Weaver's Week 2013-06-30

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Last week, we wondered why there were so few people watching Channel 4 daytimes. This week, we'll be watching Channel 4 daytimes. Wonderfully consistent, this.



Series 68 finals week

Since we last visited the Countdown studios, there have been some games. Eileen Taylor completed her octochamp run, as did Joe McGonigle; the latter player didn't break 95 points in his heats. Ian Burn had one win, Stuart Scholes two, and Chris Ball qualified for the Finals Week with three victories. Glen Webb finished the heats with a flourish, seven wins and six centuries. He's unbeaten, so will go into the next series, and surely will be favoured in the December finals week.

QF1: Giles Hutchings (8 wins, 965 points) beat Peter Fenton (2 wins, 262 pts), 113-86

Thanks to the Supreme Championship earlier in the year, it's been a very short series. The 63 heats have left just 15 champions eligible for the finals, and one of those – Rachael Moran, who would have been fifth seed – was unavailable for the last recording day. Peter Fenton gets the additional spot; he's the first contestant ever to make the finals after winning on two bank holidays (Good Friday and Easter Monday) and nowhere else. Giles followed on 3 April, scored a 100-point winning margin in his second game, and came within one point of A Perfect Game the next day.

In this game, Giles races to a fifteen-point lead in the opening two rounds, with the winner Ruminate, and Peter finding that "woolies" is disallowed as a specifically American spelling. Rubbish rule, house rule, everyone's aware of it, the word's in the dictionary, the poster child for unjust but perfectly fair. 25-10 at the end of the prelude, and Giles has another winner – Overhear – straight afterwards. Then scores are level, it's 74-51 at the interval, and with undemanding numbers games, Giles is still on for a maximum game.

Just as in his heat, perfection is missed by a single letter – his offer of "Sedation" stems with T to form Peter's "Stationed" and this column's "Antidotes". It brings the gap crashing down to five points, but Giles pulls away with two more winners. He decided not to risk "Butties" in the final round, Peter did, but another benign numbers game leaves the game beyond doubt. Giles secures the conundrum, and his ninth century, but that was a close game. Can the top seed actually be beaten?

Countdown Seeds 7 and 8: Chris Ball and Peter Fenton.

QF2: Andy Platt (8 wins, 889 pts) beat Chris Ball (3 wins, 358 pts), 115-29

Andy took his eight wins just before Easter, twice securing 13 maximum rounds in his games. Chris Ball won her three games at the start of June, and looked in fine form before running into Glen Webb. We expected Mrs. Ball to run Mr. Platt close, but his winning word "Document" and being able to solve his four-large numbers selection puts Andy ahead by 25-7 early doors. We fear we know how the game is going straight afterwards, when Andy gives "Selector".

In dictionary corner this week is Myleene Klass, who is visibly thrilled to be here – apparently, Countdown was essential viewing in her student common room. Cor, remember when students watched television in common rooms, and not over IP downloads from an edgecast server? Even though "joinders" is disallowed as a plural of a mass noun, Andy leads by 65-22 at the interval, and the only question is whether he can bring up 1000 points in this game. He can, solving the conundrum brings up the tonne.

And then there was a gap from Monday to Monday. As we noted last week, Channel 4 has a commitment to horse racing, and Royal Ascot takes precedence over this parlour game. This column's suggestion is simple: have the finals week immediately before Ascot, before Wmbldn.

QF3: Eileen Taylor (8 wins, 754 pts) beat Jill Hayward (3 wins, 374 pts), 86-81

A repeat of the heat match from 24 April, when Eileen emerged on top by 102-98. Jill looked in strong form, Eileen was consistent on her route to eight wins, three centuries and seven scores of 90 or above. The rematch begins in poor form, as Jill misdeclares "Interim" as an eight; it's 21-14 after the opening stanza. The gap remains until the next numbers match, when Eileen secures her place on a 777, and a 43-26 lead at the anecdote. It's Myleene Klass tapping out a rhythm to the Token Bloke (host Nick Hewer).

Both players have "Andiron" in the next round, the only seven in the selection; both miss "Payees" next time out, and solve a simple numbers game to make it 65-48 at the interval. And then Jill comes out with the winner "Embargo", chopping the gap to ten points. Game on! Six all in the next round, then "Padrones" comes out of Eileen's mouth, and her advantage is now eighteen points. The risky "Coverts" comes up for Eileen, and it's there, and that's the game. Jill gets the last numbers match, and the conundrum, and Nick's too polite to point out that had Jill not made an elementary mistake in the opening round, she would have won tonight.

Countdown Seeds 6 and 5: Jill Hayward and Sam McElhinney.

QF4: Joe McGonigle (8 wins, 716 pts) beat Sam McElhinney (4 wins, 393 pts), 108-83

Nick marks the birthday of George Michael, and claims his favourite track is "Club Tropicana". Rachel claims that's also her favourite, but then she only remembers Yog from the "Older" album. In his heats last month, Joe never rose above 95 points, Sam scored consistently in March, his top was 93. Could be a close game. "Motivate" and "Motivater" are the initial offerings, but Sam's additional R is not allowed: the standard spelling is "Motivator", as in "Annoying Keep Fit Person From GMTV*". "Top-line" is also disallowed for Sam in the next round, so it's 24-10 after the prelude.

Joe comes up with "Exorcist" after the break, and it pretty much kills off Sam's hopes of victory. Nothing happens until the letters of round eight, when Sam risks "Loutish". His first risk to pay off, it makes the score 65-50 at the interval. Sam doesn't risk anything beyond "Loudest" in a late round, which was wise as there was nothing longer. Joe comes up with "Baizes", which gave Susie some trouble: apparently, it's a mass noun, which can only be allowed because there are various types of the colour. "Rehomes" in the final letters round is a risk from both sides, and Sam needs to win the last numbers. But both players are four off, and that is that. It's the first time Joe has scored in every round, and the first time he's reached a century.

Nick also notes that today's programme is the 1000th edition for Rachel Riley. There's a presentation from one of the lads who kicks a ball about in the park down the road. Bryan Griggs, something like that.

Countdown Thanks, Bryan.

SF1: Giles Hutchings (9 wins, 1078 pts) beat Joe McGonigle (9 wins, 824 pts), 106-38

Nick tells us all about Glastonbury: doubtless he remembers when the Camelot Massive were playing there. We're more interested in "Ravioli", Giles' winner in the first round. There was an "S" in the selection, and we reckon "Ravioli" takes a plural form, comparing the raviolis from Store A and Store B. "Ptomaine" is the word du jour on Countdown, an agent that causes food poisoning. As in "Of all the raviolis, we dislike the ptomaine-filled one from Store X". Giles also gets the numbers spot on, so takes a 25-0 lead already.

Can we write "Game over!" after three rounds? Joe seems to be enjoying the experience, snickering at some of the words he's found and beaming as he looks at the studio. "Forties" is a winner for Giles, and when he improves on the numbers, he's 71-24 ahead at the interval. It is possible to say that Giles could do better – that numbers game fell to this column, and there was at least one letters-beater – but anyone who can get "Dogbanes" (a shrub poisonous to dogs) – is doing fantastically well. Susie rejects Myleene's offer of "Bondages", an anagram of the winning word. Joe comes up with "Indulger" in the final letters round, his first winner of the day, but this ship has long sailed. Giles needed the conundrum to notch up his tenth century.

Countdown Seed 4: Joe McGonigle.

SF2: Andy Platt (9 wins, 1004 pts) beat Eileen Taylor (9 wins, 840 pts), 120-65

"Green is the colour of genius", according to Myleene Klass, who notes that she, Susie, and Rachel are all in that colour. Neither of the contestants, nor the host, wears anything green. Nothing between these players in the opening exchanges: an eight, a six, but then Andy takes the lead with perfection on a four-large selection. Eileen risks "goatweed" a little later, but it's not in. After a simple numbers game, it's 48-31 to Andy at the anecdote. We'll caution that Myleene talks about her hyper-extended arms.

Sixes and sevens, then Andy goes four-large in his second numbers pick, gets it spot on. That makes the score 71-44, and surely now it's game over. It is after the break, Andy has "Dealings", and there's nothing more in the letters, nor in a simple numbers round. By our reckoning, Andy's dropped just six points today, one in each of six rounds. With Giles not on best form, the final is looking a bit more open than we might have predicted. Eileen is the oldest octochamp in Countdown history, and Nick leads a storming round of applause in her honour.

Countdown Seed 3: Eileen Taylor. Inset: Rachel talks about a lady's age.

Final: Giles Hutchings (10 wins, 1184 pts) vs Andy Platt (10 wins, 1124 pts)

The school student from Guildford. The salesperson from Salford. Two decachamps enter. One will leave undefeated. In the very first round, there's a split – Andy plays it safe with "Easiest", Giles risks "Shaliest". Susie has to think about it. Giles looks concerned. "It's there," she says. Giles lets out a sharp sigh. It's the first skirmish in the battle; it's proven decisive.

Dare either player risk "Odorizer" in round two? It was valid in the previous dictionary, but Andy finds to his cost that it's been taken out of the current lexicon. Giles's "Gorier" wins by default. The finalists are beaten by the numbers, so Giles leads 21-7 after the prelude. Andy strikes back with "Bemoaned" – this isn't going to be a Murray-style walkover, it might yet turn out to be a match to rival Nadal — Federer next week. What? Oh.

Countdown Seed 2: Andy Platt.

A pair of sevens and a simple numbers game ticks the score to 38-32 at the anecdote. In which we learn that Myleene Klass is the biggest thing to come out of Norfolk since (er) Alan Partridge. Everyone in the studio is a "Pieman"; this column got stuck on "anime". Giles has a good think about offering a seven in the next round – we suspect he was considering "Ecotone", which would have been valid. Another simple numbers game, and it's the end of the part, Giles leads by 60-54.

There's no hesitation as Giles declares "eight" after the break. "Argosies", his declaration: merchant ships from Dubrovnik bear eight valuable points. Nothing beyond five in the next round, but "Heiau" from Giles turns out to be a winner. A temple in Hawaii, apparently. "Mangonel" and "Iodates" split the last two rounds. Andy requires snookers, and picks four large. Rachel believes the game is impossible, and it's game over even before the clock starts.

One final piece of business: will Giles score eleven centuries in eleven matches? He needs the conundrum, he doesn't get the conundrum. Andy solves it, but Giles's winning score is 95-86. His eleven-game total is 1279, a record, and it's one of those rare tournaments where the seedings work out perfectly.

Countdown Champion! Giles Hutchings.

The series may be over, but the show goes on. Glen Webb will confirm himself as number one seed on Monday, at least for the next eight days. And only 117 Countdowning days until the next Finals Week.

Only Connect

Series 7, match 3a: Celts v Cat Lovers

One of the Celts has been to every populated continent, one of the Cat Lovers was offered a part on the original "Charlie's Angels". One of these sides will become the first semi-finalists of the series in 28 minutes. Walls 308 and 309.

Pictures for the Celts to open round one: an airport runway, the Golden Mile in Blackpool. No, it's the Las Vegas strip, and with Mobius and Comic awaiting, they strip three points. The Cat Lovers are seeking a saviour: General von Choltitz of Paris, Chris Moyles of Radio 1, and Roland Rat of TV-am. It's in the last moments that they score a point, 3-1.

Music for the Celts this time. "How do you feel about this" asks our sports interviewer. "Let's hear it." Something obscure, the Bloodhound Gang, the Pointer Sisters, and they're barking up the right tree: first was The Boxer Rebellion, and BBC4 viewers will never get to hear Pitbull. They win! Two points. Wordplay for the Cat Lovers: "creMate", "fEast", "Covert", and if you take out the capital letter, they make a new word, but that's not satisfying Victoria. "fRiend" is the final clue, and the Celts have the bonus: take out the capital to make an *opposite* word. 6-1.

Felicity of California, the Forbidden City, Jerusalem on the Mappa Mundi, and the centre of the world is the home of two points. And there we were, thinking the centre of the world was Victoria's drinks cabinet. Or is that just the size of a world? For the Cat Lovers: "Fell = hides and skins", then "Flesh = meat", "Iron = household goods", and they might have come in earlier, but have mongered their way to two points. The Celts lead, 8-3.

To sequences, and the Celts have a boy band, a red rose, Africa + n, and they're completely and utterly stumped. "A cube". Yes, it's periods of Picasso's works: the boy band was Blue. For the Cat Lovers, a brief return of 2008-10 stars The Greek Letters! It's Phi and Chi and Psi but the answer is not "roman letter z", nor "Delta", but "Omega", because this is the end of the Greek alphabet. 10-3.

"A Division of the Spoils" and "The Towers of Silence" and "The Day of the Scorpion". It's books, but who are they by? Can the Celts make an educated guess? "The Day of the Jackal". Naah, "The Jewel in the Crown", being Paul Scott's Raj Quartet, and a Cat-lover bonus. On their own turn, it's Diana and Unity and they get it's the Mitford sisters. Jessica is third, it's not Nancy, and it's certainly not Oswald Mosley, who married one of them. Deborah, the answer no-one got. 10-4. That's the score.

Back to the game: Chakotay and Kira Nerys and Riker. This is all Greek to the team, except it's not, because the Greek letters put in their slight return just before. Apparently, it's "Spock", being first officers on Star Trek. Two to the Celts, we're completely confuzzled. Cardinal virtues for the Cat Lovers: Faith, Hope, Love, "it's not the obvious". Nor is it Cleanliness, nor is it Charity, but Luck. These aren't cardinal virtues, but the meanings of leaves on a clover or shamrock. 12-4 to the Celts.

Into the Connecting Walls, where there's an awful lot of discussion before any buttons are actually pressed. Eventually, they find a bundle of headlands, and then think about films made by pop groups. Time has never been on the team's side, and runs out before they can find the last groups. The groups they didn't get: "To be __" announced and frank and sure. And there's ways of being initiated, which they get. Five points!

Countdown Bring on the wall! The Celts are Beverley Downes, captain Huw Pritchard, and David Pritchard.

Which brings up the Celts, who start with some dams. But damn the dams, they're not coming out. Welsh forenames do emerge correctly (or, as the Celts call them, names), and then the dams are finally breached. Time is on their side, and we're not entirely sure why. The third group is not types of light, but ___essence words. Last one: roles played by Leonardo di Caprio. Seven points!

It leaves the Celts ahead by 19-9, and we look to have the first walkover of the series going into Missing Vowels. Extinct birds ends as a 2-2 draw. "Bands overlapped with authors", as in "Right Said Frederick Forsyth" is genuisly brilliantly silly, and ends up 2-1 to the Celts. Supposed cures for hiccups yields just the one point, to the Cat Lovers, and as time expires, the Celts emerge victorious by 23-13.

The Cat Lovers therefore meet the Festival Fans in phase four, the Celts progress to the semi-finals (phase five).

This Week And Next

Out of the bubble we call game shows, there's a chap called Ed Snowden. He's flying around the planet like a real-life game of Worldwise with David "Kid" Jensen. Mr. Snowden appears to seek an efficient way of disappearing back into anonymity, of everyone on the planet forgetting about him. We have no idea how he might achieve this.

BBC The Voice of Holland of UK came to an end last weekend. It was won by (shuffles papers) (looks at notes from the night) (no, it wasn't defending Popstar to Operastar winner Joe McElderry and R Gran) (nor was it Four Cheerleaders from Sussex). BBC The Voice of Holland of UK was won. By someone. Possibly two people, we think they allow duos. We have no idea who, and we're sure that he / she / they will maintain the high standard of success we've come to expect from that show's victors.

The Shiny Show Probably not the winner of The Voice.

The Voice didn't find a winner, but it did unearth losers. Lots of losers. 139 of them, in fact: the number of people who complained that presenter Holly Willoughby has a bosom, and dared to show it on national television. The BBC offered a fake apology (containing the giveaway line "we're sorry you were offended"), and Phillip Schofield noted, "Let's hope those outraged on behalf of their kids don't take them to the beach this summer." This column rather expects that many of the moaners do not have young children.

We're not aware of any complaints over shots of male tennis players changing their shirts during the BBC's coverage of the Wimbledon Rainwear Exposition (Incorporating Umbrellas Today). The odour we're smelling might be rotten sexism.

A few pieces of catchup from items we've recently run. The puzzles from DASH 5 are out (Weeks of 2 and 9 June). Nine files, some scissors would be useful for puzzles 4 and 9.

On 16 June, we wondered what Alex Parks was doing these days. We do know what happened to Laura Snapes, who went to BBC Cornwall and interviewed the still-current Fame Academy champion in 2003 – she's been employed by the venerable New Musical Express (Incorporating Accordion Weekly). Ms Snapes notes,

"To me, teen fandom and motivation are enormously cool things, and I have the utmost respect for anyone that age who's proactive about making their heartfelt obsessions work for them."

We approve. Ms Parks is still out of the public view, presumed having a good time.

BARB ratings for the week to 16 June, and it's The Apprentice taking over top slot, 7.8m seeing the latest business disaster. BBC The Voice of Holland had 6.55m seeing the live shows. Over on ITV, All Star Mr and Mrs was seen by 4.1m, Tipping Point Lucky Stars by 2.8m, and The Chase by 2.6m. There were 2.9m for The Apprentice You're Fired, 2.7m for Mock the Week, and barely 2.2m for the Big Brother launch shows. How the mighty are fallen.

The 1.55m for Million Pound Drop is on a par with Antiques Road Trip and Eggheads; the 820,000 for Bit on the Side puts it just ahead of Only Connect (670,000); Hell's Kitchen on ITV2 (485,000) and Mock the Week on Dave (445,000) round out the digital top three.

Coming up this week: There's a celeb edition of The Cube (ITV, 8pm Sun), but also the return of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (Radio 4, 6.30 Mon). Next Saturday's got another chance to see Tim Vine and Ulrika Jonsson on Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 7.30), David Haye on Famous Family Fortunes (ITV, 8.45), and another schedule heading for the recycler if the tennis is running over.

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