Weaver's Week 2015-09-06

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So now we know why Only Connect doesn't ask questions about Harry Potter.

5-Star Family Reunion


5-Star Family Reunion

12 Yard and Boom Cymru for BBC1, from 25 July

The latest Lottery Corp promotional show has been on screen for some weeks, and here's how it works.

Two groups of people have come to the television studio. And by "the television studio", we mean "two different television studios, separated by many thousands of miles". The two groups of people are both family units – mother, father, children, siblings. And they're related: Doris wants to meet up with her long-lost sister Linda, who now lives in Australia. Where it's four in the morning.

To the surprise of no-one, the overseas family sits in front of a backdrop depicting the obvious landmarks of their city. A family from Sydney is going to be in front of Harbour Bridge and Opera House. A team from Cape Town must have Table Mountain as the backdrop, it's television law.

5-Star Family Reunion Ooh, hello over there!

This overseas family could get a trip halfway around the world, the titular family reunion. Two weeks of sun and sand in the lap of luxury. Dubai, the Bahamas, Quarantine, Cabo Verde. And the best bit is that they won't need to do a thing – the prize will literally be won for them.

To win the star prize, the British family will answer a series of questions. For each one they get right, they'll advance one star up the runway. Collect all five stars before the time runs out, and they're going to somewhere hot and exotic, and so are the migrants.

Time on 5-Star Family Reunion is measured in a novel way: by the friction weighing on a Newton's cradle. One of the balls is raised high in the air (by a mechanical device), and released.

5-Star Family Reunion They've won a soggy weekend in Margate so far.

This sets the other balls in motion, and the one at the other end flies almost as high into the air. When gravity takes over, this ball returns, and the original ball is raised by almost as much as before. Eventually, entropy sets in, and the balls stop moving very much. The round ends when the end ball does not move up past a red laser beam, set a little way past its resting point.

We're treated to fascinating visuals and audio, as the balls move about with a satisfactory clack. We also have Nick Knowles in shot, reading out questions.

A very analogue timing device, the Newton's cradle is not as precise as a clockwork stopwatch. And, at full extent, it runs for about a minute and a half. The five questions must be answered correctly in little more than 90 seconds.

5-Star Family Reunion A lovely shot of Kernick.

That's not going to fill a 50-minute programme, is it? At most, this round will take two minutes. We might spend five minutes meeting the teams, and congratulating / commiserating afterwards. And there are the commercials for the Lottery Corp to air.

So there's half-an-hour of show to fill. What can be done? Will the families sing a song? Recount tales of their past, shared and apart? Take part in the World Satellite Link Stare-Out Contest?

No. There's going to be a quiz. Nick starts by asking five questions of the family Overseas. These are simple questions, with three possible answers. This helps, because in Australia it's still four in the morning. The family Overseas is encouraged to talk through their answers. While the family in the studio can and do discuss the answer, they can't change it.

5-Star Family Reunion The ball at full height. Note how the tiny cameras look huge.

Each correct answer raises the ball at the end of the Newton's cradle by an increment; the maximum it'll go is five steps up, and that's how high it'll rise for the Five Star Finale. The studio players are allowed to increase the height by one step, once in the game – but can't raise it above the five step maximum.

The studio players are then shown four broad categories. On one show, the selection was Food and Drink, Television, Music, History. They will play all four of them, the producers decide the order. It's up to the family to choose which one of them plays which category.

The chosen player and Nick move to the other end of the studio, behind the small Newton's cradle. Nick asks rapid-fire questions, and right answers move the player up the runway. £1000 for the first answer, £2000 for the next, £3000 for three right answers. The next two correct answers add nothing to the prize fund, but the sixth right answer scoops the round's jackpot – £5000 in the first two rounds, £10,000 in the last two.

5-Star Family Reunion They've won the train fare to take a soggy weekend in Margate.

And we repeat this round four times before the Thunderball draw and the finale.

The net result is that the family is certain to go away with something, most families will leave with a five-figure sum, and the luxury reunion is possible.

The problem is that 5-Star Family Reunion is so very slow. A few moments of fast progress are interspersed with long periods where very little happens. We get to know the family dynamics of the overseas players a little, who is believed and who is ignored. But the studio players only ever work individually, their prize is won alone, and they don't interact in the game. We found the show lacked atmosphere, narrative, or a reason to watch.

This Week and Next

We're sorry to report the death of Danny Greenstone, who honed the format for many light entertainment classics. He began work in the BBC's news cuttings library, and he bore some responsibility for The News Quiz on Radio 4. He also worked on the quickfire joke show Wit's End, investigative show Miles of London, and Jump – given a sound clue and the fourth linked question, panellists improvised the path between the two.

Moving to television, he had a hand in many LWT smashes from the 1980s: Game for a Laugh, Surprise Surprise, Child's Play, You Bet!, and Small Talk. Later, his career took him to Reg Grundy and Fremantle: he worked on Going for Gold, Celebrity Squares, Whittle, How Do They Do That, and Win Beadle's Money. His greatest achievement may have been Pop Idol, one of the very few formats ever to span the globe with local editions. Danny Greenstone died last Saturday.

File:Greenstone Danny.jpg Danny Greenstone (centre) tries not to laugh at Alan Coren's jokes.

"Everything Andrew Lloyd Webber has ever touched can be filed under 'meh'" The Counterpoint final went out this week. Daniel Adler won the title, he's the 29th person to triumph in the series' long history. Mr. Adler shared his tips for success with the Life After Mastermind blog.

The X Factor returned, and it appears one sub-plot this year is "knowing the staff will rule you out". Even though her audition has yet to air, Cory Spedding has got her reaction in first. Jon Goodey was in Olly Murs' backing band, and was clearly superior to many of the other performers. But that counts for nothing when there's a plot to advance, and Mr. Goodey was out on his ear, pursued by lies from the critical panel.

A couple of new shows have crossed our radar. Taking The Next Step, a casting programme for a spot on the CBBC / Family Channel (Canada) dance-slash-reality programme. Judges include John Partridge, Kimberly Wyatt, and Lindsey Russell..... John Whaite (Great British Bake Off champion 2012) and Rosemary Shrager work together on The Chopping Block, for ITV daytime. Pairs of budding kitchen geniuses are examined in a competition-slash-reality programme.

Last in the present series of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown went out this week. The lovely people at Creamguide note it's the 17th (count 'em!) in a series, and ask is that the longest continuous run of a comedy programme in modern times? We note 19 episodes of Alan Carr Chatty Man in autumn 2013, so the answer's "yes".

Quiz update

To the New Trafford Arena, where University Challenge reached heat eight. Sussex (Oliver Raven, Anushka Davé, Seb Zarrilli, Dan Elbro) took on Queen's Belfast (Alastair Mallon, Jethro Waldron, Jack Ruddy, Charlie Shimmins). Queen's took on an early lead, Sussex pulled back so the last few minutes might have been interesting, but then Queen's moved ahead to win by 195-125.

Heat eight on Only Connect, and we're introduced to this year's last two new teams. Scientists (Innis Carson, Lorraine Murtagh, Ian Volante) take on Builders (Robin Whelan, Max Espensen, Ian Orriss). It wasn't close, the Scientists won by 30-12. The Builders were often on the right lines – quotations by US presidents, career of the Sex Pistols – but couldn't quite convert it to points.

We enjoyed the list of things Right Said Fred were too sexy for. Also enjoyed the record labels of the Sex Pistols. Good question from a new setter. That Daniel Radcliffe's going to be a star one day.

The winners' quarter-finals on Hive Minds, this week the Mavericks went against the Pascallywags. A high-quality game between two good teams, the Pascallywags showed us how the show should be played, hitting 20 points from a notional 20 in the opening round. But the Mavericks continued to pick up points, including an excellent Superhive, and brought the contest to within one point in the final round. The Pascallywags won the contest, 32-30. If you'd given up on the show, take a look at this edition.

Episode two of Mastermind was originally scheduled for 13 August. Was it worth the wait? Very much so, especially for fans of Rachael Neiman – the experienced contender returned with a perfect round on the Radio 4 comedy Cabin Pressure, and won the programme by a point. Michael Frankl's choice of Edward Heath had caused the delay, and he came second with a very creditable 26. Raymond Nicell had a good specialist round, but Barrie Cooper was scolded by the host as "foolish enough to take a huge subject" – the Wars of the Roses.

BARB ratings in the week to 23 August.

  1. 12 million (TWELVE MILLION) for The Great British Bake Off, and it's only episode three. Beat *that*, England men's football team.
  2. Dragons' Den returns to the silver medal position, with 3.25m viewers. Paxman picks up the bronze, University Challenge pulled 2.9m for this week's match. With 2.8m for Bake Off An Extra Slice and 2.45m for Only Connect, a great week for games on the Deuce.
  3. Keep It In the Family (3) brought 2.3m to ITV, and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown had 2m on Channel 4.
  4. Hell's Kitchen (475,000 on ITV2) and Taskmaster (405,000 on Dave) lead the non-PSB channels, pursued by Catsdown repeats on More4 (400,000) and America's Next Top Model (370,000 on UK Living).
  5. Junior Bake Off and Blue Peter both bring 175,000 to CBBC. King of the Nerds is reported to have similar figures on The Satellite Channel; when it comes to popularity, they stop at nothing.

A new run of Quote... Unquote (Radio 4), and we're looking forward to Deal or No Deal from India (& TV). A number of new daytime shows: Who's Doing the Dishes? (ITV), Decimate (BBC1), and new Pointless (BBC1). Wednesday is good for nostalgia fans: a retrospective show from CBBC, and ITV Changed My Life. A children's television Pointless Celebrities features Andy Crane, Geoffrey Haynes, and Gemma Hunt; Keep It in the Family (3) features Jedward.

Photo credits: 12 Yard / Boom Cymru; Huzzah Media.

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