Weaver's Week 2014-10-12

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The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off reached its final this week. Which cake won?

Bad Bridesmaid


Bad Bridesmaid

Fresh One and Group M for ITV2, from 11 September

The ITV company is going through one of its expansion phases. It's introduced a new channel, ITVBe (pronounced I-T-V-B). The fresh station is pilfering some established programmes from ITV2, such as The Only Way is Essex and repeats of The Jeremy Kyle Show.

According to the promotional guff, ITV-B is to be reality and unscripted shows, which (apparently) attract a young female audience. ITV-2 is to be entertainment for a young audience, not superserving women. This leaves ITV-3 showing vintage repeats for people who believe this century's telly is trash. ITV-4 shows sport and stuff for men, C-ITV for the young, and Channel 3 (ITV-A, ITV-1, the main ITV channel) has something for everyone.

All this might meet the ITV company's strategic aims (make lots of money for its shareholders), but there's a tactical gap. What does ITV-2 do when all the female-skewing reality shows have gone away? It makes this.

Bad Bridesmaid Hang out the balloons.

Bad Bridesmaid is completely different from anything on ITV-B. While the latter is all about reality and unscripted shows, everything on Bad Bridesmaid is scripted and fabricated. It's not a reality programme, it's improvisational acting. And that's the truth.

Oh, who are we kidding? Bad Bridesmaid is another reality programme. But it's a reality programme with two key differences from (say) Big Brother. It's got some imagination, and the show doesn't aim to fill the hour with stand-up rows. Jeremy Kyle, best we forget, has disappeared to ITV-B.

Bad Bridesmaid is built from the ground up. It's the story of a single bride, and her hen party. Into this group enters a stranger, a cuckoo in the nest. She's played by an improvisation specialist, she can take whatever the group throws at her and still work towards the denouement she wants. The actor's plot is (apparently) special for that particular group, it looks to bring out something that they share and many people don't. We didn't quite see how this happened in practice, but it might be obvious to those taking part.

Bad Bridesmaid London Hughes' character can't pass a microphone without singing into it.

The character comes with a cover story – "Oh, she's my stepdad's daughter", or something just as plausible. The character is a bit obnoxious – not in an offensive way, but in the attention-seeking, "Oh, let me take loads of selfies" style. And the character comes with lots of silly things to do. What hen party would be complete without a session of orc-bashing? Or some drawing with a life model who has forgotten to bring his clothes?

According to the ITV blurb, all this is designed to test friendships to breaking point. And again, we don't quite see how this happens. Maybe the episodes we've seen were unusual, because they had a calm and accepting group of friends. Or maybe it's scheduler's hype. The prize – a honeymoon for the couple, a spa weekend for the real hen party – appears difficult to lose.

Bad Bridesmaid He's wearing — what? He's not?!

In a way, this doesn't matter. Bad Bridesmaid works as a situational comedy show, putting people in daft situations and seeing how they react. It's a programme in the spirit of Candid Camera, or an extended Beadle's About. The prize element is almost superfluous: the bride knows it exists, but can't tell her real friends about it, so the bride can do little to direct their behaviour. Does that stop it from being a game show? Possibly, though one would have to take an exclusionary approach.

From what we've seen, the programme avoids the cheap rows beloved of other constructed reality programmes, and has put some thought into its challenges. That alone is enough for us to say it's worthwhile. Will we watch more? Doubt it, more because we don't like this sort of emotional programming, and it's not a setting we relate to. But some others will love it, and we can see why.

Bad Bridesmaid Lola gets a honeymoon, London makes some good telly.

Hip Hop Mastermind

BBC Entertainment Salford and BBC Radio 1xtra for BBC iPlayer

"Yo! Homies! MC Humpo is in da house! Make some noisssssssse!"

Is precisely how Hip Hop Mastermind doesn't begin. Thank goodness. The Beeb has made a special edition of Celebrity Mastermind. Rather than stick it out in the middle of primetime, they've buried it online. Is that because the 1xtra audience isn't going to tune into BBC1, or BBC3, or television at all? They'd rather get their entertainment online?

Usual Celeb Mastermind rules apply. Four contenders, 90 seconds on the specialist subject, two minutes of general knowledge. The player will chat with the host before the general knowledge round, here defined as "general knowledge about 1xtra's music". That's music of black origin.

And if you don't want to know the result, skip this paragraph. The contenders are Lethal Bizzle, DJ Target, A.Dot, and Semtex. After the specialist subject round, the players are ranked in that order; the final result preserves the ranking, allowing Mr. Semtex to lift the trophy. All the players are music professionals, 1xtra blurs the line between "performer" and "radio presenter", and we had a few sniggers at the gaps in their knowledge.

Mastermind The contenders: Mr. Bizzle, Mr. Target, Ms .Dot, Mr. Semtex.

Though it's an unusual combination – straight-laced quiz and fashionable people – everyone makes an effort to take the match seriously. Early on, Humpo's voice betrays slight incredulity that he's doing this, but once he gets into his stride, it's entirely normal. The contenders are committed to the programme, they relish the chance to show off how much they know about their genre.

While talking to A.Dot, conversation turned to the poor representation of women in black music. True, 1xtra does its part to address this. Its presenting talents include Sarah-Jane Crawford and Adele Roberts. The station makes sure to play the best records by women and men (and those who reject that gender binary). But then we find the gentlemen showing a fundamental lack of knowledge about women in music. It's one thing to forget the title of Lady Sovereign's debut album, quite another to mentally erase Mary J Blige from history. Even we knew that one.

We don't know enough to answer many of the questions; we do know enough to recognise some of the cultural icons when they're named. There's a question about Eminem, one about Dizzy Rascal. Each "general knowledge" round has a nod to black music's pioneers, a few questions about rising stars and some about crossover acts. Beware: this show contains too much (ie some) Vanilla Ice.

Hip Hop Mastermind's on the I-player for another week.

This Week and Next

We'll stick with Mastermind, which had its weekly edition this week.

Brian Davis won this week. He took the Life and Career of Robert Peel, inventor of the political manifesto. A perfect round is spoiled only by one forename, 14 (0). His general knowledge round had a rocky start, and we wondered if he might not make it, but he really fired in the final minute. 26 (0) is the winning score.

Ciaran Ward (the Films of Sergio Leone), a spaghetti Western director. A few loose ends in this round, 11 (1) was a good harvest. His first general knowledge question asked for the French term for having experienced something before. If only the question-setter were evil enough to *conclude* the round with this question. He finished on 23 (1).

David Love (Life and Work of Anton Bruckner), struggled on an early question, but recovered well to 9 (1). Second time around, he went well for the first minute, slowed for a bit towards the end, but picked up speed to 21 (1). Sarah Lake scored 10 (0) on the Life and Career of Leonard Cohen. Looked like improving until she fell into a pass spiral in the final moments. 20 (3). Last this week; in some other shows this year, she'd have been winning.

Eurovision Song Contest The nadir of 2010: the BBC can do better.

The BBC is allowing open submissions for its senior Eurovision Song Contest entry. According to a notice, entries must be completely new songs, three minutes long, able to be performed in Vienna next May, experience of international tours and live shows preferred. Submit them as a video to the BBC. A panel of BBC experts will then review all the submissions, and the show will go on.

We're pleased that the BBC is considering all applicants, and not just the ones it can catch. The producer makes it clear that the Beeb will still be working with record companies to find or create entries that fit their criteria, which is fine. The BBC will make the selection, the Grate British Public has no say, and we're happy with this: the de-Woganification process still has not finished.

This column does have one reservation: the BBC sets the criteria, and we do not have confidence that the organisation yet understands the contemporary song contest. The corporation's track record over the past fifteen years has been abysmal; much of that stems from the malign influence of Wogan.

Three of the last four entries have been hurt by bad performances, and Bonnie Tyler gave a fine performance of a song decades behind the curve. The head of delegation has the right idea – he says that they want "a song the singer utterly believes in, that can be sung live with heart and emotion, that the performer will own." Every winning song of this century {1} has shared these qualities. Most of the BBC entries have not. {2}

Eurovision Song Contest Anouk did well with a song she believed in.

We hope that the BBC will continue to send someone modern, a contemporary song with a good show. Kitty Brucknell won't be applying. She wowed us at Animecon 2013 with great songs and a stage presence that tantalises and beguiles. Had us thinking, "would be a good ESC entry", but she's applied to one of the Swiss broadcasters. Their gain is the BBC's loss.

{1} With the possible exception of "I wanna".

{2} "Bye bye baby" and "That sounds good to me" in particular.

University Challenge had one side featured in the summer doc, and one not. Brasenose Oxford were the familiar side. The team – Louise Naudé, Gwen Cartwright, Rosie Thomas, Russell Black – is the second majority female we've seen this year. Durham sent four blokes – Daniel Morgan-Thomas, Freddie Lloyd, Fred Harvey, Nikul Boyd-Shah.

Durham got the opening starters, and no points for answering the question before it's asked. They just repeated the answer at the right moment. It was ten minutes before Brasenose so much as buzzed, and shouted out "Bastard!" This is the correct answer, a child born out of marriage. The Oxford side had woken up, and they're going to buzz in on each of the next three starters. None of those answers would be correct, and two incurred penalties for incorrect interruptions.

That pretty much summed up the programme. It was over as a contest by the music round, and there were only two points of interest in the final quarter. Will Durham do well on countries that fail Osman's definition, being either not sovereign states or not members of the UN in their own right? And will Brasenose get another right answer or incur another penalty? "No" was the answer to the first question, they missed all three. And "yes" the answer to the second, lifting Brasenose's score from a miserly 5 points to dizzy heights. The final score: Durham wins, 250-35.

University Challenge The Brasenose captain kept her humour.

Only Connect is graced by the Chessmen. Again? Again. Henry Pertinez, Nick Mills, Stephen Pearson finished third in series 2, losing to the Rugby Boys. The Linguists (Virginia Fassnidge, Gail La Carbonara, Tom Fassnidge) are mother, son, and his partner.

Disguised members of The Monkees gives three to the Linguists. After quite some discussion, the Chessmen go for "there's only one Bundeskanzlerin", the feminine form of the German leader, and that's also worth three. The Linguists get a clue that does contain Jemini, and nearly contained Brasenose Oxford, because they all score nothing. In a very literal sense, they are pointless.

Neither side scores on the music, the names contain parts of a ship. Nor on the pictures – Dad's Army, Easyjet, Pet Sounds, Only Connect in an unusual typeface. Everything is in the same font, Cooper Black. Two points for the Chessmen, who have words that can exchange "O" for "A". Linguists lead, 6-5.

Sequences! Have they never done shipping forecast areas before? Apparently not: two points to the Linguists. We claim five points on the next set, remembering Birmingham '92 as a failed bid for the Crass Spectacle. But neither London '04 nor Manchester '04 is correct: after two attempts to bring the event to Manchester last century (guffaw), the next attempt was London '12. And we all know how that ended.

A rotating triangle for the Linguists, and it turns out that they cannot even make the shape of a triangle with their hands. Two points for the entertainment. Two for the Chessmen, who go R-vowel-M sequences, and Victoria's dressing room has the fifth in the sequence.

The Linguists spend a long time with their hand on the Five Point Klaxon, but decide not to pull it – they get two on deaths of Spinal Tap drummers. For the Chessmen, pictures – a brewery, BB King, shinpads. Except it's a still, Muddy Waters, people going for a run, and it finishes with the deep. And two points. The Linguists lead by 12-9.

Walls! The Chessmen go first, and spot Barry Manilow songs and moons of Uranus. They try types of car, and reckon the fourth is beaches. As they scored in their heat last time: Ten points! Linguists talk a lot – types of pastry, bits of a sewing machine, things found on Star Trek, and words that sound like Greek letters. Cor, remember when the Greek letters were regulars on this show? {3}

Missing Vowels will give the winners this week, the Linguists go in with a three-point lead. "Central African Republic" shout two million Pointless viewers. Chessmen pull level on Monopoly chance cards, but the Linguists do well on Aesop's Fables. Well, and well enough. The Linguists emerge winners, 26-24.

{3} BBC2 viewers: before the Egyptian hieroglyphs were invented, they marked questions with Greek letters from alpha to zeta.

Oh dear, is it time for The Apprentice again? How tremendously tiresome. In a vain attempt to drum up a few viewers for his hackneyed and fake ego-trip, Alan Kettle has said that some the show's previous contestant Sandra Pott is "of no interest to anybody".

BARB ratings in the week to 28 September.

  1. Strictly Come Dancing appears at the top, 9.4m viewers on Saturday. Bake Off suffers from a part-network transmission – it went out on BBC2 Scotland – and records 9m on BBC1.
  2. The X Factor peaked on Sunday with 8.2m. Its head-to-head battle with Strictly on Friday was a walkover, 8.2m for the dancing, 5.6m for musical chairs.
  3. 4.5m for Pointless Celebs, 3.25m for Celebrity Chase and Keyhole.
  4. University Challenge pulled 2.95m, there were 2.2m for Only Connect and 1.12m for Two Tribes. At the last time of asking, Million Pound Drop finally broke the million mark, registering 1.04m.
  5. 1.35m for Celebrity Juice, 625,000 for ITV2's X Factor repeat on Sunday lunchtime, and 550,000 for A League of Their Own S8.

The Great British Bake Off

With Bake Off gone, what are we going to do with our Wednesday evenings? Simple: we're going to watch the most realistic and most intelligible reality business programme in the country. Yes! Fferm Ffactor is back (S4C, 7.30 Wed). There's also a new run of The Apprentice, if you absolutely must (BBC Red Button, 7.25 Mon).

Overseas fans have things to watch: Fort Boyard Ultimate Challenge comes in from France (CITV, 4.45 Wed), and The Chase Us is in from California (The Challenge channel, 8pm weekdays). There's a new run of Fifteen-to-One (C4, 3pm weekdays), the return of Tipping Point (ITV, 4pm), and a network outing for Jest a Minute (Radio 4 Extra, Friday). Next Saturday, Pointless (5.40) has radio stars, Strictly at 6.30. The Chase (7pm) has embargoed its guests, we're blue about that; X Factor follows at 8.

Photo credits: Love Productions, Fresh One and Group M, BBC Entertainment Salford, BBC/NRK, Íctimai, The Media Blog.

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