Weaver's Week 2018-05-27

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Gogglebox does The Krypton Factor.


The Button

The Button

Avalon for BBC1, from 20 April

Friday night at 8.30 is a curious time. Family viewing time, they can air nothing that would put off the kiddies. But it's after Eastenders, and we can expect something with a little bite.

The Button is that something, a contest where families are given silly things to do from the comfort of their home. Setting these tasks is "The Button", a plastic box about the size of a small television set. It's in a bright colour, it's got a small video camera inset, and it's got a massive button on top. The voice, and setter of these tasks, is Alex Horne of comedy troupe The Horne Section.

The Button Stay green if we're showing your best side, Button.

Five times during the filming day, the button will turn red. When it does, any member of the household may press the button. They'll be given instructions to on what to do. The best performer, according to the rules, will win money. At the end of the day, the family with the most money can keep it, or can risk it for next week.

To fully explain the programme, we think it's best to go through a sample episode. This is episode 3, shown on 4 May.

Button it

For £1000: Press the button when you have consumed a whole cucumber in this room. Fastest household wins.

So, you're going to need a cucumber. Anyone who has a cucumber in the fridge is already ahead of the curve. Yes, it's fine to chop up the cucumber and distribute it amongst the family: the rules don't say that only one person is to eat the cucumber. Or even that it's to be eaten by humans.

The Button Dog Eats Cucumber! More on this story later.

For £2000: Press the button when you have said and spelled a twelve-letter word beginning with the letter B. The word must be in the Oxford English Dictionary, and you may not use any electronic devices. Fastest household wins.

Do you have a dictionary in the house? Can you count to twelve? Not all of our families did or could. Yes, it's the primetime revival of Looking Up Words In A Dictionary on network television. And it's compelling viewing.

The Button Barnstorming television. No, that's our answer, "barnstorming".

For £3000: There is a blindfold on your doorstep. One of you must wear the blindfold and stand unsupported on one leg, for ten seconds, balancing one hardback book on your thigh and another on your head. Fastest wins.

We said the families were given some silly things to do. This is as silly as it sounds. The laughter comes from the very act itself.

For £4000: Press the button when someone whose first name is Gary has presented me with their driving license. Fastest wins.

So, do you know anyone called Gary? Uncle Gary? Is there a plumber on the road outside with that name? A travelling DJ? Purveyor of scientifically-dubious potions? Call 'em in. This one turns out to be won by the plumber from just outside.

The Button Woo! Gary!

For £5000: Everyone in the household is to go to a bedroom, and wait for the doorbell to ring. When it does, they'll find the living room filled with colourful plastic balls. Press the button when you've found the ball with the bell in it.

The final round is always a big challenge, and this week's is no exception. There are so many balls in this room, and just the one bell. Many hands make light work, and there is a tactic one can use...

The week's winners can take their money, or come back and try to defend their title next week. If they succeed, they'll bank the money from both shows and a bonus £10,000. All the losers get nothing, but come back next week – and the winners might join them.{1}

The Button Jingle, jangle

All of the families take these tasks at the same time. If it's 2.14 and challenge time in Ruislip, it's also 2.14 and challenge time in Hamilton, and Pagwell Green.

It's an upbeat, happy show. The mood is set from Alex Horne's opening call, "Hello, households!" Positive and happy, and the bonhomie is entirely natural. Nothing about the mood is forced, everything is zany rather than cruel.

The Button takes planning. There is planning to work out a good mix of tasks – in this episode, as in the others, there's a mental challenge, a skill, a personality, and something that will send the families out of their houses and into the street. There is planning to work out the right sort of task to create levity and humour. This show likes to see people succeed, and will show them succeed, however long it takes. (Well, within reason.)

The Button Book on head, on knee, and all blindfolded.

And technically, there is planning. All of the houses are turned into "fixed rig" environments, a myriad of little cameras allow us to follow the players from room to room, and a cameraperson is on hand to scoot after them into the street. Big Brother followed its contestants from room to room in 2000, now we can follow players all around the house in (simulated) real time. The Button will talk back, Alex Horne will banter with the players, he'll be cheeky with the children and confirm what someone said.

The Button is really well edited. They know the story they want to tell, and they've got the footage to back it up. Do we need to see acres of waiting for the button to turn red? No, so we don't see that. We do see households doing things, parents and children joined by more distant relations, all having fun while encouraged by The Button. And it's really well cast, all of the households are different, each gets just enough room to shine while doing the tasks. Take notes, certain other shows. You do not need to skimp on the game content to bring out the contestants' personalities.

The Button Best bit: the honest support everyone has for each other.

The task in the room...

Comparisons have been drawn with another show from Avalon. For Taskmaster (on Dave), Tim Key gives other comedians silly and inventive things to do, with an irascible judge (Greg Davies) determining the winner on a whim. Are Taskmaster and The Button cut from the same cloth?

Let's get one thing on the table. This column doesn't much bother with Taskmaster. We saw some episodes of the early series, but then drifted off when they began another run in late 2016. We appreciate that Taskmaster is very popular, it just doesn't float our boat.

Taskmaster Tim Key kisses a pie.

There are some similarities – a stable group of competitors through the series, and the nature of the tasks. Overall, we think Taskmaster is different from The Button. Not just in presentation – Taskmaster runs for a commercial hour (45 BBC minutes), and is mostly filmed in and around a single house. Might be a fixed rig, but it's just the one fixed rig. Not five.

There is a marked difference in tone. Taskmaster sneers, it sets out to diminish its participants, at least when compared to the judge. The Button celebrates ingenuity, rewards teamwork, and it's great fun. While Taskmaster scowls over a whiskey and coke, The Button is leading a merry dance around the garden, fuelled by Pimms and lemonade.

The Button Households see each other on replays.

The key difference: Taskmaster sets its competitors up to be judged. Greg will opine on whether a certain solution was "valid", and many of the judgements depend on his personal opinion. If someone gets up Greg's wick, he can rig the contest against them. There's no such shenanigans on The Button, where all the tasks can be judged objectively.

For our money, that's where The Button has most room for improvement. All the tasks can be judged objectively, but there are some creative interpretations of the rules. Almost every week, there's a decision we'd class as "quibblesome", if not "downright unfair". In the very first challenge of the series, "currently in your house" was retconned as "in your house when the button was first pressed" not "in your house when the button was last pressed". Not the start they would have wanted.

Another example arose just this week. "You cannot begin the challenge" was retrospectively defined as "you cannot rush off to fetch something" rather than the natural and obvious meaning "you cannot throw things". If that's the rule, then teams would have to disqualify themselves for thinking about how to complete the task, thus making a mockery of the whole segment.

Most of The Button is fair, and transparently fair. That honesty makes its capricious moments more obvious, and much more jarring.

Nice Guy Eddie

The Button

Viewing figures have not been huge. In fact, viewing figures have been desultory. BBC1 at 8.30 on Friday is not a traditional home for family viewing. The Button would perhaps have fitted better at 7.30, and perhaps on Wednesday rather than Friday.

Twenty years ago, scheduling would have been so much easier. The Button would have gone out at 7pm on Thursdays. These days, The One Show monopolises that slot all year. With so many other stones in the pre-watershed BBC1 schedule – Eastenders and Holby City and Panorama – there aren't enough slots for new family shows.

And The Button is not a Saturday teatime show; it's friendly competition, but with just a little bit of nuance, in a way we don't get from Partners in Rhyme or from Ready or Not. There's a certain amount of depth to some of the games, as there was on It's a Knockout back in the 1970s. That rules are interpreted in a mercurial manner, that also reminds us of It's a Knockout. Maybe Friday, where children can catch it, is the best place in a sclerotic schedule.

The Button -You watching The Button?
-Yeah. It's a bit dull, though.

To finish on an upward trend, the viewing figures have trended upwards. The repeat after the Eurovision Song Contest did very well, and seems to have kicked on to the following Friday's show. Might there be another run for The Button?

{1} Our back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests £10,000 is about the money Avalon would pay to move the fixed rig from the winner's house to the next contestants.Back!

{2} It's a Sleeper hit.Back!

This Week and Next

Radio 4's Brain competition moved into its semi-final stage this week. Jack Bennett became the first player into the final; he trailed Dan Adler at the half-way stage, but two rounds of four points moved him into an unassailable lead. Jack scored 12, Dan 9, Graham Cox scored 7, and Rob Cruise 2.

Jack also wins the unlikely answer of the week award: asked what game a certain person had devised, Jack suggested, "Numberwang?"

Motty Mastermind, a football-themed edition of Celebrity Mastermind, took place. It was won by Jonathan Pearce, a football commentator from London. We suspect that Motty moved much faster through Pearce's questions than anyone else's. Our hunt for a better host than Humpo goes on.

There are reasons why we note all the games that appear in weekly top thirties. One day, they might prove useful on Who Dares Wins. Such as on last night's Who Dares Wins, where they wanted Top BBC Programmes in any week. Pointless is a right answer, well done if you got that at home. Eggheads isn't, the show runs forever to relatively small audiences. Other correct answers included, er, Who Dares Wins.

Take note, folks! Here are the BARB ratings in the week to 13 May.

  1. ITV's Got Talent was dented, down to 9.2m this Saturday. What hurt it? The Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final (BBC1, Sat) averaged 7m across its four hours.
  2. Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (ITV) continued, with 5.35m seeing Friday's episode. Pointless Celebs (BBC1, Sat) and Have I Got News for You (Fri) both scored 4.05m, and holiday Monday's Pointless 3.1m.
  3. Which is more popular? Harry Hill's Alien Fun Capsule (ITV, Sat), or Best Home Cook (BBC1, Thu)? 2.95m viewers each, so there's only one way to find out...
  4. Breadxit The Professionals (C4, Sun) held at 2.2m viewers, and Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 840,000) loses almost a third of last week's viewers.
  5. Celebrity Juice returns to top the digital lists (ITV2, Thu, 1.13m), with Got More Talent (ITV2, Sat) scoring 715,000. The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals did well (BBC4, Thu, 565,000).

BBC2 welcomes new teatime faves. Richard Osman and his House of Games (3), and wildlife quiz Curious Creatures. Almost as cultured: Master of Photography on Artsworld (Tue). The semi-finals of This Territory's Got Talent (ITV and TV3, Mon-Fri) run all this week.

Photo credits: Avalon

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