Weaver's Week 2015-02-08

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Monday night, 8pm. Only Connect and The Jump and Celebrity Big Brother The Bombshell! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the title) all go up against The Eastenders. Such was the contest in Entertainmentogeddon (as Bother's Bar named it).

"Just imagine how massive Get Your Act Together would have been if they'd called it Entertainmentogeddon", added the barkeep. But they didn't, and it isn't.

Get Your Act Together (2)


Get Your Act Together

ITV Studios for ITV, 18 January — 22 February

Sunday night on ITV is meant to be their big night. In the autumn, they have The X Factor and Downton Abbey, still two of the biggest programmes on television. In the new year, they've had Dancing on Ice and Mr. Selfridge, not quite as big but still decent hits.

But Dancing on Ice came to an end last year, and Countryfile has been a surprise hit on the other side. ITV had hoped that Rising Star would be its new rising star, but then they saw the show didn't work outside Israel. The net replacement is this show.

Get Your Act Together (2) Stephen Mulhern points to the stars of the show.

Get Your Act Together has a familiar ring. Celebrities learn how to do something, and they do a performance, and there's an elimination for one or more of the acts. It's similar to Dancing on Ice (celebrities go outside their comfort zone), different because not everyone is learning how to fall over on frozen water. It's similar to Dancing on Ice (the worst celebrity leaves), different because only the best performance remains.

The net result is a variety show. It's a very varied variety show. No-one sings, but across the series there will be dancers, there will be a magic act, an impressionist, contortionists, plate spinners, jugglers. An old-fashioned variety show, broadcasters get a lot of pressure to "bring back" this sort of old-fashioned variety show.

Get Your Act Together (2) Well, that went with a bang!

And there's more. Not only do we get to see the celebrity performing, but we get to see them training, often with another well-known name. Five or six minutes to watch Gaby Roslin learn how to handle flaming balls, and then three minutes of chucking fire about on stage. So, is this a variety programme, or is it an observational documentary of celebs teaching other celebs to do dangerous stuff?

Rather than letting us meditate on what we thought about that performance, we're told what to think. Some people in the audience wear microphones, and instructed to comment on what they've just seen. Small fixed cameras film them talking, and a few of the comments make the final programme.

Get Your Act Together (2) Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho!

Viewers at home don't get to vote on what they've seen, except in the Live Final. The winners of each heat are picked by the audience at the ITV Theatre on the South Bank. It's their reward for sitting through the entire show.

And there's more. We see rehearsal with the celebrity, we see audience reactions, and we also get to see some of the production meetings. A trip to the director's gallery, the editorial meeting of who's doing what, Stephen Mulhern taking the results from Producer Ben.

Get Your Act Together (2) Producer Ben (left) scoots along with the results.

Many programmes promise 360-degree access. None of them ever deliver it, and Get Your Act Together is no exception to the rule. Of course we're not going to see everything, we're going to see edited highlights, and the producers are going to edit things to make the show look as good as they can. It's what we expect them to do, it's what they do well.

We have two problems with the result. One, the programme is slow and predictable. Five performances in 75 minutes is a poor action-to-filler ratio. There's perhaps 15 minutes of actual show split around the backstage shenanigans and the training and the rehearsals and the audience telling us what to think. Even if it had been a 60-minute show, we'd not have been impressed: the performing celebrities are too familiar, the routines seem hackneyed.

Get Your Act Together (2) The show benefits from witty direction.

And two, we've seen an all-access variety show before. ITV has had a variety show with behind the scenes shenanigans. The Muppet Show was a massive international hit.

Now, we're going to have to explain something. We think The Muppet Show is top-rate television, one of the greatest variety formats ever. It would be an honour to be compared to Kermit, Fozzie, Rizzo, and the others. And it's a little irksome when other people use "muppet" as an insult.

We mean no insult when we compare Stephen Mulhern to Kermit the Frog: cool, unflappable, and a natural entertainer. But Get Your Act Together shares less positive tones with The Muppet Show: much of the show is filler. To see Elton John and Miss Piggy duet, we have to sit through Gonzo the Grate. To see Brian McFadden in a straitjacket, we have to sit through spinning plates.

There's a reason why old-fashioned variety shows aren't on television any more. No-one watches them. About 2 million people saw last week's edition, a figure eclipsed by The Chase, a figure dwarfed by Countryfile. The rest of ITV's Sunday is underperformimg. People are staying with BBC1 through the night. The next show – Famous Family Fortunes – is less popular than highbrow current affairs show Panorama.

We get what they're doing with the show, but the result isn't appealing to anyone.

It's Debateable

A series of vignettes about alternatives to man-and-lectern debates.

2) The Jump

Party leaders go round and round in a small circle. The first person to fall a lap behind will be grilled by Alex Brooker.

The Jump

Such is the quality of competition that Alex has been waiting there all week, and unable to join Davina in this week's live shows. Well done, everyone!

This Week and Next

The BBC said it would host a concert to mark 50 years of the Eurovision Song Contest. The event, scheduled for September 2005, didn't happen in the UK. After the BBC withdrew, "Congratulations!" took place in Denmark. British viewers have still not been allowed to see the event. This column's critique still holds.

The BBC said it will host a concert to mark 59 years of the Eurovision Song Contest. The event will take place on 31 March, almost 400 days before the show marks its 60th anniversary. Petra Merde will reprise her hosting role from the 2013 contest, and will be joined by Eurovision Dance Contest host Graham Norton. Tickets (at the curious price of £62.75) are on sale. Not sure how they'll weasel out of showing this one.

Eurovision Song Contest Sarah Dawn Finer may not be there. Petra Merde will be.

Remember The Adventures of Captain Zeelig? This column doesn't, the late 90s were a hole in our telly viewing. Not so for Adam Nostalgia, who shows us what we missed.

University Challenge featured an audio round on tedium, and a result: "Durham have 95. Gonville & Caius have 275."

Coders against Qi Elves in this week's Only Connect, where we're eight weeks from the final. Taxi for the Elves, who spot coloured cabs in various cities. What have the Coders got to do to score a point? Rob a train? Do silly things to themselves? 4-0 to the Elves.

Rugby union world cup champion captains' numbers? Question editor Alan Connor would give host Victoria Coren Mitchell a tenner if someone got this: his money is safe. The family tree of Jesus, as told in Matthew and Luke, gives one for the Coders. Popular languages of South Africa must surely lead to Zulu. The scoreboard ticks over with three for the Coders on first lines of Doctor Who actors; pictures M(A-D) gives two to the Elves, and a 6-4 lead.

Wall time for the Elves: they get wheels, castles in Cornwall, actors from The Darling Buds of May, and works by Thackery. The team confuses Thackery with Trollope. Seven points! The Coders take parts of a clock, parts of a church, Radio 3 announcers, and characters in Treasure Island. The last two groups completely evade the team. Four points!

The Elves defend a 13-8 lead into Missing Vowels. Moons goes 2-(-1) to the Elves, Suns 3-1 to the Coders, and both groups contain Sun Myung Moon. Bruce Forsyth catchphrases goes 2-1 to the Elves, and that brings up their victory by 18-11.

We've seen the Mastermind champion. We must have done, this week's was the 24th and final heat. It was won by Gareth Williams on the Battle of the Somme, a deadly battle in the 1914-18 war. His round had a wobble in the middle, still reached 10 (0). A very strong general knowledge score lifted him from fourth to first on 26 (0), and he missed a couple of either-or questions.

Madeline Grant read the Novels of E M Forster. She was eager to answer the questions, interrupting at least one of the longer spiels. 12 (1) moved up to 24 (3) thanks (in part) to the host going "A wop bop a loo bop, a wop bam boo." Coherent as ever. Paul Hillman took Joy Division, the post-punk band with Ian Curtis. The band grew into New Order, the contender's score grew into 13 (1). His second-round score advances to 24 (4), never quite at ease in that phase. Matthew May answered on The Big Bang Theory, clarified as the Warner Brothers sitcom and not the origin of the universe. 11 (1) his score, and it didn't go up beyond 20 (5); unlike Gareth's round, the answers just didn't come.

It means we know the qualifiers as high-scoring losers. Gareth Kingston and Diane Hallagen had 28 points, and were safely through. Marianne Fairthorne had made it on 27, and Alice Meynell's 26 points will see her come back. John Benyon with 25 points and 2 passes will return. So will one of three players on 25 points and 3 passes – Julia Hobbs, Jeremy Renals, Susan Sworn.

Two points of interest. 1) The runners-up mostly come from the first weeks of the series, only Marianne Fairthorne and Julia Hobbs appeared after the clocks went back in October. B) 25 points qualifies two players; in previous years, 27 was the mark. What's changed? The questions are longer, particularly in the general knowledge round.

BARB ratings in the week to 25 January

  1. Call the Midwife remains the most popular show, 10.5m to The Voice 9.15m.
  2. There were 4.9m for Win Your Wish List, behind the ITV Television Awards (5.75m), but ahead of ITV's "top" drama Mr Selfridge (4.25m). Family Fortunes was even worse, just 2.5m and in danger of dropping behind Only Connect (2.45m).
  3. Trouble for Paddy McGuinness, as Take Me Out (2.85m) slips beneath The Chase and University Challenge (both 2.95m). Celebrity Big Brother (3.1m) is doing well for Channel 5.
  4. Reasonable scores for BBC2's lifestyle shows: 1.7m for Big Allotment Challenge, 1.55m for Antiques Road Trip, 1.3m for Eggheads. Mastermind, QI, and 8/10/Cats/Countdown are all around 1.85m.
  5. BBC3's repeats of The Voice (660,000) prove more popular than ITV2's Take Me Out The Gossip (610,000). Interesting that Storage Flog The Lot doesn't rate on Channel 5's top 30, but 66,000 puts it third on the day-shift C5+24.

Get your ice cream ready, The Great Comic Relief Bake Off is back (BBC1, 8pm Wed). Deal or No Deal (C4, 3pm weekdays) has some editions featuring two players, and they'll have a quick round of Mr and Mrs. This year's series of The Dare Devil delights (CBBC, 4.30 weekdays), Just a Minute returns (Radio 4, 6.30 Monday), and it's the Stars in Their Eyes Not Live Final (ITV, 6.30 Sat).

Photo credits: ITV Studios, TwoFour / Group M, SVT / Eurovision

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