Weaver's Week 2011-01-16

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The Chase Why is Mark looking so enigmatic? He knows what's coming...


The Only Connect Championship Of Champions

Epicureans v Gamblers

Katie Bramall-Stainer, captain of the Epicureans, says that her team feels honoured just to be in the same studio as the Gamblers. They insist that they're not at all rusty.

Straight into round one, the Gamblers have been put into bat, and start with what looks like some car registration numbers. Ah! 46664 is the last one, so it's prison numbers – the famous Nelson Mandela gives a point. Epicureans start with Nero, but then go to folk like Mary Portas and Elton John. Did they marry men and women? They did, that's a point as well. Pictures for the Gamblers, who have various stately homes. Birthplaces of monarchs? Copies are built somewhere else? Ah, they were all unfinished buildings, good for another point.

Audio for the Epicureans, they have three songs we're not at all familiar with, but reckon these are songs that gave their game to other bands. No. It's eponymous song from the eponymous album, and a bonus to the Gamblers. On their question, they get "Chicago Transit Authority", and go for it. "They were shortened to band names". No. Three more clues for the Epicureans, and they all changed their names due to legal disputes, and a bonus point the other way. Their own question has a foody ring – Marathon, Hamburger, Alcoholic, Watergate. Yes, we remember the Watergate chocolate bar. A guess of desperation – "they changed their name for legal reasons". No, and we're not in the Two Ronnies sketch answering the question before. Origins of generic suffixes – burger, gate, holic, that kind of thing. That's a bonus for the Gamblers, who lead by 4-2.

What's fourth is the second round, and the Gamblers begin with Opera, Matinee, Princess. They're thinking piano, and what's the piano everyone's heard of? Grand? No. Miles away. It's not pianos at all, it's necklaces, so Choker is the answer sought. Pictures for the Epicureans – a splash of water, a sunrise, a pebble, and they've left themselves a good thirty seconds to think about the answer. Noon? Not at all. It's the etymologies of the first four chemical elements, so the fourth would be Beryl. No points at all there. The Gamblers have Roman numerals and types of nerve, and their guess is a bit wrong. Dr. Katie Bramall-Stainer (she's a real doctor, you know) picks up a very useful bonus.

Hunting 'n' pasturage 'n' farming are the Epicureans' next set, and they perhaps reckon that Industry is the next phase in human development. We'll buy that, Commerce was the word used by Adam Smith, good for two points. Montgomery and Juneau are the first two terms for the Gamblers, and they work out it's capitals for states in alphabetical order, so ends with Little Rock and two points. 1 of 4: f3; 2 of 4: ... e5 3 of 4: g4 – oh! 4 of 4: ...Qh4++ and that's Fool's Mate, a bonus for the Gamblers, a careful explanation from Victoria, and the Gamblers lead 7-5.

Only Connect (2)

SPOILER: The Epicureans will finish with 28 points. Is it a winning score? It could be, the scores are low so far...

Bring on the walls, and the Epicureans have such clues as 7, Chimney sweep, and they're lucky. There are types of arches, BBC documentary series, and is the fourth set of terms in theatre? The team spend forever working on this last set and just about get there, it's types of theatre stage. Ten points!

Gamblers kick off with types of mushroom, and then places that can be New ___ – that takes a few experiments to get out, and they divert into London markets. The fourth set is British formula one world champions, Button was hidden in the mushrooms. Ten points!

So no change into the final round, the Gamblers lead by 17-15. Very close! Traditional board games kick us off, the Epicureans mistake "Fox and geese" for "Fox and dogs" so lose the round 2-1. Comedians' names merged with artists also goes to the Gamblers 2-1. Figures of speech, that's to the Epicureans by 4-0. Parts of the human heart goes their way 3-1, giving a two point lead. Bottles? That's theirs again, and again by 4-0. Musical instructions ends up as a 0-0 draw, though not for want of trying.

All of which means that the Gamblers have 22 points, the Epicureans have 28. They are the new Champions of Champions, and they won't be meeting the Crossworders in competition, because the Crossworders are taking part in a crossover game...

Next match: Crossworders v the Emmanuel Cambridge University Challenge side

Penn & Teller: Fool Us

Penn & Teller: Fool Us

September Films / 117 Production for ITV, 7 January

Roll up! Roll up! Welcome to the first new game show of the year from ITV, and on previous form the only new one worth watching all year. Top showbiz magicians Penn and Teller have come to London, where their welcoming party includes Jonathan Ross. After spending six months tending to his collection of moss, the host is in rip-roaring form tonight. Well, something like that.

Fool Us is a one-off show, in which the challenge is fairly simple. Some professional magicians will come on stage, and present a new trick for the entertainment of the amassed audience, and for the critical appraisal of Penn and Teller. Following the performance, the critics will discuss what they've just seen, and attempt to explain it to the audience. Any trick that defies explanation will be rewarded with tickets to Las Vegas, where Penn and Teller have a resident show. A bit like CĂ©line Dion, then. The successful applicants will open the show for the stars, making them the magic equivalent of Scott Fitzgerald.

Penn & Teller: Fool Us Penn Gilette and Teller.

As seen on television, this was a slick presentation – the show didn't dwell too much on the prize, or even on the stars. After they'd performed an opening trick, it was straight into the competition, with six British magicians attempting to present something novel. Two of them were adjudged to be successful in their endeavours, the other four had some sort of explanation given.

This being magic, the public can't be told exactly how the tricks worked, so the guest stars used magician jargon to explain the tricks, and picked up on key points. This prevents the viewer from judging whether the explanation was right or wrong, but when the magician had been rumbled, he would admit it. Final adjudication was done by a neutral observer in the production gallery – we suspect he had to rule on one or two of the closer decisions, and the competition part of the programme ended with a very messy "filmed backstage" piece in which the experts explained their position. And it's arguable that the night's most entertaining performances were from two performers whose tricks were rumbled easily.

But this didn't overshadow the main success – here was an actually entertaining programme. Unlike last week's Famous and Fearless, Fool Us moved along at a sensible pace, dwelling long enough for the audience to savour each trick, but never so long that it felt like proceedings were being prolonged to reach an arbitrary length. That's unless viewers were watching live, in which case they would have sat through five internal breaks in a 65-minute programme.

Penn & Teller: Fool Us Where's the most obvious place to keep a mobile phone? Ah, inside a dead fish...

There were no women competitors. This isn't actually unrepresentative of magic as a community – the Magic Circle says there are about 80 female initiates, and they've only been allowed to join as performers for the last twenty years. Even so, if there's to be a second show, we would hope that the producers would make an effort to find someone other than men.

Will there be a second programme? It's difficult to say: of the six tricks to make the programme, Penn and Teller gave accounts of four of them, were beaten by a comedy magician, and lost the last one on the debate equivalent of kicks from the penalty mark. It made for good television, but we're not entirely convinced that the stars left the studio in a good mood. It would be a bit of a shame not to try the stunt again, but then the guiding principle is surely to leave the audience wanting more.

Read more: Tom Scott's recording report.

University Challenge

Deci-final 1: Christ's College Cambridge v Oxford Brookes

The phase between the round of 16 and the round of 4 contains ten programmes, as two wins are required to progress, and two defeats are required to leave the contest. Christ's College Cambridge (CCC from here) have beaten Liverpool and Edinburgh; Oxford Brookes beat Cardiff and the University of the Arts London. We're not counting this as the sixth Oxbridge clash of the season, as we know that Oxford Brookes is completely independent of the long-standing Oxford University.

The competition proper begins with the Kon-tiki, and with extremes of weather. We're going to assume that the producers didn't know that the closing weeks of 2010 would be described as Freezevember, so this can't be a Hidden Transmission Indicator. People who saw visions of Christ prove fertile territory for his College, the Mitochondrial Eve helps the opposition to draw level. The first visual round is Name That Roman Province, after which Oxford Brookes leads by 45-35.

A trip to the underworld helps bring CCC back into the match, and they get this week's Little Billy Shakespeare question of the week, on taglines from filmed versions of his plays. There's a long question spelling out "HONEY" in various scientific terms, and that's followed by a set of questions on overweight rulers. Something resting in mid-air five metres off the ground will take one second to fall to earth, an experiment we can prove by inviting Mr. Wile E. Coyote to walk off a cliff. We've reached the audio round, on noises made by British mammals. CCC have retained the lead through this stanza, but they've never been allowed to pull away – it's 105-85.

University Challenge Christ's Cambridge: Chad Belloli, Joe Walmswell, Natasha Simonova, Alexander Greaves

Names for bits of the ear reduces the gap to ten, and false friends in language learning close the gap to nothing. Would Ant and Dec's competition been quite the same if it had been called Wonky Butter? "It's a milky spread, and it's got a leg missing." Various definitions of "strong" give Oxford Brookes the lead, and in almost no time we're up to the second visual round. Depictions of St Jerome allows Oxford Brookes to extend their lead to 135-105.

It's a lead, but it's certainly not a winning lead. Questions on gaps help CCC to close the hole in the score, but they incur a missignal on a question about the duration of pregnancy. It looks as though eight people are going for their buzzers when they're asked after the book by Germane Greer, and Oxford Brookes get there first. That brings the lead up to 50, putting them a couple of starters away.

But it's Christ's who get the next starter, making sure all eight contenders have answered one correctly. An early interruption proves costly for CCC, losing them five points and allowing Oxford Brookes to pick up the starter and a bonus. Christ's come back with knowledge of (1+i) squared and Lyme disease, but they're not so hot on Scandinavian composers. Trapezia progress Christ's score, but the gong goes with the score on Oxford Brookes 185, Christ's Cambridge 160.

Chad Belloli was best on the buzzers for Christ's, picking up three starters and no missignals. The side made 16/26 bonuses and had two missignals. Sarah Johnson led Oxford Brookes with six starters; they had 14/36 starters and one missignal.

Next match: York v Peterhouse Cambridge


Heat 18

Harry Woodward begins tonight's show, he's taken the Life and Works of John Steinbeck (1902-68). A native of California, Steinbeck wrote social novels about agricultural labour, aggressive in his criticism of exploitation of the honest labourer. His best-known works are "Of Mice and Men" (1937) and "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939). The contender takes it slow and steady, ending on 9 (3).

Tom Scotney has been listening to Iron Maiden (est 1975). Formed by bassist Steve Harris, Iron Maiden was a leading light in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene of thirty years ago. The band has continued to tour and record albums based on all aspects of culture – they've drawn inspiration from Coleridge, battles in the Crusades, Aldous Huxley, and The X Factor. Hidden Scheduling Failure of the Week is that ver Maiden's 2009 film "Flight 666" goes out on BBC4 next Friday. In the best traditions of Very Loud Rock, the contender cranks it up and up, all the way to 12 (1).

Ellen Salkeld is going to tell us about the Life of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). Born in Porbandar, Gandhi moved to South Africa, where he experienced widespread casual racism and prejudice against Indians. After almost two decades supporting Indians in that colony, he returned to India, where he led a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience against the British raj, in support of Indian self-determination. He achieved this goal, though at the cost of splitting Indian into Hindu and Moslem parts; this was the cause cited by his assassin. It's another steady round, ending on 11 (3).

Stephen Porter is our final contender, with English First Division football of the 1970's. The era of muddy pitches, bad perms, Brian Clough, and Liverpool FC winning almost everything in sight. It was an era when Brian Moore would mention that one of the teams was playing in striped shirts, or black shorts, for the benefit of people seeing the game in black-and-white – many grounds were not converted to colour until late in the decade. The contender, who is appearing in a black suit and white shirt, sticks it in the back of the net, 15 (0).

Harry Woodward resumes his seat, needing seven to take the lead. He gets Bertie Wooster's valet, and remembers the four members of the oft-forgotten Esdipi tribe, but then there's a fairly long series of passes. "Help!" he cries, the correct answer to a question about a Beatles song. The final score is 17 (8).

Ellen Salkeld starts with some pasta and pepper, follows with a Bloody Mary, Swiss roll, and finishes off by answering the question about Schrödinger's Cat. Nor does she remember who revived the recorder for children, a person who clearly meant well, but... The round swiftly moves away from food and drink, and this seems to act against the contestant, who finishes her round on 20 (7).

Lemons and Joseph for Tom Scotney, who also remembers the RESPECT party of George Galloway, that well-known cat impersonator. Aardvarks? They eat termites, as people of a certain age and watched the Pink Panther show may recall. It's only us? Fine. 25 (4).

Stephen Porter starts off his round by remembering the imps of Lincoln Cathedral, and the Wets in the Conservative cabinets of the early 1980s. He doesn't know where to find the Beagle Channel (somewhere near Snoopy's Kennel, we think), and is correct on a question about football. The correct answers keep flooding in: a spirit level, the limitations of King Cnut, Michael Crawford, Roland Orzabel and a kangaroo. He's already won, and won big, and finishes with a very good score of 30 (3).

This Week And Next

It's a big welcome back to 0898-gate! The story of the year (when the year was 2007) was all about falsified competitions and fake contestants. Clearly, they're a bit behind the times in Banbury, as local station Banbury Sound has only just had its made-up caller. The breakfast show ran a year-long quiz, with players giving up a minute of their morning each day for a week, to answer general knowledge questions. One week, the chosen contestant couldn't be contacted, and the presenter substituted his own son. Obviously, this fakery isn't allowed, and the presenter concerned has been removed from the station.

It's a big goodbye to Who Wants to be a Millionaire! The hit game show reached stratospheric heights in the late 90s, but has been dwindling in the ratings for quite some years. ITV has finally decided that the low ratings – barely 3 million – aren't worth the candle. The show remains on life support, with an occasional celebrity edition.

For our money, reforming the prize tree in 2007 was a strange decision, losing the simplicity of double-or-quits, but inserting some more difficult decisions, particularly around £75,000. Last year's introduction of the clock was a particular error, it jarred badly with the rest of the game and clearly inhibited the host's flow. Surely they can chop to time in the edit suite. Millionaire remains a perfectly acceptable way of whiling away an hour in pleasant company, though we can see that the audience figures didn't really justify the spend.

Of the various other derivatives airing around the world, Hotseat feels like it could be interesting. Could ITV tweak the rules so that two games are completed in a one-hour slot, using the same set of contestants excluding the first winner? Shuffle is one of those formats we would need to see before forming any judgement.

From possibles in the 5pm slot to the current incumbent, The Chase. Last Thursday's episode featured something we've never seen before: someone playing to lose money. With £42,000 already in the pot, final contestant Steve answered five questions correctly in his minute. His housemate had recently appeared on television and left with nothing; for his efforts, Steve was offered the unusual lower total of Minus 2000 pounds.

The Chase Mark's final offer: make the final, and reduce your prize fund by two grand.

Could Steve get four out of eight questions correct? Er, no; with the quiet support of the team, chaser Mark Labbett caught his quarry with little fuss.

Ratings for the week between Christmas and New Year are somewhat compromised by the omission of data for ITV. On the Beeb, The Magicians opened to 5.85m viewers, and Celebrity Mastermind had 5.25m. Famous and Fearless started its run with 2.25m watching. Top game on the digital channels was Got to Dance on The Satellite Channel, 1.335m people saw the preview show; old hand Celebrity Juice had 865,000, and the Only Connect final played out to 450,000 viewers. It's a sign when that's a bit of a disappointing figure.

This week, we finally get to see Perfection (BBC2, 4.30 weekdays) and not just through the answers in a monitor. Ready Steady Cook (BBC2, 11.45am weekdays) and Come Dine with Me (C4, 5pm weekdays) also return, as does Pop Idle Us (ITV2, 8pm Thursday). It's the last in the series of Only Connect (BBC4, 8.30 Monday), ESPN Classic has some vintage episodes of World's Strongest Man (from Monday), Dave gets The Bubble (11pm Tuesday), and TG4 a new run of Feirm Factor (8.45 Sunday).

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