Weaver's Week 2016-01-24

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Congratulations are in order to many people. To the winners of Fame Academy, Cat Deeley and Patrick Kielty, on the birth of their baby last week.


Only Connect

Grand final: String Section v Wayfarers

And congratulations to one of the sides in this week's Only Connect series 11 final, which follows the trend and invites a string quartet to perform live in the studio. They're not going to perform the audio clues, they'll just bow to the opening and closing themes.

When these sides met earlier in the series, the Wayfarers (Barbara Thompson, Gerard Mackay, Matt Beatson) had the better of the opening three rounds. They were overtaken by the String Section (Tessa North, Richard Aubrey, Pete Sorel-Cameron) on the missing vowels.

Only Connect (2) Wayfarers knew they had to get off to a strong start.

Three on the music question? That'll be marvellous, for opera sung by queens. String Section pulled back two points for words ending "-iberian", but the Wayfarers scored one on the screen deaths of Sean Bean. The screen deaths of Sean Bean, obviously. Shot by orc's arrows, upstaged by Rupert Penry-Jones, crushed by a satellite dish with the cry "Oh, squarials".

Wayfarers continued to rack up the points, picking a bonus on oceans abolished by continental drift. They picked two on the picture clue, tattoos where one has the other on their body. Neither sides scored on the antidotes to portmanteau words - "enormous" and "gigantic" would combine for "ginormous", so here get joined as "egantic". Much more elegant than our clumsy explanation.

The Wayfarers led 7-2 going into sequences, a good lead, but they've got to defend it. The picture round, on people named in Madonna's "Vogue", was a loose point, picked up by the String Section. Wayfarers had a bonus of their own, the derivations of the names of the top four noble gases. Five minutes ago we were talking about Sean Bean, now it's noble gases? Welcome to Only Connect.

Only Connect (2) String section have a gap to make up.

Another point crossed to the String Section, the initials of UK monarchs in triples. String Section picked two on a question about decimal time, not that they quite understood it themselves. Both sides will have known a sequence about the livery companies of London, neither recalled that the Mercers take top precedence. The music question was the tunes in "Fantasia on British sea shanties", as performed at the Last Night of the BBC Proms. The Wayfarers sung "Rule Britannia" for a bonus, and a 9-6 lead.

By tradition, the connecting walls in the final are unusual. This year, the String Section had clues beginning with N, Wayfarers' clues all began with M. Both walls contained a group of words that meant the same in various languages, and neither side scored much beyond that. String Section spotted one group when they were pointed out, Wayfarers found a group and identified another. Their lead extended slightly, to 13-9.

Only Connect (2) Keep up!

A five-point swing when the teams met in October: the Wayfarers only needed to do a bit better in the next two minutes. A group of "King and actor who played him onscreen" all began "HNRY V ND", but was it Henry IV, VI, VIII? And who was the actor? Scores and errors on both sides, ending up with a two-mark swing to the String Section.

Eye Rhymes proved a more simple set, String Section's buzzer fingers gave another two-mark swing, so the scores were tied. And then came Things a Waiter Might Ask; String Section got a couple, perhaps pushed the Wayfarers into an ill-advised gamble.

And that was time! String Section won the title, beating Wayfarers by 15-12.

Only Connect (2)

Countdown Championship of Champions

Last week, we told how Giles Hutchings and Dylan Taylor booked their places in the semi-finals.

This week began with Jen Steadman playing against Callum Todd. These players met in the quarter-final back in 2013, when both had been practising. The opening rounds were remarkable only for the amount of "Hearting" going on. We less than three these quality players. Jen took the lead after the break, "Opium" the winner in a low-scoring round. Callum pulled back with superior numbers play, only to know that he'd seriously missed a trick. Srsly, Nick, "Srsly".

"Srsly" is a valid word these days, a shortened form of "seriously". One of a handful drawn from the consonants box, but it's only five! Jen's conventional "Sailors" won the round, the word Callum knew he'd missed. She pulled further ahead with the numbers, and took the conundrum. Jen won by 107-85, she scored the maximum in 12 rounds.

Countdown Dan McColm.

Dan McColm met Mark Murray on Tuesday. Two series champions entered, one had to lose. Dan looked to take a lead in the first numbers, but he was one out in his calculations. Mark then went through his computations, which turned out to be exactly the same as Dan's. "I'd not been listening," he said.

Mark's lead didn't last: it was reduced when Susie disallowed "maizes"; she couldn't find a sense when the grain takes a plural form, and "maize" isn't yet known as a cornfield labyrinth. Both players picked up the nines "Repouring" and "Hortensia", and Mark had the winner "Showier", but he lost out with more disallowed words. "Sparta" always takes a capital, "boardees" isn't in the dictionary yet. For the first time in the Championship of Champions, the conundrum evaded both players. Dan won by 112-99, he had the maximum in 11 rounds.

Wednesday saw a fabulous game between Giles Hutchings and Dylan Taylor. It wasn't possible to slip a cigarette paper between the two young giants, each came within four points of perfection in the main game. They came up with some interesting words, "Oubout" is a South African greeting, and "Diastema" the gap between two teeth.

The two words they both missed were instructive. "Gaudiest" is always going to be difficult, the AUI+EST combination is unique, and the -ED stem looks more attractive. "Outyards" is new, and "Rainwash" might be a gamble too far. Inevitably, it came down to the conundrum, and Dylan unscrambled it to win by 118-108.

Countdown Dylan Taylor.

From "Euphoria" to "Teapot" on Thursday, the first and last words offered by Jen Steadman and Dan McColm. As seems to be the pattern, both players were on top form, not least when they both spotted "Outranged". As in, "The USSR missile outranged China's." Both players enjoyed themselves: Dan kept his trademark ice cool exterior, Jen's enthusiasm bubbled over with a little chair-dancing during an easy numbers round.

Dan claimed the advantage with "Rosmarine", a scent. That eighteen-point swing looked to be definitive, but Jen surprised many - including herself - when "Momental" was approved for play. It's a term in physics, apparently. Both players lived on the edge in the next round, Dan's "Geniused" was allowed, Jen's "unsieved" was not. And though Jen spotted the conundrum, Dan won by 125-117. Another tremendous game of supermassive quality.

Countdown The final.

Dylan Taylor looked to have the final sewn up after three rounds. He won a letters round with "Eulogist", someone who delivers a tribute at a funeral. Then he won a numbers round with the best possible solution, for a 22-7 lead. The lead extended in the second numbers game, but Dan McColm wasn't in the final by luck. And that's the tooth.

"Metaconid", obviously. A cut on a lower molar tooth, a nine-letter word, and the gap's slashed to 54-47. Some very obscure words come up in the final part - "Onomast" is a ship piloted by a Beatle's wife, and "Rosmarine" is a word familiar from yesterday. Dylan, it appears, would not have spotted it on his own. "Petrolage" evaded both players, that's the practice of covering water with a thin film of oil, to dissuade mosquitoes and buzzing insects.

The game headed to a crucial conundrum like King Charles ascending the steps to his execution: it would be historic, it would be the end of an era, and it would be swift. Less than 1.5 seconds for "Nice Tasty" to become "Intestacy"; less than 1.5 seconds for Dylan Taylor to claim the fourteenth Championship of Champions.

So Dylan becomes the best individual player in the 2012-15 era of Countdown. He sets a target of 1805 points from 14 wins and one defeat.

The 2015-18 era is already under way, Jonathan Wynn took the championship before Christmas. Tim Down is in pole position (ie he's the returning champion) when the new series begins on Monday.

Exit Poll of the Year 2015

As is traditional, here's how this column voted in the 2015 election. As is not traditional, here are the results.

Best new shows

Grief, that was a difficult choice. The top three chose themselves:

Pick Me!, the most all-round perfect format we've seen in many years. 1000 Heartbeats, a wonderful workout for the brain and the body. Wild Things, not convinced that the show is going to be around too long, but it's brilliant while it lasts.

The other two votes were slightly tactical, shows that we reckoned were going to get votes from other people.

Beat the Brain, a charming and witty little puzzle programme. One Hundred and Eighty is so not Bullseye. This is its core strength.

The others in this column's top ten, which didn't get votes: Blink, The Box, Flockstars, Harry Hill's Stars in Their Eyes, Taskmaster.

The public said:
1) 1000 Heartbeats
2) Taskmaster
3) Beat the Brain
4) Wild Things
5) Hive Minds

1000 Heartbeats A string quartet. All the cool shows have one now.

Worst new shows

Hunted puts the political points first, then the fake drama imposed by producers, and only lets little bits of organic tension glimmer in the distance. Play to the Whistle was not sporty, not entertaining, and felt sexist. There is no planet on which we could say anything nice about The Almost Impossible Gameshow, two votes.

On a very meta level, King of the Nerds undermined itself with every minute. On a realistic level, it seemed cheap, and felt like it laughed at its contestants more than it laughed with them. In a very good year for Sky, this was a rare misfire.

The official result:
1) Freeze Out 2=) Prized Apart, Pick Me! 4) Harry Hill's Stars in Their Eyes 5) Decimate

Pick Me! as bad as Prized Apart? Harsh. Very harsh.

Stars in Their Eyes There's the problem: not enough string sections.

Golden Five

For most popular game show in production.

Pick Me!, Wild Things, Beat the Brain we've covered, and our Bake Off comment is in the official write-up.

Flockstars was a guilty pleasure. Pointless and very silly. And utterly compelling: success in the challenges is amazing to watch, failure is just funny, and we never know what's coming next.

And the public said: 1) Pointless 2) Only Connect 3) The Chase 4) 1000 Heartbeats 5) The Great British Bake Off

The Chase

This Week and Next

And congratulations to winners at the National Television Awards.

An "onomast" is, of course, someone who studies proper names.

Your Country Needs You

The BBC has confirmed broadcast arrangements for the Eurovision Song Contest.

There will be a national selection show on 26 February. We're told that "six acts will battle" to represent the BBC, but the press release is silent on how many songs it will contain. UK viewers last chose the performer in 2010, we haven't been trusted to pick a song since 2008.

The show will come live from The Forum in Kentish Town. One of the largest venues in London, The Forum holds up to 2300 people. The Globe in Stockholm will hold about 14,000 people.

Mel Giedroyc hosts, and we're promised "an expert panel" to advise "how the songs could be made to look and sound on stage in Stockholm". Why aren't we seeing the performance on the night, so we can judge for ourselves?

The qualification show will go out on BBC4. This isn't as daft as it might sound, BBC4 has established a block of esoteric music on Friday nights, and it gives serious thought to trivial subjects. The Fourth Programme will also show the semi-finals in May; the final will still go out on BBC1.

A ding-dong match on University Challenge. York took the lead early on, Peterhouse Cambridge recovered to level pegging around the audio round. The lead changed hands a number of times, and Roger Tilling got very excited. Peterhouse opened a 40-point lead; within moments, York were within one starter. Just when a tiebreak looked possible, Peterhouse got that final starter to win the game, 185-165.

Just when Mastermind looked like it would gently fade into the semi-finals, we get a performance to sit up and cheer. Graham Barker scored a Perfect Round, 14 points on John Gielgud; the winning score of 29 points is the best we've seen since August. Spare a thought for Ian Protheroe, put off his stride by some exceptionally long questions and blatant wittering from the host cost him a question. Peter Spicer and Theresa McWhirter were both better on general knowledge than their specialist subjects.

BARB ratings in the week to 10 January.

  1. Silent Witness took the number one slot, seen by 8.7m viewers. BBC The Voice of Holland of UK began on BBC1 with 7.85m viewers.
  2. An FA Cup special of Pointless Celebrities was seen by 5.05m viewers; fewer than the big match (5.35m), but Pointless wasn't shown in Scotland, they had the SFA Cup.
  3. Ninja Warrior on ITV had 3.4m viewers, barely ahead of University Challenge (3.35m). The Chase burst through to 3.05m, its first rating above three million in a year. Take Me Out had 2.8m, plus 645,000 for The Gossip on ITV2.
  4. "Celebrity" Big Brother launched to 3.1m viewers; Channel 4's spoiler The Big Fat Quiz of Everything had 2.15m. Lip Sync Battle also began, with 2.35m viewers. Come Dine with Me registered 1.3m, its best viewership in two years.
  5. Top on the new channels was A League of Their Own S1 on The Satellite Channel, 980,000 viewers. A repeat of BBC The Voice on BBC3 brought 685,000 viewers.

The Great Sport Relief Bake Off (BBC1, Wed) is this week's big new show. We've also got regular Countdown (C4, weekdays), Lucy Spraggan visits Got What It Takes? (CBBC, Wed), some new Rupaul's Drag Race (TruTV, Mon), and Ninja Warrior UK (ITV, Sat) reaches the semi-final - already!

Photo credits: Parasol, YTV, Hungry Bear, Initial (an Endemol company), National Television Awards, BBC.

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