Weaver's Week 2023-02-26

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Only Connect paid its little tribute to a classic moment in game show history.

Don't touch the pack, we'll be right back!

Eat the Town


Eat the Town

BBC Scotland; pilot December 2021, series 2-16 February 2023

If the name of the show hadn't given it away, this is a show all about food. We promise that the second review (Scotland's Greatest Escape) isn't all about food. Skip ahead if you need to.

Eat the Town A typical tourist show begins like this.

Dazza and Natalie Erskine present an alternative view of Scotland. We're not talking lochs and castles and stags and steam trains; first ten minutes of The Traitors this ain't.

Instead of the scenic highlands, Dazza and Natalie are going to somewhere even more exotic.

Eat the Town Cumbernauld. So good they named it once.

There's a bit of an introduction, setting up the whole conceit of this pilot show. During the course of the day, Natalie is going to order food, and select an activity, for Dazza to do. Dazza is going to select an activity and order food for Natalie. They'll give each other marks, and whoever's got the most at the end of the show wins.

We join our dynamic duo for breakfast. Best china, decorations around the edge of the table, somebody missing, portrait of Claudia Winkleman on the wall? No. Breakfast in the Cumbernauld Caff.

Eat the Town Our intrepid hosts and presenters, Dazza (left) and Natalie Erskine.

Natalie orders something for Dazza to eat, but doesn't tell him what it is. They've talked about eggs Benedict, and the obvious thing would be for Dazza to get a plate of eggs Benedict. With all the inevitability of proper comedy, Natalie orders on his behalf – a plate of French toast.

Eat the Town Dazza tucks into a plate of egg-fried bread with lots of bacon shavings.

And that's Eat the Town in a nutshell, two cheeky people go to a town, take the piffle out of each other, eat all of the food, and enjoy each other's company.

How are we going to deconstruct the tourist documentary next, Dazza? With an activity, because life isn't entirely about food. Not even this show is entirely about food. Dazza is taking Natalie to bingo.

Eat the Town It would be irrational to come here for π.

It's a strange and surreal experience. "Everyone's winning except me", says Dazza at one point. The bingo is called by a disembodied voice, we never see the voice. Or the balls falling out of the tombola. Or, indeed, anyone else playing at the club. Quite disconcerting.

After having a "snack" of a bacon roll at the bingo club, Dazza leads Natalie on a quick walk. He's visiting Cumbernauld's top tourist sight to see, the Irn Bru factory. It's made in Scotland from – well, looks like panelling and wood and prefab office parts. But it's closed to the public, they're not going in for a gawp around like they would on Blue Peter, and certainly this isn't a venue for lunch.

Eat the Town Cumbernauld's top* tourist attraction.

Instead, Dazza is going to a hidden village part of town, to an old inn. Dazza orders something for Natalie, and Natalie orders something for Dazza. They talk about the milky chicken soup Natalie's eating, and the chicken dish Dazza has. Lots of chicken in this pub. And no scores, they might have missed an opportunity.

We've reached Natalie's activity. Not so much eat afternoon tea as make afternoon tea. Ice your own cakes, make your own Victoria sponge (but all the baking's been done), and make the thickest cream biscuit imaginable. Seriously, there's so much cream on that poor biscuit that it could install a chairlift and hold the World Cream-Skiing Championships.

Eat the Town Mmm, creamy.

Soon enough, it's Dazza's dinner. He's chosen the best meal on the planet, a chip shop supper. Fish and chips for himself, and a chipsteak for Natalie. What's a chipsteak? "What's a chipsteak?" asks Natalie. Dazza replies, "I don't know, I didn't ask!"

Eat the Town That's a chipsteak, with chips.

Great help he is. Turns out that the chipsteak is a common-or-garden burger, a cross between a steak and a burger with bits of mince. Not Natalie's favourite dish, not even one that she can finish.

As we've been going through the show, Dazza has given Natalie's activity and meal a mark out of ten. Natalie has given Dazza's meal and activity a mark out of ten. The competition element to the show – and it's this thin! – the competition element to the show is that whoever gets the better mark gets dessert.

After this pilot episode in late 2021, Eat the Town went to a full series of three episodes, shown in the last few weeks. It's become a bit more complex: Natalie and Dazza order for each other at lunch, and at one other meal. There are bonus points at these meals, predict the other's favourite dish from the menu. There's also a challenge on one of the activities for extra points. They explain the points at the top of the show, and it feels like a lot of work when we're not fully committed to the programme.

Eat the Town What's in the bag today, Dazza?

The cameraman is Kevin Walls, and he plays a full part in the show – joins in the conversation, someone for Dazza to bounce off. The scorekeeper, producer, director, and general fixer.

Eat the Town makes the mundane interesting. Everyday activities that we might not think twice about – breakfast in a caff, bingo, the chippie – suddenly take on a new dimension when they're a surprise.

The vibe between Dazza and Natalie is always respectful, they know how to have good fun and know when to wind it in. They'll push the boat out with choices of food and entertainment, but also take care to include something each likes – a dollop of halloumi, a dash of gravy.

Eat the Town Chicken for lunch again.

When watching The Piano on Channel 4, we see a show working fine without its contest. So we ask ourselves, would Eat the Town work as well Рor at all Рwithout its contest. We think it wouldn't. Awarding marks is a bit of a cliché Рthe trope is everywhere, Come Dine with Me and Scotland's Home of the Year and Am Dro! Рbut because it's so widespread it's something producers can drop in and we'll understand without any explanation. And the marks allow us to judge between episodes РNatalie's 7/10 breakfast in Dumfries is not quite as good as her 8/10 in Cumbernauld.

An entertaining show? Certainly. Worth a watch? Probably. Full of tourist attractions of places to visit and sights to see? Only if you're Pansy Potter.

Scotland's Greatest Escape

Scotland's Greatest Escape

Red Sky for BBC Scotland, from 15 February

"We asked you to nominate your favourites, and you have!" Viewers nominated their favourite away days and places to spend time away. A panel of industry people whittled it down to 21 finalists in seven categories.

We're watching episode 1, luxury escapes. £300 or more per person per night. Ouch. That's, er, somewhat out of our price range. Sadly, this column isn't going to judge the escapes. Nor are the panel of industry people, their work here is done.

Scotland's Greatest Escape We were hoping for a shot of a steam train on a viaduct, but thistle do.

No, the decision is to be taken by Karen and Karen, two lifelong friends from Glasgow. Whichever one they think is the best will go forward to the overall final at the end of the series.

The first luxury getaway is some self-catering lodges on a farm in Angus. Sauna, double-ended bath, log fire, hot tub, under-floor heating, even a trampoline for your over-excited television hosts children. The views look out over the rolling plains in the general direction of Angus, and there's not a person to be seen for miles. Plenty of cows, no people.

Scotland's Greatest Escape This holiday boat comes with its own moat, chef, and captain.

Next up is a cruise boat in Argyll. It goes around the islands, with cabins and fishing and an en suite bedroom, and there's an on-board chef. Views you won't get from any cottage, not least because you're in the middle of the water. And there are special excursions, such as to Scotland's home-grown tea farm.

The final place is a castle in Galloway, with flash furnishings, grand interiors, and all sorts of Edwardian posh luxury. It's life as a country squire, there's detail and precision in everything, with none of that awkward stuff with billets-doux from de verraders. The castle has its own eagle, and there are archery lessons for complete beginners. There's even a garden on site for the chef to grow his own vegetables.

Scotland's Greatest Escape The castle's eagle, and its human companion.

As they go, the Karens mark each place out of 5 in four categories: accommodation, activities, customer service, and the overall experience. Highest score wins. The obvious debt to Scotland's Home of the Year and all the other comparative voting shows is obvious.

Scotland's Greatest Escape is somewhat over-manned. Grado, who you might remember from Test Drive, is the man on the ground. He'll have a very quick chat with the owner of each house (or boat, or whatever) and narrate much of the show. But there's also narration from JJ Chalmers, a disembodied voice who pops up from time to time to remind us of the rules.

Scotland's Greatest Escape Grado has the time of his life.

If Eat the Town was a radical deconstruction of the holiday documentary, Scotland's Greatest Escape was a faithful reconstruction of the form. At times, it felt like we were watching segments from Holiday '82. The show mostly follows our representatives on their trips, exploring what is available and being shown the best of what the venue has to offer. And in the depths of winter, it's nice to dream about going off to somewhere warmer, or just going off somewhere else. The BBC's Holiday programme gave this sort of soft-focus sell to holidays at home and abroad through the 1980s and early 90s, before falling out of fashion. Not quite an advertorial, but not particularly critical about the trips featured.

Is the competition necessary? Not as an artistic statement, the show would work as well by following Karen and Karen around the three luxury breaks. But the competition is helpful for the viewers, it's the glue to explain why their representatives are taking these trips, an excuse for the Karens to do what they do. And with television fashions being how they are, the show wouldn't have been commissioned without the contest.

In other news

Dickie Davies

Sports desk The death of Dickie Davies, ITV's premier sports presenter in the 1970s and 1980s. He presented a few game shows, mostly sport-related like football challenge All in the Game, and sports quiz Sportsmasters. In his youth, "Richard Davies" hosted talent show Home Grown for Southern Television. Later, he'd front Jigsaw (2) on Channel 4, a show where players solved twenty-piece jigsaw puzzles against the clock. He retired from broadcasting after a stroke in 1995, and lived a long and happy retirement. Dickie Davies was 94.

Very much no.

John Motson has died. The football commentator found time to host two editions of Mastermind – a cup final special in 1978, and Motty Mastermind on his retirement in 2018. He also made a non-broadcast television pilot of 90s sports panel game They Think it's All Over. "Motty", as he was known, worked for the BBC for 50 years, commentating in 10 world cups and 29 FA Cup finals. John Motson was 77.

Britain's Best Young Artist Best newcomer nominee.

"When did we last have a game show presented by a new face", asked someone on the Bother's Bar Discord this week. Best Young Artist from CBBC says, "Hi, I'm Jessie Cave. You'll know me from comedy shows and book tours and that coffee table book of art I made about ten years ago and nobody bought even though it's lovely." Jessie fits right into the show, she gives just the right sort of friendly introspective dippyness.

But if you're the sort of old person who sees CBBC as "not a proper channel", then Lee Mack on The 1% Club last year. Since then, Claudia Winkleman's had three new shows.

Eurovision Song Contest Who's hosting?

Or watch this year's Eurovision Song Contest. The BBC's confirmed the presenter line-up, and most are new faces. Pay attention, there will be a questionnaire later.

Television hosts will be Julia Sanina (from band The Hardkiss), Hannah Waddingham (from Benidorm), and Alesha Dixon (from ITV's oh-so-successful Walk the Plank and Dance Dance Dance). They'll be joined for the Saturday final by Graham Norton (from The Graham Norton Show).

Timor Miroshnychenko will be UA:PBC's Eurovision Correspondent, he co-hosted the contest in 2017 and is a safe pair of hands – the Chantal Janzen of this year's panel. Timor will also host the opening ceremony on or about 6 May with Sam Quek (from Football Genius). Anything else happening on 6 May? Some football, few horses going for a wander, early evening looks free.

BBC television commentary on the Saturday final will come from Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc (from CBBC's Sadie J). The semi-finals will feature commentary from Scott Mills and Rylan Clark-Neal (both from Radio 2). Claire Sweeney (from Celebrity Big Brother) will host special "bits" on Radio Merseyside, alongside a member of the public to be named. It's not yet known who will commentate on Radio 2 – or indeed if there will be commentary on Radio 2.

Ten hosts and co-hosts for the various Eurovision bits. That's enough for a Tenable list, and no potato products are included.

Awards season continues with the Broadcasting Press Guild's shortlists. In Best Entertainment, Strictly Come Dancing and The Traitors against two other shows. Awards will be dished out on 24 March.

Look who's BLANK BBC Saturday nights will feature new series of Blankety Blank, and The Weakest Link, and more The Wheel. We presume that a revival of The Time it Takes was cut from the press release for reasons of space.

This week's Quizzers Digest

  • Listen to the questions! Answer the question you're asked, not the one you want to be asked. (Mastermind)
  • The main classifications of rock are SIMS: sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic, and (the hardest of them all) seaside. (Mastermind)
  • Biologists define conjugation as bacteria transferring genetic material by contact. Chemists define conjugation as connected orbitals with spare electrons. Mathematicians define conjugation as changing from positive to negative or back. Physicists don't conjugate, and let us all be thankful. (University Challenge)
  • Mercaptans are used in the gas industry for safety – they provide the smell so we can tell when it's leaked out. (BBC Brain 1986, a show Robert Robertson ran twice as fast as Russell Davies does)
  • Bournville is not the only model village in Birmingham. Austin Village was designed to house workers at the Leyland car plant in Longbridge. Bournville is, however, the only model village to have a chocolate named after it. (University Challenge)

Quizzy Mondays

Mastermind reached heat 22. Stephen Finn booked his place in the next round, after taking ancient king Mithridates the Great as his specialist subject. It was a low-scoring match, Stephen only made 9 in each round, though we reckon he knew a lot more than he showed on the programme.

Only Connect has reached the semi-finals! Already! Winners go through to the trophy final, losers to something even more important. Strigiformes made the final on 16 points, Morporkians advance to the third-place play-off on 15 marks. Strigiformes had the first connection from the first clue – things ended by a sneeze – but only named it for one point. 'Porks pulled back some gap with songs sampled by Eminem, wiped it out with numbers on LCD displays, and won on Play Your Iraqi Cards Right.

Strigiformes knew a sequence was about events in the 1660s, but chose events of 1667 when they were looking for something in 1666. They were more on form for words negated by adding letters. We loved a sequence on the first in a sequence of 7, 8, 9, 10 items: we went with "The way you talk to me" {1}. The match was decided on the walls, where the Morporkians had a 'mare and only picked up two points.

University Challenge concluded its elimination round with an absolute tonking. Durham beat Bangor by 240-35. Hilbert's unsolved conjectures, places associated with Mary Queen of Scots, art with yellow houses – all were grist to the Durham mill. There was a long section where Durham missed bonus after bonus after bonus, history and films appear to be weaknesses, but the team was so dominant on the buzzer that the result was never in doubt.

The longest running daily pop quiz comes to an end next week, with the last Popmaster on Radio 2 (Friday). We'll look back at Ken Bruce's broadcasting career next week.

The island's longest running song contest returns – that's Can i Gymru (S4C, Fri). There's a rerun of Come Dancing 1977 (BBC4, Sun). The grand final of Landscape Artist of the Year (Artsworld, Wed), and don't forget to miss the last ever episode of Next Level Chef (ITV, Thu).

Next Saturday's stars: Yvette Fielding on Celebrity Mastermind, Judy Murray on Bridge of Lies, Gabby Logan on Celebrity Catchphrase with Stephen Mulhern, Murder at Bigwig Manor on Saturday Night Takeaway, Carol Vorderman on The Wheel, and Mike Bushell on a news-focused Pointless Celebrities.

{1} From 10 Things I Hate About You.

Picture credits: Hat Trick, BBC Scotland, Red Sky, Mike Mansfield Television, BBC, Eurovision Song Contest.

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