Weaver's Week 2012-03-25

Viewers tuning in for University Challenge The Story So Far were perhaps confused. When did UC challenge students to make a sandcastle? Was Bamber involved in a precursor to the Accumulatower round? We may never know: we do know that the billed programme didn't air and was replaced by an Emergency Standby Edition of Coast.


University Challenge

The Grand Final: Manchester v Pembroke Cambridge

"We've asked 3191 questions so far," claims Paxman in his introduction. We reckon we've seen about 3086 – the actual number might be a bit higher, because we might miss the odd starter no-one knows, but it's not a hundred more.

University Challenge The finalists prepare to join battle.

Anyway, who are these people? Manchester has beaten Selwyn Cambridge, Christ Church Oxford, Newcastle University, Clare Cambridge, and Worcester Oxford. And they managed to lose to the UCL team. Pembroke took Route One to the finals, winning five matches and losing none: St Anne's Oxford, Nottingham University, Balliol Oxford, Clare Cambridge, and University College London all fell to their quiz prowess.

It's Manchester who kick off with the literary starter, but they're foiled on questions about "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie". When was the Battle of Flodden? Manchester also score with people who share their name with characters from Star Trek, and score five on questions about seven. Pembroke kick off with a description of the English in 1066, then comparative religion yields in the bonuses. Patterns in the prime numbers for the first visual round, but no-one knows a happy prime when they see it, and Manchester lead by 35-15.

There's a round of words formed from the word "prolix", an adjective we think is more appropriate to Mastermind than University Challenge these days. Pembroke don't recognise permutable, Fibonnaci, or sexy primes, but Manchester do recognise personal ads from the London Review of Books. For their bonus, the captain suggests "Give me the name of two physicists", leading to the Ultraviolet Catastrophe. Which is just the coolest term ever, and resolved by a plank. Sorry, by M. Plank.

Quotes on carelessness follow, and they're not doing well on a particular constructed language. It's better than Pembroke, who picked up a couple of missignals. The audio round is a UC classic, music from the Planets Suite; for the bonuses, the teams must identify the planet, and name its largest moon. After this out-of-the-world round, Manchester leads by 100-15. Pembroke fire back with a definition of BRIC countries so quick that it trips over itself, then get caught up on plant biology.

The Cambridge side does better on various psychological experiments, but not on the tipping point and associated ideas. What's the difference between the Civil Society and The Big Society™? Volcanic eruptions give Manchester some room to breathe, and the second visual round – paintings by world leaders – puts them ahead by 135-55. According to one question, "Santa's little helpers" are subordinate clauses. Ow! Are we going to see Daniel Peake of Accumulate! credited in the credits, that was a spectacularly bad pun.

Five and a half minutes, 95 points the lead. Pembroke pull back with Gorecki and elements with interesting melting points. Then they have an archaeologically fascinating valley, and architecture in Florence. Chancellors of the Exchequer from the 1980s bring Pembroke within 50 points, and the gap falls fast with classical music about soldiers. Thirty points the gap, and the game's still up for grabs when Manchester gets the pueblo from a definition. They follow with inventions of the 20th century, returning the gap to 50.

There's a question about a bit of the Med, and Pembroke score with human secretions, only to lose five on a missignal. Jim Pope's voice has been rising during the last few minutes, and now has reached a pitch that only dogs can hear. Not that it matters, the gong has gone, Manchester has won the game, 180-135. Manchester were right in 26/56 questions, Pembroke in 21/51, overall accuracy 47/83. More questions tonight than in either semi-final, in spite of a minute's less quizzing to fit in some chatteration.

University Challenge A smaller trophy for Pembroke: captain Bibek Mukherjee, Ben Pugh, Imogen Gold, Edward Bankes.

The trophy presentation is taken on the road, to Clarence House in London, where it's given by that well-known University Challenge fan Camilla Parker-Bowles Windsor. We learn that Pembroke found their captain on a coin toss, and they also get a smaller plaque. But it's Manchester who have won the final, they get The Big One.

University Challenge The winners: captain Tristan Burke, Michael McKenna, Camilla of Cornwall, Luke Kelly, Paul Joyce.

Next match: Oxford v Cambridge, 7 April

Yes! It's the slight return of the microbloggers! HbcDev: "Wonder what the national quiz-related power surge is as all University Challenge fans switch to BBC4 for Only Connect."

Only Connect

Sport Relief Special

Joining us tonight are Mark Gatiss, lover of all things dark and twisted; Samira Ahmed, journalist and linguist; and Nick Hornby, football fan. They are the Cutters, because they're fans of cycling film Breaking Away. Opposite them are Alison Pearson, working mother and columnist; Stephen Mangan, the new Dirk Gently; and Ian Hislop, whose inability to work a buzzer is the stuff of Only Connect legend. They're all tennis fans, and have called themselves the Backhanders.

Only Connect (2) The Backhanders: come on, Tim.

Mercifully, Stephen Mangan is not playing in character, for Dirk Gently believes in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. Not only does is a bafflingly successful crime-solving method, but it's a sure way to score five points on every Only Connect question. High-scoring, but dull. And that would never do.

Round one is upon us, and that's Connections. "They're all connected but how?" reminds Victoria, because it has been ten weeks since we last saw an episode. Mexico! They're all types of lizard! Toothpaste! Hats! No, no, no, these are the literal names of dinosaurs. What links Victoria Coren to Intel and Erik Estrada? Chips; poker and silicon and motorcycle cops. That's two for the Cutters; the Backhanders have audio, and buzz in after two clues to say "Mountain". Excellent work, three points.

"Pictures at an exhibition coming up next," predicts Hislop. Not quite, but these are special graphics. When they make Only Connect Australia, they can re-use this question, because these are the same when upside down. It's the Backhanders who have the pictures: a king, a golf hole, wrinkles by the eye, and studs in the road. That's Lion-heart, Dog-leg, Crows'-feet, Cats'-eyes, One-point. "Dead sheep" and "Ginger rodent" are famed parliamentary insults, yielding three to the Cutters. The scores have been mounting faster than Gladiators up a wall, and the Cutters lead 6-4.

Only Connect (2) The Cutters: spare us.

The second round is Sequences: what's in the fourth box? "Sub Zero" – we're not talking shows where David J Bodycombe has edited the questions, are we? "Cool", "uncool" – ah, more our territory. "Seriously uncool" is the answer, apparently it's "Top Gear's Cool Wall". Whatever that is. Legs for the Cutters, who get it on two clues and three points. "We're going to have to start cheating", says Hislop. The Backhanders adopt the novel tactic of buzzing in and then thinking, but they're on the right lines, and score three. What a wonderful world.

The Cutters offer 15 for VAT rate percentages, having seen 17.5, 15, 17.5. If they'd said it was rates going backwards in history prior to 2010, they might have scored, but the Backhanders are going forwards and are paid 20% of the available maximum. Termini of the A roads away from London proves to be a panel-beater, no-one knows that the A1 ends in Edinburgh. Pictures for the Cutters, which turns out to be either the theme song from Magpie or a Steps tune. Yes, Hislop, it's another low culture question. Live with it. Three there means the Cutters lead by 12-8.

Connecting Wall o'clock, and this is play-along wall 159 on the Only Connect website. There's no need for the Cutters to mutter, they're not going to the other side. Groups of Cecils come out quickly, lettuces almost follow, but they're put back while they think of something else. That turns out to be Tom Stoppard plays, and the final group is Greek isles. A perfect round! Ten points!

The Backhanders need to do well, and have constellations to start with. There are some Brontë characters, there are cartoon cats, and the team are going slowly but steadily. The Brontë is not a red herring, but the team confuse them with a bunch of Janes. The final group: words that the Americans can't spell, like "cheque" and "tyre". Seven points!

Only Connect (2) We'll take that as an entry into our Hat of the Year award.

Going into the final round, the Cutters have a useful lead, 22-15. And Victoria Coren has put on a headband for the Missing Vowels round, which begins with things that can't be sold on a well-known internet auction site. Why oh why can we not sell raw depleted uranium? 2-2 there, and Alan Partridge's Format Ideas ends up 2-0 to the Cutters. Back to something sensible: Orange Prize for Fiction-winning authors is 3-1 to the Backhanders. Wearers of swimsuits scores one for the Cutters, and they've won by 28-20.

Which means it's 1-1 between Hislop and Hornsby. Are we going to have to have a decider? Can we have a decider? Shall we just suggest a small donation to http://www.bbc.co.uk/sportrelief and be done with it?


This week's shows went out in Wales from 6.50 on Saturday.

Heat 23

Vicki Davis is going to start tonight's double-bill with Nirvana. We assume this is the rock band (1987-94) formed of Kurt Cobain, Kris Novoselic, and Dave Grohl. The group popularised a wide dynamic sound of loud choruses and quiet verses, and achieved sudden international fame with the "Nevermind" album. Singer and songwriter Cobain fell to his demons in April 1994, after which the band broke up. A spectacular career is summarised in two minutes, the contender reaching 15 (2). Entertain us: Unplugged in New York*.

Steve Ferry discusses the 30 Years War (1618-48). A war between Catholics and Protestants in modern Germany, with interventions by Danes, English, Swedes, and French, and concluding with the Peace of Westphalia and a performance of Riverdance. This contender scored one more point – and made one more pass – than this column has in the Famous Black Chair. Battle on: Richard Bonney's brief history*.

Next is Ken Owen, taking the Roy Grace novels of Peter James (pub. 2005-). These are crime thriller novels, in which Grace investigates crime with the assistance of technology, and where people watch Chris Tarrant game shows. Obviously a fictional universe, then. The contender doesn't get a question after the beep, but still finishes on 16 (0). Dead Simple: first in the series*.

Stuart Reid completes our first quartet with the History of Everton FC since 1992. Originally known as Hoylake, the side has been ever-present at the top level, winning the championship in 1998 and the FA Cup in 2010. They finished third in the inaugural Super League last year. None of this features in the round, which is (again) about the men's team. 13 (3).

Steve Ferry advances his score to 16 (4), which isn't quite enough for the lead at this stage. Actually, 15 points in the general knowledge round is quite a remarkable achievement for any contender, so well done him. Stuart Reid has "order" and the Academy Awards and the location of the Barrier Reef. Is it really twenty years since rugby increased its try to five points? The Strokes pop up, so does Enda Kenny of "Contract With the People" infamy, and the round closes on 29 (3).

We smell repechage board action even before Vicki Davis takes the stage. She picks up castanets, pears, and Leylandii, but gets confused over Lee Harvey Oswald's name. The guesses start off promising, but soon turn a bit downhill, and the round finishes on 24 (6). Ken Owen needs twelve to come back, thirteen to win. The sole fish, actors who have played Jeeves, and specialist subject Enoch Powell all score, as does the re-opening of Mornington Crescent by the team from I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. A total of 31 (0) wins him the game, and Stuart Reid slots in as one of the highest-scoring runners-up.

Change here for buses, as Samantha is working on the points.

Heat 24

Part two begins with Audrey Williams, taking William Yeates Hurlstone (1876-1906). "His name has largely been forgotten" says the Royal College of Music, who tell us that he was a prodigious talent, wrote scores lauded at the time, and promptly died of bronchial asthma aged just 30. Lots of detail in this biographical round, which ends on 8 (2). Hear some: Chamber works*.

Quentin Holt has been swotting up on the Olympics in London (1908-48). Two very different games; the '48 austerity games made a star of Fanny Blankers-Koen, the '08 event was won by Dorando Pietri, who didn't even complete the marathon properly. No such problems here, it's a perfect round: fifteen questions, 15 (0). Meddle more: Janie Hampton writes on 1948* and Keith Baker on 1908*.

Julie Aris will tell us about the What Katy Did novels of Susan Coolidge. Recounting the adventures of Katy Carr and family in a small midwestern town, and Katy's change from tomboy to cheerful invalid. And thanks to shorter questions, that, folks, is another perfect round, ending on 18 (0). Paper copy*.

And finally! Last of the 96 contenders this year is Paul Maddern, taking the life of Lord Byron (1788-1824). One of the leading Romantic poets, along with Shelley and Keats, Byron rose to fame with "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage", travelled widely, published even more widely, and enlisted for the Greeks in their war against the Turks. There he caught a fatal fever. There is actually an incorrect answer offered in this round, the first we've seen for quite some time, and it finishes on 14 (0). Read more: Selected poems*.

Audrey Williams is not seriously going to overturn a ten-point deficit, and it looks like she's playing strictly for the experience. Still, 19 (7) is just enough to let her have the lead back for a moment. Paul Maddock gets the scarlet bean, the blunderbuss, a tangent, and there's a guest appearance by Only Connect reject ο. 'E's no Eye of 'orus. 25 (6).

Quentin Holt knows where to find gravity and Wall Street, digestive biscuits and another name for Dorchester. Though there are a couple of errors, the score of 30 (0) is certain to bring him back again. Julie Aris needs just ten to qualify, thirteen to win tonight. Parma ham, tarot cards, liqueurs all score, and even a bit of a wobble in the middle of the round isn't enough to stop her racking up 30 (5).

Ninety-six have become thirty, and these contenders will take part in the second round, beginning with two episodes next week.

This Week And Next

One question they didn't squeeze into this week's celebrity edition of Only Connect: what links Supersewer, an inflatable Duke of Edinburgh, and Dinah Gould, with David Mitchell and Victoria Coren? Answer later.

The Royal Television Society presented its awards this week. Deal or No Deal Live won the Daytime Programme gong, and Ant and Dec took the Entertainment Performance trophy back to the awards wing of their conjoined mansions.

The BBC's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest has been released to radio. "It's the sort of song that grows on you," said the press release, clearly forgetting that half of the votes are from the Great European Public, who will have heard the song no more than once, and might be voting based only on the 10-second extract. The running order draw puts the UK first on Saturday night: we think this is a better draw than it might appear, as it'll be the first song after the hosts have prattled on for ten minutes. In their semi-final, RTÉ will appear last, so we expect Ireland's schoolchildren to be more tired than usual on the morning of 23 May.

What's in the latest OFCOM moans report? Five complaints of bias on Countdown for 24 February. Really? Ah, Ann Widdecombe was on the show, saying that people should be happy to work unpaid overtime. It's a strand of populism we really dislike, it's the sort of statement that does refer to current controversy, and someone should have made a counter-argument. And 502 (five hundred and two) moans about a Channel 4 True Stories show about gypsies. There's also an allegation that The Travel Channel ran various corrupt competitions in the early part of last decade, with an eye on renewing cable contracts, but after ten years, the remarkable evidence doesn't exist to back up these remarkable claims.

Ratings in the week to 11 March have arrived, with Dancing on Ice (7.15m) retaining top slot. In It to Win It returned to 5.6m viewers, beating Let's Dance for Sport Relief on 5.3m, and Masterchef's 5.2m. Perfecion bowed out with 2m viewers, and The Bank Job bowed out outside Channel 4's top 30. On the digital tier, Celebrity Juice (2.4m) and Take Me Out The Gossip (905,000) make it a 1-2 for ITV2. Mock the Week on Dave comes in third, a mere 365,000 viewers. Cleverdicks fell to 52,000 viewers, less than half the popularity of Masterchef New Zealand on Really, and on a par with the 49,000 who saw May the Best House Win on ITV+1.

And the answer in Questions Too Last-Minute For Only Connect: all of them appeared in Tuesday's edition of The Times. Supersewer is a project to build a large pipe carrying effluent beneath London, as opposed to having it ooze along wearing a suit and surfacing in bank vaults. An inflatable Duke of Edinburgh is the tattiest of the tat being offered to mark the Queen's jubilee this year, and Dinah Gould will be carrying a torch to mark a sporting event we're not allowed to name for trademark reasons. Mitchell and Coren? They announced their intention to marry in the paper, and we wish the both of them every happiness.

Just a Minute continues its 45th birthday celebrations by appearing on telly (BBC2, 6pm weekdays), and The Weakest Link moves towards its conclusion with some special episodes (BBC2, from Wed and BBC1, 3.45 Saturday).

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