Weaver's Week 2018-08-19

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Viacom has a lot of channels on television. We're going to review three game shows on three of these channels.


True Love or True Lies

True Love or True Lies

Lime Pictures (an All 3 Media company) for MTV, 6-16 August

Remember Love Island? Back in the dim dark distant past of high summer, millions and millions of people followed every twist and turn of the story. Then the weather broke, it turned from mindbendingly hot to averagely warm, and we all switched off ITV2.

Right at the end of Love Island, there's a strange little ritual. "Are you in it for love, or money?" asks live host Caroline Flack. The most popular couple take part in a share-or-steal endgame. Of course they share, they always share. No-one is so selfish and callous as to steal, they would instantly become The Most Hated Person In Western Europe.

Spy School You think you're all that BUT YOU'RE NOT!!!

But what if this dating show was filled with existing couples, and some of them were in it for the money? That's the premise of True Love or True Lies, which fills the unlikely space between Love Island and Armchair Detectives.

Armchair Detectives We can't have too many pictures of Susan Calman.

The basic setup is simple. Five couples live in a large mansion, isolated from the world. Each episode follows one day in their collective lives. Fixed elements include "the love game", a physical challenge to find a winning couple (or sometimes winners). The winners get a reward, which seems to be extra evidence to help them get to know the couples.

Not all of these couples are actually dating. Some of them have been cast together for the game, and have to invent some sort of back story as they go on. The aim of the game is to identify all of these insincere couples, and throw them out of the game before the finale.

True Love or True Lies This.

The episode's second fixed element is "the love ceremony", where one couple might be voted out of the mansion. The official criterion: vote for a couple who you think are not dating. Unofficially, the vote can also be to vote for a couple who you cannot stand, or do not want to win the prize.

The last couple standing at the end of the series take the prize, at least £50,000. The prize increases by £10,000 every time a made-up couple is removed from the contest. Danny Dyer narrates the show, a gruff and no-nonsense hard man actor who lives up to his image. Maya Jama from Cannonball hosts the eviction segments.

True Love or True Lies A hit show for young Maya.

As a competition, True Love or True Lies is nothing new. It's got the gloss of Love Island, coupled with the psychological interest of "can you spot the liars?" There are many style differences – there were same sex couples, there was a three-part couple, and not everyone was a shiny twentysomething.

Clues on True Love or True Lies are mostly subtle. There's no smoking gun, there's no neatly packaged evidence for Knight and Slater to find. But there are hints from the producers – "one person is lying about their sexuality", that sort of thing. There are interview scenes, disguised as "speed dating" or "couples' chats". We don't really see how the relationship detectives fare outside the structured events.

True Love or True Lies We're going to talk philosophy for a moment. If you want to sit by the pool, do.

It's been said that Love Island discusses sincerity through a covertly manufactured environment. Everything is staged, nothing can be believed. Love Island doesn't even acknowledge its own fakeness. Viewers have to go through many mental loops, and arrive at a place where the show is simultaneously both truth and fiction. A sort of hyper-surreality, if you will.

True Love or True Lies also discusses sincerity, but does it through an overtly manufactured environment. The underlying task is not to convince the ITV2 Public, but to convince a majority of your fellow housemates. Viewers are complete outsiders, we observe events without any chance to influence them. {b}{c} We can take what's on screen at face value, we don't have to go through the constant background task of "is this real, is this fake?", because that's a foreground question. Indeed, it's the one question.

True Love or True Lies The lovely italianate mansion.

How can we assess this show? The visuals are a la mode. Paul Newton is the director, he's perfected a particular style of shot. We get close to the action through zoom lenses, there are a lot of shots from eye level, and some swooping shots like we're a bird flying into the scene. Paul has honed his craft on Love Island and I'm a Celebrity, and True Love or True Lies uses a similar look. MTV wanted the best, they have got the best, though there's no distinct look to the show.

As a competition, we found True Love or True Lies much easier to follow than Love Island. We know what we're looking for: evidence that a couple is (or isn't) faking their relationship. The couples come in to the show as a unit, they leave as a unit. Tasks will draw out something about the couples, there's a tight focus on the overall game.

True Love or True Lies Series champions Liv and Louis. But were they a real couple?

The fringes of presentation we choose to ignore. Danny Dyer's voiceover is mostly neutral in content, he's there to hype up the contest without convincing us about anyone. Captions asking us to interact on social media irritate, they look like calls to influence the programme but we know it's all recorded some months ago. The show's cut to upbeat contemporary music, often veering to cliché. Introducing a thruple with "Three is the magic number"? You wouldn't catch Gary Monaghan being that obvious.

Gut reaction? Better than we expected, when we think of MTV we think of low-quality lifestyle guff imported from the other side of the Atlantic, or Rok TV with Oyvind Vinstra. True Love or True Lies looks good, it makes sense, and it's not a two-month commitment like Love Island or Big Brother. Expect a rerun on free-to-air television before long.{d}

Paradise Run

Nickelodeon Productions and Stone Stanley Entertainment, shown on Nickelodeon

Here's one for the oldies: remember The Race on ITV2? Pairs of contestants travel round the world, they're given some things to do as they journey, and the fastest wins. The Race was seen by literally tens of people, and is almost entirely forgotten.

Many elements of The Race, and its CBS copycat The Amazing Race, are present on Paradise Run. Each self-contained episode features three pairs of contestants – we've seen pairs of Nickelodeon stars, we've seen pairs of tweens, we've seen one of each.

The gameplay is simple, and explained crisply. "You need to go here, and your challenge is to do this." It's television for children, show us and don't tell us.

Collect bottles and swim out to make words.

All of the challenges make spectacular television, all of the challenges tend to the watery and/or messy. For instance, one episode asked the teams to collect beach balls in a pedalo and throw them into a wicker basket.

Then get everything out of your hotel room, including the sleeping parents. (The part of the parents here is played by an inflatable mannequin.)

Then go into the pool and chain letters together to spell Hawaii.

Then solve a riddle, which names the suite where the team's parents are waiting. (The part of the parents here is played by some actual parents.)

On later series, there's a zip line.

Each episode is set on a resort in Hawaii, and there are some gentle elements of Hawaiian culture. The team names – Makani, Ahi, Nalu – are local words for wind, fire, and wave. Teams say "Pau" (done) when they're ready to move on, and are acknowledged by a shake of the hand like the judge is jiggling a phone.

Our host is Daniella Monet, known to the Nickelodeon audience as older sister Trina Vega from Victorious. She introduces the teams, meets them at the end, explains challenges through video clips, and narrates the show. The teams give their thoughts in pieces recorded later. We like this style of narration – a professional tells the bulk of the story, and contestants can get on with the contest. Too many North American shows don't have the narrator, and get the competitors to tell their story in flashback.

Daniella Monet hosts the show.

The local Nickelodeon in North America has made 70 episodes of Paradise Run, the local channel here has selected about 40 to show. They started with all-celebrity episodes, with familiar faces from The Thundermans and Game Shakers, before branching to episodes with viewers.

Paradise Run zips along, it's sharply edited{a}, fun to watch, and fun to play. There are winners and losers, but the prize seems to be taking part. Hanging out with your favourite telly star? That's an experience to treasure. The show might be derivative of The Amazing Race, but that comparison goes right over our head, as The Amazing Race isn't on broadcast telly here.

When it comes to the gut reaction, we're in favour of Paradise Run. The show wants to be fun, wet, and sunny, and it succeeds in all of these aims. Now, any chance of picking up Keep It Spotless? Pretty please with a splat of paint on top?

Win Your Wish List

Stellify for Channel 5, from 28 July

Back at the start of 2015, we were all wowed by Win Your Wish List. Contestants asked each other questions, and named their own prizes. Shane Richie turned up to make sure any boring bits were entertaining. Win Your Wish List was wrapped around the BBC's commercials for The Lottery Corporation, and came to an end when the BBC stopped showing those adverts.

Except that you can't keep a good format off television, and Win Your Wish List has returned. 9pm on Channel 5 is the new home; and there's enough smut to suggest 7.30 is too early. Families of five take part, and "family" includes more distant relations like uncles and cousins.

As before, the families have nominated their own prizes – seven in total, which seems to be one luxury each, one for them all, and the star prize of a massive holiday somewhere hot. Hotter than Skegness? Is that possible?

Half of the games are still quizzes: one of the family asks, another answers. The other half are physical games. We've had "stack Perspex cylinders into towers", we've had "make words with cubes". And every week we've had "throw balls at Gino D'Acampo and hope he catches them into a contraption round his belt."

As before, everything is a timed event, the floor advances with correct answers or completing the tasks, and it drains away as time ticks. Instant Win and Instant Loss conditions are still available, and there's still a reset button.

The new host is Gino D'Acampo, a strong personality who evokes strong reactions. Many people like him, we're not sure of his merits. His hosting style is loose, he breaks the fourth wall and generally mucks about between games. Feels a bit staged, and a bit naff. Feels like he's watched Shane Richie on Run the Risk and thought, "I'll copy that!", not realising that jokes about Bunneh from Eldorado are no longer topical or funny.

There are lots of accents on this show. Gino speaks with the vowels from Italian, the contestants have been from Scotland and Ireland, and there's a voiceover from professional northerner Natalie Casey. While we don't watch with subtitles, it's reassuring to know they're there.

The best thing we can say about Win Your Wish List is that it's fun. The families and Gino are having fun, and they all bring out something more than the sum of the parts. The worst we can say is that incorrect answers in the final cause the level to drain faster, so if you get anything wrong in the final, it's so much harder to win the star prize.

Strange scheduling to start with two comprehensive defeats, only winning one prize from their list. This 9pm slot used to be filled by football highlights, which have now gone to another channel. We expected the first day of the new season to feature a big win, but it didn't. Very strange.

Anyway, Win Your Wish List is fun viewing, and most families will go away with some prize from the day. An entertaining way to spend an hour.

University Challenge Update

Just as we write a catch-up about Countdown every month, so we're going to recap other intellectual shows every month.

For the first match, Warwick (Emily Wolfenden, Jacopo Sartori, Ben Beardsley, Robert Gowers) played Exeter (Simon Waitland, Will Klintworth, Danny Lay, Jessica Brown). All the old staples were present: the periodic table, the works of Bob Dylan, and a ding-dong finish. Warwick emerged winners by 165-150.

Emmanuel Cambridge (Connor MacDonald, Vedanth Nair, Daniella [Now Elia - Ed.] Cugini, Ben Harris) took on Glasgow (Lewis Barn, Freya Whiteford, James Hampson, Cameron Herbert). Very close for the first half, Glasgow ended with a 200-175 victory.

The first Oxbridge internal battle pitted Pembroke Oxford (Connor McGurk, Tom Lambert, Katherine Perry (not the singer), Louie Morris) against Downing Cambridge (Fergus O'Dowd, Jane O'Connor, Yanbo Yin, Felix Prutton). Nine starters for Yanbo Yin as Downing won 230-75. The first half had been close, the second half was not; Downing's captain misheard team-mates twice, a habit they don't want to get into.

This week, SOAS (Mark Thomas (not the comedian), Chad Beaman, Harriet Gemmill, Tom Pollitt) played Darwin Cambridge (Stuart MacPherson, Christopher Davis, Jason Golfinos, and Guy Mulley). The first blokey quartet of the series, and Darwin's debut on BBC2. The match will be remembered for Jason Golfinos' dexterity on the buzzer; his 13 (THIRTEEN) starters equals Alex Guttenplan in the 2010 final, and is bettered by Gail Trimble's magnificent fifteen in 2009. Beaten on the buzzers, SOAS were defeated by 260-90. Darwin scored well on the bonuses, but we don't yet know if they can compete when questions don't fall for their buzzermaster.

In other news, Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull from the 2017 series have made a television series together. Monkman and Seagull's Genius Guide will feature the Cambridge contestants travel around, finding clever and serendipitous inventions.

This Week and Next

To make his series, Bobby Seagull turned down Celebrity Big Brother. So did the titular star of the show. "Eye of the Storm" was meant to star Stormy Daniels, an adult film star.{e} She got cold feet, and withdrew just before the series began last Thursday. We believe her replacement is Get 100's Hardeep Singh Kohli.{f} The show also includes such high-profile names as Rodrigo Alves, Psychic Sally, and Natalie Nunn. And Nick Leeson from Lose a Squillion.

The Strictly Come Dancing klaxon has sounded across the BBC all week. Taking part this year:

  • Katie Piper, from Katie Piper's Face to Face
  • Faye Tozer, from Steps
  • Danny John Jules, Barrington from Maid Marion and Her Merry Men
  • Joe Sugg, Zoella's squeeze
  • Vick Hope, local radio DJ
  • Graeme Swann, cricketer
  • Ranj Singh, television doctor
  • Stacey Dooley, BBC investigative journalist
  • Ashley Roberts, Taking The Next Step head judge
  • Kate Silverton, BBC news presenter
  • Seann Walsh, comedian

We expect a few more names to be announced next week.

BARB ratings in the week to 5 August.

  1. Coronation Street the top show (ITV, Mon, 7.45m). The Love Island final is the top game show (ITV2, Mon, 4.3m).
  2. It's a long way down to the next shows, The Chase (ITV, Mon, 2.9m) and Big Star's Little Star (ITV, Sat, 2.9m). That latter show is up on last week, a rare positive trend for an entertainment show.
  3. University Challenge was BBC2's game leader (Mon, 2.05m). Catsdown scored well (C4, Fri, 1.45m), and Blind Date broke the million (C5, Sat, 1.13m). The Crystal Maze (C4, Fri, 785,000) narrowly beat Win Your Wish List (C5, Sat, 760,000) – that's off almost 200,000 on last week.
  4. A great week for Countdown (C4, Tue, 460,000), beating every episode of Come Dine with Me (C4, Mon, 450,000).
  5. Lower down the EPG, we see Four in a Bed (More4, Sat, 240,000) and Come Dine with Me (More4, Sun, 235,000). ITV2's Evil Monkeys (Thu) was outside the channel top 50, so less than 243,000. UKTV channels were off cable television all week, and eyeballing the figures we reckon Dave lost at least 15% of its audience, W was off by nearer 20%.

Eurovision Young Musicians week continues; the semi-finals finish on Radio 3 (Sun), the final is live on BBC2 Scotland on Thursday, and taped on Radio 3 on Friday. The rest of us will have to rely on eurovision.tv, we don't see the show on network television before the end of the month.

Sport subscribers get to see Call Yourself a Fan (BT Sport 2, Tue), a quiz for football supporters. We're not saying ITV are scraping the barrel for bank holiday weekend, but there's another chance to see The Chase The Bloopers (ITV, next Sun).


{a} Even more sharply edited on this side of the pond, as references to the specific resort are dextrously edited out.Back!

{b} It helps that the show was recorded in April and May, back when the grass was green. The filming location was in Italy.Back!

{c} And this doesn't stop MTV from plastering the show with "Do you think Jimmy and Timmy are a real couple?" calls to action. The worst part is in the final ad break, part-way through the voting, when a graphic shows "You think Bill and Ben are fake", but the votes already show Bill and Ben are safe tonight.Back!

{d} MTV is a pay-tv channel, available only to cable and satellite subscribers. Those who only get Freeview or Freesat don't receive MTV. We reckon a re-run on 5star after Big Brother has finished.Back!

{e} And that's quite enough detail for a Sunday morning.Back!

{f} As in, we believe he's the substitute for a missing star. Not "we believe he's in, but seeing as how we were watching MTV at the time, we couldn't tell you for certain."Back!

Photo credits: Zodiak Kids, Tiger Aspect, Lime Pictures, Nickelodeon Productions / Stone Stanley Entertainment.

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