Weaver's Week 2010-05-16

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In our grand plan of things, we were expecting to review The Cash Drop and Mission 2110 over the next fortnight. Events have proceeded at a rather rapid pace, and that's not now going to happen – we need to see the complete series of Mission 2110 before forming a full judgement, and The Million Pound Drop (as it's now billed) will be going out, live, every evening in the week after next. This column is not Mystic Mug, and we shall not review a live programme before it's aired.

Those shows will be reviewed in June, after Eurovision and before Countdown, which in turn means that we're moving up a feature we had planned to run during the dog days when there's too much football going on. In a nod to another show reaching the end of its life, we present


Argonds To Argonds

The Adventure Game, 1986

The Adventure Game Two Argonds test the Vortex.

It's the fourth and final series of The Adventure Game, by now an established format for television viewers around the galaxy. This photo-essay (which continues next week) is a companion to sample episodes from series one, series two, and series three.

The Adventure Game The Arg-o-vision host, in full evening wear.

Thanks to the miracle of hyperspace laser relays, we can see how this week's visitors progress. This week's team are Ruth Madoc, who is best known as Gladys Pugh in the hit sitcom Hi-de-Hi; Heinz Woolf, the professor from The Great Egg Race, and Debra Lee Hall, a television critic.

The Adventure Game (l-r) Ruth Madoc, Heinz Woolf, Debra Lee Hall.

The first puzzle is a simple warm-up, introduced by the legend "Initial Values ARG 1-18-7". It doesn't take long for the contestants to work out what they've got to do, and after a little counting on their fingers, they give the correct values: 18-13, 4-12-8, 8-23.

The Adventure Game Getting the puzzle right allows the team through the front door.

Dorgan (playing Sarah Lam; she's replaced Ganord) welcomes the team to Arg, and introduces the Drogna game. A challenge on these lines – involving coloured shapes – has met every team since the show began. This time, the aim is for someone to reach the apex of the grid and push a button. It's almost identical to a challenge from series two.

The Adventure Game Dorgan meets the team.

Before leaving, Dorgan gives some subtle clues "you've got to move from shape to shape", and "at least you're all on the same side".

In this particular episode, all three players are entitled to be on the grid at the same time. Their pattern of movement is based on increasing numbers of sides – start with a circle, then a crescent, a triangle, a square, a pentagon, then back to a circle. One side, two, three, four, five. Just to provide a further clue, the sequence is displayed on the back wall.

The Adventure Game The clue's on the wall: colour is a red herring.

We don't actually get to see how the team find out this sequence, as a large amount of the game is cut out so we can see more challenges later. That's a bit of a harsh edit; we just assume that the team knows what they're doing from their own abilities.

The Adventure Game Sitting quietly in the corner is His Highness the Rangdo.

Still, Heinz eventually pushes the button and activates the password computer. And there's a growling noise from the teapot in the corner. That's not just any teapot, that's His Highness the Rangdo of Arg, who had previously appeared as an aspidistra, and before that as Ian Messiter. The team are formally introduced to him, and introduced to the practice of greeting His Highness with the customary "gronda, gronda, your highness". They're praised for their excellent abilities to gronda.

The Adventure Game Top-class grondaing, there.

The password computer is a small logical maze, asking the contestants to take some weights from out of a clock, use them to snap off a stalactite, which they then affix to an ill swordfish by the adhesive properties of chewing gum.

The Adventure Game Stick stalactite to fish with chewing gum to retrieve key. Obviously!

Again, this sort of thing has featured on shows before – our vague memory of the first series includes some sort of computer maze with text descriptions, and most teams in the third series had a logical maze like this one.

The Adventure Game His Highness lets off steam while the visitors work the maze.

The computer maze is voiced by an Argond doing a very good Liverpudlian accent; we believe he's the same dragon who hosts the Arg-o-vision continuity, and is assuming the voice of Richard Lewis.

The Adventure Game Ruth Madoc speaks the password: fairycake

Eventually, the team finds out the password, and speaks it into the speaking tube. They're rewarded with a nice cup of tea, brought in by Gandor (still playing Christopher Leaver). While they're sating their thirst, Gandor and Dorgan are explaining how the next problem will be solved – or at least part of the solution.

The Adventure Game Dorgan and Gandor explain what's coming up.

Ruth and Debra admire the decor, and Ruth is overjoyed to see a glockenspiel, on which she plays the greeting from Hi-de-Hi. Heinz is investigating a clock, which has a bicycle wheel and some clips. There's also a Drogna Safe, with letters on the dials; and some paintbrushes.

The Adventure Game The main puzzle room.

What's the code? Ball? Book? Bulb? The time on the clock – ah, noon! That opens the safe, releases the money, and allows the team to buy themselves a lamp. Heinz explains how to get the key out of the contraption in the middle, protected by some sort of alarm. It's a photosensitive trap, if they lift the lid, the alarm will sound.

The Adventure Game Dorgan gives a small clue: this door opens

Enter, stage left, Dorgan, giving some clear clues. Firstly, the door by the safe isn't locked. It's open, and the team can pass through it. Such are the rules on Arg: if a door is meant to be locked, it is locked; if a door is meant to be open, it is open. She also removes a headlamp from her bicycle, saying that it needs to be recharged. Heinz spots that there's a dynamo on the bicycle, and the team wheel it into the other room.

The Adventure Game Shine light, open box, get key.

All they need are two pieces of wire to join the terminals from the dynamo to the lamp, turn the wheel, and it will light. Genius!

"We've got the key, but what is it the key to?" asks Heinz. Ah, good question. And one we'll come back to when the narrative resumes next week.


Final eliminator 5

Back on track with the Friday night brain drain, according to the continuity announcer. Two weeks hence, it's the final.

William De Ath begins the night's proceedings with a namesake. William the Conquerer (1027-87) succeeded to his father's duchy, quelled local rebellions, and secured a claim to the English throne, apparently on the promise of Edward the Confessor. Harold of Wessex was appointed King, but lost a battle at Battle, near Hastings, to William, who became king by conquest. His legacies include Westminster Abbey, the Domesday book, and an embroidery commemorating his win. It's very nearly a perfect round, just the one wrong, ending on 15 (0).

Sportingly, Mark Grant offers congratulations before stepping up. He's answering on the Life and Work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1660), a leading architect in 17th century Rome, planning fountains including the Four Rivers and the Cornaro chapel featuring The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. No errors in this round, but longer questions means he ends on 15 (0).

Mission on! Colin Wilson has it all to do while discussing the History of Glam Rock (1971-7). Glitter, make-up, platform boots, and that was just the blokes. Marc Bolan and David Bowie were the prime agitators, with Sweet, Slade, and Wizzard amongst the other popular acts. As was some bloke called Gary Glitter – in an reversal of the usual practice, he sold out Wembley Arena, but we'd not be able to find more than a dozen people who will say they were there. Queen and Shawaddywaddy get mentioned as the contender makes it to ... 15 (0)!

Brian Southgate is a physicist operating on home territory, the Manhattan Project (1942-5). This was the Allied effort to build an atomic bomb. It began in reaction to German technological developments, and ended with the use of a device over Hiroshima. Some errors and (shock!) passes means the contender ends on 11 (2). May yet be enough.

Finally, Stuart McLagan will tell us about Robert the Bruce (1274-1329). Appointed King of Scotland in an English-backed putsch in 1298, he led an insurgent army against the Sassenachs, culminating in a famous victory at Bannockburn in 1314. He's often said to have taken advice from a spider, though this tale is probably apocryphal. A few errors means the contender ends on 11 (0).

Sixty-seven points in the first round alone! Is this a record? (No, a record is a round black thing with a hole in the middle.) Mr. Southgate (Alex Ferguson, 5 March) drops a couple of sitters early in the round, but knows the former MP John Prescott. Would a question about a former MP have caused a change in the schedule? We think not. The final score's 16 (8).

Mr. McLagan (Eurovision, 15 January) is asked to remember the man described by Boney M as Russia's greatest love machine. He also remembers the school on the Thames opposite Windsor, not that anyone knows anyone who went there. It's a very good general knowledge round, the score scoots up to 24 (0).

Mr. de Ath (Kurt Vonnegut, 28 August) gets off to a strong start, but then encounters a few problems. Not terminal, the television channel UKTVG2's new name keeps him on track, as does the M60, and the round comes to an end on 28 (1). That could be an expensive pass.

Mr. Grant (Manet, 6 November) is confused by a question about the obscure BBC soap opera The Eastenders. Don't talk about The Eastenders, you'll only have people turning over in their droves. Once he gets going, the contender really motors, knocking out correct answers – or very good speculative answers – at a remarkable pace. The final score is 29 (0). There's a firm handshake with Mr. de Ath as he sits down.

Mr. Wilson (heavyweight boxing, 4 September) has it all to do. And he starts by showing that he means to do it, giving correct answers in no time at all. But after a few errors, it's clear that he's not going to pull off the win, and ends up with a score of 23 (0).

Which means that Mark Grant is going through to the final in two weeks time, and there will now be more handshakes than at the Mr. Shake Hands Man convention.

Mastermind Mark Grant is through to his second final.

This Week And Next

Nominations have been announced for the Television BAFTA awards. Game show-related nods are:

Ratings in the week to 2 May include a public holiday weekend. Not that that stopped Britain's Got Talent from recording 11.7m viewers, plus 125,000 on ITV-HD, miles ahead of Over the Rainbow (5.6m). The Whole 19 Yards won the battle of the Big Dumb Shows, beating Total Wipeout by 4.3m to 4.2m; Yards also had 90,000 people watching in high-definition. Great British Menu and Eggheads both attracted 2.25m viewers. ...Talent led on the digital tier, with 1.81m seeing additional audition footage, and 1.02m the Sunday repeat. Celebrity Juice completed an ITV2 clean sweep, its 830,000 was ahead of Come Dine With Me by 30,000. In a good week for HD channels, Over the Rainbow was seen in that format by 225,000. Watch's new commission, Scream If You Know The Answer, had 365,000 people gawping at the show.

Coming up this week are the final of BBC Young Musician (BBC2, 6pm Sunday), and of Over the Rainbow (BBC1, 7pm and 8.55 Saturday). No wonder we're stuck for things to write about!

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