Weaver's Week 2012-09-30

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One Man and His Dog (Live And Not Live)

BBC2 (and Super Ceefax), 15 and 22 September

This column thinks that dogs are a bit like George Lamb: we don't like to be near them, and even seeing them on the telly is a bit too close. But we've been taking our courage into our hands lately, and seeing some shows starring dogs.

But not programmes presented by dogs. No-one in their right mind would call Matt Baker a dog: quite the reverse. For this year's programme, he's joined by Michaela Strachan, with Gus Dermody in the commentary booth as has been the case since One Man and His Dog first aired in AUC CLXXVIII.

One Man and His Dog One Matt and his co-star.

This year's series was meant to be a bit unusual. For the first time in television history, we were going to be treated to live sheepdog trials. None of the traditional bits left on the cutting room floor: this was going to be two packages of concentrated canine-versus-ovine battle. May the better species win!

In the end, a victory for the mice: the well-laid plans were scuppered by the weather, which caused the Open golf championship to over-run terribly. The programme was initially meant to go out live at 5pm, then it was pushed back to be a deferred transmission at 6.45, and then when the golf still wasn't finished, postponed until the following Saturday.

One Man and His Dog One Gus and his co-commentator.

The basic idea of One Man and His Dog is tremendously simple. Here is a field, here are ten sheep, take them for a walk and put them in a pen.

The actual rules are slightly more complex. Using nothing more than a bit of shouting and whistling, and some highly trained dogs, your task is to gather the sheep together, take them on an excursion around the field and between some handily-placed gates, and into a ring that's been marked with spots of wool. There, you're to split the sheep into two halves, and get each set of five sheep into a pen. And all within a reasonable (but not generous) time limit. Points will be awarded for the various elements of the exercise, and there will be prizes for the best contestant in each category. There will also be an overall prize, because the shepherds are split into national teams.

One Man and His Dog In red, it's One Man (John R. Griffith).

We were very pleasantly surprised by how compelling all this was. On the surface, it's a simple programme, but very quickly Gus and Matt explained the nuances and intricacies, and especially the vocabulary. The lift, which isn't one of the dogs picking up a sheep and holding it above his head, but getting the woolly ones to move in the first place.

The drive, which didn't involve Jeremy Clarkshound getting into a large bone substitute, but was all about getting the sheep to move about the field. The shed didn't ask the mutts to construct a building out of timber and nails, but did invite them to peel the sheep into two equal halves.

One Man and His Dog In the black, it's His Dog (Jet).

The presenters explained what they were looking for, and were quick to recognise good shepherding when they saw it. The scores were announced for the various elements soon after they'd been completed, allowing Gus and Matt to explain how points had been lost while points were being lost. And when there's high drama, or a bunch of sheep that steadfastly refuse to split, the commentators were able to combine both the hope that it would work out, and the realisation that it wouldn't.

Michaela's role in all of this was limited: she provided the post-match interviews, asking the shepherds how they thought their rounds had gone, and what could be done better. Owing to the live nature of the programme, it wasn't possible for CBBC's Dodge T. Dog to conduct any interviews with the sheepdogs themselves, which was a bit of an omission.

One Man and His Dog Playing in white, sheep (l-r: Interchangeable Sheep 1 through 10).

Neither was the television company able to hear the thoughts of the sheep that escaped from the course, bringing one of the rounds to a premature halt. This column has been able to secure an interview with the gambolling sheep.

Doriss, what happened? "I got distracted! I could see all of the other sheep in the green room after making their performance, and I thought they were seeing my favourite pop star Lady Baa-Baa. But it wasn't 'Shorn This Way' I heard, just a bunch of bleating mutton dressed as mutton." Clearly, there are reasons why sheep aren't usually allowed to give interviews on the BBC.

One Man and His Dog Dorris makes her jump for stardom and stripy socks.

There was an overall contest, and it was split into three sections. Young handlers put in their performances before the live transmission, with highlights from their work on BBC2, and the rounds shown in full on the Red Button after the show. The Braces section involved a shepherd and two dogs; the Solo section a man and one dog. At the end, the final score was:

Sheep 4-4 Dog and Man United.

Dog and Man United qualify on away goals, and next play at a farmers field in Romania on Tuesday.

Only Connect

Heat 5: Trenchermen v Numerists

After Only Connect featured a question about increasing numbers of rings last week, this week's University Challenge had a set of bonuses about increasing numbers of rings. They'll be on Round Britain Quiz next week! Two of the Trenchermen are retired IT consultants; the Numerists feature Dorian Lidell, who was underneath the Game Show Hat of the Year 2011. Mr. Lidell is bare-headed for this recording.

Weaver's Week 2011-08-14#University Challenge Game Show Hat 2011 and Dorian Lidell.

The Trenchermen start with the audio round, and offer "soldiers" for a point – all the works have "soldier" in the title. Numerists have "snapping a carrot" and "walking in cat litter", which turns out to be things they do to make sound effects and a point. "Miss World 1973" was enough for the Trenchermen to buzz in, and say "Winners who were disqualified". That's right! That's right!!! FIVE POINTS!!1!!!! Miss World was disqualified for dating Tom Jones Tom Jones from The Voice, and Victoria says there's something wrong with dating celebrities.

David Mitchell The future Mr. Victoria Coren.

Close but no cigar to the Numerists, who say their pictures all begin with "FF". Sadly not, they all begin with a variety of double letters – including CBBC's entertaining Ooglies. Then the Trenchermen suggest it's things divided into two parts; no, we want to split in four, and that's a bonus the other way. On their own question, the Numerists go for things that contain copies of themselves within, like the Russian dolls. We note all of the Numerists have answered one question: they have 4 points, the Trenchermen lead on 7.

For the Trenchermen, it's islands that would cause trouble in Missing Vowels: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and it goes over for the answer Hawaii. K, H, M, HW. Increasing football divisions for AFC Wimbledon is the question, two for the Numerists, and has that cost Victoria a pint in the bar? We reckon it did: she said no-one would ever get the club from the years and leagues. According to question editor and pint-winner David J Bodycombe, "AFC Wimbledon happens to be round the corner from the Question Editor's house. P.S. Please stop parking in our street."

The Trenchermen know they've got Tarot cards, and spend most of their time thinking what's coming on card 13. Death. But it could be good news, it's three points. "I know this!" says James Wilson of the Numerists, Kitty and Mary leads to Lizzy and Jane, the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice. James says he's listening to the audiobooks, but Victoria complains this doesn't feature Colin Firth emerging from a lake. James, not so bothered by this. Yes, but nor does the audiobook feature Julia Sawalha.

Balls for the Trenchermen: a handball, a volleyball, a basketball, and apparently these are 7-6-5-a-side games, so Polo is a good example of a four-a-side sport. Good question, that. The Numerists confuse rugby positions with sections of a theatre, conceding a bonus. That puts the Trenchermen ahead, 11-10.

Walls 189 and 190 on the Only Connect website, and the Numerists quickly spot Winter Olympic venues. There's also some London theatres, and then they're quickly into three strikes territory. Was "King Arthur" composed by Rick Wakeley? Is Paul Boateng a footballer? What's Iran-Contra? An affair more than a scandal. We're with Victoria, this was hugemungous news in the late 1980s; they'll get the point. The last group is Mike Guinness? No, British fashion designers! Obviously. Seven points!

Slow and steady for the Trenchermen, who begin with some Madness songs. Then they try some fairground rides, such as the Teacups and the Waltzer and the Vajazzle. Are we seriously discussing Vajazzle and Reem on BBC4? They've not touched "Advance fee", perhaps it's an easy route to points. Or a scam. Just the one group, and they come that close to missing the frauds. Slang from The Only Way is Essex is the group they're never going to get. Four points!

Only Connect (2) Steve Donnelly, Bob Hughes, and Gareth Williams do not dig holes in the pavement.

All of which means the Numerists are defending a 17-15 lead in the Missing Vowels round. Air travel falls to the Numerists 3-1, as does Major geographical features of Africa. Misers? That's to the Numerists by a mere 2-1, and they get the only point on Undergarments, too. So the Numerists have rather romped away, winning by 26-18.

Join us next week as Victoria Coren bites her nails down to the elbow, and we continue our search for the new Game Show Hat of the Year.

This Week And Next

"We'd like to throw away Piers Morgan," said the contestants on Secret Fortune last week. Ah, would that it were so simple.

University Challenge had a battle between St Andrews and Bangor; the latter making its first appearance since leaving the University of Wales. Bangor got the first two starters, but then there was a tremendous run of dropped starters, most of which incurred penalties for incorrect interruptions. Mercifully, the run of failure came to an end, and St Andrews held the lead for a short while, at least until Nina Grant (Bangor) proved her knowledge of Scooby Doo characters.

The audio round was on songs featuring countries in their titles, but neither side was able to make any distinct progress towards victory. Roger Tilling got very excited, because the result was in doubt, but this wasn't a reflection of the quality of the game. Bangor beat St Andrews by 125-105.

University Challenge St Andrews: Ben Adams, Jim Parsons, James Gray, Andrew Newton.
Bangor: Adam Pearce, Mark Stevens, Nina Grant, Simon Tomlinson.

A change to the scheduled edition of Mastermind; this edition was originally scheduled for next week. We suspect this decision is related to the death of seven British tourists in Nepal, en route to one of this week's specialist subjects, Everest.

  • Nina Fetherston (Guns n' Roses) makes her second appearance in this column in as many weeks, having been part of the Jesus Cambridge side on University Challenge. 12 (0) is a better performance, and this column appreciates the sneaky mention of "Nirvana" in the second round. 25 (1) is a superb score, and testament to Imperial's performance last week.
  • Andrew Hunt (Casper David Friedrich) does well on the painter, finishing on 13 (0). A solid general knowledge round takes him to 25 (2).
  • Kevin Baker (Ian Botham) has a near-perfect round, only confusing the sponsors of the One Day tournament and Sunday league. 14 (0) isn't helped by confusing Fleetwood Mac with Supertramp, and he comes within a Reynolds Girls fan club of the lead, ending on 24 (1).
  • Michael Wright (the Hornblower novels) is perfect for answers in his two minutes, but scores a pass on the final question. 14 (1) isn't obviously a winning start, but this contenders knows his general knowledge, and passes the post with some questions to go. Some slightly careless passes, but 29 (5) is a winning score.

"A deafening, deadening travesty of a great show." The Stage didn't mince its words about Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar at the Millennium Dome. There are good notices for Tim Minchin and Alex Hanson, but the general tenor is: "Utterly misconceived and overblown." And there's a warning that people in the gods can't even see the big screens. Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar is on a UK tour, playing 18 dates in 31 nights, perhaps hoping to complete its journey before the public work out how rubbish it is. Maybe this, and not religious zealotry, explains why the show has been run out of town in Russia: they want to see good theatre.

Remember Cash Cab, our favourite game show of 2005, and one that didn't get aired in any other year? It's still out there, and will next be re-made in China.

"It's only a game show!" The cry of contestants to The Great Irish Bake Off, which is being made for independent channel TV3, and to be hosted by singer, songwriter, skateboarder, and documentary producer Anna Nolan. It'll air next year.

The BBC has announced that a Super Ceefax game will be made for the new series of Antiques Roadshow. The programme, which features valuations of old items by a panel of experts, has been running almost as long as One Man and His Dog.

Don't Stop Believing came to a stop, Big Brother still hasn't produced five minutes of decent music, and The All Star Talent Show combined Lembit Öpik and The Cheeky Girls with hideous results. Having completely failed to develop even the most moderately successful entertainment show of their own, Channel 5 has resorted to poaching other broadcasters'. It'll air Pop Idle Us from the next year, and we're not entirely sure if that's a step up or a step down from ITV2. They could always commission a new series of The Mole ...

A quiet OFCOM broadcasting standards report, but we do note three new investigations in progress. Two are into The X Factor, broadcast on 1 and 9 September; the other is on Celebrity Big Brother for 7 September. We have completely lost count of the number of OFCOM enquiries into this latest Big Brother series.

Small margins make a big difference. The biggest game show in the week to 16 September was The X Factor, 9.05m saw Sunday's show. That's barely 110,000 viewers ahead of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1 that Saturday. Things were even tighter lower down, where The Great British Bake Off recorded 4.61m viewers, The Chase With Celebrities 4.58m, and the England men's football qualifier also had 4.58m.

The Great British Bake Off Beat the England football team.

Just to rub that in, The Chase is exactly as popular as the football, and Mel and Sue's cakes are even more attractive. Eat my goal!

Lower down, 4.4m for Celebrity Mr and Mrs, 3.14m for Red or Black?, and 1.95m for the Big Fat Quiz of the 80s. No change in the digital top three: Celebrity Juice tops with 2.3m, which puts it on a par with first-run QI on BBC2. Xtra Factor had 1.25m, and Only Connect recorded 940,000. That's 20% as popular as the football!

The Chase Drew with the England football team.

What do we have for you this week? A few shows in Ireland: An Gig Jig (TG4, Sunday), Football's Next Star (RTE2, Friday), Famous Family Fortunes (TV3, Friday), and Masterchef Ireland (RTE2, Thursday). For the Welsh, there's Fferm Ffactor (S4C, 8.25 Wednesday), and for the expats there's May the Best House Win on the continent (ITV, 4pm weekdays). We're more interested in the 1967 pilot episode of Just a Minute (Radio 4 Extra, 9.30am Thursday) and the resumption of Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 9pm Friday). Saturday times: Strictly (6.30) is up against Take Me Out (7pm), with The X Factor running from 8 to 10.20. Plenty of breaks to make some coffee.

Next week's Week expects to continue the canine theme, with a look at Top Dog Model on ITV2. That's unless we're confronted by a huge private detective bill from L.I.N.D.A.

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