Weaver's Week 2007-12-09

Weaver's Week Index


On the conveyor belt

A cuddly toy. A fondue set.

The Generation Game Now And Then

Splash Media for BBC Worldwide, UK Gold, 9pm Thursday, 22 November – 13 December

When it came to the UK in the early 1970s, The Generation Game broke new ground. The hour-long Saturday night variety show was a fixture of the schedules, but having members of the public as the show's stars, rather than an established entertainer, or a dance troupe led by Nigel Lythgoe, was a complete novelty.

And it turned out to be a remarkably successful novelty, catapulting its host Bruce Forsyth from Wotsisface Off the Telly to A-grade mega-stardom. Jokes about him on The Two Ronnies, clips being shown on Ask Aspel, being mobbed by hordes of screaming fans. Including the boss of LWT, who poached him for the ill-starred Bruce Forsyth's Big Night, completely eclipsed by his replacement on The Generation Game, Larry Grayson. You can't keep a good show down, and when Bruce returned to the BBC in the early 1990s, there was the inevitable Generation Game revival. After defecting back to ITV, Bruce would eventually be replaced by Jim Davidson, but the less said about that the better.

All of this is very well, but what does it have to do with the matter at hand? Simple: Bruce is hosting a clip show of items from his runs on The Generation Game. And he's inviting back some of the people featured in those clips, to see if they've improved over the years. Can a bloke who had difficulty throwing his voice in 1976 do any better in 2007? Can Rosemary Ford make a mug of herself on the potter's wheel? Has anyone learned to dance in the last thirty years?

Most of the contestants are from the 1970s version, though there was so little difference between that and the 1990s revival that it's difficult to say for certain. There's a behind-the-scenes section, revealing that it took eleven people to operate the conveyer belt – five on, five off, and one cranking the handle; and a star guest appears each week. We refuse to criticise any show that not only invites Rolf Harris, but gives him a platform to entertain the nation. Rolf and Bruce on one show – now that's a bonus.

It's a lightweight show, concluding – as did the original – with a run on the conveyor belt, where a series of prizes pass before the contestants' eyes, and they win what they can remember. Bruce is, as always, dressed in a sharp suit and tie, and is assisted by Stefania Aleksander.

At 30 minutes, including commercials, it hardly has the chance to get going before coming to a halt, and feels a bit choppy as a result. Maybe the producers would have done better to have the show extend to UK Gold's normal 40-minute length. We'd also liked to have seen some of Bruce's original episodes in full, perhaps tucked away late night on Challenge. Indeed, the early morning schedule has recently included episodes of The Generation Game, but in its Larry Grayson incarnation. Most odd.

The Generation Game Now and Then works as an affectionate celebration of one of the most enduring UK game shows, and as an entirely undemanding – if all too brief – piece of television.

Countdown Update

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Since we last cast our eye over Countdown at the end of October, Craig Beevers has completed his octochamp run, amassing a stonking 907 points. We must assume that it's possible for him to lose a game, but we've not yet been privy to anything that suggests how this might happen. The vacant chair was taken by Judy Kimber (3 wins, 315), then Pat Stork (3 wins, 325) and Martin Sears (2 wins, 223) had days in the sun. We then had a new champion every day for a week – Terry Newnham (161 points) only lost his game on a third conundrum; Carl Dundas (125), Pauline Huggins (153) and Gary Tennant (125) were the other people who came, saw, collected their Despot, and left. James Roberts completed the nap hand of new champions, but he would remain undefeated, scoring 736 in his eight wins. There was enough time for Phil Dobbins to complete an octochamp run and make the finals; he lost after two wins (252 points).

The quarter-final draw is as follows:

QF1: Craig Beevers (1st seed, 8 wins, 907) v Mikey Lear (8th, 7 wins, 680)

As we've just mentioned, Craig Beevers looks unstoppable. Mikey Lear is capable of taking advantage of any mistakes, he was entirely solid in his run during July and August. The problem he will face: Craig doesn't make that many mistakes; his lowest score is 103, Mikey's best is 99.

QF4: David Edwards (4th, 8 wins, 737) v James Roberts (5th, 8 wins, 736)

David had his run during mid-July, turning in two centuries in his final matches. James also had two centuries in his run, and it does look as though this match could go either way.

QF3: Jeffrey Hansford (3rd, 8 wins, 818) v Dave Von Guyer (6th, 8 wins, 724)

Jeffrey had his wins during August and September, achieving six scores between 96 and 100, and a best of 127. Dave's best in his September run was 98. Both are dependable players, but Dave averaged a disallowed word each day, and that could tell against him.

QF2: James Hurrell (2nd, 8 wins, 838) v Steve Baines (7th, 7 wins, 758)

James was the carryover champion from the series ending in June, five wins there and three in the new series ensured he was always going to look threatening; six centuries tell his class. Steve Baines notched up seven wins during August, two centuries and a 93-86 defeat in his final game suggest that this will be the standout match of the first round.

A full report will appear in two weeks.


Heat 20

Gordon Barnes will take the Second Anglo-Boer War. This was the one from around 1900, and pitted the Boer colonists against the English colonists in what's now South Africa. The war is perhaps best known for inspiring "Scouting for Boys", but tonight delivers 12 (0).

Brian Pearce has The Temptations 1961-73. This was a soul group, with seemingly an ever-changing cast of members. Our younger readers might usefully make comparisons with the Sugababes; our older readers might think of the presenters of Blue Peter. There are a few painful moments, and the contender finishes on 8 (2).

Jay Thomson has The Cotton Nero Manuscript A.x. It's a collection of four poems, found on a bust of the emperor Nero by Mr. Cotton, and written in the language of the North West Midlands. Bit like this column, really. The round's one step forward, one step back, and finishes on 9 (4).

Hamish Cameron discusses Scottish Monarchs 843-1371. And not, as certain listings magazine suggested, from 1843 to 1371. It's a large subject, but the contender seems that he could talk on it all night without so much as pausing for breath. He ends on 18 (0).

Mr. Pearce discusses the "chain of custody" of a plank of wood, allowing it to be traced from the original tree to the timber yard. Or Bermondsey. He joined us on 2 August 2005, talking about Bruce Willis, and has made appearances on Incognito, Judgemental, The Enemy Within, Link, No Win, No Fee, and Wipeout. What was Incognito? That strange spinning wheel of answers quiz they had in BBC daytime a decade or so ago. The final score is 13 (4).

Mr. Thomson tells us that the poems are one original work, three commentaries on Old Testament stories, and written in the late 14th century. He spends an awfully long time on the person who was the subject of different assassination plots in 1840 and 1882, allows Smallhead to make a joke about Aussie Rules Football kicking a behind, and finishes on 17 (7).

Mr. Barnes is a fitter on a gas rig off Lincolnshire, and discusses his work. He also has form on this show, appearing in 1986 to talk about the History and Development of Firearms. It's another mention for Debrecen, and – after last week's University Challenge – another contestant who doesn't know where it is. He stutters in the middle of the round, and finishes on 21 (4).

Mr. Cameron needs four to win. He takes issue with Smallhead's suggestion that the Scottish kings were a bunch of thugs: all the kings in that era were rough. Mr. Cameron made the semi-final in 1990 (Stewart kingdom 1371-1603; Edward IV), the semi in 2003 (Robespierre; War of the Roses), and the first round in 2005 (Ancient Egypt). His general knowledge round has always been strong, perhaps not as strong as this time's specialist subject, but even with four passes, 33 (THIRTY-THREE) is a score to write home about.

Mastermind's last four heats will dribble out in the new year; a new series of Junior Mastermind runs on BBC1 for the next two weeks, and there will be Celebrity specials over the new year.

University Challenge

Second Round, Match 3: Leeds v Warwick

Leeds left it late to beat Liverpool in their first-round match; Warwick was error-prone while passing Lucy Cavendish Cambridge in their opener.

Warwick gets the first set of bonuses, and is reluctant to offer an answer lest it be wrong and Thumper sneers at them. It's right, but he still gets a sneer in, fancy thinking Tennyson was decadent. Leeds get a series of questions on fruit-related battles. Scores are tied after four starters, two each, and it feels as though it's going to be nip and tuck all night. And Thumper gets in another sneer, after Warwick suggests George III lasted until 1830. The first visual round is on Formula One drivers, and Warwick has extended the lead to 70-35.

Warwick's moved clearly ahead now, though we salute Ashley Handley, a Leeds lad through and through, who spits out the answer "Bolton" with sufficient venom to poison the entire settlement. We're reminded of the doctor who suggested that train passengers would die of asphyxia if they ever travelled at more than 20mph, and went on ensure that his theory was never tested by British Rail. The audio round is on birds in popular music (that's as in creatures with wings), after which Warwick's lead has been pegged back to 110-80.

Thumper has a collective sneer at both sides, as they fail to know Sarum grew into Salisbury. Warwick comes out tops in Know Your B Vitamins, and does tolerably well in a round on Mildly Amusing Village Names; perhaps it was a mistake to have two people from Oxford on the team. Perhaps not; the Warwick side races away during the third stanza, swiftly turning a fragile lead into a thumping three-figure advantage. The second visual round is on European galleries; Warwick's lead has been pegged back slightly, but still stands at the perfectly healthy 180-90.

Answer of the week is "Waterloo", an ABBA song for one of the Mastermind contenders, a battle commemorated by medals for the Leeds side. Leeds is staging a bit of a comeback in the final stanza once again, closing the match to within 50 points with five minutes to play. The sides bob around this mark, swapping starters until the gong goes. Warwick has a win, 220-195.

The two captains led their sides from the front. Ashley Handley was the top buzzer for Leeds, nine starters; his side made 16/33 bonuses with one missignal. Warwick improved their bonus conversion rate to 20/39; Howard Lightfoot's five starters was the side's best.

Next match: Manchester v St Edmunds Hall Oxford

This Week And Next

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In a reversal of many years of decline, ITV has acquired some decent programmes. The company has bought out 12 Yard Productions, the company formed by David Young to make such shows as Eggheads, Without Prejudice?, and The Rich List. Both ITV and 12 Yard put out press releases full of hot air.

Ratings for the week to 25 November: Strictly Come Dancing has another peak, 9.7m saw Saturday's performances, 8.7m the result. Over on ITV, 9.3m heard the X Factor arguments, 8.9m the result. I'm a Celeb peaked on Monday, 8.05m, and both Family Fortunes (7.4m) and Who Dares Wins (5.95m) had their highest scores of the year. HIGNFY took 5.55m.

3.3m for Dragons' Den on BBC2, Buzzcocks also had over 3m. UC, Dancing on Two, Link, QI all had more than 2.75m. The Saturday HIGNFY repeat took 2.6m, its best showing so far, and Eggheads had 2.5m. Heroes failed to make the BBC2 top 30, so we look forward to seeing the much more popular host of Match Of The Day 2, Adrian Chiles, on the cover of next week's Radio Times. Over on 4, Deal had 2.75m, Secret Millionaire 2.05m, and Scrapheap 1.6m.

I'm a Celeb on ITV2 was the most popular digital-tier programme, 1.555m tuning in on Tuesday; the Xtra Factor had 475,000. A new peak for QI on BBC4, 770,000 saw that. On More4, Come Dine With Me had 545,000; Deal 205,000, and beaten by CBBC's Beat the Boss (295,000) and Best of Friends (285,000). First figures are available for UKTV Dave, the Monday night game show block was most popular: QI had 460,000, Buzzcocks and HIGNFY 310,000. Over on UK Gold, Dancing With the Stars had a new peak of 310,000, and The Generation Game Now and Then scored 155,000. Good score, good score.

Next week is clearly one that the broadcasters would rather forget: having blown all their big programmes early in the autumn, we're left with re-heated dregs this week. Highlight is the final of Mastermind Cymru (Sunday 8.30, S4C), and we can't even get the channel!

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