Weaver's Week 2014-08-03

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We're looking at some shows on Channel 4 daytime. French Collection and Countdown follow.

Ultimate Dealer


Ultimate Dealer

IWC for Channel 4, 7-25 July

The challenge for the competitors is simple.

  1. Go to an auction with £500.
  2. Buy some tat.
  3. Take it home.
  4. Sell that tat to other people.
  5. Profit!!!

Whoever emerges with the biggest Profit!!! is the day's winner. The two biggest winners of the week come back for the Friday final, and a chance to do it all again.

Ultimate Dealer Shelves and shelves of tat!

There's been a plethora of shows where people buy tat at an auction and sell it for profit. Ultimate Dealer differs from Antiques Road Trip (BBC2) because each episode is self-contained, and the show goes beyond antiques. It differs from Bargain Hunt (BBC1) and Dickinson's Real Deal (ITV) by not having a host in vision. And it differs from most of the genre by running for just 30 minutes.

A half-hour slot (23 minutes of actual programme) means every moment has to count. We'll see the dealers move around the auction rooms at a brisk pace. When they look interested in an item, they'll buy it. There simply isn't time to waste on "Jilly likes this table, but she's been outbid."

No room for backstory, no space to tell about the dealer's grannies or failed patio resurfacing. We understand that all these dealers have considerable experience in used goods. Some of them might make a living from the field, others hold down a day job. All were paid a fee for the filming.

Ultimate Dealer Found your sales stalling?

Within five minutes, the items are turning up on the dealer's doorstep. A bit of polish, a few running repairs, and it's time to sell them. The bulk of the show is taken up with this selling. Books about football to a football club. Model trains to a model train collector. Rings to used car salesmen. A signed photo of Cheryl Tweedy and her husbands to Newcastle. Any method of selling is legal – to dealers, to contacts, direct to the public through a stall in the shopping centre.

This selling section could drag, but there simply isn't the time. Negotiations take up a minute or so, and the show benefits from an enthusiastic voiceover (Natalie Casey). The dealers address the camera, discussing what they've just gone through. We don't tend to like this knowing post mortem, but here it works. The effect is closest to a post-race interview at a sporting event: raw energy and emotion.

Ultimate Dealer That's a deal.

Ultimate Dealer is entertaining enough. We're far from convinced that the world needs yet another tat shuffle show. This might explain why it was filmed last winter, and put out in the heat of summer. Viewers are also unconvinced. The show disappeared into the grey mists of Channel 4's Daytime Meh, seen by perhaps 300,000 people.

French Collection

French Collection

Reef for Channel 4, 20 May – 5 June and 28 July

Strange transmission schedule? There is some sense: most of the series went out at 1.40, but horse racing grabbed that slot on 6 June. The remaining episode went out this Monday, the one day this week when there was no horse racing.

The challenge for the competitors is simple.

  1. Voyagez d'un market au fleas en France avec €800.
  2. Acheter du tat.
  3. Envoyer-il home.
  4. Vendez ca tat au autre people.
  5. Profitez!!!

The dealer who can do the most profitez!!! is the daily winner, and wins the earnings of all players.

This one's so much closer to the typical antiques show. After the inevitable preview clips, and a brief biography of the contestants, they're handed a roll of money. Then they're set free around la marche aux puces. The players wander around, look for things they can use, and start haggling.

French Collection A stallholder meets the European Stereotype quota.

Ah, the haggling. Ten minutes in, and we've already got our show highlight. These dealers speak only one language, and it's not French. We see all sorts of attempts to circumvent the language barrier short of talking loudly and slowly in English. We've seen folk holding up fingers. Scribbling offers down. Comedy French accents from the stallholders. The shrug and sign language.

We sometimes see a translator who can count to five hundred, and knows useful French terms. "C'est combien?", "Tu jamais as pas des temps!", "Tope-lá!", and "Ou se trouve l'auberge de jeunesse?" But France isn't used as anything more than a pretty backdrop. We could be in Balzac, or Bognor, or Bramham.

Mark Franks appears to be the show's representative in France, and he asks questions about some of the purchases. "Tina, you've bought a somewhat tatty wood panel screen. What are you going to do with it?" Tina's going to improve it: a lick of paint, replacing the worn fabric on the back, and it'll look a whole lot better. Mark's blindingly obvious question is an excuse to foreshadow a later part of the show.

French Collection Is this table small, or is it far away?

This buying bit goes on for half the programme, somewhat longer than the footage deserves. The producers resort to classic padding tropes. We see the false tension of an artificial deadline: "tu actuallez jamais as pas des temps." The unspoken assumption that the players need to spend spend spend: "Peter still has 600 euro in his back pocket." Mark is presented as a neutral observer, offering advice out of the goodness of his heart. We reckon he's there to make sure the television programme works, and will directly tell the contestants that something would be a good (or bad) buy.

Already, French Collection feels artificial and a bit staged. This is toxic with Reef Productions, for reasons buried in history. Back in 2009, Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting came off BBC2 because of fakery. Contestants on Sun Sea 'n' Bargain Spotting had "sold" some of their tat to the production team, and this hadn't been disclosed to the Beeb. We don't think Reef has sold a show to the BBC since.

French Collection This contestant has buffed up a mirror.

Anyway. During the next bit, the contestants make improvements to one or more of the goods they've bought. Again, there's artificial jeopardy: they're allowed just one day to complete the project. (Read: the producers could only afford one day's filming.) Again, there's a pep talk from Mark Franks, saying that the improvements are really good. And that the players should avoid round numbers. And that he could buy some of these goods himself. (Please don't.)

Next comes the selling bit. The contestants and their goods travel to a British antiques centre. There, they try to flog their tat to antiques dealers who are desperate for imported French tat, or desperate to appear on network television. Possibly both.

All the tat dealers are in one town or city. This makes it easier to film, but sometimes does affect the result. One of the episodes featured Brighton, a city of hills and narrow lanes. One of the contestants had a huge wooden dresser to sell, a wooden dresser too big for Brighton. Would she have bought this dresser had she known she would be selling in cramped streets? Would she have bought it had Franks not told her to? It smells of the producers tugging on the strings. Hard.

French Collection The players are in the Portobello Road. Did they bring marmalade sandwiches?

At the end, any profits are returned to the dealers. The losers promptly hand over their cash to the winner. On a good day, the prize can be over £1000. On a bad day, it might be a couple of hundred. None of this prize has come out of Reef's piggy bank.

French Collection is detached from usual language. It doesn't talk about contestants "working on" their goods, it insists they're "upcycling" them {1}. The programme isn't "another daytime antiques show", it's "artifactual" {2}.

The economics are also bizarre. The players are charged for their original purchases, and rewarded by their sales. There's no charge for two nights in France, or travel there, or bringing the purchases back. There's no account for the time and materials to improve the goods.

The show seems designed to make a loss: players are buying at retail prices and selling at wholesale prices. The dealers to whom they'll sell will expect to increase the price further before selling to the public. Contestants must make improvements to cover the public cost and the markdown.

French Collection A close inspection might reveal imperfections.

Overall, there's nothing wrong with French Collection. It follows the simple idea of buy cheap, sell expensive. The show dragged on longer than it needed to. We also found the show made no effort to hide its mechanics; memos from the producers were relayed by Franks in his "pep talks". Some people like to see the cogs whirring in their clock, we prefer to have all the humming go on in the background.

The most memorable thing? When we read a recap of Sun Sea and Bargain Spotting, Reef's erstwhile BBC daytime show, we realised something. That's French Collection with a little more sun. The best upcycling is by the producers, and credit to them for repackaging their old format in a different way.

{1} – 1990s portmanteau of "up" and "recycle". Valid for Countdown.

{2} – Variant of the adjective form of "artefact"; the regular spelling is "artefactual". Too long for Countdown, and almost certainly used in an irregular context.

Countdown Update

A lot of champions have passed through the doors at Kirkstall Lane, an indication that the quality of play hasn't been all that great. James Wall was the carryover champion, and won a fourth game before a narrow loss to Sue Melling. She lost the next day to Rob Jennings, and Rob's second win will go down in Countdown history. Sadly, for the wrong reasons: the total of 41 is the lowest winning score in the 15-round era, and the two contestants' total of 78 points would only win about a fifth of modern games.

Onwards! Neil Rigby won one game, Tim Gregory two, and then Ian Linton came along with the highest score of the series. Second game, he got a century, then lost to Damen Bramwell who scored a century. Damen lost to James Penny (three wins, two centuries), then came Jason Turner (two wins, two centuries), and Tricia Pay is the current champion. She's won four games, scoring 100 or more in each. After a slow start, quality appears to have returned.

This Week and Next

Ross Burden, a regular host on Ready Steady Cook, has died aged 45. He moved from New Zealand to the UK, appeared in the final of Masterchef in 1993, after which he became a television celebrity. Cooking with Richard and Judy, with Zig and Zag, and daytime series such as Ross in Thailand. He returned to New Zealand in 2010.

We learned on Saturday evening that Mike Smith, the light entertainment presenter, has died. We'll have a reflection on his life in the next Week.

"Two very nice teams," according to the soft-hearted host. Bristol and the Courtauld Institute of Art met in this week's University Challenge. Bristol (Lewis Rendell, Benjamin Moon, Anastasia Reynolds, Miles Coleman) have been regulars. The Courtauld Institute (Annie Gregoire, Matthew McLean, Anna Preston, Thomas Bodinetz) are making their first BBC appearance, and got the first starter. Another, on the history of art, yielded bonuses on chemistry. The game swiftly moved to Bristol, the winning margin was 190-75.

No UC next week, the BBC prefers an evening about the 1914-18 war.

Objective Productions will make King of the Nerds for KYTV Europe UK (as we must now call the channel formerly known as The Satellite Channel). This column is somewhat uneasy about this format, possibly because we've only read about it and not seen it in action. And, because the show's being made for KYTV Europe UK, this isn't going to change in the near future.

BARB ratings in the week to 20 July.

  1. The Eastenders returns to the top slot, 7.55m saw the biggest show of the week. Top game was the Celebrity Masterchef final, 5.55m saw the winner.
  2. Adequate figures for ITV: 3.15m for Mr and Mrs, 2.8m for Tipping Point. A very healthy 2.65m as Dragons' Den returned to BBC2, with University Challenge nipping at 2.6m.
  3. Big Brother Armageddon week peaked on Monday with 1.8m seeing the live eviction. Bit on the Side scored 1.1m after Friday's double eviction.
  4. 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown peaked at 1.7m. Elsewhere, Channel 4 is in trouble. Couples Come Dine with Me and The Million Pound Drop Live (not live) both stuck at 900,000.
  5. Top digital show was the imported Hell's Kitchen (545,000 on ITV2). Top UK game show on a new channel, with 420,000 viewers, was Swashbuckle! on Cbeebies. Arrrrr!

New this week, we've quiz-to-cookery show Win It Cook It (C4, 4.30 weekdays) and outright quiz programme The 21st Question (ITV, 5pm weekdays). Hold on to your nuts, The Great British Bake Off is back (BBC1, 8pm Wed), and so is Mastermind (BBC2, 8pm Fri). And it's all go on Saturday: Su Pollard and Ruth Madoc are on Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 5.40), then comes gymnastics-and-circuses show Tumble (BBC1, 6.30). ITV haven't said that the Tipping Point (7.45) line-up is embargoed, so it's Jon Culshaw, Jenni Falconer, and Jason Gardiner.

Early warning for next Sunday, when ITV's documentaries department offers Come on Down! The Game Show Story (7pm), the first of four episodes. We'll tell you what's in next week's show in the next Week.

Photo credits: IWC, Reef Television.

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