Weaver's Week 2015-03-08

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Let's Play Darts

Six months ago, eight celebrities and eight professional dartists spent two days in Essex. They were playing darts. This is their story.


Let's Play Darts for Comic Relief

Zeppotron (an Endemol company) for BBC2, 1-8 March

The idea behind Comic Relief shows is simple. Get people to watch a programme. During that programme, embed some promotion for the charity. Hope that some people respond and donate money. Everyone wins from this arrangement. The charity gets a dozen plugs on primetime. The broadcasters get the glow from doing something good. The producers share in that glow, and can get the glow from producing something of high quality.

Regrettably, we often find that charity programmes aren't quite as excellent as other shows. Some shows have the feeling of "this is for charity, it's thus beyond criticism, and we can make a less good show." We don't hold with this idea. We expect any programme to be of high quality, associating "charity" with "substandard" is anti-social.

Let's Play Darts Martin Offiah and Lee Mack consider the scores.

Which brings us to the Comic Relief charity, and the main slab of its appeal on BBC2 this year. It's this recorded programme about celebrities playing darts. All through the summer, the chosen eight practised finding their way around a dartboard. Can they hold a dart? Can they throw it so it doesn't fall out? Are they able to hit a double on demand? All, some, or fewer of these questions will be answered.

The eight celebrities are a mixture. Most are comedians. There's Lee Mack (from Would I Lie to You), Sean Lock (from 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown), Roisin Conaty (from Impractical Jokers). More comics: Tim Vine (from Not Going Out), and Bob Mortimer (from House of Fools). Comedy presenter Liza Tarbuck (from Just a Minute) and lovable genius Richard Osman (from Pointless and Two Tribes). And there's token sportsman Martin Offiah (from Widnes and Wigan).

Some of these people are regulars on other Endemol productions, others have little connection with the Big Brother-to-Deal or No Deal company. Two are currently starring in shows on BBC2. These days, we expect broadcasters to do this sort of thing: have a charity programme that just so happens to feature their best talent. It's to promote their talent, and it's because their best talent are popular because they're jolly good. And it might help to bring more money to the charity.

Each celebrity is paired with a pro dartist. Not all dartists are men, there are some professional women, and they were welcome to take part. The majority of pairs were mixed, all-male teams were a rarity.

Let's Play Darts Gabby Logan is a safe pair of hands.

Gabby Logan was the host, and a guaranteed woman on the programme. There's very little for a host to do: a pre-match chat, a post-match debrief, and some narrative voiceovers. Game commentary came from Tony Green (the Bullseye star) and Vassos Alexander (under-rated sports commentator). There is actually something for these gents to do, explain what's going on, how to reduce the score to zero from here, and the preferred or difficult routes.

Before the final, each match was the best of nine legs. In each and every leg, the playing order was celeb 1 – celeb 2 – pro 1 – pro 2. It meant the celebs got their share of action, but we couldn't wallow in their failure, because a professional dartist was going to be along in a few moments. Could we have a celebrity versus celebrity leg? We could, but they decided not to. They did decide to mike up all the players, so we could hear the on-stage chatter and banter.

The first-round matches were the best of nine legs – first to five wins. Semi-finals were the best of eleven. We were lucky to see more than about three legs of action in the half-hour show. After the introductions, debrief, theatrical walk-ons, and the inevitable charity plugs, there was about 16 minutes remaining for proper darting. Gabby had to say "Richard and Deta won the next two legs, and we join the next leg after everyone's thrown a round."

Let's Play Darts Roisin Conarty and Richie George. We can tell who made an effort.

The programme was telling us what happened, it wasn't showing us. In fairness, this was a highlights show in a trimmed slot, but they could have made the complete footage available online, or through the red button. The result was a bitty and choppy programme. The narrative felt forced and artificial, as though they were leading us to certain conclusions and denuding the match of tension.

Oh, there were moments – Tim Vine opening with two treble-20s. Roisin Conaty barely hitting the board all night but finding the double to win her match at the last possible moment. Richard Osman missing his double and hearing "That's pointless". But these occasional gems served only to highlight the plodding remainder of the show.

One final question was left hanging: why was darts chosen for *Comic* Relief and not for *Sport* Relief? Are we really to believe that darts is only to be associated with comedy, and never with actual endeavour? In a sport, competitors leave the arena tired and drained, and that's why darts is a sport.

University Challenge

Actual Viertelfinal 2, Gonville and Caius Cambridge versus Magdalen Oxford

Magdalen Oxford is one of the favourites for this year's title. On the first bonus, we wonder how they got this exalted position: they don't know Wren's quote about St Pauls'. Then they work out what the Monument was a monument to, race through three bonuses on French overseas departments, and in very little time they've raced to a 60-0 lead.

Gonville and Caius are the other favourites, this match is the climax to the "top half" of the draw. Winners will avoid St Peter's Oxford in the semi-finals. Only one starter goes to the Cambridge side in the opening nine minutes, but then the floodgates open. The team do well to untangle Paxman's strangled linear algebra equations. They remain in touch, but Magdalen are winning the buzzer race on chestnuts like "The thinnest two-dimensional substance...".

Magdalen show their ignorance of such BASIC quiz chestnuts as the computer language BASIC and the FAT for storing data on hard drives. Gonville and Caius twice come within five points, but never get to take the lead. The producers assert that a nuclear reactor producing more fissile material than its input is a "fast breeder". Not quite; it's a "breeder", a "fast breeder" is a specific type of these reactors. Gonville got this totally wrong, but we fear the show could be decided on a wonky question.

Tonight's won't be, because Gonville and Caius went for broke in the final minutes, taking the lead and doing everything they could to hold on to it. Magdalen need the last three starters and a few bonuses: they get one starter, a bonus, and a missignal. At the gong, Gonville and Caius have the win, 215-155. Thumper commiserates that Magdalen got questions they didn't know the answers to. {headdesk}

Only Connect

Semi-final L: Chessmen vs Galifreyans

The Chessmen have been here before, reaching the semi-finals in 2009. This series, they've a win, a loss, and a draw. The Galifreyans are here on the back of two wins.

3-2-1 CAUTION: the "music" question may not be suitable for all viewers, such as those with ears.

What have we done to deserve this? Andy Cole, Kevin Keegan, Hoddle and Waddle's "Diamond lights", and Gazza's rendition of "Fog on the Tyne". Please! Make it stop! One point from what is laughably called the "music" round to the Galifreyans; one to the Chessmen for apparently-generic trade names. Yes, we know Portakabin is a mark of the Portakabin company. 1-1.

The Galifreyans buzz in for three on "first names of film director pairings", but it's not. Turns out to be pairs of Archers, and a bonus to the Chessmen. And then the Chessmen sound the Five Point Klaxon!!!! Duke of __ is in this county. It's just like watching Germany! 7-1.

Pictures for parts of a book give three to the Galifreyans, and they could have had more. Champions of sports with the same surname is a good barney for the Chessmen, interrupted by Victoria awarding one point. The Chessmen lead, 8-4.

Based on one picture (Amy Adams), the Galifreyans look for David Dimbleby. Not that sequence. It's the March sisters in Little Women, ending with a Meg, such as the host of Puzzled Pint London. (More on that on Tuesday). Provinces of Afghanistan next to Pakistan gets a lucky bonus for the Galifreyans, right answer for the wrong reason still counts. 9-5.

"Is it Harry Potter?" ask the Galifreyans. No, they don't do Harry Potter on Only Connect. Nobody, Guildford Dudley, Philip II of Spain, and again Nobody. These are spouses of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I. Two good points. James Dean movies for the Chessmen, ending with his final work Giant. 11-7.

More pop culture for the Galifreyans, Freddy Krueger's rhyme begins "One, two, Freddy's coming for you." Two points. Nationalities to go into space give two to the Chessmen: it gets a lot easier from 3rd Czechoslovakian 1978 to 2nd American 1961. It's 13-9 after the Connections.

Bring on the wall! The Chessmen have Hebrides islands, and then suddenly spot homophones for plurals of letters (Use, Wise, etc). They think there are motoring pioneers in there, but can't untangle the last two groups. Chelsea FC men's captains, and numbers in foreign languages. Four points!

Something for the Galifreyans to tilt at, but they've not a good record on the wall. Words from the lyric to "Bohemian rhapsody", commedia del'arte, fictional hairdressers, and breeds of bunnies. We've got a theory, they could be ten points. (That was rubbish. The influence of "Diamond lights".)

And bring back the Gallifreyans' lead, 19-17. People from the 2014 Oscars selfie is 2-0 to the Chessmen, words pronounced differently in British and American is a net point to the Gallifreyans, but numbers and their Roman equivalent is two to the Chessmen. They pick two more on Napoleonic battles, and that'll be time!

The Chessmen are the winners, 25-22 winners over the Gallifreyans. Phew!

A Comic Relief special next week, with the semi-finals kicking off two weeks hence.

It's Debateable

Rather than have politicians at podiums, we cast them in game shows.

Let's Play Darts

6) Bullseye

The host bangs a buzzer every time the speaker hits a bullseye. Other variants are available, but may not be suitable for a family audience.


Semi-final 4

Three are in, three finalists are still to find.

Philip Isaac had the Dirk Pitt novels of Clive Cussler; after getting the first two questions right, he falls into a pass spiral broken only in the final moments of the round. Philip had won with the sitcom Allo 'Allo on 27 November; 3 (6) turns into 10 (9). He won a heat, which is more than most Mastermind contestants – and almost every viewer – will do.

Chris Grandison took the Life and Career of Alex Higgins; a talented competitor comes unstuck in the end, finishing on 8 (1). Winner on 22 August with Our Friends in the North, Chris starts with three errors; in these short shows, that's absolutely fatal. 16 (1) doesn't feel like a winning score.

Gareth Kingston has the Life and Work of Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles. A small error costs a perfect round, 9 (0). Gareth was runner-up on 8 August, when he took St Paul's Cathedral. Gareth answers quickly, but barking out surnames doesn't save time when the host adds the given name, and it seems Humpo goes a bit slowly to deny an additional question at the end. 17 (0)

Alan Gibbs answered on Curb Your Enthusiasm, a sitcom that used to air on BBC4. Again, not quite reaching perfection, 9 (0). One Hit Wonders on 19 December was Alan's winning heat. He also has to sit through an expansion – "Museum of Modern Art" – but his greater problem is a short run of wrong answers. There's a lesser problem, his round is infested with Mr. Blobby, the mortal enemy of The Lift from Incredible Games. 22 (0).

Incredible Games "I cannot stand Mr. Blobby. It's an X from me."

Liz Gore had the Life of Margot Fonteyn, and again scored 9 (0) from a near-perfect round. Liz won with the Lord Peter Wimsey novels on 16 January. Softly and surely, she knocks back point after point after point. And then she slows, missing a couple of points, only to rally for the closing moments. A pass after the buzzer might have hurt, but she's already done enough. The final score is 23 (1).

Phew! So Liz Gore joins the line-up in the final, later this month.

This Week and Next

So, now we know. Someone from a reality television singing competition more than 10 years ago is heading to this year's Eurovision Song Contest. But enough of Australia, whose song by Guy Norman isn't the best SBS could have sent.

The winner of Germany's selection process was Andreas Kümmert. Remember the name, you won't be seeing him on stage in May. Moments after winning NDR's Unser Song Fur Osterreich, Herr Kümmert said that he was withdrawing from the competition. He's won! He's won! He's — quitting?!?! And sending the ticket to runner-up Ann Sophie? Well, it does mean that the Germans won't be barracking for a former winner of The Voice of Holland auf Deutschland, but will again be represented by the wildcard song.

Lost in Petrograd. Tuesday's edition of Two Tribes has been removed from the I-player. It contained a question asking for the former capital of Russia. They wanted "St Petersburg", the contestant offered its post-revolutionary name "Petrograd", and may have lost the match as a result.

Ratings from BARB in the week to 22 February.

  1. The Eastenders were Going Live!, and 11.55m saw the denoument on Thursday, when it emerged Lucy Beale was killed by the HSBC building. (Or something. Our knowledge of The Eastenders is nil.) The Great Comic Relief Bake Off was the most-seen game show, with 8.4m viewers.
  2. What happened to BBC The Voice? 8.1m saw Saturday's episode, hit by the return of Saturday Night Takeaway Your Money (5.8m). Win Your Wish List had 4.8m, and Room 101 after Bake Off pulled 4.7m.
  3. Take Me Out was seen by 3.75m, Dragons' Den pulled 3.1m to BBC2. The Chase (2.7m), University Challenge (2.65m), Sewing Bee (2.6m), and Family Fortunes (2.55m) formed an orderly line.
  4. A dead-heat on Channel 4, with Four Rooms and The Million Pound Drop both finishing just below a million. Take Me Out The Gossip brought 820,000 to ITV2.
  5. Interesting results from ITV+1, where 370,000 saw Tipping Point repeated at 4pm, and 350,000 watched Bear Grylls' Mission Survive on Friday at 10.

Great news for cookery fans, as Masterchef returns (BBC1, Tue). Comic Relief gives Only Connect an excuse to ask some easy questions (BBC2, Mon), and the Comic Relief telethon (BBC1, Fri) includes a Celebrity Bake Off final. Phillip Schofield puts people to sleep in You're Back in the Room (ITV, Sat). A good weekend for the people who make giant mouse suits – Wild Things launches (The Satellite Channel, next Sunday) and it's knockout rounds on BBC The Voice (Sat and Sun).

Photo credits: Zeppotron (an Endemol company) / Trident Television / BBC.

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