Weaver's Week 2016-10-30

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This week: a reason to be polite in the pews, a reason to celebrate in Wales, and a very nice picnic.

The Great British Bake Off But did it win?

Meet the Parents (2)


Meet the Parents

ITV Studios for ITV, from 15 October

What's been missing from Saturday night television? A decent dating show, one that's got a bit of romance. Say what you like about Take Me Out, it's less romantic than robotic.

All the clich├ęs are present on Meet the Parents. Lots of hearts dotted about the set, yes. Motifs of cute birds, and scrolls, yes. A set coloured in pastel pink and purples, yes. Solo female host Holly Willoughby, yes. This isn't threatening, just from a quick look we can see it's cutesy. But not too cutesy: the cityscape is relaxed and it's dark, contrasting with the rest of the studio.

Meet the Parents (2) Hearts and roses and Holly.

Holly Willoughby enters through a giant cut-out heart, complete with a portcullis door that lifts. The first thing we see of Holly is her shoes; the last we see is her smiling face.

The show is so simple that it needs no introduction. Straight away, we're into the video packages. Three blokes, seen with their parents. These aren't expensive video packages, but they're shot to look glossy. Bright, strong colours, people relaxing. And discussing the blokes' history of dating; all are single, so all have had failed relationships.

Meet the Parents (2) One of the contestants with his parents.

The blokes are talking with their parents. By "parents", we don't always mean biological parents. Could be one parent and their new partner, could be parent and an aunt or uncle, could be a single parent. This is never spelled out on screen. Meet the Parents acknowledges that the nuclear family was an aberration of history, and does so by actions alone.

The blokes have final words with their parents, and scoot off to "the den". It's a soundproof room on the side of the stage, with a glass front. The lads will be able to see and hear what happens on the main stage. The viewers can see what happens in there. So can the studio audience. So can Holly Willoughby – she can and she will get off her stool and josh with the blokes. But, crucially, the picker won't see anything in the den.

Meet the Parents (2) The lads settle in the den; on the right, their parents will see Holly and the lady.

Through the heart-shaped hole, enter the lady. Holly has a quick chat with her – who she is, what she does, what she's looking for in a bloke. We viewers might know that one of the blokes would be great, or that one would be a poor match. But the lady doesn't know this. Oh, the dramatic tension.

The parents have their first words, selling their son to the lady. And then she asks some questions of the parents. Hijinks ensue.

Meet the Parents (2) An interesting variant: contestant holding a question card.

We recall how Blind Date had very suggestive questions, a light dusting of bawd. Meet the Parents cuts the smut, it deals more in embarrassment. We'll see photos of the lads as toddlers, and we'll hear the anecdotes only a parent can tell.

Now, the lads can pause the embarrassment, if they wish. Each is allowed one phone call to their parents, and they can plead with them not to finish that story. Don't tell that Boz still sleeps with his blankie. Keep schtum about how Liam went to Thailand and shared a bed with his best friend. Never mention Dave's dalliances with big-bosomed models.

Meet the Parents (2) Hello? Is this Dial-a-Pizza?

Of course, this call always backfires. Always. For the viewer, we get to hear the sorry tale directly from the man who did it. The parents might not have told the tale in that way, they might have spared some of the detail. They might not have known some of the detail. Rather than risk someone else tell your tale, Meet the Parents gives the lads plenty of rope, lets them embarrass themself on network television. It's schadenfreude for the masses.

The lady – who only gets to hear the parent's half of the conversation – might be able to work out the gist of what's said. We viewers know both sides of the story. And once the call is made, the parents have free rein to say whatever they like. Boz's penchant for waving a pasty about? Strange guy. No wonder he's hiding behind the sofa in the den.

Question period comes to an end – it's edited down to ten minutes for the show, doubtless longer in the studio. It's high-quality editing, never disrupts the flow of the show. And while the picker makes her decision, a commercial break. The obvious place, and the right place.

Meet the Parents (2) So far, we see the date has feet.

After the break, we find out who she's picked, and the other two emerge from the side of the stage. Look at what you could have won. Look, perhaps, at what we knew and you didn't. But here's what you did win! The chosen man emerges as the heart-shaped motif rises, pulling slowly up to see his feet, then his torso, and finally his face.

Meet the Parents (2) The date is filmed, of course.

They spend only a few moments in the studio, then the couple are off to a swanky restaurant for a meal. But the surprises don't end here: the parents are watching the date in another room, and pass comment on what they'd like their son to do. Before the end of the meal, the parents will spring out and greet their son.

How embarrassing! You're on a date in a swanky restaurant, getting to know this person, when your parents emerge.

For the final score, the couple go into a photobooth and share their thoughts. Will they date again? Maybe, maybe not.

And then it's a commercial break, and the show repeats, with a bloke picking from three young ladies. Same story, different faces.

Meet the Parents (2) Dad? What's he doing here?!

Parents embarrassing their children is as old as the hills. It's the entire premise of My Parents Are Aliens. Chandler's mother on Friends. Scarlett's children in Gone With the Wind. Zebedee's wife asking for James and John to sit at Jesus's right and left hands.

Perhaps the greatest literary parallel for Meet the Parents is Nursie in Romeo & Juliet. Every time she speaks, Nursie gives an embarrassing tale about Juliet in her younger years, filled with double entendres about what happens how Juliet's now all grown up. Even after the audience has wandered, on she prattles. "Nursie, shush!" would be Juliet's catchphrase.

Dating shows are not this column's favourite type of show. Too many Saturday evenings subjected to Blind Date, too many shows where the format is too complex, too many shows where the host irritates.

Meet the Parents hits a sweet spot for us. Holly Willoughby has sass. She takes a crowded environment – ten contributors in the studio – and handles it with ease. A lesser presenter would get lost between parents and the gents and the lady, but Holly knows exactly where she's going.

The conversation flows easily, and it feels like everyone gets a fair chance to make their points. They can tell their tales, they can embarrass the children. The show is done in very good spirit, it never feels like the ill-tempered type of show where people punch the lights out of each other.

Meet the Parents (2) This is for the Instant Ounce.

All things considered, we think Meet the Parents is a very good piece of television. They've paid attention to detail, the show feels glossy without being extravagant. It's light and undemanding, television to dip into. It's been paired on the autumn schedule with Celebrity Tipping Point, another fluffy show that rewards but doesn't demand attention.

Show by show, ITV is building a formidable arsenal of very decent entertainment programmes they can sell worldwide. Go for It, Release the Hounds, Pick Me!, Love Island, Ninja Warrior. Meet the Parents is the latest, and we hope it has a long and bright future.

Bobby Bragg

Bobby Bragg

We're sorry to report the death of Bobby Bragg. One of the most difficult tasks in showbiz is to warm up a crowd. Let them come in, let them settle, and get them into a good frame of mind. Not so quickly that they'll spend all their energy on you, not so slowly that the stars have to do all the difficult work. And you've got to keep them at temperature for hours on end.

Bobby Bragg was a master of this art, working on shows as diverse as Gladiators, Only Fools and Horses, and TV Burp. The Independent wrote of Bobby last year,

A wily, relaxed performer with a lifetime's worth of stories and gags, he managed to stem any mutinous feelings among the sore-arsed audience during a typically disjointed shoot that dragged on for five hours.

You might have seen Bobby on screen, as the landlord on Rock & Chips a few years ago. You will have heard Bobby, he was the commentator on Supermarket Sweep until 2001. Bobby's many awards included the British Music Hall Society's award for Lifetime Achievement in 2014.

Watch more: "An Audience with Bobby Bragg" from 2012.

This Week and Next

So now we know. Candice won the final series of Bake Off, her royal picnic was a cut above Jane's, and more consistent than Andrew's work.

The Great British Bake Off

Incredible scenes on Celwydd Noeth, as Gwydion and Aled scooped the jackpot of £10,000. A helpful set of categories gave them a chance. Aggressive play aided their cause – the pair didn't bank before £1000, the point at which the prize rises sharply from "holiday" to "holiday home deposit". And they had strokes of good fortune, as they were able to keep the Lucky Three simplifier to the very last question.

The young students made their own luck, with a broad knowledge. They might not have known about the Oldsmobile, but they knew intricate details of Welsh football in the 1950s, and could deduce that there aren't six Electoral College states beginning "New".

Gwydion and Aled are the first pair to play the jackpot question on Celwydd Noeth; we don't believe any team won the jackpot on The Lie on STV or TV3. Unless, dear reader, you know better.

Quizzy Monday took a week off.

Belgae and Doosras on Hive Minds, the second winners' match. Doosras took the advantage in the opening round, perhaps as they knew James Callaghan was Leonard to his mother, but Harold Wilson was James to his mam. Belgae found themselves with NASA space shuttles, and spent a fruitless time looking for Atlantis.

Doosras kept their lead into the Superhives, where they found a set of world chess champions. Or didn't find: again, the side was hampered by their slow pressing of buttons. Belgae were perfect on gemstones, and took a five point lead into the last round. Doosras pulled it back to level pegging at one point, but Belgae knew about Borat. Low culture gave Belgae a 21-20 win.

Two-thirds of the way through the Mastermind heats, and add Robert Hemming to the list coming back. He won with a specialist round on the human body, and a confident general knowledge performance took him to 22 (3 passes).

Lucinda Crichley scored on the Soviet space programme, but passed just too often – her final of 22 (5 passes) loses on pass countback. A strange round – we don't think any question was set after 1975, and few went beyond 1971, but the Soviet programme continued to 1991.

Good scores from the last two contestants – Malcolm Harrington (Italian Renaissance paintings) and Mark Buckley (David Niven) offered precise subjects, and scored into the teens.

BARB ratings in the week to 16 October.

  1. 13.25m is this week's rating for Bake Off in quarter-finals week.
  2. Strictly is a strong second, 11.2m viewers. That's already ahead of all European Nations' Cup matches except the final.
  3. X Factor 7.05m, HIGNFY 5.55m, Pointless Celebrities 4.6m. Would I Lie to You? got 4m, a very good score opposite Coronation Street.
  4. The Crystal Maze special scored 3.8m, a spectacular figure on Channel 4. Only Gogglebox, the Grand National, and drama National Treasure have rated higher this year.
  5. Celeb Chase 3.05m, regular Chase and University Challenge both 2.95m. Bake Off An Extra Slice soared to 2.85m, up half a million on last week. A rare network edition of Mastermind pulled in 2m.
  6. Celeb Juice had a series high, 1.465m viewers. Over on Dave, Taskmaster recorded 810,000. We don't have figures for The Satellite Channel, so no A League of Their Own.

Round Britain Quiz returns to tax even the brainiest brains (R4, Mon). The Choir (BBC2, Tue) is what we've long feared: Gareth Malone holds a competition for his bland and saccharine work. The Dog Ate My Homework is back (CBBC, Fri).

A couple of one-offs: Polterguest (E4, Wed) is hidden camera horror silliness. I'm Sorry, I Didn't Know (ITV2, Thu) looks at black history. Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat) features journalists, including Guild TV alumnus Lizo Mzimba – but also bloviating mythspiller Toby Young. Might be one to watch with the fast-forward button.

Some specials: Songs of Praise (BBC1, Sun) covers the Gospel Choir of the Year. One Chance (C5, Sun) tells a Paul Potts story. It's a Yes From Me - The Simon Cowell Story (R2, Wed) does what the title suggests.

Photo credits: ITV Studios, Love Productions

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