Weaver's Week 2010-11-21

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The two lead reviews in this edition are bracketed together on ITV4 as "Real Men's Television".

Beer and Pizza Club


Beer & Pizza Club

Talkback for ITV4

"Throughout my career, every show I've done beginning with the letter B has run for more than one series." So spake Richard Bacon on 20 October, the episode we've randomly picked to review. "You know what you've got to do, ITV4." Well, we know what the host thinks, but we have to pose further questions. Should the programme be recommissioned? Indeed, what happens on it?

To answer that, we have to look at what's in front of us. The format is utterly simple: Richard Bacon is joined by three guests (in this episode, Seann Walsh, Rufus Hound, and regular guest Charlie Baker). Already, there's something interesting to note: the complete absence of women from the panel. It's not unusual for Celebrity Juice to have four women in its cast of seven, and we don't find that noteworthy in any way. But four men on a talk show? That's either deliberate casting, or a hideous oversight.

This time, it's deliberate. Beer and Pizza Club appears as part of ITV4's "Real television for real men" strand, so it's no surprise to find that the programme is full of men. It helps the advertisers reach the audience they want to reach, without wasting money reaching an audience they don't want to reach. Like women. Or men with some multiple of the square root of -1, because who wants to advertise to complex men?

What does this show consist of? Four grown men sitting about and talking. While they talk, they eat pizza, and we can see that, yes, this is real pizza, it looks like pizza, it's shaped like pizza. And they occasionally swig from bottles; it is not immediately apparent that these bottles contain anything that is actually beer. For all we know, it could contain Sweet-Pea's Finest Buttercup Dew™... actually, no it couldn't, because two sips of that and they'd be legless. Anyway, our panelists sit around eating pizza and drinking from bottles. And they talk.

Beer & Pizza Club It's not Richard's real flat.

What do they talk about? Men's stuff. Most of it deals in superlatives – what's the worst gig you've been to, the worst injury you've ever suffered, that kind of thing. As entertaining as was Mr. Hound's retelling of the time he put his hands into a fishpond to douse a fire, it's not entirely the sort of thing we're comfortable hearing. Another discussion topic was which other man the panel would want to nip round the back of the bike sheds with. Now we know what gets Mr. Bacon up of a Sunday morning, and it certainly isn't this column.

We welcome emotional openness, we welcome gentlemen talking about their feelings. But the bulk of the show has a slight air of machismo, as if the contributors are seeking to out-do each other with their tales, as if the only way to be a "real man" is to be bigger than the next man in all respects. This is, in no small part, exactly what the host is trying to avoid, and we give Richard Bacon much credit for keeping the show flowing and reasonably frothy. The result isn't to our taste, but nor do we find it as offensive as we might do. It's just not what we'd choose to watch.

So, to answer the questions we posed at the start. What happens is that a bunch of men sit around comparing the size of things, and Richard Bacon keeps it from getting too blokey. Should it be renewed? We don't much care either way.

Mark Watson Kicks Off

Mark Watson Kicks Off

World's End for ITV4

Just so that everyone's singing from the same sheet, this show uses "kicks off" in the sense of "begins a game of kickball", not in the sense of "flies into a rage and starts shouting at people". This isn't a programme where anyone's head gets knocked off. Oh, and "Mark Watson" is used in the sense of "bearded, bespectacled bloke who you might know from BBC4's We Need Answers, except this is an ITV4 show, and the number of people who watch both 4s is probably about 4, so you probably don't."

Having defined terms, let's kick off. Er, begin the show. Meet three guests, who have been filmed in the studio's changing room. On the sample episode we saw (4 November), they were Bobby Gould of Wimbledon, Alun Cochrane of comedy, and Rick Edwards of E4. It's a chance for Mr. Watson to explain who these people are, what they know about things. Then we see the exact same three people sat behind desks, facing our host. Have we tuned into Sale of the Century again? No, this programme doesn't have anyone on the organ.

Mark Watson Kicks Off This round required panelists to put name badges on footballers.

World's End, the production house behind this programme, is best known for making Fighting Talk for Radio 5. It's a sports debate show that's been running on Saturdays since 2003, and we can reasonably declare it to be cult radio. That's "cult" in the sense of it has its own in-jokes, it has very enthusiastic fans, and those of us who aren't fans are left wondering what all the fuss is about. Anyway, Fighting Talk awards points for contributions, signalled by the ding of a bell. In the opening round, the panellists are asked to opine on the big sporting question of the week. Points are awarded for useful points, and deducted for non-useful points.

Like Celebrity Juice, the exact line-up of rounds changes from show to show. Some appear more often than not – there's one called "I'm not a famous sports personality, but I'm related to someone who is". In this round, someone who is related to a famous sports personality, but is not one themselves, appears in the studio. The panellists are invited to play 20 Questions to work out who is the famous sports personality that this person is related to.

There's "Beat the Best", in which host Mark Watson challenges some of the best sportspeople in the world to silly stunts. Such as, for instance, beating a leading motorcycle racing champion at high-speed motorised wheelchair racing. Commentary is provided by king of the surreal Stuart Hall. And through each ad break the panel is set a question to answer on small white cards, such as "What is the worst sporting record?" No-one gave the obvious answer, and we wonder if this show deducts points for anyone mentioning Hoddle 'n' Waddle's hit single "Diamond lights".

The final round is a quick-fire solo effort, in which the panellists must sort various items into one of two categories. For instance "Ref or Hef" asked the participant to say whether a given name was a world cup referee, or a member of a corporate board alongside Hugh Hefner. After all of this, and some variable rounds each week, the points are totted up, and the winner is awarded a Very Small Trophy.

What we have here is a programme that begins like the radio programme, but then goes off in its own direction. Everything on the show is – at least nominally – about sport, and there are many semi-familiar game showy bits recycled into this format. Bits of It's a Knockout, elements of traditional parlour games, the answering mechanic from Paul Daniels' Every Second Counts, and the microscopic trophy as seen on The Sorcerer's Apprentice and other shows. Oh, and there's a round in which bits of a graphic are revealed, it's called Post Match Catchphrase.

Mark Watson Kicks Off Is it "Snake Charmer"?

In the final analysis, this show is an entertainment, it never pretends to be anything else, and it does actually manage to be entertaining. Clearly, it is ITV4's answer to Celebrity Juice.

University Challenge

Second round, match 3: Exeter v York

"Cardinal" is the word of the week, it gets York off the mark first. They beat the Royal College of Music back on 2 August. Exeter got here through the repechage, they beat Cardiff four weeks ago. Like the shows reviewed above, the contributors – both panel and hosts – here are all male. The only female influence seems to be the succubi mentioned in one of Exeter's bonuses.

Exeter later get a question about famous sociologists, including Maslow and his hierarchy of, er, human intelligence. Cor, remember EFTA? York don't, it's one of the European groupings in a lovely visual round involving flags and a Venn diagram. York's lead is up to 75-25. We'll take Hopeful Interjection of the Week:

Q: Work this out before you buzz. Using two digits for the day and the month, and four for the year, which is the first date this year to contain eight different digits?
[Time passes.]
[The Sugababes change lineup. Twice.]
Shall we come back at the end of the show?

It's almost 17/06/2345 before Thumper gives up waiting. This week's laundry list is world's highest football transfer fees, and it leads into a rather nice set of bonuses about cities taking their names from two girls' names, such as Anne-Cara in Turkey. The audio round is on operatic overtures, but no-one can Tell William's composer, so York's lead stands at 75-55. Exeter are right to zig on "anthropology" for a Greek-derived study, but it's the zag of "ergonomics".

University Challenge Exeter's side: James Williams, Adam Doggart, Tim Abbott, James Milnes.

York make progress on the starters, no-one can identify a picture of Jack Kerouac, and York's lead has increased, thanks to the opposition's errors, to 135-45. Exeter eventually get the pictures of other Beat writers, but York move out of sight with people who disappeared. Five minutes to go, 85 points the gap, and York get a starter about Poe and Po. That's the river, and perfection on the bonuses almost puts the game in the bag.

But not quite: Exeter remember that octopuses are protected for scientific purposes, and cut off some definitions of "sage". Exeter secure a set of bonuses on imaginary numbers, proving that they'll never watch Beer and Pizza Club. They then have a set of questions on African countries with only two neighbours, and are buzzing in to guess "seven". They need to be buzzing in; car company logos means the gap is down to 25. Game on! York get a starter about the subatomic composition of an element, and that's Game Over. At the gong, York have won by 195-140. A cracking comeback there, but not quite enough for the win.

Tim Abbott did his usual captain's innings for Exeter, seven starters in the losing cause as the side made 15/27 bonuses. Five missignals told against them. Ben Keane had six starters for York, who made 15/33 bonuses. Overall accuracy was 51/89.

Next match: Peterhouse Cambridge v St John's Cambridge

Only Connect

Children in Need of Assistance special

In a change to the advertised programme, this week's show is a celebrity special. Joining us this week are Rev. Richard Coles, top wordsmith Grub Smith, and science shack host Adam Hart-Davis. They're cyclists, so are the Wheelmen. Their opposition are the Larks, fans of Philip Larkin: Michael Bywater is a print journalist, Stuart Maconie is appearing on Radio 2 right now, and former poet laureate Andrew Motion is used to jobs that don't pay well.

Only Connect (2) Real men, we hear.

Larks won the toss and elected to defer, so the Wheelmen kick us off tonight. "Vocation crier" "Carrot invoice". Ah, they're all anagrams of our host tonight, and first woman in the entire Week, I over-narcotic. Three points there. Larks have the differential calculus, binomial theorem, Babylonic cuneiform, and music from HMS Pinafore. As the former Communard knows, they're all things the Modern Major-General knew, and he'll sing it for a point. Their own question is Hr, Sr, Sig, and the team think they're in round two already. No, sir, it's round one, all we need is a connection, and sir has two.

Wick o'twisted flax o'doom has the audio clue – Paula Cole on cowboys, the theme from a Western, and that's enough for Stuart Maconie to say "Cowboys", score three, and save us from hearing "Rhinestone Cowboy". If that's not worth a charity donation, we don't know what is. Wheelmen have people playing a 'cello and a piano, a bus, and a pram. The apostrophe's the clue, these are all shortened names, and a point there. Larks have the Baobab tree, the Tate Christmas tree of 1993, Tarte tatin, and that's enough to turn things upside down: two to them. Not enough for the lead, the Wheelmen have that 7-5.

Wheelmen, round two is now amongst us, and we begin with the Chief Norse god, followed by the Norse god of thunder, and they correctly deduce that it's Saturn's day to end the list. Three points. Christmas creep watch for the Larks: 4 CB, 3 FH, 2 TD, and then it comes to Michael for two points. Last year, we didn't get the festive questions – or the same thirty oldies on the music video channels – until the first week of December. Wheelmen have things with fewer sides, and three points, like a triangle.

Only Connect (2) Larking about once more.

Wick o'doom for the Larks, who have Behind, England, Emmanuelle, and they try Columbus, being the final four Carry On films. Two points there. Pictures for the Wheelmen, who get a pointing finger, some Ludo pawns, and a bench on a stage. Us neither. We've no idea what the Larks were on about, but this was point, game, set, so it finishes with match. A previous episode asked where recent Prime Ministers ate their school lunches, this one asks for their parliamentary constituencies. Three points for the Larks there, cutting the arrears to 13-12.

Larks go to the wall, and begin with things with two heads. Then they have a set of conductors, famous Samanthas (hey, someone else who remembers Samantha Mumba!) and finish with ways of being confused. Good grief, they solved that in approximately no time at all! Ten points!

Wheelmen need to take a little longer to solve this grid, and start with an error when selecting Mitchells from The Eastenders. Then they find ___ blondes, and wonder if there's a set of apples in there, or positions in a boat. Ooh, they're looking for a second word suffix, they tend not to do that any more. Time is running out, the team jab and miss the last two connections. They're stumped by things that can be spun, such as cricket ball and good yarn; and pick up a point for types of comb. Five points!

Only Connect (2) She's only doing this for a good cause.

So that puts the Larks ahead by 22-18 going into the final round, where Victoria is wearing a pair of comedy ears. The Wheelmen are still annoyed about spinning a coin, the Larks say they do it all the time. "Shall we play a round of a quiz?" asks our host. Mssngvl S seems to fit the bill, beginning with things from a cake shop. That's 2-1 to the Wheelmen. Forms of entertainment is to the Larks, 2-0. Monastic orders goes to the Wheelmen 3-(-1), and that's the end of the quiz. The Wheelmen advance to 23, but the Larks have it with 24.

Or I crave tonic's chums next week: Radio Addicts v Brit Poppers

This Week And Next

Channel 4 has confirmed its replacement for Celebrity Big Brother. Famous and Fearless will come live from Liverpool, and will feature such stunts as celebrities driving in cars, celebrities riding a bicycle, and celebrities going down a hill on a tea-tray on wheels. It'll go out between 2 and 7 January next year, hosted by Clare Balding and Cliff Evans, and we'll doubtless have a review on 9 January.

Never Mind the Full Stops host Julian Fellowes was elevated to the House of Lords this week. He'll be joined by former BBC, Channel 4, and ITV controller Michael Grade; and The Culture Club host Joan Bakewell.

Ratings for the week to 7 November, with Cowell on 14.3m, Strictly on a year's-best 11.1m, and The Apprentice notching up 8.2m. The Cube (5.5m) glanced ahead of HIGNFY (5.45m), and 71 Degrees North bowed out on 3.95m, its highest rating for a Tuesday, and ahead of Family Fortunes (3.65m). The Apprentice You're Fired just beat Masterchef The Professionals The Final (3.6m to 3.55m), and Dancing on Two breezed past 3 million. Channel 4's biggest game show was Come Dine With Me and 2.75 Million Friends; the return of Chris Moyles' Quiz Night was observed by 1.8m.

X-Factor HD pulled in 1.11m viewers on Saturday, and Xtra Factor Result 44,000 on ITV2. It seems that BARB haven't quite got the hang of BBC-HD being different from BBC1-HD, so top-rated show there is the midnight repeat of The Apprentice (150,000). On the digital tier, Xtra Factor had 1.8m, Celebrity Juice 1.35m, and A League of Their Own 885,000. Only Connect linked itself to 685,000 viewers, Trapped Ever After caught 480,000. Amongst the imported shows, America's Next Top Model (360,000) is in grave danger of being overtaken by teen sitcom ICarly (330,000). Raise a song for Codi Canu, 45,000 saw this week's show. Oddity is on Challenge's listings, which show the top-rated programme – with 114,000 viewers – was Takeshi's Castle. That's the episode going out at 1.30 on Saturday morning. Really?!

The week's new Saturday night highlight is Drop Zone (BBC1, 3.35 Sunday, BBC2 after the tennis in Scotland), in which teams are given tricky tasks and must avoid being the last ones standing. Four in a Bed comes to Channel 4 daytimes (5.30 weekdays), and Young Hairdresser of the Year (BBC3, 10.30 Tuesday) marks the return of the annual talent competitions. Regionalia gives us The All-Ireland Talent Show (RTE1, 6.30 Sunday), and Mission Millennium (TV5, 1.05 Monday). Next weekend's talent times: Strictly 6.30 Saturday and 7.30 Sunday, X Factor 7.45 Saturday and 8pm Sunday.

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