Weaver's Week 2019-05-05

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Bring on the — hurdy-gurdy man?

Only Connect (2)


Only Connect

Presentable for BBC2, 29 April

As is traditional, Only Connect does something unusual for its final. This time, it's a wind-up organ, with the customary toy monkey.

Only Connect (2) No monkeying about from the Dicers.

Our finalists are the Dicers and Time Ladies. The Dicers (George Corfield, Hugh Binnie, Joey Goldman) beat Birdwatchers by 7, Brews by 3, Dicers by 3, and Ancient Alumni on a tie-break. The Time Ladies (Charlotte Jackson, Emma Harris, Rebecca Shaw) needed a tie-break to beat Motorheads, took out Pyromaniacs by 8, beat the LARPers on another tie-break, and the Poptimists by 3.

The final was always due to air on 29 April, not 28 April. Things that were postponed by a day is the first link, a useful bonus for Dicers. They pick up another bonus, on pairs of words that are separated by ROT13: replace each letter with the one 13 before (or after) it in the alphabet, so "clerk" becomes "pyrex". The Only Connect answer cards are encrypted using ROT13, and for extra security they apply it twice.

Only Connect (2) The Time Ladies dressed with nods to their favourite Doctor Who costumes.

Songs of fate and fortune are the theme to the music question, giving Dicers a pair of points. Time Ladies get off the mark as they combine knowledge of the forenames of Renaissance artists, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Hero Turtles, and the colour of the character's mask. With a couple of questions falling down the drain like Shredder's pizza, it's 4-2 to Dicers.

Only Connect (2) Heroes in a half-shell!

Countries arranged in reverse alphabetical order of their national capital? That's a good sequence, we're only surprised they've not covered this before. Two to Dicers; two to Time Ladies as they remember what's in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum at the moment. We assume that "a pile of wet leaves and chewing gum discarded by school parties" would not be accepted.

More countries for Dicers, and specifically the colour of their passports. This is a lucky guess, the Dicers managed to come up with the right answer for no reason at all. Time Ladies also ran their luck on TV shows with the number of their channel removed, like The Show and Jazz 65 and -2-1 and What It's Worth. The team hadn't twigged that the channels were in order. The chemical elements on a compass gave a final two to Dicers, who led 10-6.

Only Connect (2) Omg.

Is it too early to write "Game over" in our books? Almost: Dicers are whizzes at the walls, and proved to be excellent on a wall with three letter abbreviations. They did miss a connection, not spotting words that could be prefixed by "dis___", and that means they finish with a mere (!) 47 wall points out of 50. Time Ladies only got one of their groups in time, and missed a connection, so the gap was up to 17-10.

And that brought us to the final stages. Things with an extra dimension proved not to be up Time Ladies' street, but mnemonics with the words in the wrong order was more to their taste. The final round proved to be a wash, and Dicers win by 20-13.

Only Connect (2)

Only Connect remains the only show where we can go from the possible range of hours in a week to a sample 3-2-1 riddle without missing a beat. There's nothing like it on television.

In for a Penny

In for a Penny

ITV Studios and Mitre Television for ITV, from 13 April

And speaking of "there's nothing like it on television", here's the one-man entertainment dynamo Stephen Mulhern! He ran a meet-the-public segment on Saturday Night Takeaway, where five stunts and one new penny could earn a grand prize. There was enough in the segment to inspire a spoiler show on BBC1, which in turn gave ITV room to make their own full series.

Stephen Mulhern shows us how it's done in a series of games, for cash or other valuable prizes.

Check it Out Stephen masquerades as a supermarket checkout operator. He'll pick four items from the trolley: our player is asked whether the next item is more expensive or cheaper than the last. Yes! It's the combination of Play Your Cards Right and of Supermarket Sweep we didn't know we needed! Get all three decisions and Stephen's paying for your entire shop.

In for a Penny Pumping petrol on network television.

Pump It Up At the petrol station, Stephen asks his players to pump some petrol. Before they started, the players named exactly how much they wanted to spend on petrol. If they can hit it exactly in no more than two pumps, Stephen's paying for the entire tank. Fall short, or go over by a single penny, and the bill is still yours.

Balanced Diet One person has a minute to balance as much fruit and veg as they can onto their partner. Whoever's holding the greengrocery tries to balance it for a further 10 seconds. Success: win five times the value of the fruit and veg. One piece falls: Stephen walks off in a huff.

In for a Penny If only this was in Stephen's mouth, eh.

Pablo Petcasso Draw an animal; if your friend can guess it, you'll win £20. Repeat for five animals. Played in a pet shop, because why not.

Weigh to Go A question for frequent fliers: how heavy is your suitcase? Stephen is at an airport and asks players to predict the weight of their case. Get it wrong, and our players can add or remove items to make the original claimed weight. Be spot on in no more than three guesses to win £100.

Whatever The Weather Here are five buckets. Four are filled with water, and one with confetti. Pick three buckets; if one of them is the one with confetti, win £50.

In for a Penny The contestant hasn't won... yet!

Believe In Your Selfie is a rare head-to-head match. Stephen takes a selfie with each contender. Our players then select one person to receive the selfie, along with the question: "who is this?". The first person to receive a reply with the correct answer wins £50.

Mum's the Word Call up your mother, and get her to say a particular word in 30 seconds. Just to make it more difficult, there are three banned words that cannot be spoken. It feels like the Password revival we hadn't planned for.

In for a Penny Unbelievable!

And the show always finishes with the grand finale. In for a Penny.... In for a Grand – put forward one new penny, complete five challenges, and win £1000.

Ready or not, here we come

Last year, we were neutral-to-positive about the BBC's similar show Ready or Not. That was a clip show, lots of little segments, each hosted by someone different.

Some of the segments were genius. Sam and Mark's Elevator Game gave proper tension, something we don't get in Stephen Mulhern's activities. Matthew Crosby Surprises People was a very satisfying right mix of quiz and hidden camera, they put in preparation and it paid off. But too many of the segments lacked variety: Scream Out Answers While You Descend A Big Slide works about once, and Question Mark worked even less often.

Taken as a whole, Ready or Not fell down because it was a clip show, it was clear that it was six different shows stitched together. There was no clear editorial voice, there was no coherence to the show, Paddy McGuinness's commentary repeated what we saw on screen.

In For a Penny rectifies all of these deficiencies. There is a house style: someone literally holds up a card with the name of the segment, while Stephen does something a bit daft. Stephen Mulhern is at the heart of every challenge. This is his show, this is his star vehicle, and he's going to make the best show he can. When Stephen Mulhern sets out to make a great entertainment show, we get a great entertainment show.

In for a Penny He's only gone and done it!

Stephen Mulhern is the one man frenzy. He whirls through town, and gets people to do unusual and entertaining things for money. We viewers can only hold tight, and follow his trail of shock and awesome. What will Stephen Mulhern do next? That's a tremendous part of the fun, we have no idea what will happen, only that something extraordinary will.

There's a theory in film and television: show, don't tell. In For a Penny provides a perfect example. Stephen is there, he's playing the games with the people. He can see what they're seeing, and he can ask the question to bring out their emotions. The player can give evidence, both show us through their actions and tell us from their words. Ready or Not told us what we were seeing on screen.

In for a Penny Actions speak louder than words.

No-one applies to In for a Penny for the prizes, tens of pounds for most segments. You're not going to get rich, but you'll have fun. It feels like no-one applies to the show, and Stephen finds his contestants as he's out and about on the street. Even if this isn't true, the show feels spontaneous and fresh as though it could be.

And this combination of spontaneity, fun, and madcap silliness proves an infectious cocktail. Stephen Mulhern comes across as everyone's daring older brother, cheeky and full of energy and with bags of silly ideas. No-one is made to look foolish, even the losers look like they're enjoying their five minutes of fame. There is nothing like it on television.

In for a Penny In for the grand.


Two heats to whizz through. Bekah Oliver won on 4 April, taking the Films of Heath Ledger. It was a low-scoring affair, with almost as many passes as correct answers. The other contenders were Frances Atherton (Margaret Pole), Erol Soyer (Tycho Brahe), and Kit Garrett (Plays of Sarah Kane).

Bruce Horton won the final heat after taking the Royal Navy in WW1. He beat Jack Blenkinsopp (Christopher Isherwood) by a single pass, their correct scores level at 21. Also playing: Jenny Delaney (Henry VIII) and Leah Massey (Britpop).

Semi-final 1

Have they stopped with this silly nonsense about having people walk through the Rectangle Of Rubbish, and not telling them their scores? No.

Have they replaced the host with someone less of the far-right? Not on the telly, and we tried to replace him with The Voice Of Skippy from the phones. This proved more trouble than it was worth, though we did note that Humphrys never speaks the contenders' surnames any more.

Nicholas Young takes the Life and Times of Samuel Johnson. Shorter questions and a shorter time limit, a Perfect Round takes the contender to 11.

Sue Duffy offers "A Dance to the Music of Time" novels by Anthony Powell. Twelve novels, eleven questions, another Perfect Round of 11.

This music and the flashing lights are a bit like a rubbish pop concert. Can we imagine MC Humpo getting "down" wiv da "kidz" wit tha "drill" bangs? Er, no.

Roy Smith has studied 2 Tone Records. The first pass of the night, the first error of the night, and some quite prolix questions. The contender finishes with 7 (2 passes).

Mark Grant tells us about the 1951 Festival of Britain. An exhibition of excellence in technology, planning, construction and delivery, Mark's Perfect Round finishes on 13.

Brian Davis has the Life and Work of William Wilberforce. Another round where the contender gees up the host, and finishes with a Perfect Round of 12.

They might still require everyone to make a solo walk, and not see each others' specialist rounds, but the contenders do find out each others' score during the interlude.

Roy Smith knows his jig is up, and advances to 15 (7). Just to get to the semi-final is more than most applicants get, so well done.

Nicholas Young starts well, wobbles, and only recovers in the final moments. His final total of 19 (1) doesn't feel like a win.

Sue Duffy sounds a little nervous to begin with, but soon recovers. She takes every question calmly and on its merits; even if there are guesses, they are correct guesses. There was just the one error, in a total of 25.

Game on! Brian Davis has a solid start, but confuses the work of Paul Young with that of Stevie Wonder. Doesn't let this put him off. Brian was a little unlucky not to get another question in the specialist round, he's a little lucky to get another question here. The final: 25.

Mark Grant knows his target. Thirteen correct answers to win; do not pass. He gets three, then makes a couple of errors. There is some sighing. And then the octopus of doubt has passed, and the right answers flow again. Mark hits the mark with time to spare, and finishes with 26 points.

So Mark Grant, the accountant and reigning Top Brain, is first into the final. More next week.

This Week and Next

Only Connect (2) WLL DN FY GT THT T HM.

ITV Studios has announced that it's building its own theme park in Kent. Attractions will include Thunderbirds rides, Robozuna stalls, and doubtless Stephen Mulhern will pop up to record In for a Penny. We hope for some more gamey attractions: the Ninja Warrior assault course, Ant and Dec's All-Week Takeaway, the Agent L Guidebook, an arcade filled with Tipping Point machines, and a Krypton Factor flight simulator.

BARB ratings in the week to 21 April.

  1. Hot sun over the Easter weekend dented viewing figures. Line of Duty (BBC1, Sun) fell to 9.8m, and Got Talent (ITV, Sat) to 9.15m. They remain the top drama and top game.
  2. Have I Got News for You had a series best (BBC1, Fri, 4.45m), with The Chase (ITV, Tue, 3.75m) ranking third. In For a Penny was the only other show to break 3 million.
  3. University Challenge was top game on BBC2 (Mon, 2.55m), a Catsdown repeat led on Channel 4 (Sun, 755,000), and Got More Talent on ITV2 (Sat, 740,000).
  4. Elsewhere, Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 700,000), Blind Date (C5, Sun, 580,000), and a repeat of Through the Keyhole (ITV2, Tue, 305,000). Top shows on other new channels were 8 Out of 10 Cats (E4, Sun, 280,000) and ancient Antiques Road Trip (Really, Fri, 245,000).

Warwick Davis gives us Tenable All Stars (ITV, Sun). There's a new run of Taskmaster (Dave, Wed). Also back: Next Top Model (Lifetime, Mon) and Dickinson's Real Deal (ITV, weekdays).

Photo credits: Parasol / RDF, ITV Studios / Mitre.

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