Weaver's Week 2014-10-05

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"Put up again your sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

This week, we're impressed with a show from ITV daytime. Honestly, we are. And we're loving a particular Only Connect wall.

Only Connect (2) We'll give a Radio Times style clue later.

Who's Doing the Dishes?

Who's Doing the Dishes?

ITV Studios Entertainment for ITV, from 1 September

ITV's replacement for Tipping Point has a certain charm.

Once upon a time, Bryan McFadden sat on stools in the Irish bore-band Westlife. Then one day, he stood up, walked away, and spent almost some time writing Ireland's entry for Eurosong. A very brief solo pop career followed, before he went to Australia with his companion. Returning to the UK last year, Brian did ITV's hit dancing show Stepping Out (hey, we liked it!), but he's also done Channel 5's Put Your Set On Standby. Our view of his career so far is more miss than hit, but we refuse to slag off a programme because of its host, or before we see it.

The basic idea behind Who's Doing The Dishes? is to take bits of existing daytime shows, mix them up a bit, put them in the freezer, and whatever's left when the runny bits have been discarded is the show.

Who's Doing the Dishes? Brian (centre) with this week's players.

We begin with a Gang Of Four turning up on a stranger's doorstep. Viewers can see them in every programme across the week. The Gang Of Four will be served some home cooking by the stranger, and they'll get to prod around their home. So far, so Come Dine with Me.

But there's more. The Gang Of Four don't get to meet their host, all their dishes are served by Brian on the host's behalf. That's the show's main conceit: the Gang's sole task is to identify the mystery celebrity who is hosting them. It's a task only possible for the Gang Of Four: viewers see the answer in the first few seconds, there's zero playalong value.

Who's Doing the Dishes? Today's celeb is Sian Lloyd!

The task is thus, "who lives in a house like this" in the style of Through the Keyhole. And there's Brian going through the cookery efforts of a famous person, which might evoke Celebrity Masterchef if you squint hard enough.

Not only do the dishes come from the celebrity's kitchen, but they come with some sort of clue. Toyah Willcox, for instance, began as a punk, so her starter was "Punky puff pastry". The main was "I want to be meat free", after her other hit single "I want to be free". Referring to her work with BBC's Teletubbies, the dessert was "Over the hill and far away trifle".

Who's Doing the Dishes? Has Toyah finished the washing up yet? It's a mystery.

With three courses and four clues, it could be a thin hour. The first quarter of the programme, in particular, is slow. Brian's introducing the celebrity, talking about what's coming up, while the Gang Of Four witter and/or bicker amongst themselves. Mercifully, the pace picks up once the players arrive.

There's never going to be tremendous tension on this show, so we have to get our entertainment from the conversation. Yes, it can be amusing to hear grown people discuss their knowledge of early 1990s television.

Who's Doing the Dishes? "Oh, that sporting bloke off of Room 101. What's his name?"

Who's Doing the Dishes? lives in a world where mortality is no bar to cooking a hearty dinner (Frank Sinatra, Mike Reid, and Tommy Cooper were seriously suggested). And it lives in a world where ITV daytime budgets are infinite (Usain Bolt? Really??)

For our money, the edit is the best bit of the show. It intercuts footage from the meal with after-the-fact recollections, the style works better than usual. It's helped by a banging soundtrack, complete with cartoon sound effects, chopped up bits of pop music, and video effects. Things spool backwards, zap forwards, and Brian delivers a commentary with just enough snark. Splice TV have done a cracking job.

Who's Doing the Dishes? A visual joke, when Brian's puns have reached peake levels.

There's a small and silly reward: the Gang Of Four will get £500 if they name the right celebrity, but will be doing the washing up should they fail. Of course, if the celeb's cover is blown, then they will be donning the rubber gloves. Amateur detective work – often, very amateur detective work.

Brian McFadden works hard to make this show a success, and we reckon he's managed it. His voiceovers are inspired by Dave Lamb but are not a Come Dine copy. His antics are an entertainment in their own right: at one point, Brian tried to rekindle his competition with Claire From Steps by messing up her "Tragedy" dance routine. She responded by messing up "Flying without wings", and it collapsed into celebratory giggles.

Who's Doing the Dishes? The stars of the show.

It's a flimsy pretext, it's played for entertainment, and the prize is minimalist. But it's clear that everyone involved – host, celebrity, the Gang Of Four – is having a whale of a time. And unlike on so many other shows, this fun comes through the screen. We were surprised by how much we enjoyed this show.

The wall clues: 1 The Stig; 2 Scud; 3 Karma Police; 4 Plumbers

This Week and Next

We're sorry to report the death of Yves Marchesseau. He played Laboule the jailer on Fort Boyard for almost twenty years.

Laboule, sonner les cloches.

We're also sorry to report the death of Gino Corr. An expert player of Scrabble, where he was twice Scottish champion in the 1980s, Gino appeared on Countdown in early 1990. He made the series final, and his good humour and swift wits made spectacular television. Invited back for the 1991 Championship of Champions, one of his games included an infamous, and slightly rude, out-take. A pair of...

University Challenge pitted UCL against Exeter. Chalk marks for UCL (Bethany Drew, Andrew Brueton, Thomas Halliday, Harold Hunnarsson); horcruxes for Exeter (Harry Heath, Katie Barry, Jeffrey Sage, Rick Harmes). It was honours even in the early stages: Nordic countries for Exeter, while UCL's gone to the birds.

"Imagine that the periodic table is a chessboard," begins one starter question. Please, don't. We suffered through a zillion questions like this a few years ago, and we've still not awoken from the tedium. Nip and tuck throughout the show, it's 85-85 after the music round. Hats off to UCL, who remember the former Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko, in office during 1984 and best remembered for appearing in "Two tribes". (The video clip by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, not the superior Richard Osman quiz).

That comes as UCL pulls ahead, turning a tie into a 90-point lead in four starters. They're good. But they missed this week's Bill and Ted Most Excellent Shout-Out, so there are limits. We were willing someone to sound the Five Point Klaxon on the starter listing bright stars, can it end anywhere that is not Sirius? Not convinced about a bonus set relating feminist works to dead white men (specifically, British prime ministers).

UCL's lead is established. The Seriously Rubbish Question of the Week comes too late to alter the result:

Q: Words meaning Polynesian language of New Zealand, capital of Latvia...
Exeter: A?
(No, five point penalty)
Q: ...and former currency of Germany, may all be made using letters of the name of which SI base unit?

But the interruption costs Exeter five points, and might have altered the repêchage placings – who qualifies, or the order. A further interruption in the final seconds hurts some more. The final score is UCL 230, Exeter 140. Exeter move into a tie for the final comeback spot, level with LSE.

On Only Connect, the Coders are Richard Bradley, Zoe Cunningham, and David Simons. The Gamesmasters are Filip Drnovšek Zorko, James Robson, and Frederic Heath-Renn.

A gentle start for the Coders, words that make television shows when pluralised; 2 there. Gamesmasters see four perfect games, but only score 1 point when they see 501 in 9. The music round for the Coders is full of card games, good for a point. Pictures for the Gamesmasters, and if only they had a little knowledge of Little Dorrit, Little Mix, and Little Britain. Little chance of a score, there.

Things with one eye for the Coders: the Jack of Hearts, Wenlock and Mandeville, and The Little Yellow God in J Milton Haynes' parody of Kipling. That's "Kipling" as in poet, not cake. This isn't Bake Off. Things said by frogs goes from Paul McCartney to Aristophenes to Kermit The Frog. Welcome to Only Connect. Three for the Gamesmasters gives them a 5-4 lead.

"Could be something pop culture" say the Coders about sequence clues Galaxy and Universe. After seeing "Everything", they're convinced it's pop culture. Yep, it's Fish, from the books in the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy. Wonder what Tom Scott's building these days.

Best, Caff, Edgh, will (obvs) lead to Loon, being the beginning and end of UK capitals. Good for two for the Gamesmasters. OC commentators Michael Wallace and Stu Hearn both reckon this was the best question of the show, leading from a real word through slang to something surreal.

The Coders wonder why they get the specific clue "Eve (1957 Joanne Woodward film)"; by deduction, it's the only thing between Mount Rushmore and a chess clock, so something with one face wins two points.

Slightly dubious selection on their next sequence, after the royal weddings in 1947, 1981, 2005, comes Sarah Burton in 2011. It wasn't Cameron Clegg, that well-known dress designer. But why these royal weddings, and not (say) Andrew, or Anne, or Edward? And for the "New ___" states, why alphabetic order and not by population or area? Ah, Noo Joysey is actually 80% as large as New Hampshire, and more people live.. er, more people call Noo Joysey home than live in New Mexico. That gives two to the Gamesmasters, who lead 9-8.

The wall proves to be little trouble for the Gamesmasters. The definitive article in European languages, "The ___s" make indie bands, homophones for guest interrogatives, and characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Ten points!

Only Connect (2)

The Coders get terms used in Watergate, Radiohead songs, hidden identities, and terms for being naked. The team couldn't split Thom Yorke from Richard Nixon, and get neither connection – according to the Coders, Radiohead sound like Coldplay. This column loves the artistry in a good wall, and on what it reckons was the question of the week, Four points!

It's a 19-12 lead for the Gamesmasters going into the final round. They'll be unlucky to lose this, especially after getting the first three prosthetics. They get three on television shows asking questions, four Glaswegians, and would have got "classified ads" if time hadn't run out. The Gamesmasters win by 30-13. Yikes!

The BBC is to stage a dance contest of its own. BBC Young Dancer will cross four styles (ballet, hip-hop, Asian, contemporary) in search of the greatest performer between 16 and 20. Shows will go out on BBC4 and the final on BBC2 during election week next May. It's not clear if the winner will progress to the Eurovision Young Dancer contest

Ed Richards is to leave the broadcasting regulator OFCOM. Richards has been at OFCOM since its birth; indeed, he may well be its midwife, having been a senior media advisor in Tony Blair's government. This column is not a fan of OFCOM. Its rules have encouraged a television market where size matters far more than quality. Its rules have killed county-scale radio across large parts of the country. We don't believe this benefits viewers, or that this is the best use of limited broadcast spectrum. We hope that his successor will help to regulate for the benefit of the public, rather than make the rules at the behest of large broadcasters.

Mastermind this week demonstrated that games can't be won on specialist knowledge alone.

Peter Russell won the match. His specialist round (Rolling Stones 1962-82) jumped around the two decades, and didn't go too long on lyric details. An error after the buzzer spoiled his Perfect Round, so 14 (0). Going second in the general knowledge phase, and leaning forward in his chair, the contender made logical guesses at questions, but missed more than he scored. With the pressure off a little, his performance improved, and his final score was 26 (0). It didn't feel like a winning score, but turned out to be.

The other contenders came close. John Beynon started strongly on King Ludwig II of Bavaria, continued strongly, and finished with a Perfect Round, 14 (0). The contender appeared to make guesses at many general knowledge questions, many of them proved correct. A lapse of memory when asked about "Albert and the Lion" proved his undoing – confidence ebbed and the score reached 25 (2).

Stuart Skelly took Mad Men the television series, he also had a Perfect Round, 15 (0). This contender dropped the first question – locating UCLA in San Francisco – and took a long time to recover. Cuts away to Humpo and some editing tricks show something happened late in the round, but we don't think it altered the result – Stuart scored 24 (0). Finally, Sally Mabey – she took the Bayeux Tapestry – had a good start spoiled by a really tricky question, enough to pull her off her stride. She recovered to 11 (1); a pass-first strategy in the general knowledge round took her to 20 (8).

BARB ratings in the week to 21 September

  1. Another record audience for The Great British Bake Off, 10.28m on Wednesday. The X Factor follows at a respectful distance, 8.15m.
  2. Pointless Celebrities (3.9m) beat The Chase With Celebrities (3.65m) and Through the Keyhole (3.6m).
  3. 2.65m for University Challenge, ahead of Bake Off Extra Slice (2.55m) and Only Connect (2m). Mastermind (1.75m) is only just ahead of Mock the Week (1.65m).
  4. 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown brings 2m to Channel 4, with just under a million for Million Pound Drop.
  5. Celebrity Juice rebounded to 1.42m, Xtra Factor just shy of 700,000, and 495,000 for Room 101 on Dave. Again, we've no figures for KYTV Europe.

The Great British Bake Off finishes (BBC1, 8pm Wed), but there's a Masterclass (BBC2, Thu and Fri). There's a new run of The Write Stuff (Radio 4, 7.15 Sun), and ITVBe launches on Wednesday with new primetime episodes of Dinner Date. Early start on Saturday night: Pointless Celebs has Michaela Strachan and Dick Strawbridge at 5.40, followed by Strictly Come Dancing at 6.30. The Chase is at 6.30, Louis Walsh is on The X Factor (7.30), and the night's most famous singer is on Through the Keyhole (10pm). Advance warning for next Sunday, when England men's football pushes X Factor back to 8.15.

Photo credits: Parasol, ITV Studios, Adventure Line.

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