Weaver's Week 2010-05-23

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If this column were doing an impression of modern-day David Dimbleby, we'd have our own helicopter (registration plate G-UKGS, naturally) bringing shots of the returning officer brushing his teeth and riding his bicycle to the count, before proceeding to talk all over the important bits of the declaration with reports of what happened last time, what the candidates had for supper, what colour their socks are, that kind of blatant filler, while someone has the smart-arse idea of asking Sian Lloyd to comment on the defeat of Lembit Öpik, and Tim Vine's Brother makes a fool of himself over in the Bamzooki studio.

This column prefers to trust our elections to proper experts who actually know what they're talking about, so prepare to agree with Nick while reading Gates' Guide to the Hosts and Shows making up the new Gameshow Parliament.


The Adventure Game, 1986

Last week, we took Heinz Woolf, Ruth Madoc, and Deborah Lee Jones. They got a bicycle, turned it upside down, attached it to a dynamo, powered a light, shone it into a light sensor, defeated an alarm, and retrieved a key. All very clever stuff.

The Adventure Game Last week's bright idea: a bicycle-powered bulb.

Our intrepid explorers have failed to ask themselves one very pertinent question: why should they get the key in the first place? Will it unlock a fish tank in which there are some herrings sympathetic to the USSR? (Hint: no.)

The Adventure Game The door you have just walked through is not locked.

Now, look at the Clue of the Day, written opposite the door they've just walked through. It reads, "The door you have just walked through is not locked". The Clue is on the back of what looks like another door, which suggests this door is locked. Or at least not to be opened from this side, seeing as how there's no handle.

The Adventure Game This is where the key goes!

There's a television screen showing a testcard, "The Crystal Mines of Arg", and another door marked "Crystal Mines of Arg". Is that a hint of great unsubtlety? There's also a notice saying "Explorers must wear anti-gravity boots", and a pair of boots, padlocked to a wheel.

The Adventure Game Deborah goes down the mines...

Ah, that's where the key goes! In the padlock, to get the boots, wear the boots, and... promptly go off and explore the other room further.

The Adventure Game ...Heinz watches...

Oh, do get on with it. Deborah's got to go in the mines, otherwise we'll never get to the vaporiser. Vortex. The phone rings, it's Debra on the line, and she's in the mines. Heinz is able to see what's on the screen, and he and Ruth guide Debra to the pull switches. They're indicated by signs saying "Pull switches".

The Adventure Game ...and relays the idea to Ruth, who talks to Deborah.

When she pulls the switches, a door opens, revealing the crystal, and when she gets the crystal, Debra can open the door without a handle, and bring the other team members through to see Gandor and Dorgan.

The Adventure Game All together once more.

Gandor asks for "tickets, please", but no-one had a ticket. How careless. Instead, they'll have to play the traditional game of Argonds round the pond. How many Argonds are round the pond?

The Adventure Game Go on, how many Argonds are round the pond. And why?

It's not thirteen, it's not four, it's certainly not none. It's five. The answer's on the table.

The Adventure Game Heinz on his way to defeating the Rangdo.

Which brings us to The Vortex, the traditional game of get from one side to the other without being deaded by the Rangdo. Heinz benefits from an interesting move from His Highness, which requires him to side-step on the middle rank, but he presses on.

Debra thinks about her options, takes some advice from Ruth, and is promptly evaporated for her pains.

The Adventure Game Got one!

"It's a long way to walk home", says Dorgan.

The Adventure Game Ruth and The Rangdo exchange heated views.

Ruth invites His Highness to blow himself, which is surely a bit rude. But she has the same good fortune as Heinz, a bad night for the Rangdo, and two of the visitors are able to take the shuttle home.

The Adventure Game Dorgan and Angord bid us farewell.

Also This Week

This episode of The Adventure Game originally aired on 11 February 1986. It had been scheduled to go out two weeks earlier, but was postponed for news coverage of the Challenger explosion. These were the other game shows going out that week.

Saturday began with Saturday Superstore (BBC1, 9am) and its annual talent competition Search for a Superstore Superstar. That year's contest was won by Claire and Friends. At 12.27 on Radio 4, Nicholas Parsons spent Just a Minute with Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams, Barry Cryer, and Ian Hislop. How come he doesn't do the show any more? BBC1's Big Dumb Show for Saturday night was Noel Edmonds' The Late Late Breakfast Show (6.20), including the area finals of Mr. Poseur 1986 and Mike Smith at a secret location. It was followed by Every Second Counts (7.10), the rather good Paul Daniels show. Radio 2 had Beat the Record (7pm) with Keith Fordyce, and BBC2 was in the Pro side of International Pro-Celebrity Golf (7.30) as Arnold Palmer played Gary Player.

ITV's Big Dumb Show was Bigger, Showier, and probably Dumber, too. The Price is Right was hosted by Leslie Crowther with a bevy of assistants. According to the TV Times, viewers who are hard of hearing can write in for a sheet explaining the games: send 24p in stamps to The Price Is Right (Games Sheet), Central Independent Television, Lenton Lane, Nottingham, NG7 2NA. Offer closes in April 1986, bring your own time machine.

On Sunday, Radio 1 had the Great Rock 'n' Roll Trivia Quiz. "Me" Mark Page asked tough questions to popstrel D C Lee, unfunny DJ Adrian Juste, Mark Riley of Matt Bianco, Ian McNabb of The Icicle Works, already past-it Leo Sayer, and Chrissie Boy of Madness. ITV hit the Bullseye at 5.30, Dave Hill of Slade threw for charity, and Catchphrase at 7.15 was the same as it ever was. Mastermind (BBC1, 8.40) was filmed in the Royal Northern College of Music. This week's contenders were Tony Ireson (specialist subject: A E Housman), Margaret-Louise O'Keefe (Philippe Buonarroti, an Italian-French revolutionary), Philip Flemming (History of the USA 1776-1948), and Philip McDonald (History of Liverpool 1600-1900).

Countdown was the cornerstone of Channel 4's daytime schedule (4.30 weekdays), with Steve Jones and (from We) Gyles Brandreth in dictionary dell; Paul Hunter and Andy Keeble were this week's winners. ITV had Blockbusters (5.15) in most regions, though TVS and Anglia preferred their local shows on Monday. The Monday Movie Quiz (Radio 2, 10pm) was Ray Moore's interactive quiz about movies. As it's Monday, it's Blue Peter, and the winners from Crufts parade before Si, Janet, and Pete before the programme falls off air because it's run badly over time. Micro Live (BBC2, 5.30) has Fred Harris comparing Prestel to its French equivalent Minitel, and Lesley Judd showing off the RAF's flight training simulators. Noel Edmonds and Mike Smith hosted the British Record Industry Awards (BBC1 and Radio 1 in VHF Stereo, 7.30).

Tuesday gave us Robbie and Ziggy collecting chalk in Grange Hill (BBC1, 5.10) and the information collection Fax! with Bill Oddie, Billy Butler, and Wendy Leavesley. If you've got a fact to share, and you can't be bothered waiting twenty years for Radio 4 to invent iPM, do call the Faxline on (061) 814 3222. The facsimile machine was still a couple of years away from general use, so don't bother trying to fax Fax! Channel 4 had a networked version of Pop the Question (6pm), Lee Peck's pop nostalgia quiz with David Hamilton and Chris Tarrant; it was previously shown on TVS. The Adventure Game went out on BBC2 at 6.50.

Busman's Holiday went out in most ITV regions at 7.30; Julian Pettifer pitted air traffic controllers against magazine agony aunts. On the radio, My Word! (Radio 4, 12.27) had Dilys Powell and Frank Muir against P D James and Denis Norden, with Michael O'Donnell keeping charge. On Cue (Radio 2, 10pm) was billed as a snooker-based quiz entertainment; Tony Peers hosted a panel of Christopher Biggins, Su Ingle, Sara Hollamby, and Steve Jones, making us think its more entertainment than quiz.

Eugene ready? Eugene's ready, so let's play First Class: The Video Quiz (BBC1, 5.35), the highlight of Wednesday's shows. Balerno played Paisley in the first quarter-final. Indeed, apart from Mr and Mrs on Anglia (12.30), that's the only quiz of the day.

More First Class on Thursday (BBC1, 5.35) with Hewarth Grange playing Mearns Castle at games including clay pigeon shooting. That's My Dog was the cry in some ITV regions at 3.30. This week's guests on A Question of Sport (BBC1, 8.30) were motor racing pilot Nigel Mansell, rugbyman John Rutherford of Scotland and the Lions, sprinter Mike McFarlane, and David Speedie of Chelsea and Scotland. It was Treasure Hunt time (C4, 8.30) with Val Grant and Betty Day looking for clues and divine intervention around Stirling. Pot Black '86 (BBC2, 10.10) was up to frame 5, Eddie Charlton v Tony Knowles.

Friday was another quiet day for quizzes and games, the best we can come up with was Emu's Pink Windmill Show (ITV, 4.25), which apparently featured some call-in and write-in competitions. Over on BBC1, Zammo's acting awfully strangely these days.


Final eliminator 6

Series producer Jon Kelly has been bigging up next week's Mastermind final, in which one of the ten remaining contestants will be crowned Mastermind Champion 2009-10. Writing in the Radio Times, Mr. Kelly addressed claims that the contestants are offering too many popular culture subjects. There weren't any popular culture subjects in the 1986 heat we noted above, but there were four non-pop subjects last week. The subjects were two ancient kings (William the Conquerer, Robert the Bruce), an architect we'd never heard of (Gian Lorenzo Bernini), some semi-modern history (The Manhattan Project), and the token pop culture subject (Glam Rock).

Or take next week's final: the avowedly-pop Hollywood in the 1980s nestles alongside Granddaughters of Queen Victoria, the General Strike of 1926, 17th century Venetian opera, and Liverpool Anglican cathedral. Even English cricket's county championship isn't exactly popular culture, seeing as how it's typically seen by about twenty people, most of them playing.

Mr. Kelly adds that, in order to write lots of questions, "the subject has to be sufficiently dense." In the host's chair is John Humphrys, leading us to the final finalist.

Jesse Honey is up first, with the life and work of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). Gaudi was an architect known for a curvy style that put things together without any apparent logic. His best-known work is to be found in Barcelona. The round stretches from his father's profession to Gaudi's death, and ends with the contender on 14 (0).

Chloe Stone tackles British history 1815-1914. Ah, our Portmanteau Subject alarm is ringing, indicating that this might be Too Large a Topic. It covers the years between the Napoleonic and Great wars, four kings and a queen, and at least four major constitutional reforms. The round stretches from paint-throwing to Boycott, the annexation of New Zealand, and reform of the House of Lords by a Nicholas Clegg, Esq. We were wrong to be dubious, it's another good round, 13 (1).

Peter Cowan discusses the Pliocene and Galactic Milieu novels of Julian May (b 1931). These are a series of science-fiction books; in the "Pliocene" saga, humans transport themselves back in time, and the "Galactic Milieu" explains how they got there and why they left. May takes seven books to expand upon these themes, we can't possibly do them justice in two lines. The round starts with a pass, but recovers well to end on 11 (1).

Ian Scott Massie has been re-viewing the films of Powell and Pressburger (active 1941-56). Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger produced films of unusual passion and fantasy, including "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" and "The Red Shoes". Both of these are featured in the round, and the contender makes his way to 8 (0).

Finally, it's Ian Orriss with the life and reign of Henry IV (1421-71). The first King of Lancaster, his team beat the Hotspurs, wrote a document in English, and introduced a modern smart weapon, the longbow. He's not to be confused with his grandson Henry VI, as the BBC's publicity for this show did. The contender revised the right Henry, ending on 14 (0).

Ian Scott Massie (Paul Nash, 9 October) remembers the long and distinguished career of The Millennium Bridge: opened on Saturday, closed on Sunday because it failed to get people across the river without them falling in. He's later asked to guess a T Rex hit, and remember the Mozart piece from which the Brain of Britain theme originates. The round closes on 19 (1).

Mr. Cowan (Caesar's Gallic Wars, 17 January) is able to turn right at Betelgeuse, and doesn't have a clue who won the first series of Pop Idol. Pete Waterman, wasn't it? Will Young and George Lansbury in the same breath, where else would that happen? The contender ends on 21 (3).

Chloe Stone (Cazalet, 2 October) says "potato", we say "potahto", let's give her a point and move on. Sadly, she falls into something of a pass spiral in the middle of the round, but tells us something we didn't know: that the Loganberry was named after its creator. She squeaks into the lead with the final answer, ending on 22 (8).

Mr. Honey (Wandsworth, 8 January) gets a very cold question, one so cold that it cannot get any colder. He also has a brief pass spiral (a pass cycloid, would that be?), but recovers with famous golfers and the origins of the colour ultramarine. Who's the current Speaker of the Commons? Still John Bercow, and remember when Brian May wrote the music for a car commercial? There's a little luck as the host starts a question just before the buzzer, but it ends in a pass. Still, that's a remarkable score: 30 (3).

Follow that! Mr. Orriss (Jerusalem, 11 September) has his work cut out, and the host removes his glasses in an attempt to emphasise the gravity of the situation. The round begins with a couple of strong answers, but then come two passes, some incorrect answers, and it's beginning to look like it's over. Still, he remembers that the quagga was a relation of the zebra, and the long name for the Vietcong, to finish on a perfectly respectable 25 (3).

Mastermind Jesse Honey becomes our final finalist, and we'll see him again next week.

This Week And Next

Ratings for the week to 9 May showed Britain's Got Talent still very popular, 11.85m people, tying with the opening week's shows. Over the Rainbow came a distant second with 5.8m seeing the performances. A late schedule change put Have I Got News For You out at 8.30 on Friday night, we think the first ever pre-watershed show, and 5.3m saw Lembit Öpik say, "Gissa job". The Saturday repeat was seen by 2.75m, and was BBC2's top programme; Sunday's Come Dine With Me could only pull 2.65m. Channel 4's Alternative Election Night coverage averaged 1.65m people, which we assume to be 7 million in the first 55 minutes, and the Jimmy Carr Fan Club after that.

Just to put that in perspective, Britain's Got More Talent on ITV2 was seen by 1.95m people at 9pm, and a further 270,000 on ITV2+1. The Sunday repeat of the main show also pulled a million viewers, and Celebrity Juice had 790,000 on Thursday. A good week for some of the channels – bank holiday Four Weddings on Living had 480,000 tuning in, and Challenge had its best figure of the year, 135,000 people at 9pm on Friday. The number of those who misread the programme guide and thought they were watching "Who Wants to be a Premier?" is not recorded.

Next week's biggie is The Million Pound Drop Live (C4, 10pm from Monday), in which the lovely Davina invites people to take a million quid home. The Mastermind final is on twice (BBC2, 8pm Friday and 4.35 Saturday), ITV has a new run at The Chase (5pm weekdays, not Scotland), and its finals week for Junior Masterchef (BBC1, 4.35 Wed – Fri).

It's the annual Eurovision Song Contest next week. Our spies on the ground are giving a Nasty Flashing Lights warning for the Turkish entry, a Smurf warning for the Dutch entry, and an If You Thought Our Foreign Secretary Was Bad, Wait Till You See This warning for the British entry. BBC3, 8pm Tuesday and Thursday, also RTE2. In order to get the Week out before it's passed by events in Oslo, next week's edition will be distributed on Saturday.

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