Weaver's Week 2011-12-11

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Later on, we have reviews of two new entertainments on the radio, hosted by some of our favourite broadcasters. But first, picture the scene. It's 8.11 on Monday evening. Microblogger _moo_ is in a stew. "Arggh train not moving, does it not know Only Connect starts soon." Library Girl 79 responds with sage advice. "Tell someone to get out and push! It's the Only Connect final for goodness sake."

This mock caption is based on an idea by Gwilym J James.


Only Connect

The Grand Final: Analysts v Antiquarians

The Analysts pay tribute to their vanquished opponents the Technologists, the Antiquarians have gone from nervous to relaxed to excited, and will complete the sequence in half-an-hour.

The Antiquarians start round 1 with things that fly, such as capsules on the London Eye and seat rows on Lufthansa planes. Number 13 doesn't exist, two points do. Pictures for the Analysts – a playing card, the Union Flag, a horseshoe, and thumb up. No guess. What did this column say at Eurovision 2007? Flying the flag upside down? It's bad news when upside down, and the Antiquarians have a bonus.

We've had banned records, the Antiquarians now have things that return no results when typed into a Chinese search engine. June 4th and Falun Gong — well, we're not going to get this column read in Beijing. Nor will the players score. Bonar Law and de Valera is enough for Analysts to claim three points – born outside the country they led, a series completed by Gillard and Hitler. That's drawn the sides level.

Remember The Krypton Factor 1995? How DYE became FUR by moving one key to the right? Actually, that was too hard even for the combined brains of Gordon and Penny, but not the Antiquarians – three points. Which leaves audio for the Analysts – Siouxsie and the Banshees and U2 and Duran Duran, except it's a title question – Spellbound and Vertigo and Notorious, all Hitchcock films. One point, but it leaves the Antiquarians taking the first set, 6-4.

Microblogger burst! SineadwithaFada: "I'm sitting in front of a keyboard and I didn't get that!!!" Daniel Oppenheim: "Raise your hand if you thought the U2 song was called 'Elevation'?" Its Watty "I'd have got the music question right if I hadn't thought the U2 song was 'Discotheque'"

Pointless We asked the teams to name a hit U2 song.

Round two begins with something in German, then The Merchant of Yonkers and The Matchmaker. So, er, erm, we're stumped. They're stumped. The other side are stumped. It's adaptations of the same work, finishing with "Hello Dolly". Pictures for the Analysts, a jug and a busby and then the team have a long think. "Brian Clough". Victoria's going to give them three for that, it was the managers of British sides who won the European cup of men's football.

Astronomy for the next question, which goes from main sequence star to red supergiant. Not to a white dwarf, as the Antiquarians reckon, but a black hole, as the opposition reckon. Now, a code. DLS = 24, DWS = 17, TLS = 12. We have CLUE = 0. It's TWS = 8, being Scrabble bonus squares. "Oh!" says 600,000 viewers. "Ha, we got it" says the other 100,000.

Will the Antiquarians get high marx on the next question? Marxist analysis of social development ends with Communism, and two points. Flags for the Analysts – a blue and white one, one with a Freemason seal, one that looks awfully like the flag of Thailand. But it's central American countries, ending with the flag of Panama. Two points, and the Analysts have taken the lead, 10-8.

More from the microbloggers: Rob Dowey: "The one answer I get on Only Connect both teams fail to deduce *smug face*" The Nick Duffy: "Love how when 1st in sequence 'feudalism', guy went 'must be to do with Civ 4'. Don't get that level of geekdom on The Cube." Poison Challis: "OK reading beginners guide to Marx when I was 14 paid off. Hurray!" Svejky: "Shouldn't 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' have had its own stage?" Not really: that's roughly synonymous with the "socialist" stage, as "dictatorship of the bourgeoise" is roughly the "capitalist" era.

Wall 138 for the Analysts, and they knock off people who were deposed from office and died in exile. They have another group which we didn't quite pick up, and then the team has a good long think. True stories? Crime? Well, the team have solved the wall, but what are these links? Ah, gold coins for the second link, movies based on true crime stories. The last is not characters from The Wire but Come Fly With Me, the recent BBC comedy. Seven points!

The Antiquarians don't know they have something to tilt at with grid 139. They have some tapping, then two groups come out. We reckon there's a set of Private Eye correspondents, doubtless in honour of the celebrity edition. Ways books can be damaged is there, blaxploitation films don't quite pass the team's lips. There's a long debate on architectural terms, for which the team does get the points. Nothing for the Eye. Six points!

So the Analysts have a 17-14 lead going into Missing Vowels. Oxymorons goes to the Analysts by a mile. Strategies is another Analysts speciality, again winning easily. Fifteen letter words? They can only squeeze in two questions, both to the Analysts. Which means the Analysts have won in four sets: 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 8-0.

Only Connect (2) The multi-squillion pound presentation ceremony.

The M Leonard wonders about next week. "Will be taking on easier challenges now on Monday nights. Maybe resolve Euro Crisis" Next week, that's Connecting Wall Night, eight teams compete in a round that is walls, walls, and nothing but walls.

Mark Trevor Owen: "Only Connect final followed by trailers for a Danish detective show and a documentary about bell-ringing. How can you not love BBC Four?"

Soho Guy: "I've no idea love, can I just have the Bendy Bully?"

History Repeats Itself

Campbell Davison Media for Radio 5, 11am Sundays 4 November – 18 December

If you're reading this column the instant it comes out, then hurry! hurry! to a steam wireless, to catch the show we're about to discuss. Otherwise, the BBC's Radio Player is your friend.

We're pleased to note that Danny Baker is introducing this show; after taking treatment against cancer early this year, he's bounced back with even more energy and vigour than ever. These shows form part of a 56-day marathon of work, broadcasting daily to the BBC for two months. Joining him in the studio is a panel of three celebrities, the sort who will provide entertaining conversation at 11 o'clock of a Sunday morning. For instance, the panel a couple of weeks back was Richard Madeley of the chattering classes, and comedians Susan Calman and Dan Maier.

The central conceit of History Repeats Itself is that it's a quiz based on school subject. To further this along, each panelist is playing "on behalf of" their old school, though this only amounts to giving the scores in the form "Dan Maier – of the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, no less – has six House Points".

Just to add to the illusion, Danny Baker presents the show wearing a mortar board. This comes across well on the radio.

The main part of the show is based around a quiz, itself loosely themed on lessons found in a school timetable. A week's line-up could be Economics, Social Studies, Geography, History, Mathematics, English Lit, Art, and History. "Why? Because history repeats itself," the show's best nod towards a catchphrase.

As is traditional in Danny Baker shows, the conversation ranges widely, moving like a rocket away from hard news towards the left-field, the unexpected, and barely-remembered pop culture nuggets.

Some of the rounds feature props, things displayed to the panel. This comes across well on the radio.

There are occasional flights of fancy, anecdotes from panel and host, but the quiz is never entirely forgotten. Some of the questions are actually educational in themselves – one show asked how many zeroes there were on the largest Hungarian pengö note. A hundred million billion pengö, apparently, which was worth about one shilling.

The show is typical Danny Baker, complete with sound effects – Baker's regularly "forgets" his questions, allowing the noise of someone running up and down stairs in clumpy shoes. There's a school bell, and a ticking clock to raise tension. And, just to make sure the guests aren't overshadowed, time is filled with anecdotes from the panellists about their own schooldays. The PE teacher Mr Payne comes in about a ten minutes before the end, and banters while trying to preview the day's Games lesson, or "Sport on Five" as it's known.

Contestants indicated they wished to answer the question by putting their hands up. This comes across well on the radio.

We've listened to a few episodes of this series. It took a few episodes to really get into its stride, and while it's not yet classic Baker, it's going to be there by the next series. It rolls along merrily, and while the details won't be remembered by nightfall, the warm glow of being entertained does last.


Radio 4, 7.15 Sunday, 11 November – 18 December

"Panel show in which Sue Perkins poses a series of moral and ethical dilemmas to a panel of comics and journalists" is the entire publicity blurb from the BBC. Instantly, we feel the Radio 4 audience reaching for the green ink. "Dear BBC, Have the budget cuts really affected you so much? Can the press office not afford to end a sentence with a full stop? Yours etc, A. Pedant."

Sue Perkins is the host for the programme, so already it's ahead in our estimation. As seems to be law for radio panel games, there's a panel of four people. A sample quartet? Louise Wener from the band Sleeper, Greg Proops from Whose Line is it Anyway?, Simon Evans off of The Krypton Factor, and Susan Calman from History Repeats Itself.

We'll just pause here and note: Simon and Greg; Susan, Sue, and Louise. BBC Sports Personality of the Year, take note.

Back to the show, which has already started with a brief comedy monologue. Very quickly, Sue's asking questions of her guests. Would you provide an alibi to someone you hate? Would you confront an elderly relative about casual racism at a family gathering?

It's easy to throw those questions out, it's easy to gather responses from the panel. Sperkins shines in the follow-ups, asking difficult questions based on the responses. She's listening, she's thinking, and she's playing devil's advocate to bring out the panel's deepest thoughts. A superb demonstration of how to moderate a discussion panel.

The whole enterprise hinges on panelists who are prepared to open up and be honest with the audience. This is still a work in progress. In last Sunday's episode, a discussion about cheating with a celebrity, messrs Proops and Evans seemed to be circumspect in their answers, resisting the best efforts to break down their defences. It could have been personal morality coming to the fore, or it could have been anxious BBC editors leaving their best contributions on the cutting room floor. Either way, it left the show a bit vapid, saved only by Susan Calman's vibrant anecdotes.

Comedy, maestro, purlease.

We're given to understand that Dilemma has been through a couple of non-broadcast pilots, to hone the format to perfection. There's light and shade – after the chair's quandaries, the panel each brings forward an ethical conundrum that they've personally faced, and the panel discusses them, with points for guessing what actually happened. The final set of quick-fire X or Y questions was clearly a bit of filler to ensure the show came out on time.

It has a great host, it needs great guests. And it needs to decide whether it's a game or not. Will Sperkins be awarding points, or will the discussion be an end in itself? We don't mind if Dilemma decides it's not a game, the points seem to be arbitrary and whimsical, and a winner almost superfluous. It certainly exposes moral questions more clearly, and with less bad temper, than The Moral Maze. Melanie Phillips or a great conductor? Not a dilemma.

University Challenge

Second round, match 7: Merton Oxford v Balliol Oxford

Merton beat St Andrews by 195-165 on 22 August; Balliol downed Homerton by the odd point in 405 at the start of August. We're looking for microbloggers with something sensible to contribute, and here's Bongo Beardy: I may be mistaken, but I'm sure the 'bong' at the beginning of University Challenge has actually become more boingy (<-- not a real word).

"Cursor" is the opening starter, falling to Merton, but Balliol have the better of the very early exchanges. Not so much that they can survive a charge on horses in classic literature, or a set introduced by, "Your bonuses are on right arms." The visual round is on the last words of lines of poetry, and the teams are expected to name the poet. "Time" and "rhyme" are paired – is it Josie Lawrence from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Merton has the lead, 60-20.

Hannah Jonno_ tells the score: "University Challenge is greater than Liverpool game" Too right, they've only won one match all year, and that against Doncaster Belles. What, you're referring to the men's team? We know nothing about them. Balliol have questions on map projections, and the only one they know is the "Mercator". Shall we just throw out some other characters from Parallel 9? Thynkso.

"Why should you know this?" asks Thumper of a press release, claiming that the best place for a first date is the baths at Bath. And not, for instance, some rugby at Rugby, some Chinese cookery at Woking, or a trip to Penistone. Balliol has been doing quite well in this section, taking the lead, but Merton pulls back with knowledge of Seventh Symphonies. Balliol's lead is 80-70.

Four letter words and the letter F form a set of bonuses for Merton. No, not like that, it's pairs that differ by their final letter, such as "wold" and "wolf". Balliol draws level with some bonuses we don't understand, and take the lead on a missignal from their opponents. Works of art featuring absinthe form the second visual round, Balliol's lead is 130-90.

Remember the Chartist movement? When protesters believed the system could be reformed, so they presented demands? Balliol do, and pull further ahead. It's not been a classic episode tonight, Sarah Spoosh has enjoyed herself: "So from a question on university challenge I get a Tim Minchin song in my head. Win."

Less than five minutes to play at the five minute warning, and Merton needs to get the next starter. Which they do, and get actors who played poets in movies. Twenty-five points in the bag in less than a minute. Dates when elements were discovered is less to Merton's favour, but they do know geography of south Asia. The Clare Horne might not have her dreams come true: "Tonight is TV quiz night – I am not doing well on University Challenge 2 points so far – am hoping I'll do better at Only Connect". It's only the final...

Balliol leave a missignal on a question about letters, but then pick up the right answer to the smallest country in Europe whose English name ends in "-land". Not Finland, but Switzerland. That gives Balliol two on the moon, and though Merton pull hard, they're not going to get there. At the gong, Balliol has won, 170-160. They were right in 24/57 questions, Merton in 24/48, and there was one missignal each. Danno Malo is our Random Punter o'the Week: "8 questions right on University Challenge and missed 5 mins."

Next match: Pembroke Cambridge v Nottingham


Heat 5

Andrew Hunter kicks off this week with Field Marshall Montgomery (1887-1976) "Unbeatable in defeat, unbearable in victory" was Churchill's assessment of this man, best known for his planning in the Second World War, particularly at el Alamein. Questions range across his lifespan, but rarely move away from the military. The contender benefits from a question started after the buzzer, scoring 17 (1).

Jeff Grimshaw tells us about the Chicago Bears 1920-70. We're in the world of American football, of inventing the "eye in the sky", of beating the Potomac Basin Indigineous Persons by 73-0, and doing anything they could to stop players from unionising. The round ends with two converted touchdowns, one for two-pointer, 15 (1).

Keith Bate takes the Life and Career of Tigran Petrosian (1929-84). A native of Georgia, Petrosian won the USSR chess championship in 1959, and the world in 1966; he lost to Spassky in 1969, and to Bobby Fischer in the candidate's match in 1972. There are questions about Queen's Gambit Accepted, and the specific results of games, and even individual moves in those games. It gets a bit inaccessible around here, and the round finishes on 8 (0).

Ian Allan concludes this week's contenders, with the Life and Music of Jimi Hendrix (1942-70). Objections by the Daughters of the American Revolution didn't stop him, covers of Bob Dylan didn't stop him, even setting fire to his guitar couldn't stop the guitar virtuoso. Dying at 27, that tends to limit ones career, not that it's stopped his work from being repackaged endlessly. 10 (1).

Keith Bate picks his way steadily through the questions, giving answers where he can, even if they're wrong. He finishes on 15 (5), and leaves John Humphrys to pronounce a South American volcano. Ian Allen also takes his round steadily, though he does fall away slightly towards the end. 17 (5) probably won't be a winning score.

Jeff Grimshaw is another one to take a cautious path, though it does veer through questions on Trent Reznor and The God Particle, then into Duran Duran, Tracey Emin's tent, and Johnson's tour of Scotland. 25 (4) is the final score.

So nine for Andrew Hunter to win, which doesn't look impossible. Grouses and cricketers provide points, but he fails to remember the oft-forgotten Esdipi. No-one remembers the Esdipi! Yes, Forties takes its name from its approximate depth in fathoms, and Paul Merton's a regular captain on Have I Got News for You. This is a very good general knowledge round, finishing on 33 (5).

This Week And Next

Back in 2005, OFCOM handed down a ruling on that year's Big Brother, where a contestant was shown doing bizarre things with a wine bottle. "At the limits of acceptability" even at 10.45 at night and with warnings, according to the government-appointed moral guardians. Over the summer, the E channel showed exactly the same footage, without warnings, at 11.45 in the morning. "Offensive" and "not appropriately scheduled" were the judgements from the regulators.

Also in the new report, we learn that there are investigations into The X Factor of 26 November, and Xtra Factor of 20 November, and in the Big Brother Live Final from 11 November.

Strictly remained the most watched show in the week to 27 November, with 11.8m seeing the performances. 11.3m saw The X Factor results, and 9.4m for I'm a Celebrity on Sunday. HIGNFY was seen by 4.8m people, The Cube by 4.1m, and The Chase 3.85m. University Challenge was BBC2's biggest show, 3.3m saw the match, just ahead of Masterchef The Professionals – 3.25m there. Dancing on Two finished just shy of 3m viewers, but even Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (2.35m) was more popular than any Channel 4 game show – Come Dine With Me the most popular, on 2.1m.

Another 1.48m saw X Factor Results on ITV-HD, with 735,000 flipping to ITV2 for Xtra Factor. I'm a Celeb Now had 1.03m on Wednesday, when there was no ITV programme. Only Connect was best of the rest, 695,000 for the second semi-final. Lower down, Driving Wars on Dave was seen by 270,000, Britain's Strongest Man on Challenge picked up 135,000, and Coach Trip on More4+1 55,000.

This week sees a Scandinavian jaunt on Coach Trip (C4, 5pm weekdays), and Celebrity Eggheads (BBC2, 6pm Mo-Th). Specials include The Only Connect Connecting Walls Night (BBC4, from 8.30 Mon), I Had the X Factor 25 Years Ago (BBC2, 9pm Mon), a documentary about dance marathons They Shoot Horses Don't They (Radio 2, 10pm Wed), and The Big Quiz (ITV, 9pm Fri). Wrapping up are Masterchef The Professionals (BBC2, Mo-Th), Masterchef Australia (Watch, Su-Mo), Young The Apprentice (BBC1, 9pm Mo), and Countdown bids Jeff Stelling goodbye (C4, 3.10 weekdays). Next Saturday has Winter Wipeout (BBC1, 6pm), and the Strictly Come Dancing final (7pm and 9.05).

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