Weaver's Week 2012-09-02

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Only Connect (2) NSWR LTR

We were planning to review Antan Dec's current Saturday night project Red or Black? 2.0, but we need to see another edition before drawing conclusions. There's no way we'll get to see a second edition of two one-off programmes, presented as part of Channel 4's recent Funny Fortnight.


Lucky Sexy Winners

Pett Productions for Channel 4, 23 August

Lucky Sexy Winners

The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer*. Shooting Stars. Families at War. I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! Dale's Celebrity Supermarket Sweep. Deadline. That Sunday Night Show. All programmes that have been graced by Vic Reeves and/or Bob Mortimer. Mostly, they've lived to tell the tale.

Reeves and Mortimer perfected their double act on Channel 4 in the early 1990s. It's a bizarre confection they serve up: we recognise the broad outlines of the world they inhabit, but the detail is a complete mystery. It's like someone is wearing distorting lenses in their spectacles.

The programme began with black-and-white footage from the silent movie era, people clapping enthusiastically. It's as if they knew that the least enthusiastic half of the audience would have to go and watch Going for Gold in the next studio. Intercut with these archive clips are new shots, of Vic and Bob larking about, and of the contestants for this episode.

Lucky Sexy Winners Marching to the beat of a different drum.

Vic and Bob are never known for their shyness, always banging their own drum. Quite literally: the hosts enter the stage at the head of a small marching band, to the beat of the terrific tympans around their necks. They're dressed in platform boots and painfully short shorts, though when they sit behind the hosts' desk, nothing looks unusual.

For the benefit of viewers whose minds have been wiped by the previous scene, Reeves and Mortimer introduce the contestants once again, and this time have a little chat with them. We're also introduced to John Meringue (played by Dan Skinner), who will keep the scores and the time, award the prizes, deliver sage advice, and eventually declare that Eddie Izzard is the winner.

Lucky Sexy Winners It's a cardboard cutout of Simon Cowell! Start the clock!

This is a timed programme, and the clock is started by A Cardboard Cutout of Simon Cowell. In a very literal sense: Simon Cowell's countenance is made into a cardboard mask, and positioned to conceal the torso of a Lucky Sexy Winners production person.

Such is typical of the Vic and Bob format. Since they broke through about twenty years ago, the duo's stock in trade has been to take familiar situations, reduce them to their essence, then extrapolate these ideas in the most unusual way possible. That's exactly what happens here – Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies gets spoofed, pop band The Jls are turned into grotesque caricatures to perform a suggestive song, and we're treated to the winners of The X Factor Estonia.

Lucky Sexy Winners Dan Skinner as John Meringue.

We say that these ideas are "unusual"; we could also say that they're "crude". Almost every joke relies on body functions, usually the excretion of various fluids; the Estonians emit fireballs from their backsides, there are imprints of Peter Andre's backside. It all leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Lucky Sexy Winners had the further misfortune to fall after a Harry Hill comedy hour. Since ending his Channel 4 series, Hill has become the face of ITV's teatime comedy. Like Vic and Bob, he takes the familiar, strips away most of the pompousness, pokes fun at little details, and we're never far from a silly song. Unlike the duo, Hill's work is entirely wholesome – it uses nonsense catchphrases ("It's sausage o'clock!") and makes stars out of bit-part actors. Would Heather from The Eastenders be on Celebrity Big Brother if she hadn't been a regular on TV Burp?

Lucky Sexy Winners Vic 'n' Bob.

The main thing we ask of a quiz is that it includes questions. Lucky Sexy Winners just about meets this criterion, though it's almost eight minutes before the first query emerges.

The main thing we ask of a comedy show is that it makes us laugh. Here, the show fails: we chortled a few times, but mostly we were left with a wish that Vic and Bob would get on to the good bits. And then it ended, and we twigged that there weren't any good bits to get to.

Lucky Sexy Winners is a framework for Reeves and Mortimer to make some sketches, a few of which might happen to be funny. We understand that Channel 4 is considering whether to turn this into a full series: our thought is that the chaps would need to ensure they had good comedy material before signing on the dotted line.

8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown The Rematch Update

Zeppotron (an Endemol company) and Yorkshire Television for Channel 4, 24 August

Countdown G'wan! Pick a vowel!

Back at the start of the year, Channel 4 staged a night of stunt programmes, where people associated with one show popped up on another. The cast of Made in Chelsea had a shot at Come Dine with Me, Davina McCall tried (and failed) to win her own Million Pound Drop, and BBLB's Useless Bloke was put in charge of a high-stakes game. Fun and hilarity was had by all, except for people who tuned into The Bank Job.

For many people, the highlight of the evening was a bunch of comedians taking their turn in the Countdown studio. Jon Richardson won the game, defeating Sean Lock by a handsome score. These players are back, and David O'Doherty is wearing the memorial silly jumper in dictionary corner. And so is Jimmy Carr, who begins the show with an opening monologue. It's lewd and coarse and we find it mildly offensive, so no tremendous difference between him and the regular occupant of that chair.

Countdown E, I, E, I, no.

With this being an hour-long show, there's a lot of chatter before we actually get to anything. And, with it being 8 Out of 10 Cats, it's not going to be the most intellectually stimulating. (But, hey, Only Connect is back, and we'll be giving it the full review treatment. Shortly.) Jon begins by picking the letters, and by throwing away the first letter. Because he can. While the clock is ticking, Jimmy Carr makes visual jokes – building a pyramid of cards, making a sausage dog from a balloon. You wouldn't catch Des Lynam doing anything like this.

In the game, Jon takes early winners – GNOME and BANSHEE and POURED, and a spectacularly easy numbers game. Being slightly bored by Carr's rantings, we notice a few changes in what the director is doing. The two-shot, showing both contestants and the score, is at a somewhat flatter angle than we see in the daytime, and some of the audience gets in shot while we're looking at the letters board. Oh, and the studio lights turn red while David is giving one of his interminable ramblings – he'll add precisely one funny thing to the whole programme, the actually rather good "Countdownton Abbey".

Countdown A flimsy construction.

And then things took on a surreal turn. Sean was allowed to bring on a team-mate for the numbers game, and was allowed Rachel Riley. Her place at the board is taken by Joe Wilkinson, who probably won't be replacing Dara Ó Briain on his School of Hard Sums any time soon. All of which means Jon's lead is cut to 28-20 at half-time. And it really is half-time, this is a show of four parts.

To liven up the second half, the players are allocated a team-mate. Sean is given the help of the Countdown expert, PFA chairman, and new York City signing Clark Carlisle. Jon gets Joe Wilkinson, who was a bit rubbish on the numbers game. Clark wins on the next numbers round to close within one point, and Sean manages to beat Jon on the final numbers round to – gasp! – take the lead by nine points. The conundrum isn't solved, so Sean wins, 50-41.

Countdown Clark Carlisle and Sean Lock play Jon Richardson and Joe Wilkinson.

As much as we dislike the host, we found this to be a surprisingly enjoyable hour. We do wonder if Channel 4 might like to make some more Pro-Celebrity Pairs editions of Countdown, with some folk from the regular game working with Channel 4 celebrities.

Only Connect

Presentable for BBC4, from 27 August

Victoria's had a bad summer, she dreamed that this programme was cancelled. Don't tempt fate! BBC4 might feel the need to put an end to one of their very few actually popular programmes. This week's show features three people who joined Danny Wallace in his Lovely campaign to make the world a better place. The Joinees are up against the Draughtsmen, three men who like beer. One of them happens to be Andy Tucker, runner-up in Mastermind last summer. Another happens to be the 2011 Brain of Britain champion Iwan Thomas.

Round one is "What's the connection". And it begins with a question about another game show, The Apprentice, one so unsuccessful that it's been exported all around the world. See, this is the brilliance of Only Connect – only the British could be so masochistic as to ask questions so tough that neither side can answer. Or ask questions on participants in the University boat race.

A bonus point for each side is followed by three for the Draughtsmen on things beginning and ending with bells, the Joinees have a selection of Famous Belgians, all four of them. Berry fruits are this week's audio round, another three to the Draughtsmen; red triangles are a useful point for the Joinees, but they trail 3-7.

Eurovision Song Contest Another memorable Eurosong there.

Into round two, What Comes Fourth. The Draughtsmen go first, and reckon it's hours in the church on the first work. But no-one remembers Compline prayers. Not even the Bishop of Compline. French nobility for the Joinees, they forget that there are common princes before the Dauphine. B-complex vitamins and versions of Windows computer systems yield three points each.

Michael Jackson studio albums is the next set of links, but no-one remembers his 2001 set "Invincible"*. We doubt that even the chair of the Michael Jackson Fan Club remembers that album. The Joinees pick up a pair on single, double, triple, quadruple, and that brings them to an 8-10 deficit.

The connecting walls are on the website, this lot are 165 and 166. The Joinees go first, with what looks like a set of Ben Elton musicals. There's discussion of chicken dishes, and that turns out to be correct. Then there's types of advertisement, while the players continue their long-winded rush though about eight different Ben Elton works. The others are superhero alter-egos, and there are some commercial types. With a two point bonus for sweeping the grid, that's ten points!

Books of the Old Testament and Pan's People appear very quickly for the Draughtsmen, and then they pick up on things you can lose and then types of bomb. Viewers can, of course, see more footage of Pan's People (or their successor) on Wednesday nights on BBC4. While one of the Draughtsmen explains how one loses a cherry, they have ten points.

Which means it's 20-18 to the Draughtsmen going into round four, the Missing Vowels round. Take a saying, remove the vowels, squidge up the consonants, and here we go. With a penalty point for incorrect guesses, the Joinees take round one on cleaning products by 4 to minus 1. It's a 2-2 draw for Hans Christian Anderson fairytales, and the Joinees take crustaceans 3-0. Colours are to the Draughtsmen's favour, they take it 4-0. Biblical miracles is a comedy of error, the Draughtsmen win it 1 to (-1).

End of the round, but not the end of the contest. We have a tie. 26-26, and a tie-break question has to be asked. This is another Missing Vowels statement, for the captains only, and the first to buzz will have the only chance to answer it. After an eternity of staring at the question, Iwan Thomas buzzes. "The hand is quicker than the eye".

Only Connect (2) The Joinees: doing something lovely every week.

Right! After a mightily close scare, the Draughtsmen progress, and the Joinees leave us, with only a blog to remember it by. Tom Sutcliffe of The Independent described this week's episode as "very moreish", and there's more for him – and the rest of us – next week.

This Week And Next

In University Challenge, Queen Mary College of the University of London took on Jesus College of Oxford. It wasn't the greatest start for Jesus, they pick up a missignal when someone says "Sherlock" for a question requiring "Sherlock Holmes". Harsh, but fair. Jesus pulled back, and briefly took the lead, but surrendered it again on another missignal – from Thumper's tone, it sounds like there was some discussion off-camera.

The starters were, perhaps, pitched a little too high for the panel this week. This is worrying: it's known and expected that the questions get a bit harder in each round, but the producers have repeated the claim that the quizzing is a bit more difficult each year. This used to be a regular refrain from Granada, but we've not heard it in about ten years. Ten years ago was about the time we found the quiz to be a bit too difficult for its contenders, and made poor viewing. This column hopes that the producers have decided to keep the more gripping contests to the end of the first round.

Back in the game, Queen Mary briefly drew level with Jesus, only for the Oxford side to re-take the lead, and none of the panel knew that John Tenniel illustrated Alice in Wonderland. One of them asks if Thumper knows an answer... (checks subtitles file) Ah. One of the answers is "Juno". Everyone in the contest got at least one starter, Queen Mary had as many correct bonuses as there were dropped starters (9), and Jesus won the game by 150-120.

University Challenge QML: Patrick Woodburn, Alistair Haigh, Luca Cavalli, Michael Hammond
Jesus Oxford: Matt Hitchings, Frankie Goodway, Guy Brindley, Johnny Woodward.

Mastermind went out on Friday. That's except for viewers in Wales and Northern Ireland, where it went out on Saturday.

  • Alan Haddick (Shakespeare's comedies), a classic Mastermind subject, taken to 10 (3). The second phase scores but slowly, and wasn't Joan Baez an answer on Popmaster this week? 21 (7) the final.
  • Laurie Handcock (History of The Alpine Club), a climbing group founded in the Victorian era. 11 (1) is enhanced by a solid second round, ending on 24 (5).
  • John Wheeler (Shipping Forecast) goes from Viking to Bell Rock via, er, Exeter. 13 (2), and in very little time, he's doubled his score, and finishes on 29 (5).
  • Kathryn Palmer (Duran Duran) gets a round concentrating exclusively on the band's glory days, up to 1985. 16 (0), and though there's a bit of a wobble early on, and confusion between the Moomins and Smurfs, the win is assured – 31 (2).

So archivist Kathryn Palmer will return in the second phase. We'll be surprised if John Wheeler, the tutor, isn't in the shake-up for high-scoring runners up. No Mastermind next week, it's replaced by live athletics from Brussels. As one does.

Family Fortunes How are we going to fit "Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen by the Sea" on that display?

We're sorry to hear of the death of Max Bygraves, at his home in Australia. Max is best remembered in these parts as the second host of Family Fortunes, and for asking many questions to which the answer is "turkey".

OFCOM published another complaints bulletin this week, and announced that they were going to hold yet another inquiry into Big Brother. This relates to something broadcast on 2 August, and we're blown if we can remember what happened then, or even whether that was the civilian or TV Burp celebrity version. There's also an inquest into North Sound Radio's "Thousand Pound Thursday" competition, about which we know nothing.

BARB ratings in the week to 19 August, and though there wasn't just sport on BBC1, the channel didn't manage a single game show in its weekly top 30. ITV did, but the consensus is that 8.1m for The X Factor is a disappointment. Britain's favourite presenting duo returned in second place, The Great British Bake Off (3.85m) ensured that Mel and Sue finally take their place ahead of Ant and Dec – Red or Black? 2.0 could only manage 3.7m for its results show, and the performance programme barely beat The Chase: Celebrity Specials (3.2m). Celebrity Masterchef returned to 1.6m viewers.

The Great British Bake-Off Britain's most popular game show double-act.

Channel 5 had two popular game show series (and The Bachelor, put out to die at 11.15pm). Celeb BB recorded 2.05m on Sunday for the main show, and the same figure on Friday for live coverage. The civilian series ended with 1.7m finding the winner was Leanne Mitchell; 900,000 couldn't find the off switch fast enough to avoid Bit on the Side, and 320,000 saw Sunday's Celeb Bits on 5*.

Elsewhere on digital channels, the Sunday repeat of X Factor was top (805,000), Xtra Factor (795,000) proved more popular than the Saturday original (less than 660,000), and Hell's Kitchen reached a new peak of 695,000. Styled to Rock brought 165,000 to UK Living, and Dave Ja Vu (the +1 channel) recorded 72,000 on Thursday afternoon for a repeat of Robot Wars Extreme II. The mind boggles.

A new month brings new shows. The Chase returns (ITV, 5pm weekdays), as does Celebrity Antiques Road Trip (BBC2, 7pm weekdays). We're not sure about Secret Interview (C5, 7pm Wednesday), Cooks to Market (UK Living, 8pm Wednesday), nor Britain's Top Dog Model (ITV2, 8pm Wednesday). We do know that Phillip Schofield hosts a new run of Famous Mr and Mrs, Miss, Or Mr (ITV, 8pm Wednesday), and that newshounds have Mock the Week (BBC2, 10pm Thursday) and The News Quiz (Radio 4, 6.30 Friday) to look forward to. And moreish good news for Tom Sutcliffe, his Round Britain Quiz is also back (Radio 4, 3pm Monday).

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