Weaver's Week 2013-08-11

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We've Countdown and I Love My Country to follow, and a strange request from a Friend Of Noel's. But first...

"Where better for the French and Welsh to duke it out than in Only Connect?" Well, there's the rugby pitch...


Only Connect

The Grand Final: Francophiles v Celts

Only Connect (2)

The woman who is the girlfriend of the man who is not related to the man who owns a whippet! The man who fell down the lift shaft! The man fed cake by Pete Doherty! The man who is not related to the man who owns a whippet! The man who pilfered Ulrika's biccies! The man who owns a whippet! Walls 338 and 339!

Welcome to the grand final, Francophiles. Welcome to the grand final, Celts. Welcome to the grand final, music question, thrown first to the Francophiles. Some squeaky violin music. Something else. "Some day my prints will come", "The Magnificent Seven", and that's a giveaway – it's from films with "Seven" in the title, worth a point. For the Celts, Go and a person. Chess and Paul Morphy. Mathematics and Paul Erdos. Can there be a world champion of maths? But if acting is Kevin Bacon, we're into degrees of separation: how far are we from these people. Another good point. 1-1.

For the Francos, we have Tin Cup, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Cool Runnings, and Rocky. Sports films featuring real sports people in cameos? No. As the Celts point out, these are ones where the heroes lose the main competition. That's a bonus; for their own question, the Celts get Liu Xiaobo, Samantha the scorer, at which point they think it's things that don't exist. Marius's solo in "Les Mis" spoils the idea, and Eastwood's speech to Obama gives it away. Empty chairs: Liu was barred from accepting the Nobel prize, the "Les Mis" song is "Empty chairs, empty tables". 3-1 to the Celts.

Nikola Tesla's nationality. The size of the Death Star. "Eagles" or "The Eagles". Spelling of Sulphur/Sulfur. No, not things that have changed spelling. Nor is it things that are accepted both ways. No, these are the subjects of edit wars on That Other Wiki, such as whether Sing It Back: Lyric Champion 2007 was in any way noteworthy. Well, that last is not so much an "edit war" as an "edit meh". C'mon, it had both JK and Joel! What more could any discerning viewer want? There were no discerning viewers? Or non-discerning viewers? Fair point.

Now, pictures for the Celts. Flags and names of countries; the flag represents a country formed by adding something to the country named, so the name "Mali" is shown with the flag of SoMALIa. Two good points, 5-1 to the Celts.

Only Connect (2) Beverley Downes is the girlfriend of David Pritchard, unrelated to mister whippet Huw Pritchard. The Celts.

Sequences, and straight into the pictures. Cheese. A screen couple. Ed the Duck. Are we going to end up with E? No. Cheddar, Hedda Gabler, and Mr. The Duck changed his forename by deed poll to "Edd", so the answer is a snooker D. For the Celts, it's Dardanelles, Sea of Marmara, Bosporus, and they're going to guess that the path ends in the Black Sea. It starts in the Aegean, and is good for two points. 7-1.

For the Francos, 4th is manus, manus. They're thinking a lot about this clue. They're going for it! Sound the Five Point Klaxon!!!!!V!!!!! 1st is puella, puellae, being singular and plural Latin nouns by declension. That's tightened up! For the Celts, 6 by 6 is 111, 5 by 5 is 65. 4 by 4 is 34, so what's 3 by 3? 15? "It's very complicated mathematically, and I could go into it, but I don't think we've got the time," says David of the Celts taking two points. Constant numbers of a magic square. 9-6 ahead are the Celts.

South-East, Question, Enrolled Nurse. It's not Queen, it's not QR. It's Common Era. Just spell it out, then we move on to the next. Sequence! Diptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera. Not Quadruped, no, these are Coleoptera, beetles, being insect types with the most species. Still 9-6 to the Celts.

Only Connect (2) Ian Clark fell down a drain in Thailand, Sam Goodyear took Docherty's cake, and captain Mark Walton is a biccie-nicker. The Francophiles.

To the Walls, where the Celts are sitting an exam. A group of exams, to be precise. They then decide to give a potted biography of Henry Kissinger. People who were interviewed by David Frost: yes, that'll work, Henry goes with Elizabeth II, Adolf Hitler, and Oliver Cromwell. The team press randomly; we reckon there's a group of newspaper magazines to be had. The team continues to bang out, but only finds the one group in time. The remaining links: not Cole Porter songs but those of Monty Python. Not things mentioned in Spike Milligan books, but people who have won Time magazine's Person of the Year. And not beauty products but newspaper magazine supplements. Two points!

The Francos have some headroom, and begin with types of tyre. This doesn't come out, so they go back to school, with types of education theory. Then there are some needles, and some Japanese companies. What's the final group? One with changing letters? Anagrams? The team is completely stumped. Domestic staff at Blandings, obviously. Seven points!

So going into Missing Vowels, the Francophiles have overturned and taken a 13-11 lead. Supposed hangover cures is something the Francos know about, taking the round 2-1. X and Y make Z gives us our obJedward moment, and 2-1 to the Francos. Works by Scandinavian authors is theirs 3-0. "U" terms and their "non-U" equivalents is also good for the Francos, 2-1.

All of which means the Francophiles have won, 22-14. They get the trophy – and a cheeky kiss – and Victoria promises us a party round her place next Monday. Can she fit a million people in her front room? Maybe she should host a round of Sing It Back: Lyric Champion 2013.

Countdown Update

High time we caught up with Channel 4's favourite parlour game. Glen Webb completed his octochamp run, with seven centuries in eight games, and must surely be one of the favourites for the series. Steve Grimble won three games, though his first match wasn't shown on television for reasons that are not clear to us. Dan Skelton beat Steve on a tiebreak, but lost to June Glasspell on his first defence. June made five wins, including a century, before losing to Margaret Lawless in a high-quality (but low-scoring) game.

Rory Coleman wrested the title from Margaret, the first of three wins. Rory managed one of the greatest comebacks in Countdown history, from 36-69 with four rounds to play to win by 81-79. That might have taken something out of him, but Zarte Siempre won the next day, the first of four wins, and the first of four century scores. Zarte came up against Dylan Taylor, and Dylan needed a near-perfect game – fourteen rounds of perfection, only "Slurries" evaded him. Three more wins, and three more wins with at least ten maximum rounds, mean he must be another favourite for the series. But if Zarte can qualify – and that's not certain with four wins – he will be one of the favourites for the series. And it's only August!

I Love My Country

I Love My Country

Talpa and Avalon for BBC1, from 3 August

We're having a major problem with the BBC's new flagship Saturday night light entertainment. We simply cannot watch it: it is far too light and fluffy for us. Minor celebrities playing "guess the weight of the mayor" or pass the parcel is not how we choose to spend out Saturday evening. Especially not when we've just watch Last Year's Fort Boyard in its original French, complete with the Making A Cup Of Coffee game. (C'etait une épreuve a developé par un jeu original britainique.)

But there's another problem. We can't enumerate the many ways in which this show annoys us, because other people have got there first. On Friday of last week, The Independent published a half-page article slagging off the programme (and giving some massive spoilers, such as how Frank Skinner couldn't find Lickey End with a Yorkshire pudding.) It was one of many articles in that paper, and its Sunday sibling, deriding the programme; the headline last Sunday was "Be patriotic – turn off your set right now".

I Love My Country No "Making A Cup of Tea" game. Yet.

"It could well be the worst thing the Corporation has yet dredged up for Saturday night viewing," wrote Adam Sherwin. Has he forgotten Totally Saturday (not as bad as the critics made out)? Does the memory not include This Time Tomorrow (which was actually unforgivable)? Mr. Sherwin quotes a critic from The Scotsman as saying, "It's an utter disaster. It's a lazy, raucous, derivative mess." Derivative? Well, yes, there's nothing new in there. Raucous? Yeah, we'd like the crowd to shut up as well. Lazy? No, I Love My Country is full of energy, a party on the screen. We defy anyone to sleep through that racket!

I Love My Country A nice simple game of pass the parcel. That'll go with a bang.

The Manchester Grauniad also jumped on the critical bandwagon, with Stuart Heritage railing against the transmission. But the conservative Daily Telegraph jumped at the chance to put a picture of Gabby Logan on its pages, and to run a quiz about Britain. (Sample question: "Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen were all brought up in the same Welsh town. Which one?" Compare against an actual question on I Love My Country: "What is the capital city of Wales?")

The regional press was kinder still: the Mirror Group's papers praised the programme, and noted it was "about as far from the cynical likes of Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You as it is possible to get." And the populist newspapers were falling over themselves in anticipation: the Daily Mail wrote, "in its mad way it's really rather wonderful", and The Sun put it as the fourth-best programme on television last week.

I Love My Country Gabby's backdrop includes a moving steam train and the clock of St. Stephen's Tower going backwards.

From this whistle-stop tour of press reaction, we think we can conclude something. This isn't a programme aimed at the liberal intelligensia, or at the professional television critic. I Love My Country is for people who want a knees-up, a bit of jollity, and to see famous people making complete fools of themselves on national television. If that's your bag, enjoy it. Some of us are liberal enough to not mind other people enjoying their pleasures.

This Week And Next

On University Challenge, it was Durham against Queens' Cambridge. Durham easily won this fourth heat last year; Queens' Cambridge are the third Cambridge and (ignoring apostrophes) second Queens college in four episodes. Though neither side got the first starter, and Queens' Cambridge the next, Durham had a strong lead by the map round, on bits of Italy. They also picked up when Queens' Cambridge zigged with "Frankenstein" when the question was about his monster. But then Durham twice confused Peru and Chile, giving the wrong answer both times.

Queens' Cambridge remained in touch throughout the game, and took the lead with a set of questions on things described as "iconic" by the Manchester Graudina. Well, actually described as "inoric" by that estimated oergan, but they're nice to the local press up in Trafford. How nice? The rubric for one of the questions described Crater Manchester (established 1974, disestablished 1986) as a "ceremonial county". It didn't appear on the map of ceremonial counties they used last week. By the photo round, Queens' Cambridge had established a 55-point lead, then Durham swung back to level the game.

In a three-starter shoot-out, the first was dropped, the second went to Queens' Cambridge, and the gong went before the third could be answered. Queens' Cambridge ended up winning by 190-170. Surely we'll see Durham again.

University Challenge Durham: Alex Richards, Daniel Hulme, Matt MacKenzie, Oliver Burnham.
Queens' Cambridge: Paul Merchant, Rachel Gregory, Rhys Jackson-Jones, David Phillips.

Mastermind returned this week, with Zoe Ball hosting a special edition. We didn't think much of her questioning style, every question was "Who will it be?" Maybe she should stick to Celebrities Walk Through A Door.

No! This was the series where civilians are asked questions by a small-headed Welsh bloke, and it was back this week. In a BBC job swap, it's got itself @mastermindquiz. How many of the show's questions would fit into the 140-character limit?

  • Beth Webster (Muppet Films) talked about Gonzo and Rizzo and Kermit and Michael Caine and the Mallory Gallery, and secured a Perfect Round! The first round of the series set the standard, 16 (0). She was last up in the general knowledge round, and had been set a tremendous target. Had a very good go, didn't quite make it, closing in second place on 28 (2).
  • John Berridge (Alexander the Great) made the first error of the series, finishing with 12 (1) on the Greek king. He goes on to get the BBC tie-in question about the BBC Proms (showing now on BBC4), and a question about the leadership of the Labour party (wasn't Roy Hattersley replaced by A Tub of Lard?) The final score of 24 (4) wasn't a winner.
  • Ricki Kendall (Biblical Writings of St John) proved that you can't go wrong with the Whore of Babylon. Or the Number of The Beast, which we don't know because we respect Mr. Labbett's privacy. 12 (1). His general knowledge round includes the BBC tie-in question about the Formula One sport they show, and proves he knows about the enemies of Dangermouse. He's the greatest. The contender's not at all bad, though 25 (4) might not get him into the second-chance saloon. Beth's score is marginal.
  • Cliff Challenger (Life and Work of Benjamin Britten) demonstrated knowledge of work through Britten's career, and came within an ace of a perfect round of his own – 15 (1). He's able to decipher the burblings of HIGNFY's Boris Johnson, knows about Bob Marley of Hope Street, and much more. Again, not quite a perfect round, but 32 (1)! That's a score!

Ratings in the week to 28 July, and in a quiet week, Break the Safe came straight in as the UK's most-watched game show. 4.05m saw the bit between The Lottery Corp's commercials. A series high of 3.55m for Tipping Point, 3.45m for Your Face Sounds Familiar and for Family Fortunes, and 3.05m for All Star Mr and Mrs. Take On the Twisters, we believe, peaked with about 1.9m; University Challenge had a confirmed 2.2m, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown a final of 2.1m, and it dragged the Big Brother eviction show down to 1.9m.

Top of the digital ratings pile that week was Celebrities And A Child Walk Through A Door, which had 1.42m people glued to BBC News during Tuesday evening. Expect a series, or at least three more episodes, beginning with Geoffrey. Only Connect will be shooting daggers at Kensington Palace; had they told the world about George two minutes later, the rating of 990,000 would have ticked into seven digits. Elsewhere, 710,000 for Hells Kitchen on ITV2, a half-million for Come Dine with Me on More 4, and 124,000 for Cats Do Countdown on 4seven just two hours after the original showing.

Celebrities Walk Through A Door is copyright Brig Bother 2011.

Coming up in the week after next, the Big Brother final (Monday 19), a new run of The Great British Bake Off (Tuesday 20), and the launch of Celeb Big Brother (Thursday 22) is followed by Celeb BB The Big Twist (Friday 23). Where's Julia Bradbury when we need her?

Nothing quite so exciting this week. Dragons' Den breathes fire into Sunday evening (BBC2, 8pm Sun). Just a Minute (Radio 4, 6.30 Mon) and Girlfri3nds (ITV2, 9pm Wed) return, and Challenge's latest novel import is Killer Karaoke (10pm Thu). No-one will actually be killed. Deal or No Deal's The Banker tells people not to watch his show (C4, 4pm weekdays), accepting that 60 million people are doing that already. And Pointless Celebrities is back (BBC1, 5.45 Saturday) with stars of Red Dwarf, Hi-de-Hi, and Bread.

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