Weaver's Week 2012-12-23

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Coming up this Week, we've the Countdown finals, the Only Connect final, and an irritating end to Millionaire.

Advertising the Win A Chaser For Your Pub Quiz auction, Paul Sinha noted, "There are several levels of humiliation. Can anyone beat this ? ebay.co.uk/itm/WIN-A-CHAS..." We thought, "-AND-DAVE-ALBUM".



Series 67 Finals Week

We last looked at Countdown in November, when Philip Jackson was in the champions' chair. He ended up winning four games, before losing to Heather Styles, of whom more in due course. David Barnard became an octochamp as well, the third time this series we've seen back-to-back eight-game winners. It was nearly three on the spin: Sohail Virdi had five wins under his belt, but lost the sixth to Rachael Moran. She comes back in the new year with three wins under her belt.

QF1: Paul James (8 wins, 794 pts) beat Grant Waters (7 wins, 722 pts), 103-75

The result is that we have seven octochamps into Finals Week, and one septo-champ. That's Grant Waters, who played brilliantly for a week in early August, and absolutely no-one saw it because there was sport on the other side, and as soon as people started watching again he got beaten by a contender on a really good day. Top seed is Paul James, who was absolutely impenetrable during his run in early July – he was beaten by a better word in just four rounds. Honours remain even in the first three rounds, but then Paul's offer of "omitter" isn't allowed, giving Grant the lead; he's 36-29 ahead at the anecdote.

Honours remain even until round nine – a hideous selection of letters allows Paul to pull back with JOULE. In the following numbers round, Paul manages to pull out a tricky spot-on solution, and he takes a 64-56 lead at the interval. The merits of knowing your 73-times table, there. Both players have to take a risk afterwards: MOTHIER is perfectly fine, much to the host's disgust. Please: compilation of the dictionary didn't die with Eisenhower. No change in the letters game, and the numbers is another stinker: Paul gets it spot on to clinch his win; the conundrum is the icing on the cake. Grant was good, a kinder draw might have put him into the semis, but Paul looks a finalist.

Countdown Quarter-finalists Chris Marshall and Grant Waters.

QF2: Chris Marshall (8 wins, 682 pts) lost to David Barnard (8 wins, 771 pts), 108-63

It's octochamps all the way for the rest of the quarter-finals; Chris followed Paul in July, David put together his run at the end of November. It's David's STAINERS gives him the lead. Not a reference to Britain's best Only Connect couple, but to those who make stained-glass windows. CONGEALS pushes him further ahead, 40-24 as Dave Spikey gives his final anecdote. The mineral DIOPTASE comes straight after, and that feels like game over.

Indeed, David keeps piling on the points, perhaps his only blot is to miss PRIORATES, leading the oh-so-understanding host to ask, "why didn't you get that?" 79-48 ahead at the interval, which turns into a 108-63 win at the end. A very solid performance by David, grinding out strong work in every round.

QF3: Tia Corkish (8 wins, 697 pts) lost to Heather Styles (8 wins, 737 pts), 65-100

Readers who think that Countdown has become very male-dominated in recent years are right. This is only the sixth Finals Week match between two women since the 1996 Supreme Championship, and the first since Clare Wright and Kate Ritchie met in QF3 of December 2000. Very little to choose between these players from their records, though they do show that Tia improved as she went on, Heather never quite scaled the heights of her opening 114 again. First blood is to Heather, HOODIAS is a type of plant, apparently. Heather manages to fail completely on a reasonably simple numbers game, allowing Tia to lead 32-29 at the anecdote, provided by Alistair McGowan.

Heather comes back with BOTHIE, a Scottish crofter's house, and STEELING, to take a decent lead – 63-52 at the interval. The game feels over when Heather wins with APOSTLE straight afterwards, and it really is over when Tia miscounts the number of letters in "Parolee". Heather seals her win with the conundrum after about one second, only her second century of the tournament. We think Heather's a bit weak on the numbers, but that might not prove fatal.

Countdown The other quarter-finalists, Tia Corkish and Liam Shaw.

QF4: Rose Boyle (8 wins, 701 pts) beat Liam Shaw (8 wins, 708 pts), 90-83

Nick warns us that it's 34 weeks until the start of the summer holidays. Order your umbrellas now, while stocks last! We got through three between Easter and the end of July alone. Liam made his eight wins in September: when he was good, he was outstanding; when he wasn't, he rode his luck. Rose had her wins in mid-October, immediately after Tia who we saw yesterday, and it's fair to say that she flagged a little on her second recording day. In round two, we sound the Nine Point Klaxon. It's remarkably like the Five Point Klaxon from elsewhere, and here will indicate that Rose has "indicate", and Liam has VINDICATE. In the next round, he has STAMEN, but just when we were prepared to give up, Rose pulls off a three-large numbers game. She trails 24-38 at the anecdote.

"Fired. There's a word you never hear on television" is the highlight of a flat second period. The letters yield nothing, until Rose risks LIPPIES. It's true that "lippie" is in as a mass noun, but Susie will allow it as there's a sense that one can have many sorts of lipstick. "Ooh, Danni's got the totes gorge collection of lippies." That means it's 63-56 to Liam at the interval. It's sevens and sevens afterwards, then Liam comes up with AMOEBA to move thirteen clear with two to play. Rose needs snookers, and gets them with a spot-on numbers game. 94 times 9. It comes down to a crucial conundrum – AMRAPICON. The clock ticks. And ticks. And then Rose buzzes in on ten seconds. "Panoramic?" It's right! Both players did well on today's show, both have a total score of 791, and we suspect that Paul might be in for a tricky little match tomorrow.

We'll come back to Countdown in a little while, but first we'd better pop the Five Point Klaxon back.

Only Connect

Series 6 Grand Final

Only Connect is marking 100 programmes tonight. Are we going to be absolute party poopers and point out that this is the 99th Monday on which there's been an Only Connect (but, thanks to the Wall Nights, the 101st edition in the BARB ratings)? Yes. Then the Only Connect Special Forces come out for revenge. We get frozen by the Eye of Horus, bitten by the Horned Viper, our legs get tangled up in the Wick o' Twisted Flax o'Doom, and fall face-first into the effluent of Delta. Enough! We'll take those two statistics, average them, and say it's the Episode 100 Celebration. Joining the party are this year's finalists, the Draughtsmen and the Scribes.

England to Wales, Brazil to Scotland. Straight away, the Draughtsmen are in there: footballers and their playing countries for three points. A fiendish set of picture questions: Girl with a Pearl Earring, Victoria Coren (another oil painting, there), the Roadworks sign, the Statue of Liberty. Not that they appear on the US constitution, not they're names of pop groups. "The Talented Hostesses"? No, it's that the images have been flipped horizontally. Fiendish. 3-0 to the Draughtsmen.

And the fiendishness continues: it takes a whole three clues for the Draughtsmen to buzz in and say "Redbeards", which isn't good enough. It's coloured beards, as the Scribes pick for a bonus. For their own question, it's Meissa the head, Alnilam the belt buckle, Rigel the left leg, and Dom has it. Stars in Orion's anatomy, and that brings it to 3-3.

"Champion of 1981 Grand National" is enough to sound the Five Point Klaxon: the Draughtsmen reckon it's all champions. But this is not correct when they see clue two; things like "Had a hit with Killer Queen" prove the answer is in the statement. That goes over for a bonus. The Scribes have the audio clue: some Judy Garland, some opera, Eminem's "Stan", and they go for it as songs told through letter-writing. Which is right for two points, and gives the Scribes the first set, 6-3.

Only Connect (2) Everyone is wearing OC100 badges tonight. The Scribes on their right...

To the Sequences round, and "A = Azure a saltire argent". Clearly, the flag of St Andrew, but the Draughtsmen manage to give the third in the sequence, the flag of G, when they should have gone for P = Argent a saltire gules. Obviously. Kendal Mintcake and Miss Money-Sterling and Lord Snot, but Gareth buzzes in with the connection. Yes, members of Footlights College, but "Lord Monty" is the answer they were seeking. Still 6-3.

From 5, it's Marylebone Old Church, then White's Club in Soho, Fleet debtor's prison, and 8 turns out to be Bedlam. It's a Rake's Progress, which we think both sides were roughly getting. There are -thane gases for the Scribes, and they're looking for something with methane. "Marsh gas" does for two points, extending their lead to 8-3.

Some sort of mushroom for the Draughtsmen, then a tamarin monkey. They go for a truncating the final letter sequence, and they're right: the mushroom a tamarind, so Tamar good for three points. For the Scribes, it's NNNE, then NEENE, EESE, and will they point their way to some points? No "SSSEE" nor "SSESS", it's "SESSE", being pairs of compass points jammed together. All of which means the Scribes still lead it, 8-6.

Only Connect (2) ...the Draughtsmen on their left...

Walls 260 and 261 are on the website. They're tremendously hard, because they're about to be used on the programme. For the Scribes, there are people called Jack, there are young fish, there are types of ships. What's the fourth group? We're reckoning that it is That Was The Week That Was regulars. The team are trying most of the boats, but it takes a long time to get anywhere. They get the fish, they get TW3, and they do get the connections of metaphorical Jacks and two-masted boats. Six points!

For the Draughtsmen, there are characters from Viz magazine, and those come out. The team have a quick go at types of exchange, then television programmes. They also have a stab at words misused in the plural, but they're jabbing so very slowly it's no surprise that time expires. The remaining connections: BBC Scotland programmes, __ Protection Acts, and those plural forms used in the singular. Five points!

Only Connect (2) ...and Victoria next to the sherry.

Which means the Scribes lead by 14-11. Victoria has the sherry and the trophy, and "Things that good children do" for the Missing Vowels. Clear enunciation has the Scribes 3-1 ahead; Wooden objects and their traditional wood is theirs by 2-0. Three consecutive months looks simple, but suddenly turns into French, French Revolutionary, and Spanish.

All of which means the Scribes are the Series 6 champions, by 20-11. Congratulations to them, and they do realise that they'll be back on 7 January for the Champion of Champions episode.

Only Connect (2) Victoria hands over the trophy. But not the sherry, we notice.

Countdown: Series 67 Finals Week Continues

SF1: Rose Boyle (9 wins, 791 pts) lost to Paul James (9 wins, 897 pts), 91-95

Susie says it's a cracking game in prospect: three flat letters rounds don't help to split the players, and both spot TONGUED in the next one. Both get spot on in a three-large numbers game: everyone got to 800, only the players and Rachel managed to hit 801. It's 37-37 at the monologue, in which Alistair McGowan talks Shakespeare. Sevens and sevens after, it's all become routine. But then ROUTINES comes up in round eight, only Paul spots it, and in a game of fine margins, this feels like it could be decisive.

Could. Sevens in the letters, and a modestly easy numbers game. Except that Paul has difficulty with modestly easy numbers games, and makes an error. Rose can get almost any numbers game, scores from it, and takes the lead. Rose is ahead, 68-66 at the interval.

A pair of PEOPLE to start part three, then two from a wide selection of sevens, and there's life left in this game left. Paul comes up with BICEPS in the final letters round, and goes into the numbers with a four-point lead. Narrow. Narrow. It's Rose who spots the final numbers round with moments left, while Paul has chance to write it down. Paul has draw advantage in the conundrum. WORDGONER. Again, time ticks. Rose has four conundrums in her career. Paul has seven. Time continues to tick. Neither of them will be adding to their total today – it's to a lady in the audience to spot the scramble is for WRONGDOER. So Paul has come through a tricky challenge. It's the number two seed next, isn't it?

Countdown Semi-finalist Rose Boyle.

SF2: Heather Styles (9 wins, 837 pts) beat David Barnard (9 wins, 879 pts), 91-81

We're expecting another quality show today, both players look to be of equal – and high – quality. Heather picks two vowels in her opening selections, but this tactic blows up when David spots EDUCTION – the noun from the verb "educe", to develop. To which the only response is to attack – Heather has ISOLATED in the next round to draw level. Both players get the numbers spot on, so it's 31-31 at Alistair's impressions, comparing Mark Lawrenson with Brian Cox.

Only Susie notes that the first letters game back has UNWRAP; it also has ENWRAP. Pass the sticky-tape. Heather has MATERIEL in the next round; David's offer of "real time" is disallowed for being two words, and that puts Heather eight points ahead. David pulls seven back in the next round with HEGIRAS, Heather is re-enacting a famous Blockbusters out-take. And then the lead is restored with AGISTED, a term in livestock management, putting Heather back ahead by eight. A simple four-large numbers game puts Heather up by 61-53 at the interval.

Nothing much in round eleven, then David throws us SEDATING, and it's a winner, and the game is tied up once more. Sevens all round in the last letters game, and with the amount of chit-chat in this show, it doesn't feel like a tie-break looms. Both players are two away in a fiendish four-large numbers game, even Rachel can't solve it, so the conundrum is a tie-break. "Who's got the fastest finger?" asks Nick. The clock starts. Heather reaches for her pen on ten seconds, scribbles down, and on 23 seconds, presses her buzzer. Panting with the excitement, Heather says, "Is it INAUDIBLE?" It is inaudible, and Heather looks shattered already. She'll be back for the final tomorrow.

Countdown Semi-finalist David Barnard.

Final: Heather Styles (10 wins, 928 pts) vs Paul James (10 wins, 992 pts)

"Forget Federer and Nadal, never mind Alonso and Vettel," begins this year's guest host, referring to contemporary pairs of sports rivals. We're set for a grand final, in every sense of the word. It begins badly, Q is the first letter out of the box, and Paul is able to get ahead in the first round with MOSSIER, being more like another famed Countdown player. The second letters round is vile, Paul's BEGET is another winner. It quickly becomes clear that yesterday's efforts have taken a lot out of Heather, as Paul offers TROUPES in a round with many sevens. NOVATE is on both papers, and a six-small numbers game allows Paul to go 30-6 ahead.

Countdown Heather Styles.

A pair of sixes to begin the second period, but then Heather strikes back with TOADIEST, being more like this year's host around Mr. Sugar. Only, Susie can't allow it, the comparative is "toadish", so Paul wins the round, and it feels like he's got the game in the bag now. Sixes in the next couple of rounds, and a simple numbers game means his lead is 65-34 at the interlude. Heather's "gaussed" is disallowed, there's no verb to gauss, though "degauss" would have been fine. The final letters round throws up "nearly", which pretty much sums up Heather's tournament.

But let's concentrate on the winner. Paul was the number one seed in commanding circumstances, and whatever the opposition threw at him, he was just that bit better. He did well to come through a tricky draw, and puts the icing on the cake with the conundrum – DREAMLAND. The winning score, 106-51.

Countdown Paul James, the series 67 champion.

The arrangements for the Supreme Championship II were made before this series concluded, so Paul won't be carrying his title into that event. We will be watching it, all eight weeks from 7 January, and there will be pithy little weekly bulletins until Supreme Championship II Finals Week arrives in late February.

This Week And Next

What of former Countdown hosts? For Des O'Connor, this week's mostly been about Who Wants to be a Millionaire: the 2007-08 host was paired with Lee Mack, and between them they lifted £150,000 out of Chris Tarrant's back pocket. It's the first six-figure win on Millionaire since summer 2010, before the imposition of The Dreaded Clock.

Said clock gave an annoying end – the producers had invited on two members of hugely popular boy band The Jls. To everyone's surprise, they proved to be A Bit Good at this quizzing lark, reaching £50,000 in double-quick time. That, sadly, was where the show ended, as they couldn't crash into the News at Ten (Ish). C'mon, folks, let them pick up where they left off. Or – as Mr. Bother suggested – get 'em on The Chase With Celebrities: we can't think of a better warm-up for The X Factor.

Speaking of The Chase With Celebrities, Friday was the last day in the office, and everyone came to work in their usual clothes.

The Chase Clockwise from top-left: Mark Labbett, Anne Heggarty, Shaun Wallace, Paul Sinha.

Once more unto the Mastermind arena.

  • Mark Cooper (Life and Films of Kevin Smith), the modern comic film actor took him to 10 (0). He knows with which band Johnny Marr did play guitar, the president of Egypt, and many other things, finishing on 24 (3). Even if it's not a winning score, 14 on general knowledge shows talent.
  • Allan Nicholas (The Bee Gees) didn't get asked about Fame Academy, so is winning already. 11 (2) isn't tremendously extended in the second phase, where there are some very credible guesses, ending on 18 (7).
  • Tony Ryan (The Falklands Conflict) began with a pass, but took this 1982 conflict to 11 (2). Humphrys gets to quote a Wham! lyric of particular nonsense ("You put the boom-boom into my heart"), and plug Room 101 (back on 4 January). The contender scores cautiously, and it's not quite enough for the win, finishing on 23 (5).
  • Rob White (Life and Work of Thomas Hardy) had the Perfect Round bells ringing, until he got the last one wrong. 15 (0) is a strong start, and he now knows he needs ten to win. The contender goes slowly and carefully, picking off the questions he reckons he might know, passing quickly through the others. All he has to find is ten questions from twenty-odd, and this contender finishes with the winning score, 27 (5).

Celebrity Mastermind runs every single day from 27 December to Saturday 5 January. The civilian series is back on 11 January.

One final bulletin this year from OFCOM. The X Factor was OK to show the woman who auditioned in a see-through body stocking, only ever seen in long-shot, but we got the impression that there wasn't much in this one. The regulator has found nothing wrong with the Disney Channel airing a mock-exorcism in a comedy show. It has begun full investigations into I'm a Celebrity on 27 November, and The X Factor of 18 November. More on OFCOM's year when we review 2012.

Ratings in the week to 9 December, and The X Factor has lost. It was the best score of the series, but 10.05m saw the winner being announced, 12.05m saw the Strictly performance show. The Royal Variety Performance was seen by 8.05m, damaging University Challenge (2.65m) and Only Connect (920,000). I'm a Celeb Coming Out by 6.55m, and Pointless Celebrities (5.4m) beat HIGNFY (5.1m). The Chase picked up 3.6m viewers, Masterchef The Professionals had 3.25m. Celebrity Juice came back to 2.07m viewers, Xtra Factor 1.76m, and there were 840,000 for A League of Their Own S1 on The Satellite Channel.

Which brings us to the Christmas schedules. At the time of writing, there are something over 30 shows listed in the "Coming Soon" box on the UKGameshows front page, so we're going to have to be selective. Highlights for Christmas week include Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 6.15 Christmas Day), That Dog Can Dance! (ITV, 8pm Boxing Day), World's Strongest Man (C5, 8pm Thursday), Celebrity Mastermind (BBC1, from Thursday), Superstars 2012 (BBC1, 6.45 Saturday), and Dale's Great Getaway (ITV, 8.30 Saturday).

The Fort Boyard final (CITV, 8.30am Sunday) starts New Year week, which continues with The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (C4, 9pm Sunday), and Deal or No Deal with Joan Collins (C4, 6.30 New Year's Day). When the weekday schedules resume on 2 January, there's new Perfection (BBC1, 3.45), Tipping Point (ITV, 4pm), Celebrity Big Brother (C5, from Thursday), Fake Reaction (ITV2, 10pm Thursday), Channel 4's second Mash Up (4 Jan), and new Room 101 (BBC1, 8.30 Friday). The Saturday line-up for 5 January includes Splash! (ITV, 7.15), Britain's Brightest (BBC1, 7.15), In It to Win It (BBC1, 8.25), and Take Me Out (ITV, 8.45). We're going to be busy when normal Week service resumes on 13 January.

We're never too busy for the Review of the Year, which we hope to publish around New Year's Day. We wish all our readers the peace, happiness, and joy they desire, and good games to you.

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