Weaver's Week 2016-01-03

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Busy old year, wasn't it.

We're discussing each channel in turn, so here's the electronic page guide: BBC1 | BBC2 | ITV | Channel 4 | Channel 5 | BBC digital | ITV digital channels | KYTV | UKTV and others | Non-English channels | The Massive Ratings Database | The Roll of Honour | News

And when you've read enough to refresh your memory, the Poll of the Year 2015 is open.



Week after week after week, we've been saying how BBC1 is the most popular channel in the UK. In part, this is an artefact of how the ratings work – BBC1 combines its SD and HD channels, because the same shows go out on each. ITV splits SD and HD viewing, because different adverts go out on each.

Even so, the facts are that BBC1 has had another strong year. The winter schedule is held up by BBC The Voice of Holland of UK, a talent show that people still watch. We're mystified by how The Voice is still popular, not least because it has proven completely unable to turn any competitors into even C-list stars. Does anyone remember the winner, still less the winner's single? From four years, we're getting that the skills to win a television talent show are different from the skills to have a chart career.

The Voice UK Every Voice winner to have appeared on Top of the Pops.

Behind the scenes, there has been grouching. Rita Ora replaced Kylie Minogue on the judging panel this year; after leaving for a sinking ship, Miss Ora will be replaced by George O'Dowd next year. There was unnecessary bad publicity when Tom Jones heard that he's being replaced by Paloma Faith.

Critics of the BBC took aim at how The Voice was originally a Dutch format, marketed by Talpa TV. By some strange coincidence, they only started down this road when The Voice became a British format, after Talpa was bought up by ITV Studios. It was no surprise when ITV Studios decided to sell the 2017 series to ITV, because ITV makes such good talent shows. More on this later.

The Great British Bake Off Nadiya Hussein.

BBC1 doesn't have a seasonal tentpole for the spring months, The Eastenders keeps viewers returning year round. Summer belongs to The Great British Bake Off, a feelgood programme that celebrates baking and achievement and drips with loveliness. This year's winner, Nadiya Hussein, happened to be a Muslim woman. This was completely irrelevant to the quality of her baking and the improvement she showed during the series. A short series of celebrity editions for charity went out earlier in the year.

The autumn tentpole is Strictly Come Dancing, a celebrity entertainment programme structured around dancing. The show has drifted away from its roots in a ballroom competition, routines these days involve props and are judged as much on showmanship as technical excellence. It's an undemanding and entertaining programme. Look at the pantomime villains, ignore an idiosyncratic elimination structure.

Strictly Come Dancing Jay and Aliona, the 2015 champions.

Again, there was some ill-informed criticism, alleging that Strictly is (in some nebulous and confusing way) "fixed". We're yet to see a scintilla of evidence to back up these remarkable claims. Could it be that this bluster is encouraged by ITV, depressed that their talent show got slaughtered in the ratings?

Beneath this big tent, BBC1 has strong and distinctive programmes. Masterchef continues in celebrity and civilian editions (a professionals version goes out on BBC2). Pointless serves an appetising mixture of fact and bonhomie, and Have I Got News for You continues to ask about current affairs. The People's Strictly was part of the semi-annual charity campaigns.

The Big Painting Challenge tried to improve the viewers with a dose of art criticism into Sunday teatimes. The Apprentice continues to promote Alan Sugar and a ludicrous caricature of capitalism. How come none of the press bleats that this format is imported? Could it be because the owners are not the ITV company?

The Lottery Corp continued to get its commercials on Saturday nights. For about half the year, there's a game show wrapped around these advertisements. In It to Win It and Who Dares Wins returned for their umpteenth series. Win Your Wish List allowed couples to set their own prizes and ask their own questions, a charming show with many complexities. 5-Star Family Reunion was all about the satellite link-up, and the gimmick of a Newton's cradle in place of a clock.

The Edge On the edge of glory.

There were just three new game shows on daytime; both had significant changes for their second series. The Edge was a combination of quiz and target bowls, far too heavy on the quizzing in the first series, perhaps a little too easy to win in the second incarnation. Decimate asked for 40 correct answers to defend and capture a £20,000 jackpot. The concept flowed more easily with a team of strangers than the original team of friends, but we still find the programme is too slow.

Changes to Bargain Hunt, as host Tim Wonnacott was resigned after over ten years. Changes on The Link, making most questions "What have I got on my piece of paper?" This caused problems at the Weasley family Christmas lunch, when Uncle Arthur insisted that the answer to "Why won't Tom Jones be carol singing this year?" was "Because he's lost his ITV's BBC The Voice of Holland Of UK."

Surprise hit of the year is The Box, a very simple and very elegant cookery programme. James Martin and a special guest prepare a standard box of ingredients, then discuss and critique the resulting dishes. The Box doesn't waste a second of its time on air, offers a few useful cooking tips, and plenty of good humour.

Prized Apart Oranges and lemons.

BBC1's failure of the year has to be Prized Apart. The adventure aspect should have worked. It's difficult to make spectacular challenges look mundane. Crossing a canyon, descending a waterfall, a scavenger hunt in an unfamiliar city – these are exciting and exhilarating. But somehow, the production made it seem as interesting as a teambuilding awayday near Leighton Buzzard. Needless interviews from the studio didn't help.

There was also a quiz element, which seemed to be there only so that the studio player had something to do beyond Emma Willis's interviews. Now, this is a failure because we like the idea (it reminds us of Armand Jammot), and we like hosts Emma and Reggie Yates. But the execution wasn't there, and the death knell happened when Prized Apart was bumped for extended coverage at Wimbledon.


Let's start with ITV's unqualified success story: afternoons. The Chase and Tipping Point have the second half of the afternoon locked up. ITV will give the shows enough time off to breathe (12 and 10 weeks off air this year), but not so long that we forget them. Both formats evolved – Tipping Point gained Double counters, The Chase added Jenny Ryan to the Chasers' roster. There's no reason to suspect that either will be leaving us soon.

And the breaks allow ITV time to try other formats. Some, like the chat show Mel and Sue, don't work. Some, like 1000 Heartbeats, are clear successes. What's the attraction of 1000 Heartbeats? The concept is simple: here are some questions, we'll measure your progress against the beats of your own heart. The execution is elegant: Dilly Barlow's voice reads the questions, with Vernon Kay giving his chummy encouragement.

1000 Heartbeats The only baroque element is the music.

The obvious gimmick is that the show's music is played live by a string quartet, conducted by Paul Farrer at the same tempo as the contestant's heart rate. When the player panics, the music speeds up and adds to the tension. Mr. Farrer also wrote the music, and devised the game, proving the maxim that if you want something done properly, do it yourself.

The questions are also elegant, in a more subtle way. There are elements of Countdown – some anagram challenges, some mathematics operations. There are also trivia questions, but there's a link going through them – nothing so disjointed as the trivia on The Chase. Like the BBC daytime shows, 1000 Heartbeats made some changes for its second series, shifting the game more towards the player.

Daytime also featured the rise of Judge Rinder, a very British take on The People's Court. There were new episodes of Dickinson's Real Deal, and of Who's Doing the Dishes. Summer replacements included the entertaining Guess This House and the tiresome Hello Campers. Freeze Out was a series of good rounds that didn't make an entertaining show; Rebound was almost the perfect pilot show.

Rebound Name that bridge!

And then there was Pick Me!, a game of really difficult questions. Know which romantic film began life as "3000"? There's £1000 on offer to the most convincing answer, even if it's wrong. It's a game of misdirection and bluff.

No! A game of bizarre costumes and outlandish dress. The audience come in their favourite costumes: a cheerleader, a werewolf, the cat in the hat, two Minions, a lady with a pet dog, a daffodil, a snowman, and a vicar. No! That's the host Stephen Mulhern: cool, unflappable, the innocent, showing his talents well. He brings up tension when it's needed, then blows it away like a wind through fog.

No! It's a big prize challenge, the daily winner stands to win a trip to somewhere hot and warm. Like the Maldives, or the Seychelles, or Britain this Christmas. It's perfectly paced, massively entertaining, humorous and easy to watch and everything we want television to be. Could go anywhere in the schedules, and we hope it's a massive and long-lasting hit.

Pick Me! All human life is here.

ITV decided not to push its big guns against The Voice, keeping Take Me Out till later in the evening. Instead, they pushed a revamp of Stars in Their Eyes, mixing the surreal sketch comedy of Harry Hill with quality impressions from the public. Had they said it was "Harry Hill's new sketch show with some people singing," it would have been more honest. The public voted with their remotes, and voted no.

Sunday evenings were even worse, as variety series Get Your Act Together turned into a massive flop. The programme, fronted by Stephen Mulhern, had a confusing "access all areas" gimmick. Too many minor celebrities learning sort-of entertaining skills, then putting on a show for the audience in the theatre. It felt remote, something being shown to the viewer, and not as entertaining as Countryfile on the other side.

From these low expectations, even very mediocre was good enough. "Hypnotism" show You're Back in the Room, and derivative sports gabfest Play to the Whistle, could only attract small audiences, but did enough to come back in 2016.

Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway had another series, and again each show felt like a marathon rather than a sprint. All-Star Family Fortunes filled a hole on Sunday nights. Big Star's Little Star tried valiantly on Wednesday evenings, and Bear Grylls Mission Survive tried to bring some fibre to Friday nights. Only the muscular obstacle course of Ninja Warrior UK felt like a hit, and it will be ITV's big beast against The Voice in early 2016.

Ninja Warrior UK Bring on the warped wall!

Spring had new episodes of Catchphrase and The Cube, and a successful run of Britain's Got Talent. The latter is one of ITV's tentpoles, alongside soap operas Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm, and I'm a Celebrity rules for three weeks in the autumn. ITV doesn't have much of an undercard at the moment: everything is either huge, or it's attracting a few million viewers. Lots of these new primetime shows had smaller audiences than a good episode of The Chase.

To their credit, ITV tried to make something new during the summer. They weren't going to rely on repeats and old films. Flockstars was a brave effort at celebrity sheep-herding, we rather liked the combination of bizarre and homely. BBQ Champ tried to introduce the UK to a particular overseas barbecue culture. Fake drama and genuine artsy shots weren't enough; the show assumed more knowledge than it imparted, and viewing figures fell through the floor.

The X Factor Every winner of The X Factor to appear on Top of the Pops this year.

Early autumn was disrupted by ITV's rugby commitments, so the second series of Keep It In the Family (2) went out in late summer, a little earlier than ideal. Eternal Glory failed on Tuesday nights. Viewers would rather see world-class competition than anything involving past masters. The rugby also disrupted The X Factor, stretching out the auditions process so long that even fans got bored. Viewing figures fell.

The live shows weren't any better. New judges Nick Grimshaw and Rita Ora added little, Simon Cowell subtracted from the fun and had people wishing for the return of Boring Gary Barlow. Meddling from the production staff was blatant. New hosts Olly Murs and Caroline Flack simply weren't Dermot O'Leary, and viewing figures continued to fall.

The kicker came when the winner tried to release a single. It sold a few copies to friends and family, and some more to the die-hard audience who had stuck with the show through this year's thin pickings. But there was no cross-over. People didn't buy it. The annual "Stop X Factor" campaign had to whip out the photo editing software to become a "Stop Bieber" campaign. "Forever young" is now outside the top 50 and falling faster than an anvil through custard.


The second channel continues to be a clearing house for programmes that don't fit elsewhere. Sport and news coverage during the day, a mixture of entertainment, drama, and serious documentary by evening. Many game shows featured in this assortment.

Eggheads continued at 6pm for much of the year, and there were new episodes of Richard Osman's friendly quiz Two Tribes. A new show, Beat the Brain, joined the early evening rotation – it had stumpers to test everything except trivia knowledge. Between this show and 1000 Heartbeats, it's been a good year for gentle puzzle formats.

Beat the Brain Let's hand it to them.

As a financial measure, the final episodes of Perfection went out at 6am in March. This set a new record for the earliest time a game show had been aired in the day, breaking the 6.05 start of Countdown Masters. The record didn't last.

The usual cookery shows had their runs. Great British Menu early in the night, Masterchef The Professionals and The Great British Bake Off An Extra Slice deeper in primetime. Creative types also had new runs of The Big Allotment Challenge and The Great British Sewing Bee. And there was The Great Pottery Throw Down, and garden design on The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. Is it possible that BBC2 is getting a bit too heavily involved in shows like Bake Off?

We weren't impressed with the second run of Hair, which came over on a transfer from BBC3. Steve Jones had a knack of being naive to help the exposition. That was lost from the show, along with Steve Jones. New host Katherine Ryan was able to model many of the styles herself, but the show crammed more challenges into each hour, and split that hour over two evenings. Choppy, rushed, and lacking the certain something that worked in 2014. Young Dancer brought high arts to half-a-million viewers, and earned the BBC many credibility points.

Dragons' Den and The Apprentice You're Fired continued to present an extreme view of capitalism. Extreme life on quasi-game Special Forces Ultimate Hell Week, inviting the fittest to take training with military types from five nations. There was no messing with the players on Let's Play Darts for Comic Relief, a pro-celebrity doubles match with plenty of needle and quite some points.

Let's Play Darts for Comic Relief Martin Offiah and Lee Mack had the arrows.

Panel shows bumbled along, but Never Mind the Buzzcocks was elected to the Television Hall of Fame (ie cancelled) after 18 years. There's still no news about cancelling Mock the Week, or when it will next tell a funny joke. Stephen Fry will step down after the QI host after the current series. Sandi Toksvig will replace him in the host's chair. She'd retired from Radio 4's The News Quiz as it's not compatible with her work in the Women's Equality Party. No viewer of Channel 4's Fifteen-to-One will take offence from her political work.

Two pilot episodes of new highbrow quiz entertainment panel game thingies went out. 6 Degrees of Separation was entertainment with a science backdrop, and a full series would get a better balance between the two strands. The Great History Quiz spent an hour in the world of the Tudors, sampling court food and exploring the remedies used by the monarchs. Might have concentrated a bit less on royal affairs, Ye One Per Cent is hardly demotic, but an entertaining and instructive hour.

"Quizzy Mondays" was the name given to BBC2's block of popular and demanding shows on Monday evening. There's an outpost on Friday, when Mastermind goes out. (That's except for viewers in Wales, the BBC's rugby commitments push Mastermind to Saturday evenings.) University Challenge is the channel's ratings banker, it'll get about 3 million viewers every single week. Every single week, viewers use social media to throw snark and abuse at the contestants. Every single week, there are some "interesting" adjudications. To be honest, we watch the programme as background noise until the actual quarter-finals.

Only Connect (2) A question about a question.

Only Connect is nearing the end of its second series on BBC2, and we're perhaps getting a little tired of it. Some have argued that the questions are getting a little predictable, but there are ideas from wizards and doctors and hyper-intelligent jellyfish. Some reckon that singing the answers to the music connections isn't much fun, and often it doesn't feel fun. Maybe it's that Only Connect has been on too much – the final next month will be the 70th new edition in 91 weeks.

Channel 4

What did Channel 4 do this year? Brought daytime to primetime, mostly. 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown ran for almost half the year, it was a solid audience on Friday night. Celebrity editions of Fifteen-to-One were less rigorous than the civilian version, but again a decent audience in a tricky slot. Deal or No Deal marked its tenth birthday with Little Noel Edmonds playing; the daytime show had some massive wins and few viewers. A previously-unseen episode of The Common Denominator slipped out at 5.20 one Saturday morning in June. This got the record for Earliest Episode back from BBC2.

Coach Trip trundled on, Come Dine with Me and Four in a Bed continued, and French Collection somehow got another run. There was another outing for The Jump, better without the minimalist contributions of Alex Brooker. The Big Fat Quiz bookended the year, and there were some editions of The Million Pound Drop. Four Rooms came back to primetime, bombed, and went out on More4.

Blink Blink and you'll miss their careers.

Channel 4 specialised in documentaries and factual entertainment that made a point. Ballot Monkeys pretended to be a comedy about the election campaign, but was really propaganda in favour of the political establishment. And it specialised in cheap nostalgia, reviving Oh No It's Chris Evans On Friday and sneering on It Was Acceptable In The Past Decades.

Two programmes might have been a game show: SAS Are You Tough Enough might also have been a spoiler for BBC2's similar show. Hunted asked people to evade a fictionalised intelligence agency, and ranted against the "Big Brother" state.

Just two new game shows this year. The more successful was Blink, a hugely cheap and gently entertaining pop music quiz that went out just after midnight.

And then there was Benchmark. Paddy McGuinness asks a panel to estimate a numerical answer. Then he asks the day's contestant to work out whether the true answer is higher or lower than the average of the estimates. Slippery mathematics offended the few viewers who care about such things. Too much wittering from the host made the show less interesting than Tipping Point on the other side, where you're never more than a minute away from some top-shelf action.

Benchmark How many viewers did this episode get? Is it higher or lower than 47?

Viewers turned off in their droves, and the show was pulled from its 4pm slot after two weeks. Celebrity editions began early on Saturday evenings, underperformed, and moved to late on Friday nights. The main series returned at lunchtime in November, but was whipped off the air after a week-and-a-half. The second half of the series was dropped into the schedules at 3.15. That's 3.15 in the morning, when most of the people watching are asleep.

The worst thing: Benchmark isn't that bad an idea. Execution was poor, the idea is sound.

Channel 5

Big Brother was a flop this year, because the producers insisted on making the show they wanted, rather than the show viewers wanted to see, or the lab rats wanted to make. Cheap, unimaginative, nasty, repetitive, and generally incompetent. It led in the Most Obvious Producer Interference stakes until being beaten by The X Factor.

Channel 5 also shows documentaries and clip shows about modern life, with a dash of history. There's imported drama and films. But few other game shows. Strongest Man season began in November, and Storage Flog The Lot completed a run that began in October 2014.

BBC digital channels

BBC3 continued to make documentaries with relevance to young people's lives. Stacey Dooley investigated a lot of things, Reggie Yates went to Russia. There were seasons exploring the modern homosexual experience and disability. The latter gave The Totally Senseless Gameshow (sic) an excuse to grace the airwaves after sitting on a BBC3 shelf for eighteen months. The Fear dissected horror movies, allowing us to watch a season of horror movies with a new understanding. And the Eurovision Song Contest semi-final brought squillions of viewers.

I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse was an interesting experiment, how would a group of strangers survive in cramped quarters for a week? Viewers turned off in their droves, bored by a slow start where no-one died before the end of episode two. It was a metaphor for the channel, which will close at the end of January. We'll discuss BBC3's history and legacy on 31 January.

The Quizeum Griff Rhys-Jones' travelling table of quiz.

BBC4 tried to fill the Only Connect-shaped hole in its schedule with two shows. The Quizeum featured Griff Rhys-Jones touring the nations museums, and talking with a regular panel about what they found inside. It's slow television, filled with perhaps a little too much chatter for us to appreciate the objects of art. Hive Minds sought the answers to trivia questions in hives of letters. A decent idea, lacked something in the execution, we expect better in the next series.

The Fourth Programme also aired the heats of BBC Young Dancer, and serious documentary Eurovision at 60 to mark the 59th birthday of the Song Contest. The only game-ish show to record Only Connect-size audiences was Cilla at the BBC, a tribute to the career of the entertainer who died in August.

BBC Red Button has a few shows of its own, and pulled in big audiences for its Eurovision programmes. The BBC's entry for Vienna was published in Eurovision Our Entry, and the main contest had on-screen karaoke in Eurovision Sing-a-long. Strictly Red Carpet and The Apprentice Meet the Candidates gave advance publicity to big shows. Live coverage of Dancing Dermot raised money for Comic Relief.

No new game show formats on CBBC or Cbeebies, but new runs of Junior Bake Off, The Dare Devil, Ultimate Brain, and Swashbuckle attracted praise and attention.

ITV digital channels

After losing most of its reality shows in 2014, ITV2 is beginning to get some sort of coherent strategy. Spin-offs and narrative repeats of big ITV favourites still happen, with a million people seeing Take Me Out The Gossip on Valentine's night. Celebrity Juice remains the biggest draw, though with the audience drifting away it might be a good time to consider the next tentpole.

Reality Bites A small show pays tribute to a more successful one.

Two successor panel games had short runs. Reality Bites wasn't sure if it was snarking at reality television in general or reacting to events that week: a clearer focus would have helped. Safeword asked celebrities to try and wreck their careers through social media, we don't see that this format has a long life. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all", so we won't discuss The Almost Impossible Gameshow (sic).

ITV2 tried to take on Big Brother with a revival of Love Island, and it almost worked. Iain Stirling's narration was just the right side of waspish. But the ending! Gaah! Someone thought it would be good to end the series with The Prisoner's Dilemma. This person needs to be taken out and given a stern talking-to. No show has ever been improved with The Prisoner's Dilemma. Release the Hounds returned for a seasonal run.

We didn't spot any game shows on ITV3, ITV4's game output was repeats of The Chase With Celebrities. CITV decided not to commission another series of Fort Boyard Ultimate Challenge. ITVBe is held up by The Only Way is Essex, and imports of The Batchelor / The Bachelorette. There are many other cheap observational programmes: Dinner Date and When Do You Get Off? both gave their own structures to romance.


For the first time in many years, the satellite broadcaster has been worth writing about. Internal changes meant it spent a bit of money making half-decent programmes for The Satellite Channel, rather than making quarter-decent programmes on UK Living.

Many of its commissions have been half-decent: no worse, but no better. The Fanatics was a specialist quiz that didn't patronise its contestants, but wasn't gripping television. Relatively Clever was a family quiz too heavy in its own rules. King of the Nerds ended each show in the same way, stuck too closely to the imported format, and undermined its own premise at every turn.

One Hundred and Eighty Hit after hit after hit.

Music entertainment Bring the Noise showed many sparks, but never quite caught alight. Flip Reverse was a genius idea, but used too often. One Hundred and Eighty was a novel mixture between darts and quizzing, and completely different from the classic Bullseye.

KYTV also owns the Challenge channel, which shows classic and contemporary game shows. There weren't any new game shows on Challenge this year, but there were repeats of Fifteen-to-One from 1995, Countdown from 1991, and The Million Pound Drop Live from 2010. KYTV4, the operator's cultural channel, made two contributions. Guitar Star sought the UK's best player of the guitar, an accolade almost as nebulous as the UK's best pair of shoes. Landscape Artist of the Year felt like KYTV4's old show Portrait Artist of the Year, but turned around a bit.

Wild Things These animals are batty.

We cannot carp about Wild Things. A descendent of My Little Princess (E4, 2013), woodland creatures did strange and bizarre things, following the directions of their sighted friend. In short, "a giant mole and a giant duck beat up a giant stag while attempting to smash rotten fruit to the ground."

Wild Things comes from the scary mind of Gary Monaghan, features his characteristic broad range of music, and asks deep questions. What is it like to be without sight? Can you communicate with your nearest and dearest by voice alone?

Why did the chicken cross the stage? To collect the Rose d'Or trophy, of course. Wild Things has already won the Eurovision Television Contest for Best Game Show. Deserves all this success, and more.

UKTV and Other National Channels

There's also a Rose d'Or for radio, won by The 3rd Degree (Pozzitive / Radio 4). Hugh Dennis's student quiz is in its fifth year. The only new radio entertainments of note were Best Behaviour (a tedious panel show) and Breaking the News (a Scottish news quiz, reflecting Scotland's distinct society and polity).

UKTV operates channels with snappy names such as Watch, Dave, Gold, Drama, Really, and Good Food. The pay-channel Watch picked up the rights to old editions of Tipping Point. It also has first-run editions of Masterchef from other English-language nations. Masterchef Australia is a particular hit, getting over 300,000 viewers before Christmas. Watch also had Humble Pie, a cookery show where players can elect to leave for a token prize, or remain and hope that their dish wasn't the worst.

Taskmaster I have a task for you.

The freeview Dave channel is best known for its endless repeats of QI, Have I Got News for You, Top Gear, and Mock the Week. It's also made some new programmes. Money Pit was an effort to do crowdfunding on the television. In Taskmaster, Alex Horne gave five contestants silly and bizarre things to do, all subject to different interpretation by the players. Greg Davies is the arbitrator and judge, his demeanour is "very little will ever please me". Taskmaster turned into a huge breakout hit over the summer, and we hear a new series is due in 2016.

Lip Sync Battle turned into a big hit when shown on the Spike and Comedy Central channels, enough to convince Channel 5 to make a series of its own. We expect to review that in February. Quiz the Nation was an interesting idea, a pub quiz with the questions asked on the television, and answered by players on a mobile computer app. Enough people played in the spring to build a small groundswell of interest; not enough played to bring about a second series.

At one point, Yankee versions of Pop Idol and Britain's Got Talent propped up ITV2's schedule. But ITV2 has outgrown these crutches; America's Got Talent went to the obscure TruTV, and Pop Idol Us was not shown in the UK. TruTV also picked up Rupaul's Drag Race and Redneck Island; there's more interest in drag queens than in dumb southerners.

Non-English channels

This column doesn't understand Hindi or Urdu or Punjabi or Gujarat, so we tend not to watch programmes in those languages. We do know that Bigg Boss (the Indian version of Big Brother) and India's Got Talent are very popular in the UK. Versions of The Voice and Deal or No Deal go out on one of the more obscure channels.

We didn't spot any new game shows in Scots Gaelic on BBC Alba. Welsh speakers got some game entertainment on S4C. The annual song festival Can i Gymru and biennial choir contest Cor Cymru were joined by Codi Canu, revived to find choirs for the rugby world cup. Farming contest Fferm Ffactor adopted a new format, teams rather than individuals, and we found it to be more bitty and less cohesive than before.

Rhestr State of the art in Wales.

Adult viewers were challenged on Celwydd Noeth, the Welsh version of The Lie, which debuted in 2014 on STV. Rhestr tried to be an app-a-long quiz, but didn't work for the casual viewer. Y Gemau Gwyllt took children on wild adventures, culminating in an expedition through the Brecon Beacons. A show asking its winners to camp out and shoot archery? Welcome to the hungry games.

This Week and Next

Countdown had its final week from 15 to 23 December. In the quarter-finals, Thomas Carey recorded his fifth 12-max game in a row as he beat Matty Artell by 124-87. Jonathan Wynn withstood a strong challenge from Liam Moloney by 90-84, and Stephen Briggs recorded a 12-max of his own as he defeated Judy Bursford by 110-48. The only seeding upset came when Matthew Tassier beat John Hardie by 122-107; both players took the maximum in 11 rounds, John's error was to choose the wrong option in the final letters round.

Matthew Tassier caused another upset in the semi-final, defeating top seed Thomas Carey by 104-94. A thrilling game played at a hectic pace. We were excited during the second semi-final, as Jonathan Wynn appeared to be on for a perfect game – this proved incorrect, as we missed a nine-letter word in the opening round, and Jonathan missed the final two rounds. He beat Stephen Briggs by 134-100, the day's maximum of 157 is the highest of the year.

The final would come down to a battle between Matthew Tassier – great on six-small numbers, beatable on the words – against Jonathan Wynn – very strong on words, shaky against difficult numbers targets. CECIL set difficult numbers rounds, allowing Matthew a 17-point advantage, but two invalid words cost him most of that lead. Jonathan only won one letters round on merit, and in a game of fine margins that was enough to give him the win by 98-94.

Countdown Jonathan Wynn lifts the trophy.

Countdown resumes with a Championship of Champions event on 4 January.

Only Connect had its suitably obscure Christmas question, a reference to the PM's speech in Love Actually. (Which, we were surprised to learn, is a romance movie, and not a commentary on the Pet Shop Boys' records.) The Cluesmiths beat the Railwaymen by 17-9.

OC also caused some raised eyebrows at the Weasley household, when Victoria declined "crossbreed citrus fruits" for a set of "citrus fruits". Too specific a connection? Yes, and not accurate, as one of the fruits is natural. This didn't affect the result, and neither did the Wayfarers' enthusiastic rendition of "Blame it on the boogie". Wayfarers beat Bookworms by 25-14.

Yes, the Wayfarers and Bookworms met in the first round. Bookworms went on to beat Headliners and Athenians; Wayfarers lost to String Section and beat Builders. It's not clear why the undefeated String Section and Scientists had to meet in the other quarter-final in this half.

According to the results on the night, this year's Eurovision Song Contest was won by SVT's entry. We might argue that the popular winner is from RTBF, Loïc Nottet has been rap-pap-papping in people's heads for the past eight months. He was signed up for Danse avec les Stars (Strictly Come Dancing in France), and only went and won le glitterball trophé.

A great year for Loïc Nottet.

Coming up this week. ITV wastes no time with Ninja Warrior UK (Sat and Sun) and Take Me Out starting this week. ITV's BBC The Voice of Holland of UK begins on BBC1 next Saturday; the Irish edition starts on RTE1 this Sunday. Channel 5 kicks off Celebrity Big Brother (from Tuesday, also TV3 in Ireland).

Entertainments include Lip Sync Battle UK (C5, Fri), celebrities mime to popular tunes. The Big Fat Quiz of Everything (C4, Tue) reviews the last 100,000 years of human evolution.

New to primetime comes Insert Name Here (BBC2, Mon), which might not be game. For What It's Worth (BBC1 daytime) is an antiques quiz. Masterchef Us arrives on Watch (weekdays).

CBBC has talent show Got What It Takes? (Wed) and comedy The Dog Ate My Homework (Fri). And if you're missing Pop Idle US, it comes to 4 Music (Sat).

The UKGameshows.com / Bother's Bar Poll of the Year 2015 is open for business.

The Massive Ratings Database

Every game show to make a channel's top 10 (top 30 for the traditional 5 channels) in any week during 2015, according to the weekly BARB reports. We only record the highest individual transmission of any programme. We count viewing live or within 7 days, do not attempt to consolidate HD and +1 viewing, and give viewing figures in millions throughout.


The Great British Bake Off (final) 07-Oct 15.05
Strictly Come Dancing (final) 19-Dec 12.47
The Voice of Holland of UK 14-Feb 10.1
The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 18-Feb 8.39
Children in Need 13-Nov 7.95
The Apprentice (first) 14-Oct 7.93
Masterchef (final) 24-Apr 6.95
Eurovision Song Contest 23-May 6.78
Celebrity Masterchef (final) 24-Jul 6.17
Pointless Celebrities 03/01, 28/11 5.87
Have I Got News for You 02-Oct 5.43
Win Your Wish List 07-Feb 5.27
Pointless 30-Dec 5.00
Room 101 18-Feb 4.72
Celebrity Mastermind 02-Jan 4.5
The Big Painting Challenge 01-Mar 4.43
The People's Strictly 04-Mar 4.22
University Challenge The Boat Races 11-Apr 4.12
Who Dares Wins 30-May 4.12
Five Star Family Reunion (last) 05-Sep 3.8
Would I Lie to You? (first) 31-Jul 3.38


The Great Comic Relief Bake Off An Extra Slice 13-Mar 4.67
Masterchef The Professionals 23-Dec 3.79
Dragons' Den 09-Aug 3.61
The Great British Sewing Bee (final) 12-Mar 3.61
Let's Play Darts for Comic Relief (first) 01-Mar 3.36
University Challenge 12-Jan 3.27
Christmas University Challenge 02-Jan, 23-Dec 2.85
Only Connect 02-Mar 2.85
Pointless 08-May 2.82
The Great British Bake Off An Extra Slice 21/08, 4/9 2.8
The Apprentice You're Fired 11-Nov 2.58
The Great British Bake Off Masterclass 12-Oct 2.53
The Great Pottery Throw Down (final) 08-Dec 2.53
Strictly Come Dancing It Takes Two 14-Dec 2.39
Great British Menu (final) 09-Oct 2.37
Mastermind 30-Jan 2.25
QI 06-Nov 2.07
Mock the Week 21-Dec 2.01
The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge (first) 11-May 1.97
The Big Allotment Challenge 09/01, 16/01 1.87
Special Forces Ultimate Hell Week (first) 30-Aug 1.81
Antiques Road Trip 24/11, 1/12 1.75
Eggheads 06-Jan 1.45
Two Tribes 02-Mar 1.42
QI XL 21-Nov 1.38
The Great History Quiz 24-Dec 1.35
Six Degrees of Separation 14-Sep 1.32
Hair (last) 04-Aug 1.11
Beat the Brain (first) 11-May 0.98


Britain's Got Talent (final) 31-May 10.32
I'm a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! (first) 15-Nov 8.29
The X Factor (first) 29-Aug 7.33
Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway (first) 28-Feb 5.68
The Royal Variety Performance 08-Dec 4.94
Ninja Warrior 02-May 4.25
You're Back in the Room (first) 14-Mar 4.24
Take Me Out 21-Feb 3.75
All-Star Family Fortunes 22-Mar 3.55
The Chase With Celebrities 08-Mar 3.54
Bear Grylls Mission Survive 27-Feb 3.42
Big Star's Little Star 25-Mar 3.39
The One and Only Cilla Black 04-Aug 3.23
Harry Hill's Stars In Their Eyes (first) 10-Jan 3.14
All-Star Mr & Mrs 04-Nov 3.13
Through the Keyhole 12-Sep 3.09
The Chase 30-Nov 2.99
The Cube (first) 03-Jun 2.98
Keep It In the Family 29-Aug 2.96
Famous Family Misfortunes 11-Jan 2.86
Play to the Whistle (first) 11-Apr 2.79
Catchphrase 12-Jul 2.63
Get Your Act Together (first) 18-Jan 2.49
BBQ Champ (first) 31-Jul 2.32
Flockstars (first) 30-Jul 2.29
The Saturday Night Story (first) 15-Aug 2.15
Tipping Point 14-May 1.74

Channel 4

The Jump (first) 01-Feb 2.85
The Big Fat Anniversary Quiz 02-Jan 2.81
8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown 09-Jan 2.43
8 Out of 10 Cats 24-Dec 2.14
Celebrity Fifteen-to-One 11-Apr 1.25
Sarah Millican Hijacks Deal or No Deal 18-Sep 1.11
The Million Pound Drop Live 27-Feb 1.03
Three in a Bed (first) 18-Mar 1
Four Rooms (first) 22-Feb 0.98
Four in a Bed 23-Mar 0.97
Come Dine With Me 14-Nov 0.96
Coach Trip 12-Mar 0.81

Channel 5

Celebrity Big Brother (first) 07-Jan 3.44
Celebrity Big Brother Live From The House 09-Jan 2.02
Big Brother (first) 12-May 1.94
Celebrity Big Brother Live Bombshell! 02-Feb 1.6
Celebrity Big Brother's Bit on the Side (last) 06-Feb 1.49
World's Strongest Man 2014 (final) 01-Jan 1.48
Moments That Rocked Talent Shows 17-Jul 0.94
White Dee What's The Fuss About 01-Jan 0.84
Big Brother's Bit on the Side (first) 12-May 0.7
UK's Strongest Man 20-Nov 0.69
Celebrity Big Brother The Good 01-Jan 0.61


Storage Flog the Lot (first) 13-Jan 0.045


Celebrity Juice 29-Oct 1.703
Britain's Got More Talent (first) 11-Apr 1.563
I'm a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here Now! (final) 06-Dec 1.334
Take Me Out The Gossip 14-Feb 1.032
Love Island (final) 15-Jul 0.906
Britain's Got Talent (narrep; first) 26-Apr 0.823
Xtra Factor 12-Sep 0.721
The X Factor (narr rep) 31-Aug 0.628
Catchphrase 13-Dec 0.595
Hells Kitchen 03-Mar 0.588
Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway (first) 22-Feb 0.549
Safeword 30-Jul 0.394
Release the Hounds 28-Oct 0.387
Through the Keyhole 30-Sep 0.384


The Chase With Celebrities 13-Jan 0.316


Dinner Date 02-Sep 0.215
The Bachelorette 07-Aug 0.106


May the Best House Win 23-Jan 0.023


Fort Boyard Ultimate Challenge 07-Mar 0.151


Eurovision Song Contest Semi Final (first) 19-May 0.853
The Voice of Holland of UK (narr rep) 25-Jan 0.659
I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse (first) 15-Feb 0.579


Cilla at the BBC 16-Aug 1.152
The Quizeum (first) 25-Mar 0.705
Eurovision at 60 22-May 0.56
Hive Minds (first) 14-Jul 0.538
BBC Young Dancer 08-May 0.462


Junior Bake Off 09-Nov 0.269
Ultimate Brain 12-Sep 0.214
The Dare Devil 09-Feb 0.18
Horrible Histories Gory Games 28-Jun 0.172
Junior Masterchef 24-Jul 0.166

BBC Red Button

Strictly Come Dancing Winner 19-Dec 0.313
Eurovision Sing-a-long 23-May 0.258
Strictly Red Carpet 02-Sep 0.13
Eurovision Our Entry 07-Mar 0.118
The Apprentice Meet the Candidates 06-Oct 0.101
In It to Win It Playalong 11-Apr 0.086
Eurovision's Greatest Hits 03-Apr 0.08
Dancing Dermot 13-Mar 0.066


Hollyoaks Does Come Dine with Me (first) 19-Oct 0.795


Come Dine With Me 01-Feb 0.552
Four in a Bed 18-Jan 0.505
8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown 19-Aug 0.399
Four Rooms 29-Jul 0.36


Come Dine With Me 21-Nov 0.206
Four in a Bed 21-Nov 0.134
8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown 13-Sep 0.126
Four Rooms (first) 01-Mar 0.123
Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year 24-Jun 0.083


8 Out of 10 Cats 01-Jun 0.132


Celebrity Big Brother's Bit on the Side 23-Sep 0.389


Celeb Big Brother The Best Bits 10-May 0.036


World's Strongest Man 27-Dec 0.205
Lip Sync Battle 05-May 0.201
UK's Strongest Man 21-Nov 0.079

Comedy Central

Lip Sync Battle 11-Nov 0.252


Are You the One? 09-Nov 0.096
Lip Sync Battle 28-Dec 0.075
Celebrity Big Brother 14-Jan 0.062


Big Brother 09-Jul 0.007

The Satellite Channel

A League of Their Own 05-Jun 0.834
Duck Quacks Don't Echo 60 Version (first) 31-Aug 0.372
One Hundred and Eighty (first) 15-Sep 0.348


America's Next Top Model 20-Aug 0.368
My Kitchen Rules Australia 28-Jul 0.246
The Biggest Loser Us 20-Jul 0.198
Four Weddings 15-Mar 0.109


Dating in the Dark 31-Mar 0.039


Landscape Artist of the Year 17-Nov 0.247


The Chase 15-May 0.228
Who Wants to be a Millionaire 15/01, 31/8 0.174
Bullseye 28-Feb 0.167
The Chase Us 10-Jul 0.163
Catchphrase 04-Jan 0.15
Pointless 01-Jul 0.147
Wheel of Fortune 21-Apr 0.137
Play Your Cards Right 16-May 0.13
Million Pound Drop 03-Nov 0.126
Robot Wars 09-Dec 0.126
Family Fortunes 11/07, 20/09 0.12
Ninja Warrior 22-Jul 0.118
Stars In Their Eyes 10-Oct 0.118
Price is Right 08-Feb 0.109
Strike it Lucky / Rich 22-Feb 0.105
Fort Boyard 29-May 0.099
Total Wipeout UK 27-May 0.08


Fun House 30-Aug 0.068
Blockbusters 20-Sep 0.067
Knightmare 03-May 0.048
Countdown 20-Sep 0.047
Crystal Maze 24-Feb 0.039
Total Wipeout Us 30-Oct 0.039
Takeshi's Castle 30-Mar 0.037
Blankety Blank 25-Jun 0.034
Celebrity Squares 26-Jun 0.033
Supermarket Sweep 26-Jun 0.033
Golden Balls 27-Jul 0.029
Finders Keepers 05-Jul 0.028
Are You Smarter than a 10 Year Old? 11-Oct 0.026
8 Out of 10 Cats 22-Feb 0.025
Deal or No Deal 06-Oct 0.023
Wipeout 28-Aug 0.021
Fifteen-to-One 12-Mar 0.019
Defectors 20-Mar 0.018
Going for Gold 20-Mar 0.018


Mock the Week 28-Jan 0.474
Taskmaster 25-Aug 0.46
QI XL 25-Mar 0.431
Have I Got a Bit More News for You 16-Aug 0.411
Room 101 01-Jan 0.392
Would I Lie to You? 19-May 0.386
QI 08-Jan 0.382
Scrapheap Challenge 08-May 0.254


Masterchef Australia 04-Dec 0.319
Tipping Point 11-Oct 0.131
Masterchef Canada 04-Aug 0.097
Masterchef South Africa 03-Jun 0.09


Masterchef Ireland 18-Mar 0.031
Masterchef New Zealand 20-Jan 0.02

Good Food

The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 01-Jan 0.106
Masterchef 14-Jul 0.091
The Great British Bake Off 25-Jul 0.084
The Great British Bake Off Christmas Masterclass 13-Dec 0.058
The Great Sport Relief Bake Off 30-Sep 0.04


Three in a Bed 29-May 0.026
Bargain Hunt 30-Sep 0.022

Discovery Home & Health

Masterchef Australia 19-Aug 0.029

Discovery Home & Health+1

Four Weddings Us Three episodes 0.01


Cash Cab 29-Aug 0.023


Scrapheap Challenge 17-Mar 0.073


The Voice 22-Aug 0.042
Deal or No Deal 07-Nov 0.037


Bigg Boss (final) 03-Jan 0.2
India's Got Talent 16-May 0.115


Come Dine With Me 15-Aug 0.016


First Class Chefs 06-Jul 0.086

Extreme Sports

Mantracker 23-Dec 0.015


Mantracker 10-Mar 0.071

London Live

Cookery School 09-Mar 0.015


Fferm Ffactor Brwydr y Ffermwyr 25-Nov 0.044
Codi Canu: Cwpan Rygbi'r Byd (first) 20-Sep 0.034
Cor Cymru 28-Mar 0.031
Can i Gymru 07-Mar 0.028
Celwydd Noeth 31-Dec 0.027


Quiz the Nation 15-Feb 0.008

Star Plus

Masterchef India 23-Mar 0.209


Beauty and the Geek Australia 18-Feb 0.095


America's Got Talent 05-Aug 0.117
Rupaul's Drag Race 28-Dec 0.083


Redneck Island 05-Nov 0.01

The Roll of Honour

(All results as transmitted are final)

  • Frank Sinatra Our Way – George Gallagher
  • Celebrity Big Brother
    • (January) – Katie Price
    • (September) – James Hill
    • Big Brother – Chloe Wilburn
  • The Jump – Joey Essex
  • Big Allotment Challenge – Rob Smith
  • Harry Hill's Stars In Their Eyes – Peter Sarsfield as Frankie Valli
  • Get Your Act Together – Ray Quinn
  • Cân i Gymru – "Y Lleuad a'r Ser" by Elin Angharad and Arfon Wyn
  • The Voice
    • BBC The Voice of Holland UK – Stevie McCrorie
    • RTE The Voice of Holland Ireland – Patrick Donoghue
  • Let's Play Darts for Comic Relief – Lee Mack and Martin Adams
  • Strictly Come Dancing
    • The People's Strictly – Cassidy Little and Natalie Lowe
    • Strictly Come Dancing – Jay McGuinness and Aliona Vilani
    • Christmas edition – Harry Judd and Joanne Clifton
  • Bake Off
    • The Great Comic Relief Bake-Off – Victoria Wood
    • The Great British Bake-Off – Nadiya Hussein
    • Junior Bake-Off – Amari Koryang
    • The Great Irish Bake-Off – Cathy Mac Kenna
  • I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse – Megan Oxtoby, Amena Jefferies, Leah Guttridge, Nic Sanderson
  • The Great British Painting Challenge – Paul Bell
  • Mastermind – Marianne Fairthorne
  • Mission Survive – Vogue Williams
  • Brain of Britain – Nigel Jones
  • Only Connect – Orienteers (Sean Blanchflower, Paul Beecher, Simon Spiro)
  • University Challenge – Gonville & Caius, Cambridge (Anthony Martinelli, Ted Loveday, Michael Taylor, Jeremy Warner)
  • Masterchef
    • Masterchef – Simon Wood
    • Celebrity Masterchef – Kimberly Wyatt
    • Masterchef The Professionals – Steven Edwards
  • The Great British Sewing Bee – Matt Chapple
  • Great Chelsea Garden Challenge – Sean Murray
  • BBC Young Dancer – Connor Scott
  • Relatively Clever – The Gordon family: Darren, Kaya, Cadeem, and Andrew
  • Eurovision competitions
    • Eurovision Song Contest – SVT, for "Heroes" (Music and lyric: Linnea Deb, Joy Deb, Anton Hård af Segerstad; performed by Måns Zelmerlöw)
    • Eurovision Young Dancers – Viktoria Nowak (representing TVP)
    • Junior Eurovision – PBS, for "Not my soul" (Music: Destiny Chukunyere / Elton Zarb; lyric: Destiny Chukunyere / Matthew (Muxu) Mercieca; performed by Destiny Chukunyere)
  • Ninja Warrior UK – No winner; Timothy Shieff made the furthest progress
  • Rostrum Camera – Ken Morse
  • Britain's Got Talent – Jules O'Dwyer and Matisse
  • Countdown
    • (June) – Tom Cappleman
    • (December) – Jonathan Wynn
  • Prized Apart – Kennedy and Julia Taylor
  • Guitar Star – Gary Lutton
  • Fifteen-to-One
    • (series 3) – Peter Finan
    • (series 4) – Ailsa Watson
  • Hair – Phil Hunt
  • First Class Chefs – Connie and Maddie, "Doubleicious".
  • BBQ Champ – Simon Dyer
  • King of the Nerds – Matt Barr
  • Flockstars – Brendan Cole and Hoggy
  • One Man and His Dog – Shannon Conn and John Maginn (Ireland)
  • Deal or No Deal – Ann Crawford
  • Counterpoint – Dan Adler
  • Hive Minds – Trivium
  • Y Gemau Gwyllt – Tomos
  • Eternal Glory – Gail Emms
  • BBC New Comedy Award – Yuriko Kotani
  • I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! – Vicky Pattison
  • Fferm Ffactor Brwydr y Ffermwyr – Former Contestants (Rhodri Jones, Rhys Williams, Heilin Thomas)
  • The Fear – "Paranoia", by Matt Traszko and Harry Courtney
  • The X Factor – Louisa Johnson and Simon Cowell
  • The Great Pottery Throw Down – Matthew Wilcock
  • Landscape Artist of the Year – "Flatford", painted by Nerine Tassie
  • The Apprentice – Joseph Valente
  • Round Britain Quiz – South of England (Marcus Berkmann and Simon Singh)

And that is all we have to say about 2015. The Poll of the Year 2015 is just opening, and we look forward to hearing your views on the year just passed.

Game shows never stop, and we'll be back next weekend with the latest news.

Photo credits: Talpa / Wall to Wall, Love Productions, BBC, Electric Ray, Hungry Bear, Thames, Possessed, SyCo, Zeppotron (an Endemol company), Parasol, ZigZag, Victory Television Scotland, Modern Television, ITV Studios, IWC / Group M / Mad Monk, Avalon, Rondo.

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