Weaver's Week 2013-12-08

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

Well done to PBS of Malta, winners of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest last weekend. With it comes first refusal on hosting duties for next year; what's Valetta like at this time of year? Does the budget stretch to finding out? Hmm, only if we work as a valet. Ta.


Show Me the Telly

Shiver for ITV, from 25 November

Richard Bacon hosts this walk through the television archives. The programme's conceit is to answer the question: do viewers know more about television than the people who star in it? Do the performers absorb more knowledge about the medium than the people formerly known as the audience?

To test this thesis, Bacon has invited three viewers to his studio in Trafford. Well, we say "his" studio, it actually bears more than a passing resemblance to Charlie Brooker's studio for You Have Been Watching a few years ago, all multi-coloured television sets and easy furniture.

Show Me the Telly Richard and the amazing ... what? Oh.

The people to his right bear more than a passing resemblance to three television viewers, because they're three television viewers: a captain and two others. The people to his left bear more than a passing resemblance to three stars of television, because they're three stars of television. Resident captain of the team is Chris Tarrant, and he's joined by pairs of celebrities for each show. We had the slight misfortune to run across the pairing of Nicky Campbell and Ricky Tomlinson in both of the sample episodes we've seen, so we haven't had a chance to see Tarrant work with other stars. Based on previous experience, we're entirely sure that he's as good as ever.

The aim of the first three rounds is to build up time for the final round. Richard Bacon never misses a chance to remind us that this round is hard. Seriously hard. You thought that Malta winning a Eurovision contest was a hard struggle lasting over forty years, but that's nothing compared to the final round. The team is allowed one minute in the final round, and they can almost double that in the ensuing games.

Round one is Switch On. There's a toss-up question between the captains to decide who gets first pick, then a member of the team is nominated to take a category. We're shown a clip from the archives, and four questions about the clip follow. These rarely hew to the clip – we might be asked about characters in an unrelated comedy, the outline plot of a drama, the later career of someone seen in a light entertainment clip. No conferring on these questions, they won't be passed over for a bonus, the Telly Lovers need to score more than the Telly Legends to claim ten seconds in the final round. Note that carefully: the Lovers need to beat the Legends; a draw will win them nothing.

Show Me the Telly A bunch of telly legends: himoff Tiswas, himoff Central Weekend, himoff Court Report.

The clips themselves are a good deal more varied than we might expect for daytime ITV – it's not just classic Coronation Street and last week's Fool Britannia, there are extracts from BBC programmes and clips from programmes that even we'd forgotten, like Upstairs Downstairs 1975. Very little in black-and-white, which isn't a surprise.

This opening round goes on a bit, and with some long introductions to the teams, it can be twenty minutes until the first commercial break. Afterwards, we're into Interactive Television, a portmanteau round covering three minigames, each played for five seconds. Sample games include TV or Not TV, in which teams are shown programme titles and asked if they're real shows, or ones that have been made up by the production team.

Show Me the Telly A decent Celebrity Squares panel, but which of these have done Big Brother?

The teams could be asked to fill in the blanks in a show title, or shown an archive clip with someone obscured by a beard (CGI or from the wardrobe department), and asked to identify the hirsuite person. Or be played some vox pops and asked to identify the subject of the story. And there's TV CV: which five of the nine possible answers match the question, such as "shows featuring James Nesbitt" or "people who appeared in Celebrity Big Brother". The civilian team of Telly Lovers will get five seconds for winning each of these mini-rounds: draws will get them nothing.

The third round, Close Up, is a head-to-head: each of the Telly Lovers faces off against one of the Telly Legends in a buzzer battle. Best of seven questions, and a win for the Lovers nets them five seconds. Here, we find some of the questions taking sizeable swerves, starting out by mentioning one programme only to ask after something different by the end of it.

During the final commercial break, we found ourselves wondering if the all-or-nothing round format would bear tweaking. Perhaps the producers might give the team just 40 seconds, give them one second for each correct answer, and the time for winning a round becomes a bonus. This probably wouldn't alter the scores too much, or change the chances of a team winning.

Show Me the Telly It's the head-to-head round, and now they're allowed to confer. What? Oh.

Richard has gone on about how difficult the final round is. Screen Time is nine television questions: eight of them are in a broad category, and – a bit like they did on The Vault – all eight must be resolved before the ninth question can be asked. The captain plays this round as a solo effort, but they do have three lifelines to play, named after some of the buttons on a personal video recorder. "Delete" allows them to pass on one question and have it marked right. "Live pause" lets the captain confer with the other members of their team, and give an answer within ten seconds. "Record" stores up the question for future reference, but it will have to be answered correctly. The captain can give as many answers as possible, the only penalty for error is a time loss.

The host is good at this speed-quizzing lark: questions appear on his electronic tablet, and he reads them carefully, and moves on as soon as he's heard an answer. He's also right about the difficulty of this round: it is a challenge to answer eight questions about television in little over a minute, especially under the pressure of studio lights.

Show Me the Telly A Prime Time round in progress.

When the captain completes that task, we move straight into the Primetime question, there's no pause to build up the tension, it's straight in to the frantic few seconds. No pause, but the camera does pull away from the fake TV guide into a generic overhead shot that confuses and might actually detract from the moment. Get this final question right and the captain gets £3000 for their team; fail to answer it, or fail to hear it, and the team leaves with nothing. Well, nothing more than the memories of rubbing shoulders with some television legends.

It's a chatty programme about archive telly, and it stands or falls based on the quality of the archive (they're exploiting the ITV catalogue and buying in some other clips), and on the quality of the chat. Again, that's good: Chris Tarrant can always be relied upon to be exuberant, like someone's older and alarmingly excitable brother. There are times when the canned crowd is the worst option: a real audience would be expensive, Only Connect has demonstrated that dry humour in an empty studio can work. Richard Bacon has the uncanny ability to ask just the right question, he's able to say the one thing to improve the moment. Bacon's involvement also makes this too fast for ITV3, the formal home of old programmes.

The 4pm slot is about the best it can do in daytime: too racy for 3pm, not really good enough to replace The Chase at 5pm. We might like to spin out a few episodes on Sunday teatime, the programme makes for reasonable family viewing. Certainly it's good enough to come back.

Only Connect

Series 8, Match W: Bakers v Globetrotters

BBC4's only quiz, notes Victoria. It's better than The Challenge Channel's only documentary, because that's some nonsense on wrestling. The Globetrotters have danced with McFly and spilled beer over Belle and Sebastian. The Bakers have walked the Inca trail and swam from Greece to Turkey. Walls 393 and 394 will appear later: play 'em now if you don't want spoilers.

Can they avoid the jellyfish tonight? The Bakers start with four seconds: second female Nobel laureate in science, leader of second Labour government. Same as the four firsts: Marie Curie, Ramsey MacDonald, and three points. For the Globetrotters, it's Condor the signwriting quill, Empress the roofing slate, Softball the hailstone, and Nebuchadnezzar the champagne bottle. There was one of those backstage, but then it met Victoria, and is now an empty bottle. These are the largest sizes around, the Bakers lead 3-1.

Music for the Bakers, three classic performances and Eurovision failure Bonnie Tyler. Heroes is the link: "Heroes and Villains", "See the Conquering Hero Comes", and the Eroica symphony. A good point. Entirely sacred. Note correctly. The Globetrotters are considering going for English translations of foreign phrases; Enact a levy on pushpins and Light-coloured bucket. These are pairs of homophones: wholly holy, write right, tax tacks, pale pail. A point to the Trotters, a quid to the question editor, because Victoria said no-one would get it. 4-2 to the Bakers.

Brazil: forest, China: king. Not where the country got its name from, but the meanings of the country's most common surname. Pictures for the Globetrotters: a city, the media stand at Lords', a modern museum, and Peckham's library. All named after ranks of the nobility? No. All winners of the RIBA Stirling prize. Scottish Parliament and the Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge. A bonus to the Bakers means they're 5-2 ahead.

Sequences now. Yorkshire comes first, which will surprise no-one. Then Tyne Tees, Border, and they're going for Highlands. The Globetrotters pick a bonus: STV, being the next ITV region going north up the east coast. Yes, they do get Border in Berwick. For the Globetrotters: 4 indigenous minorities, 3 developing countries, 2 communist countries, so 1 is capitalist countries. Third World and all that, and the sides are level at 5-5.

Yanez Pinzon 1500, de Ojeda 1499, so they're going for Columbus 1492, being expedition leaders who reached North America and three points. For the Globetrotters, it's Seed and Endocarp and Mesocarp, layers of a fruit doesn't go to husk or shell, but Exocarp. 8-5 to the Bakers.

Pictures for the Bakers: blue shirt, Major, 90; black-and-white stripes, Blair, 97. So who does Cameron support? A shirt of the Oxford football team? No, an Aston Villa shirt, and a bonus for the Globetrotters. More pictures for them: Boy George, George Harrison, Harrison Ford, so we're going to end up with Ford Maddox-Brown. The question editor went with Ford Prefect, and more on that story later. It's 8-8.

Globetrotters are first to the Walls, and quickly pick out a group of poets laureate. They have a quick look at words beginning with double vowels, but pick out sicknesses as their second group. Some of the words have a single consonant, there's some sort of North American lakes, and one of the later guesses comes out – somewhat to the team's surprise. The North American link is they're US warships, and the single consonant words is a link they miss. Six points!

Bakers have only just begun the wall, and they're already on a diet. And they're looking for things named after people, but nothing of that is coming out. They do get magic tricks, and something related to politicians. The team thinks long and hard about their next move, and it proves right. But what are the missing links. The second group isn't comedians but Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, there are diets, and the final group are named after – no, they're invented in France. A good save, a good extra mark. Seven points!

A crucial point: that leaves the Bakers 15-14 ahead going into Missing Vowels. Nicknames given to British Cities overturns that lead, 3-1 to the Globetrotters. Famous Latin mottoes changes the lead again, 3-0 to the Bakers. B-movies goes 2-1 to the Globetrotters, there's a tremendous pause while the teams think about the final one in the group, and time expires.

All of which means (counts up) (counts again) the Bakers have the win. Just. 20-19.

Only Connect (2) So it's goodbye to Michael Reeve, Chris Clough, and Suda Perera.

This Week And Next

The Celebrity Big Brother contestants were Jedward, Anne Diamond, George Galloway, Anthea Turner, and Ivana Trump.

With almost every Cambridge college qualifying for this year's competition, it was inevitable that University Challenge would eventually pit two of them against each other. Winnows the field down a bit, helps give Manchester an easier path to the final. (Buttercup, back in bag). And, by one of those complete and utter coincidences, both beat an Oxford side in the first round – Trinity Cambridge put 300 past Christ Church back in July, Peterhouse overcame Balliol in September. (Buttercup! Hiss!!)

After a slow early start, the first picture round allowed Trinity Cambridge to prove that they know there was a Formula One race in Singapore. A lovely spectacle, a ribbon of light and noise moving at random through the jet-black city night, but not held on any of the circuits featured. Peterhouse took advantage of a set of questions on drugs to firm up the lead, only for Trinity to respond with Ball Sports That Aren't Ballball and Heritage Railways. They also know a star called Beagle — oh, Rigel, to rhyme with Snoopy not Nigel. And they were tugging their ears in Ljubljana over this:

Q: Having become a member of NATO early in 2004, which was the only one of the former Yugoslav republics to be in the wave of candidates...
Filip Drnovsek Zorko from Slovenia: Slovenia

Local knowledge helps. Trinity got the bonuses on confusable words to retake the lead, then confused the Dulwich Picture Gallery (looks like a suburban church) with the Musee d'Orsay (looks like a railway station). Thumper made the point that there are art galleries In The North. It's not all flat caps, whippets, and being patronised by the Cambridge mafia. That buzz gave Trinity the confidence they needed, and ran away in the final minutes, emerging victorious by 240-110. 24/39 on the bonus count.

Another week, another edition of Mastermind. And once again, we can't fit a flypaper between the players.

  • James Robinson (Huddersfield Town FC) began with the inevitable question about Herbert Chapman, and included the side's 7-6 loss to Charlton and the player sold to pay for the floodlights. 11 (0) in a round that is, yet again, devoted to the men's football side; at the time of writing, the women are pushing for promotion from the Northern Combination League. That lack of pass might prove helpful, and it's clear that his target is to run up the score as far as possible, setting a challenge for the rest of the players. Hmm, there's a bigger format in this sort of thing, a player sets a target, a (notionally) better player sets off to equal it against the clock. Sadly, a set of spectacularly difficult questions – perhaps more semi-final standard – derails that plot, and the contender doesn't quite recover, finishing on 18 (1).
  • Carol Atkinson (Richard Hannay novels of John Buchan) answered on the character in The 39 Steps, and gently ran up the score to 11 (1). Another contender tries to run up the score and set a challenging target for the rest of the players, and this time – with questions appropriate to the first round – somewhat more successfully. With a knowledge of Zebedee from the Bible and the fact that every IOC country sent someone to Atlanta, she finishes on 26 (1). The Pursuit is on!
  • Andy Bacon (Janis Joplin) answered about the blues singer, and we thought he was going to get a perfect round until incurring a single pass. 12 (1) isn't enhanced by either of the first two questions, incurring a pass on the game show hosted by Richard O'Brien. After this slow start, the victory is probably out of sight, but the contender pulls the round to order – indeed, he very nearly pulled level with Carol Atkinson, ending on 24 (2).
  • Adam Kirby (Russian Revolution) immediately had to clarify that he was answering on both the February and October 1917 revolutions, and finished with a tribute to Give Us a Clue, answering on the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. 12 (1) is enhanced by two correct answers, but then another pass, and passes could prove fatal. But the contender scores, and scores some more. It's going to be close, it's going to be very close. The contender has one chance to win, misses it. He has another chance to win, but confuses Johnny Carson with TV's Mister Television Milton Berle, and finishes on 26 (2).

The Pursuit is over! Carol Atkinson set 26 points and one pass. Both pursuers came close, but couldn't quite catch her.

Back to last Sunday, when James Arthur gave a sort-of apology on network television for "abusing my position as an X Factor winner." The game show deities were clearly not in a forgiving mood, as within minutes viewers across Granadaland, Yorkshire, and ATVland were staring at a blank screen. ITV ended up scrambling together an emergency broadcast service in an untried broadcasting standard: though the HD (high-definition) picture was unaffected, the SD (standard-definition) picture had gone, and the TD (microblogging) text commentary stepped into the breach.

"Rough Copy, Sam and Nicholas through to the semi. Tamera & Luke in the sing-off."
"It's gone to deadlock..."
"The act leaving xfactor is Tamera. Luke is safe."

Seeing as how this was the only way we could watch the programme, do we now get counted as a viewer in the next BARB ratings? The ones for the week to 24 November show Strictly Come Dancing is still Britain's most popular game show, pulling in 11.5m viewers for the performance, and 10.6m for the results. I'm a Celebrity kept 10.05m, well ahead of 8.35m for The X Factor. Pointless Celebrities took in 5.15m, HIGNFY scooped 4.8m, and regular Pointless attracted 4.65m. This happens when The Chase is off air.

Masterchef The Professionals led on BBC2 with 3.75m; there were 3.25m for University Challenge and 2.5m for Dancing on Two. Come Dine on Channel 4 was seen by 1.35m, I'm a Celeb on ITV2 had 1.155m viewers, Only Connect by 890,000, and Junior Bake Off a very respectable 470,000, just ahead of Come Dine on More4. The Face had its highest viewership for the last show, just 250,000 saw the UK Living programme.

Round Britain Quiz came to an end this week, with Myfanwy Alexander and David Edwards retaining the title for Wales, ahead of a spirited challenge from the Midlands team; the crucial game was the Midlands' last, when they were properly beaten by the North.

Two other points from this series: the audience is now trusted to set more of the questions. Previously, two per week plus the final episode of the series; now, almost half of the questions are written or suggested by the audience. If they wanted to go down The People Versus route, they could.

Also, host Tom Sutcliffe has quite clearly engaged in Austerity Scoring. For the first time in many years, he awarded nul point from a possible six when a team was completely stumped by a question. More generally, he's been quicker than before to dock marks, any sort of actual clue will still hurt the score, and a second clue will lose a second point. We've usually agreed with his scoring decisions, but a number of times this year we winced and thought, "that's harsh" when Tom gave two for something we thought was worth four.

The end of RBQ means that Brain of Britain 2014 kicks off (R4, 3pm Monday). We also have new episodes of Perfection (BBC1, 2.15 weekdays), the return of Celebrity Eggheads (BBC2, 6pm weekdays), and the final of the BBC New Comedy Award (Radio 2, 8pm Mon). Pointless Celebs (BB1, 5.50 Sat) is an episode postponed from last week featuring Graeme Garden and Susie Dent; Strictly's semi-final is at 6.40, completely eclipsing Arlene Phillips and Helen Skelton on The Chase (ITV, 7pm), and overlapping with The X Factor semi-final at 8.

With it being the second Tuesday in the month, it's Puzzled Pint day. This month's theme is The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but knowledge of the plot may be a disadvantage. The location will be revealed by means of a puzzle published at 6pm on Monday. Assuming we can solve the riddle correctly, this column will be joining the fun. Otherwise we'll just spend Tuesday drinking in the wrong bar.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers, sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in