Weaver's Week 2014-09-21

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Well, Wednesday was a good day. Alexander Armstrong, Avril Lavigne, Danger Mouse, Dolly Parton, and the Rose d'Or.

The wha'? The Rose d'Or, the Eurovision telly contest, hosted by the Eurovision conglomeration for television programmes. British winners included the comedy Bridget Christie Minds the Gap for Radio 4, telly sitcom Toast of London, Gogglebox for factual entertainment (both Channel 4).

Pointless The best game show in the whole wide world is Pointless (BBC1).

Coming up: we examine the close relationship between Pointless and Only Connect, discuss ITV's latest cancellation, and we're reviewing a show that probably isn't going to win a Rose d'Or.



BBC Entertainment for BBC1, 9 August – 13 September

Hopes were high for the latest celebrity talent series. In the last year we've had well-known couples dancing together and apart on Stepping Out. We've had well-known people coming down a hill on The Jump, and we've seen the inside of various European hospitals, also on The Jump.

The format had an intriguing basic idea: what happens when celebrities learn gymnastics? Gym is traditionally one of the most popular events at multi-sport events such as the Commonwealth Games, and celebrities are popular, so the combination can't go wrong. OK, so they had to change the name from "Let's Get Ready to Tumble" for copyright reasons, but what else could go wrong?

Quite a lot else could go wrong. While watching Tumble, there was always the risk that someone could have a really nasty injury live on network television. Yes, tonight, before your very eyes, someone is going to plummet twenty feet to a crash mat, and sustain a nasty bruise to the upper arm. Or worse. It's like the grand prix, a few voyeurs only tune in for the risk of seeing something nasty.

Tumble Alex Jones (left) stands above the contestants.

We found the programme to be like the grand prix in other ways. Every few minutes, the show went in a circle. A video diary. A performance. A critique. Some marks. And round again. Put another lap up on the counter, and never go off for a pit stop. The participants tried their best to create moments of high drama, but for every wow moment there were many shots of people doing a difficult job in an unspectacular way.

Tumble can't get away with that, it needed more spectacle. The pictures on the screen told the planned story, but they didn't excite, they didn't bring us in to the show. Tumble was a background programme, we could go off and do something else for five minutes at a stretch and miss the performance bit.

Tumble Contestants work on the hoops.

Back when we first heard about it, we expected Tumble to be a tour of the gymnastics arena, with celebrities rotating through various pieces of apparatus each week. One week a floor routine, another the beam, perhaps saving the parallel bars for the final. We weren't expecting it to be a combination of pure gym and circus skills. We certainly didn't expect it to be a pairs contest, with the well-known faces coupling off with a professional in the sport. That's like Marcus Brigstocke doing a tandem ski jump with Eddie Edwards: just as the accomplished skier could carry the bumbling amateur, so the regular gymnast could conceal the mistakes of their famous counterpart.

Other production decisions didn't quite work. Mitch Fenner is the BBC's gymnastics commentator, he knows what makes a good performance, but we found his remarks were superfluous. Alex Jones was the sole host, she didn't appear to be at ease in this role, and a co-host would have better brought out her talents. Ending one week's show with, "Next week's episode could be spectacular" invited us to reflect "...because tonight's wasn't."

Tumble The judging panel: Sebastien Stella, Louis Smith, Nadia Comăneci, Craig Heap.

The judging panel was consistent, and gave a fair account of every performance. There wasn't an obvious pantomime baddie in the Jason Gardiner / Richard Park mould. The opening show suffered from comments like "A great performance, some room for improvement, but take nothing away", and then giving 5/10 across the board. Marks were inflated by a full point for the second show, and grew again by a point in the remaining month before the final. Did the contestants make as much progress in one week as in the next month? Really?

The elimination mechanism on Tumble was an unusual hybrid. Week one, everyone performs, no-one leaves. That's apart from Mr. Motivator, who was injured in rehearsals. Weeks two to four, the two lowest scores from the judges take on The Vault. No, not a revival of the Davina / Melanie / Gabby quiz. On Tumble, The Vault is over a vaulting horse, judged only by head judge Nadia Comăneci. Single worst performance in her opinion is out.

Tumble Nadia stands by the vault. Get rich and get out.

Week five, public voting and the judge's scores combine to produce a bottom two, one leaves. Week six, the final, it's all public voting. By now, the regular viewers will have decided their favourite contestants, and will vote for them almost without regard to their performances. The best routine on the night came from H From Steps, but it wasn't enough to win – Mr. From Steps came third. Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud came second, propelled in part by a good showing on the night but mostly by being from Girls Aloud.

The winner was Bobby Lockwood from Wolfblood. CBBC pulled out all the stops to help their man, scheduling marathons of Wolfblood and other shows featuring Bobby on Saturday afternoons. It's a complete coincidence that a new series of the supernatural drama began last Monday. In spite of injury, and the poorest work on the night, Bobby attracted most public votes. A conspiracy theory? Not buying it. Bobby was at or near the top of the scoreboard in the prior five weeks, and the consensus was that he was one of the best performers throughout.

Back in the original publicity, we expected to see much of the famous gymnasts Louis Smith and Beth Tweddle. Louis was present, he was on the judging panel. Beth, not so much: a few walk-on appearances in the first week was about her limit.

Tumble The professionals dressed for the circus.

This column didn't tumble for Tumble. It seemed to fall between too many stools. Was it a "celebrities learn a skill" series like Strictly Come Dancing? Was it something to inspire young people to take up gymnastics themselves? Was it a light and fluffy entertainment show? Tumble tried to be all these things, we don't think it succeeded at any of them. The content was lacking, the presentation didn't make it any more exciting. We wonder if it was an excuse to show Something For The Mums and Something For The Dads in family viewing time, without offending the kids.

Viewing figures were average, and deteriorated to poor for the final: overnight figures suggest last Saturday's show was the weakest link in the evening's line-up, behind even a Celebrity Mastermind repeat. We don't expect to see a second series.

This Week and Next

On Wednesday afternoon, the Rose D'or festival held a session about how Israeli formats were the best thing since sliced bread, and that broadcasters were flocking to buy them. "Israeli formats are globally the most successful ones," promised one panel. "Innovative and compelling content with a cross-platform perspective... the ingredients of successful formats," said another.

On Wednesday morning, ITV showed its opinion of Israeli formats by cancelling Rising Star. You won't have seen Rising Star, there's never been a UK version. It's a singing show with a modest gimmick: the singer starts off behind a screen, and we only get to see them if they get positive votes in the appalong element.

Viewers across the world have been reacting to this show in their droves. On ABC (Disney), the show finished with an average of 4m viewers – allowing for the larger country, that's roughly level with Two Tribes. In Germany, the 10 episodes became 7. "A soft audience response" is blamed, with viewing figures (1.1m) adjusted to the UK putting it about One Tribe.

ITV had paid a million quid in format development, but weighed against the cost of another primetime flop, it's cheaper to pull now. There were concerns about the appalong voting. Channel 4's The Singer Takes it All might have successfully spoiled the format – it had pinched the novelty, and had tarred the concept as a bit cheap and tacky. Keshet remain unbashed, saying, "Rising Star remains an innovative and ground breaking format of which we're extremely proud."

The Singer Takes it All Moving gracefully towards the exit.

Also not singing any more: NTU. The Ukraine's broadcaster has withdrawn from next year's Eurovision Song Contest. They say, "We don't want to do something badly, and we don't have the money to do something well." A shame: the Ukraine's entry is always one to watch.

To University Challenge, where a pair of winning sides are waiting. Leicester (John O'Doherty, Adam Brown, Robert Greenhill, Nadal Masri) were champions in 1963; Open (Danielle Gibney, Stuart Taylor, Lynne Jones, Kate Law) won in 1984 and 1999. After playing in the first five series of the Paxman era, Open haven't returned since their victory. There have been persistent rumours that the producers or host took grave exception to claims that some students only joined the Open University to appear on this show.

Fifteen years since their last victory, Open picked up where they left off, claiming the first starter. They were 40-40 after the first visual round, but fell to almost 100 adrift going into the audio round. A revival in the third period brings them to within 40, for a moment. The second picture round is pictures of four dead white men (politicians off duty). Leicester's team is four living men, compared to a majority-female team from Open. It's useful to see which student union follows through on its proclamations of gender equality.

"Answer clearly and distinctly as soon as your name is called". It's a question about silent letters, so the answer "     " isn't going to work. Open breezed past the 160 mark from Manchester The Team Everyone Wants To Beat, Leicester had done the same earlier. In the next set of bonuses, Thumper was harsh (but fair) to reject "Eo" when the captain misheard "Leo". Leicester did their best to run down the clock, and won by 245-190. We'll see both sides again. Leicester's 27/31 on the bonuses marks them out as strong contenders.

Congratulations to Rylan Clark and Dan Neal. The The X Factor finalist is to marry the former police detective. The pair met on Big Brother's Bit on the Side, where Rylan was hosting and Dan doing some guest work.

Four groups of four, sort 'em out yourself.

Speaking of former Big Brother contestants doing a bit well, we were watching some news from Scotland, and up popped Cameron Stout. The 2003 champion was overseeing Orkney's contribution to Disconnecting Walls Night. In this special event, BBC Scotland piloted a connecting wall made up from animated gifs.

The event was so popular that the Beeb projected some of the walls onto the side of the studio building.

Connecting walls don't get bigger than this!

On Only Connect proper, we have two fresh sides. The Wandering Minstrels (Vyvyan Almond, Fergus Butler-Gallie, Edward Green) take on the Gallifreyans (John Dorney, Stuart Wildig, Giles Sparrow). That's fans of Gilbert and Sullivan against fans of Doctor Who.

The latter side met on a popular internet forum, where there's a dedicated Only Connect board. What, people are talking about Only Connect on the internet? They'll never get the connection, websites with the missing "e" reinstated. The Gallifreyans' 5-2 advantage comes from a question about recast parts in television series.

Jack Lemmon and Whoopi Goldberg. Johnny Carson. Billy Crystal. With the answer "Bob Hope", it's the Oscars question people always forget to revise: the hosts. Hope did 19, Crystal did 9, they shouted "Here's Johnny!" five times, Lemmon and Goldberg 4 apiece (though never together).

A later connection seeks quiz shows with fewer people on a team, starting with the five-a-side quiz Eggheads. This column might be alone in thinking "The Link" rather than "Pointless". And then the Wandering Minstrels suggest that, though Gilbert and Sullivan fans, they're not linked by singing ability. It's more about gin. "Still should have got the tonic," heckled the opposition, referring back to the question both sides just missed. Might explain why the Minstrels are 13-4 behind.

What do we have for the walls? Old coins, dictionaries, pigs, and the Wandering Minstrels are rather stuck by the final group. They're not up with Britain's biggest performance show Strictly Come Dancing: all winners of the light entertainment. Seven points!

Oh, that's nasty! Clues on the Gallifreyans' wall include "Button", "Moon", and "Button Moon". There's cities in Ontario (waves in the direction of 2/3 of the Board Gamers), racing drivers, and things to be over. Couldn't quite untangle the last groups, so Six points!

Harsh (but fair) decisions for both sides in the Missing Vowels round, when a misplaced indefinite article gives an incorrect answer. Both sides treated equally, doesn't alter the result, the Gallifreyans win 26-12.

Only Connect (2) Richard Osman (right) in 2012.

In his write-up, Stu Hearn (Welsh Learner, 2014) noted it's "the second time that Pointless made an appearance as a final answer in the sequence round. I'd question whether there was some kind of deal going on there." Don't think so: we know that Richard Osman is a great fan of Only Connect, he's appeared on one of the charity shows and called OC the "show-in-law" of Pointless.

Back in 2011, he told us that Victoria is Xander's sister-in-law-in-law. Victoria has a brother Giles, he's married to his wife Esther, her sister Hannah is married to Xander. As shows-in-law, Only Connect always comes round to visit Pointless, always brings a bottle of something nice, though Pointless reckons they might hang around a bit too long.

These days, Armstrong and Mitchell are – oh, AO3 is fiction. This feels like Victoria's show returning the love. Just a little.

"What do you MEAN you're not familiar with Richard Osman? He's been a clue on the Only Connect connecting wall! He's a quizzing icon! The man from Pointless! We've already recorded this episode and let me tell you: Richard was brilliant, hilarious. Quizzing fans are going to be delighted."

OK, just a lot.

To Mastermind, where Andrew Teale won at a canter. He missed one question in his specialist round (General James Wolfe), scoring 14 (0). He reached the target and then passed, finishing on 24 (3). Enough to win, might not be enough to make the final.

The other players: Louise Broadbent (Hammer Films 1958-74) lost confidence in her specialist, but progressed from 9 (4) to a useful 21 (5). Jack Young (Duke Ellington) might have had a re-record of his specialist round: Humphrys didn't say that the round started and there was an unusual low shot to finish. 11 (3) became 20 (6) in a round where the contestant cogitated and spoke with precision. Andy Crane is not the CBBC legend, and made 8 (2) on summer Olympic games 1992-2012. His final score was 17 (3). When he played in 2010, his specialist was Olympic games 1968-88.

BARB ratings in the week to 7 September.

  1. BBC1 is back, The Great British Bake Off reigns supreme with 9.95m viewers, ahead of Strictly Come Dancing (9.15m).
  2. The X Factor had 8.1m, there were 3.75m for The Chase, 3.3m for Through the Keyhole, and 2.8m saw University Challenge.
  3. Only Connect made its BBC2 debut, seen by 2.23m. Celebrity Big Brother attracted 1.95m, and the Friday eviction was beaten by 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (1.9m to 1.85m).
  4. Two Tribes is settling at 1.2m each day, Eggheads has 1.1m in its later slot.
  5. A League of Their Own S8 leads the new channels on 865,000, just ahead of Xtra Factor (810,000). There were 45,000 for Strictly Red Carpet on BBC Red Button, but UK Food attracted 65,000 for Delia's Classic Christmas. (Taps calendar.) No, it's September.

Pointless Let this be a lesson. Look what happened when Xander left his Hallowe'en costume till the last minute.

Battle is joined on Friday. Two massive egos enter the arena. One is a slick, choreographed operation, hyped to the gills. The other looks rickety and ruined but always seems to come out on top. By Sunday night, one will leave, blooded and defeated. That's the Ryder Cup, Friday on Radio 5. A game, but not as this site understands it.

New runs of Counterpoint (R4, 3pm Mon) and Release the Hounds (ITV2, 9pm Mon). Paul Merton talks with Nicholas Parsons about Just a Minute (Radio 4 Extra, 9am Fri). A new series for children: Sam and Mark's Sports Showdown (CBBC, 5pm Fri). And The X Factor (ITV, 9pm Fri) goes up against Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 9pm Fri). Saturday has theatricals on Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 6.10) followed by Strictly at 7. The Chase (ITV at 7) has a dishwasher and a cheesy Wotsit, X Fac at 8, and Through the Keyhole at 9.20. Awooga!

Photo credits: Remarkable Television and Initial Productions (both Endemol companies), BBC Entertainment, BBC Scotland, Presentable.

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