Weaver's Week 2023-09-17

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What links Bruce Forsyth and Taylor Swift? We'll tell you later.



Raquel Productions / Yacht Money Productions / Paramount Global Content Distribution for CBS, from 9 August

Our sample episode is from 23 August, featuring Gloria Estefan. And a hollering hall, packed to the rafters with Gloria Estefan fans. (What is the collective noun for people who like Gloria? "Estefans"? Oh.)

Anyway, everyone in the room is a fan of Gloria. It's a group with a shared passion, a mutual interest, and they're able to celebrate their fannish behaviour on network television. There's lots of energy and love in the room, peaking when Gloria makes her grand entrance.

The star of the show arrives.

Some viewers at home may not be so familiar with Gloria Estefan, perhaps they're the grandchildren of your average CBS viewer. Gloria is a singer, songwriter and entrepreneur. Since becoming popular in the mid-1980s, she has sold over 100 million records worldwide and is Latin music's most successful crossover performer, with her backing band Miami Sound Machine. Her best known songs include "Conga", "Rhythm is gonna get you", and "Anything for you".

The audience knows all this, of course. What the audience don't know is who will play the game. Five of them are called out of the audience, and make their way to the pit of the stage. The house band play the sting from another of Gloria's hits, "1-2-3", when each person comes down; it gets a bit repetitive.

Two of our fans chat with Keltie.

Each player gets 20 seconds to pitch themselves to Gloria. This has no direct effect on the game, but it helps to introduce the players to the viewers at home. See, we're watching Superfan because we like Gloria Estefan. But we don't know these people from Adam. We hear a little of their connection, how most of them have met Gloria before, some have personal letters and that sort of thing. And if we didn't know Gloria before now, we're getting a bit about what makes her tick.

Superfan is a contest, and there will be a money-can't-buy prize. There's props from some of Gloria's videos, tour wardrobe castoffs, a personally guided tour of Gloria's pad, and a weekend break at her Miami hotel. Very nice, very desirable.

Hosts of the show: Nate Burleson and Keltie Knight.

The show's hosts are Keltie Knight and Nate Burleson. Who are these people? Keltie is a dancer turned showbiz reporter, something of an It Girl around New York. Nate Burleson played in the NFL, then embarked on a career in the media. Both have ended up at CBS Mornings, a news and entertainment programme reasonably close to BBC Breakfast. Nate does most of the lifting on this episode, Keltie's role isn't much more than a hostess making sure everyone is in the right place; she does more hosting duties when the featured star is a bloke.

Keltie's also involved behind the scenes, the show is made by Yacht Money Productions, a television company formed by Keltie Knight with Jodi Roth who used to work on Nickelodeon. Keltie and Jodi are credited as the format developers.

Gloria Estefan in 2022. This show's been in the can for a little while.

It's about ten minutes into the show before the first competition round begins – we haven't got very far with the contest, so far it's all been about the mood and the vibes. The first competition round is over in a flash. "Sound Check" asks the players to identify a Gloria song from the briefest snatch of the introduction. One note is all it takes a superfan to recognise "Bad boy" or "Seal our fate". One correct answer is all it takes to progress to the next round.

The last player standing won't win the main prize, but they'll still get front-row tickets for the rest of the night, and a chance to see their idol at very close quarters.

Gloria Estefan in 1984.

After the ad break, we're into "Super Story". Not only is Gloria Estefan a great singer, but she has a hand in writing most of her hit songs. This round takes us behind the scenes of some of those melodies, and little trivia from her career. We learn how Gloria was almost eight months pregnant when recording the video for "Turn the beat around", and her unborn child kicked the microphone stand away. Anecdotes about pop stars are often fun; anecdotes about someone's own life has that added beat of authenticity.

Although the songs are identified at speed, Gloria is given the space to tell the complete story. And again, the last player retreats to the seats in the audience.

The contestants write on the back of Gloria's head.

"Superfan Showdown" follows the next ad break. This is a very difficult multiple choice quiz. The fans are asked to know their star inside out. Things even the superfan probably doesn't know but can make a guess at. Does Gloria have an unusual ability in competitive cup stacking? Belching the alphabet? Picking up things with her toes?

One of the questions is about husband Emilio Estefan, and he walks on to give one of the answers. It's a blatant excuse to bring on the husband, and it feels quite natural to do it.

Emilio scrubbed up well.

Eventually, two finalists emerge. We see video profiles of the two finalists, shot to tell us more about how they are big fans of Gloria. A shrine to the star, ear-rings and pendants using miniaturised cover art, photos and a massive album collection.

And we see them lip sync – the two finalists perform to one of Gloria's biggest hits. This is the weakest part of the programme, it has particularly poor shot direction. Footage of the original video fills half the screen, and there are a lot of cutaways from the performer to the audience and panel. We want to see the fan have the time of their life! Never mind the cutaways, show us the fan!

What are we meant to be watching?

Viewers at home are invited to vote by antisocial media. You know, the one filled with a basket of deplorables – antisemites, racists, war criminals, eugenecists, transphobes, sex pests, and that's just the owner. Fire up the bots! Reap social, cultural, and political division! Bring down the tone of the show, just because you can't be bothered to use an 0898 number.

While the vote is counted and verified by Octothorpes-R-Us, Gloria performs a medley of her many hits, all the competitors join her for the finale. It's the high point of the show.

And, after the fifth and final internal ad break, the winner is announced. They'll have filmed both endings, surely.

This wasn't a surprise.

Superfan is a feelgood show. Very feelgood. There are losers in the contest, but they still get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and sing with their biggest hero – and that is a prize in itself. But the programme may not be for everyone: you've got to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate this show. If you want something challenging, something with a bit of edge to it, Superfan will not work, and could irritate.

The ambience of Superfan is utterly uncritical. It doesn't ignore the bad things in life – Gloria's frightening tour bus crash in 1990 is spoken about a few times, one of the finalists shares childhood fears about his parents' divorce – but these are turned into opportunities for the star to shine even brighter. The atmosphere reminds us of This Is Your Life or ITV's An Audience With programmes: here's the star, they've earned their hour in the sun, so let us revel in their presence.

It's a celebration of the star, with a competition attached. Do not tune in to Superfan for the prize competition, for it is thin and light. Watch Superfan for the star, they'll get an hour of pleasant, easy, relaxed, celebratory television. It's a love-in for the fans of Gloria, or the other music stars in the series (rappers LL Cool J and Pitbull, pop-country's Shania Twain, and country musicians Little Big Town and Kelsea Ballerini).

Nate Burleson (right) hosts most of the show.

The format is broad enough not to rely completely on musicians, though they're the easiest to work with. Actors, television hosts, sports people could all be the titular star. They'd need to tweak the endgame, and have a different end of the show show, but that should be entirely doable.

So, let's suppose that a television network over here sees this show, likes it, and thinks they can make it fly. Who would host? If they're staying true to the CBS original, it needs to be someone utterly guileless, able to completely lean into the soft-focus pleasantness with enthusiasm. Stephen Mulhern would be too arch and knowing for this programme; we need someone as incredulously uncritical as Nadine Dorries or Dougal Maguire.

Or they could have some of the up-and-coming presenters, folk who could convincingly act that they meet the stars every day. Alesha Dixon, Rylan, Vick Hope, Roman Kemp, Lindsey Russell, that sort of person: awe-struck and cool in their own way.

And who would appear? Mainstream acts: Ed Sheeran and Adele and Robbie Williams would be top of the bookings list, but likely too expensive. Zayn Malik, Sam Smith, and Ellie Goulding we can see them getting; heritage acts Rick Astley, McFly, and Avril Lavigne could complete the series. Or if they can move beyond music, we'll have Gary Lineker, Judi Dench, and Lauren Hemp. Our headcanon puts it on Saturday night ITV, probably in the slot vacated by Starstruck.

The contestants joined Gloria for a singalong.

Whether Superfan becomes a massive global hit or a footnote in television history, we don't know. The format has potential, and it's well made. Now, we're going to go off and enjoy the middle bit of "Oye mi canto" once more...

In other news

Finals week Last episodes for a couple of series we've reviewed recently. Ultimate Wedding Planner pulled out all the stops, setting their couple to be married in a country home, complete with a shiny golden aisle to walk down, drinks outside because it's a lovely day, and finishing with a dance performance starring the happy couple. Chantelle won the title; she was almost invisible in the first episode, which evidently isn't a bar to victory. They're looking for contestants for a second series.

Puzzling concluded on Channel 5, with the five top-scoring heat winners meeting the winner of last week's qualifier between the other six winners. As much as we've watched and enjoyed the show, they really could to do something about the pace of the show: moderate-to-slow in the first half, fast and frantic in the second part. Perhaps some sort of observation round might be in order. Anyway, Peter won the competition, picking up the trophy – a colourful cube with the show's logo.

Puzzling have also asked for contestants for a second series. Not a huge surprise – 7-day consolidated ratings have been around 700,000, which is very decent for the channel as a whole, and absolutely average for 8pm Thursday.

Quiz with Balls is being hawked around broadcasters Stateside. It's the one with a big pool and a slope and giant balls to push you into the drink. The chosen partners are Eureka Productions, responsible for both Holey Moley and The Netflix Mole. We reviewed the Dutch original in July.

Don't start now BBC1 postponed the start of Celebrity Race Across the World this week. The opening episode is set in and around Marrakesh in Morocco, the same area where there was a terrible earthquake last weekend. The entertainment show will begin next Wednesday night.

Bruce Forsyth, the Taylor Swift of 1971.

The star's camera 1971: Bruce Forsyth, host of The Generation Game, has a camera following his every move. He knows where it is and can give a trademark Knowing Look at any time.

2023: Taylor Swift, star of The MTV Video Music Awards, has a camera following her every move. She knows where it is and can give signals to everyone at home at any time.

TV Show and Tell is back, this week podcasters David and Justin talk to professional TV reviewer Jack Seale. The usual hour of intelligent conversation and insight into how they make good telly.

Quizzy Monday

Incredibly close on Mastermind. Peter Wilson won by a single point from Thomas Nelson. Peter had taken the tennis player Roger Federer, Thomas the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leonie. Peter had a two-point lead after specialist, Thomas was almost perfect on general knowledge and will surely be back; his reaction to being beaten was to give a thumbs up to Peter, which is great to see. Madeleine Roper won our Most Brilliant Outfit award. After so many near-misses in the specialist round, Bernie Morgan scored a very strong 11 on general knowledge.

Even closer on Only Connect. Just one point between the Roadies and Cribbagers, the Roadies ended up winning in a one-category shootout. Loved the picture round, actors and famous people who share their name with Only Fools and Horses characters; great to see the Yuan make the board, bringing back memories of DASH 5 from days when Only Connect was this obscure show seen by about fifty people.

Not so close on University Challenge, as Imperial London beat Balliol Oxford by 285-145. Balliol were chasing the game after a couple of early penalties, but Imperial profited greatly from many sets of bonuses. Connective tissue in the human body, Italian iced desserts, people whose surname is a currency, Irish history, and many many more. Balliol had few opportunities to show their knowledge, but made the best of the chances they got.

Quiz digest

  • No song beginning with "C" has ever won the Senior Eurovision Song Contest. Junior has had a pair of C-level winners – "Click clack" performed by Dr. Ralf Mackenbach in 2009, and 2011 winner "Candy music" from the group Candy. 2021's winners crossed off two difficult letters, "Qami qami" and "Zitti e buoni". Neither contest has been won by songs beginning G, K, X, or Y.
  • Bill Withers was once presented with a golden toilet seat. As well as being a soul singer, Bill worked on the production line making bathrooms for Boeing 747 planes. He kept this job for some time after "Ain't no sunshine" became a hit, because he thought a steady job was important, and his music career could end any second now. Honouring his choice of career, Columbia, his record label, didn't give him a golden disk but a golden toilet seat.
  • Pointless featured Bill Withers this week, his exceptionally long note on "Lovely day" is sustained for 18 seconds. It's a record since smashed by Morten Harket, the A-ha singer held a note for 20.2 seconds within "Summer moved on".

This year's scamper of One Man and His Dog goes out in Countryfile (BBC1, Sun). Taskmaster is back (C4, Thu). After live Strictly Come Dancing next weekend, new series of The Wheel and Blankety Blank (both BBC1), while Channel 5 reminds us of It's a Royal Knockout.

Pictures: Raquel Productions / Yacht Money Productions / Paramount Global Content Distribution, BBC, @taylorswift@instagram.com

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