Weaver's Week 2016-04-17

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Think Tank (3)

Think Tank (3)

12 Yard for BBC1, 21 March — 15 April

Some shows faff about for ages before they begin. Think Tank gets on with it. In the first twenty seconds, we see a group of eight people, who have answered hundreds of trivia questions. Then we see three contestants. Boom, the game's set up. The pace slows with some chat between the players and host Bill Turnbull. Chat, and some dodgy jokes – this show gets through puns in a style we've not seen since Accumulate!.

Think Tank (3) The Think Tank indulge in some chair dancing.

Round one is a couple of questions for each player. The questions have all been asked of the Think Tank. We caught a glimpse of these eight people at the start, and we'll get to know some of them better during the episode. The same faces appear in the Tank throughout the series, so regular viewers will get to know them well. It's clear that all are big characters, almost any of them could hold a show on their own.

Think Tank (3) Who bores on The X Factor?

As we say, the questions have been asked of the Tank. We'll see the answer given by each person in the Tank – at least one of them is right, and at least one of them is wrong. Based only on these ideas, the player is to choose one of the answers and make it their own. If they pick right, it's worth £200. And if they haven't a clue, they can always go with the majority opinion in the Tank. Better than nothing – but we're surprised how often the majority earns nothing.

Round two, "I know this". Everyone in the Tank has answered a couple of questions correctly. The player is to pick one of the Tank, hear the question, and see if they can also give the correct answer. No options for the player, it's a wide open field. £200 for a correct answer, and once the Tanker has asked their two questions, they're out of the round. Three times round the panel, nine questions in total.

Think Tank (3) You might know his handle.

Bill Turnbull has little to do – the Tanker gives the question, all Bill can do is repeat it, and carry on with the chrome of the round. Would it be possible to replace the glamorous host with one of the Tankers? We could, but Bill has authority and the audience know him from his many years on Breakfast.

Two members of the Think Tank step up for round three. They've given different answers to the same question – one is right, the other is wrong. The Tankers give their answer, and explain their reasoning. The players are to choose which of the players is correct – all can score £200, all can fail. After this round's five questions, the player with the least money leaves the game. There's a potential £2000 at stake, and there won't be a chance to add to this amount in the final.

Think Tank (3) The players on this game are less well-rewarded.

Nothing groundbreaking, hits all the right notes.

So far, the show has been in 12 Yard's style – people discussing why they're picking an answer, like on In It to Win It. A panel of faces recur through the series, and regular viewers get to know them, like on Eggheads. Asking questions a bit tougher than usual, because it's a multiple-choice game and the answer's in there somewhere. And, because it's 12 Yard, the final has to be a best-of-five shootout. It's how the company got its name, 12 yards being the distance from the penalty mark to the goal.

In this round, the questions are new to the Tank, they've not seen them before. But to liven up this show, the contestants may seek help from the Think Tank.

Think Tank (3) Even the scoreboard is 12 Yard.

This isn't just the Tank giving the answers, it's a debate. For instance, on the question "Which female British tennis player reached the semi-finals of the 2016 Australian Open?"

Player: I know her surname is Konta.
Tanker: Is her first name something like Hannah.
Player: I'm sure it begins with a J.
Tanker: Johanna!
Player: Johanna! Konta!

Each person in the Tank may only help on one question. And this rule cranks up the tension without us noticing. Lots of help in the early questions, a more restricted choice on the later passes, and then the Tank has run empty. The players are on their own for the fifth question, and any tiebreak. The winner takes their prize money from the main game, often around £1400.

Think Tank isn't a novel programme. All the elements are familiar from elsewhere: graphics by Jump, display by Lumina. Right down to the "which Tanker gave the most correct answers?" bit – that's from BBC daytime show Judgemental. The basic conceit – draw on the experience of other people – feels familiar from Beat the Nation. That's a near-forgotten Channel 4 show, it didn't last past 2004. Beat the Nation gave rise to Pointless, and you'll have heard of that.

Think Tank (3) The right answer is none of these.

And you'll recognise the final challenge, Question Impossible. Try to give a correct answer that no-one else gave. Here, it's a question that beat all eight of the Think Tank. To help, the player can see the incorrect answers. Should the player win the challenge, it'll be worth a bonus £1000.

There's nothing groundbreaking about this programme, but it hits all the right notes for daytime television. Calm without being too relaxed, it rewards regular viewing. Most important, the show is a feelgood programme, it's filmed in a supportive atmosphere. Bill seems distressed that he has to let people leave, and encourages everyone to do their best.

BBC1's standard pilot order seems to be 20 episodes. Long enough to see if a show can be a hit, short enough that a failure won't ruin the schedule. We can see Think Tank coming back for at least one more series, see if it can build into a hit half the size of Eggheads.

This Week and Next

The final of Airmageddon, and we're sorry to report that the semi-finals were little different from the heats. There was a more difficult run round the skills course, a more taxing precision task, and the same dogfight.

Elsewhere, Quartz has a long article on how drone racing is going to appear on the ESPN (North America) channel. The racers wear virtual reality headsets, while the children on Airmageddon had visual sight of their craft.

Saturday night, and the telly is divine.

BBC The Voice of Holland of UK has finished. The most popular singer in the competition was Kevin Simm. He has form on reality television, he made the final ten on Popstars in 2001, but was passed over for Hear'say. Simm's rendition of "The Winner's Song" was the week's fourth best-selling single, always behind the new single from Drake. That's showbiz, folks!

The Manchester Guardian published a piece wondering what's next. The greatest Saturday hits have looked simple, and had plenty of depth. Noel's House Party, Gladiators, Saturday Night Takeaway all work if you just glance at one segment, but build tension over a show and over a series, and there's always something different coming up.

And this is where the BBC's recent offers have failed. Can't Touch This doesn't build tension over a series, and doesn't really build it over a show. The Getaway Car is also standalone episodes: why are the individual winners not coming back to win a car? Prized Apart didn't work as individual segments, and Reflex squandered its tension on an irritating commentary.

Never over until it's over on Brain of Britain. This week's second semi-final was much closer than last week's – indeed, just two points covered all four competitors at halftime. Slowly, Jane Cooper answered one more of her own questions, picked up a bonus, and grew a lead. Two points the final margin, a thin lead, but any lead is enough.

University Challenge had its last semi-final. St John's Oxford trounced Liverpool by 195-95.

Over on The Satellite Channel, Beaker ate a Swedish meatball flash-frozen in nitrogen. That'll be the Eurovision interval act sorted.

David Gest has died. The serial reality show contestant appeared on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2006, and Big Brother this January. Before his career on reality shows, Gest worked in music with his close personal friend Michael Jackson, and spent a few minutes married to Liza Minelli.

Answers to the questions in the pictures: The X Factor had Louis Walsh every year from 2004-14. The composer is Handel. And the city created in 2012 was Chelmsford. Who knew?!

BARB ratings in the week to 3 April.

  1. For the first time in 2016, The Eastenders is top of the television charts, with 7.1m viewers. Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway finishes its series in pole position, 5.7m people saw the cruise on ITV, plus 1.4m on ITV-HD.
  2. Masterchef was the BBC's top game show, seen by 5.6m. The Voice semi-finals pulled 5.2m viewers, and Bake Off Creme de la Creme launched on BBC2 with 4.45m.
  3. Who wins in a popularity battle between Stephen Mulhern and Jeremy Paxman? It's Mulhern: Big Star's Little Star attracted 2.9m, University Challenge fell to 2.6m. The Mastermind final was seen by 1.65m in England and Scotland.
  4. A poor week for Celebrity Juice, "just" 1.075m viewers. But the next biggest game show on digital channels is Come Dine on More4, and that has a mere 325,000 viewers.
  5. The Chase Australia is a good purchase for the Challenge channel, it pulls 160,000 viewers. We hope to see The Chase The Ashes, four UK chasers versus four Australians.

Coming up: Matt Alwright seeks The Code (BBC1, weekdays). It's the final University Challenge (BBC2, Mon), and Masterchef goes large in the schedules (BBC1, Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri). Next week's Week plans to look at six (count 'em!) cookery shows.

Photo credits: 12 Yard / BBC.

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