We're going to slap the question-writers' wrists, for Margaret Beckett was the full leader, and not acting leader, of the Labour party for those months in 1994. Anyway, Mr. Rutherford does what he must, and a little more, ending on 29 (4).

University Challenge

First round, match 5: St Cross Oxford v Trinity Hall Cambridge

For those who haven't heard of St Cross, it's a postgraduate college founded in 1965 (three years after this programme) and the side's main aim in applying is to let people know they exist. Trinity Hall, we're told, is not a College, because that confused Henry VIII, and the college's deans were rather attached to their heads, and wanted to keep things that way.

How many early Lloyd Webber and Rice musicals are there? Trinity Hall need no further clues to get Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, with its amazing Grease-cutting properties. Honours are just about equal during the first stanza, only Trinity Hall's knowledge of sci-fi insignia gives the lead, 55-40.

We'll not mock, Dennis Waller is embarrassed enough at knowing the starter. There are those who suggest that it is cowardly to pray for rain. Not always...

Q: What sporting contrivance does the following describe? The revision is not in proportion to the number of overs the two sides can receive, but is in accordance with the...
Trinity Hall, Joe Moëd: The Duckworth Lewis method:
Thumper: You've got the point; just explain to us for those unfamiliar with the concept...
Moëd: I'd rather not – we haven't got time!

Well, it's really very simple: work out the reduction in resource (based on overs and wickets remaining) available to each side, compute the ratio thereof, multiply the first side's runs by that radio, subtract the number you first thought of, note that England are playing, and conclude that the other side has won.

Back at the game, Thumper is suggesting that students are monophagous, subsisting entirely on a diet of pizza. His comedy timing is spoiled by the applause, but much credit for trying. Trinity Hall has rather run away with the game in the second stanza, though they miss the World Frisbee Championships, an event that took place in Southampton just last week. Here's something we've not taken in yonks: Hidden Student Indicator of the Week!

Q: In a 1999 novel, what quality did David Baddiel describe as "the modus operandi of all human communication, the primary medium through which we make, keep, and bond with friends"?
St Cross, Bruce Russell: Football
Trinity Hall, Dennis Waller: Alcohol

It's humour. By the audio round, pieces from the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2007, Trinity Hall has already moved into a repechage place, leading 160-30. St Cross pulls back a little thanks to the complete works of comic-book hero Bananaman, but Trinity Hall is by far the faster on the buzzer. The second visual round is Name That Bridge, but no-one can recognise the Humber Bridge, so Trinity Hall's lead is 185-45.

Repechage standings:
  • Lancaster 185
  • Liverpool 165
  • Magdalen Oxford 160
  • Birmingham 145
Trinity Hall hasn't been too hot on the bonuses tonight, but it's been clear from early on that they don't need to get many bonuses. St Cross has a bit of a late run, moving past 100 with about four minutes to play, but that's about as far as they're going – Trinity Hall has just too much power on the buzzers. The final score, 255-110, is a fair reflection of the game – St Cross didn't disgrace themselves, but Trinity Hall was clearly the better side.

Trinity Hall's best buzzers were Dennis Waller and David Wyatt, six starters each. The side made 17/51 bonuses. For St Cross, Bruce Russell had three starters; the side completed 12/18 bonuses but collected two missignals.

Next match: Central Lancashire v Sheffield

0898-Gate News: It's Fine For Some

Radio group G-CAP has been fined for fiddling its competitions so that winners were not found. A competition ran across thirty stations, where a mystery sound clip was played. Listeners would call a premium rate number, or send in an SMS (at 35p a time) asking to play; the network would call one person back, they would give their answer, and potentially win a large prize. Some entrants included their answer with their SMS, which wasn't required. G-CAP's error was to look at these answers, and select someone who knew they were going to get the answer wrong. Premium-rate regulator ICSTIS said that this was a "manipulative practice", and said that it "demonstrated the contest was not being run in good faith." It fined the organisation £17,500. G-CAP has offered a refund to anyone who took part in this contest during January 2007: details at [www.gcapmedia.com the company's website]. The group will also stop making profits from its premium-rate contests, but will still run them.

G-CAP (and one of the previous companies, GWR) had previously been criticised for allowing listeners to think that this contest was just being run on their station, and not across half the country; the phrase "this contest runs across The One Network" will have meant nothing to most listeners.

ICSTIS has also passed a bill to I-Touch, for two problems in the Deal or No Deal phone-in contest. One problem was the way potential winners were selected: four dips were taken during the Channel 4 broadcast, each drawing one person who had left their details for that day's contest. Those who called early were included in all draws, the last callers in just one. I-Touch amended its manifestly unfair practices before ICSTIS launched its investigation.

The other problem is a more fundamental one. The makers of Deal Or No Deal know how much will be given away in that day's prize. The viewer does not. ICSTIS ruled that this also broke its code of practice, but went on to say that this did not cause consumers much detriment. According to the regulator, "aspects of how the competition was presented (notably the way in which it was promoted) increased the perception that the programme was live, which may have led some viewers to participate in the competition when they might otherwise not have done so. Furthermore, entrants were competing for a pre-determined amount not known to them; if they had known the prize amount, they may not have entered the competition." Channel 4 took exception to this finding, saying that it had consulted with ICSTIS before launching the contest. It is not immediately clear if the Not-Legalised-Any-More Telephone Lottery will be edited out of the programme when it returns.

Both cases have been sent to OFCOM for further jeopardy, this time against the broadcasters.

This Week And Next

We regret to report the deaths of Tony Wilson, entertainment maverick and occasional game show host; and of Merv Griffin, devisor of shows including Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.

The European Broadcasting Union confirmed that there was no block voting in this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Svante Stockselius, the man in the know, said, "We have looked into it and we have had auditors look at it, but it is not possible to manipulate the voting. People say this in their disappointment when they try to find explanations." This may have been a side-swipe at Malta, which led the charges of block voting after performing woefully in the semi-final, and being eliminated there. A senior BBC executive told the Guardian that improving the standard of British entries was a more pressing concern. "We need to get some artists and songs that people can get behind." There was no confirmation that the BBC's raft of good ideas included a new host.

Those of you in Edinburgh might wish to see Zoe Lyons at the Pleasance Courtyard. The comedian crossed our radar when she was one of the few bright spots on the original series of Survivor.

BARB ratings for the week to 29 July saw Big Brother return to its place as the most-viewed show, 5.3m tuned in for the post-march interview. Millionaire came second, on 4.05m, and Dance X had 4m, barely ahead of Baby Ballroom's 3.9m. The Great British Village Show had 3.6m. Ratings are down on BBC2, but then it is the middle of summer. UC had 2.6m, Dragons' Den 2.2m, Mock the Week 2m, Weakest Link 1.95m, Old News 1.65m, QI 1.55m, and Mastermind 1.45m. BB On The Couch had 1.8m.

On the digital tier, BBLB took 550,000, BB Big Mouth 530,000, QI 135,000. America's Got Talent has fallen out of ITV2's top ten. Challenge's most seen show was Millionaire (Monday); the score of 135,000 is one of the channel's highest this year.

Highlights for next week are thin on the ground: there's a return to the Bad Shirt Casino and the No-Longer-Legalised Telephone Lottery in Deal or No Deal (C4, 4.15 weekdays), and ITV has the first in yet another series of The X Factor (Saturday, 8.25).

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