Weaver's Week 2021-10-17

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Last autumn, ITV was gifted a Saturday night winner, the delayed Got Talent semi-finals. This year, they've gone with a mixture. Stephen Mulhern's Celebrity Catchphrase is another burst of silliness with Stephen Mulhern. The Cube is icy steeliness, and Beat the Chasers is high-octane high-stakes quizzing. The evening closes with a new take on a very old style.

It's 9.30 on a Saturday night. Late enough for ITV to offer an adult programme, early enough to assume people are still awake and able to concentrate to the fullest.

Saturday Night Line Up


Paul O'Grady's Saturday Night Line Up

Olga TV / Silver Star Productions for ITV, 11 September – 16 October

Saturday Night Line Up Your Saturday night show needs you.

With a name like that, it's no surprise to find the show is hosted by Paul O'Grady. We last encountered the Liverpool comedian as host of Blind Date in 2017, and he remains one of the most solid and safe pair of hands on television. We know what we're going to get in a Paul O'Grady show: light-hearted chat, a love of animals, nothing to make us feel bad.

For this programme, Paul is joined by four celebs. They're a mixture of A-list and B-list celebs, the big attractions on House of Games and the folk just too expensive for it. One recent panel featured Howard Donald, Arlene Phillips, Omid Djalili, and Sally Lindsay: decent bookings, and they made a cracking show, but not necessarily anyone we'd tune over to watch.

Saturday Night Line Up This week's panel: Bill Bailey, Nicola Adams, Ross Kemp, Melanie B.

The show's motif is a police mugshot board, heights down the side. They never actually use it to measure the celebs' height: we do not know how big Rob Rinder is. Instead, it's a backdrop for the central conceit: ask the celebs to line up in order of some personal and/or revealing categories. For instance, who was the most popular in school.

These questions aren't only decided by the panel. They've also been asked to 1000 people before the show by Kantar Research, and our players will score a point if their rank matches with the public's order.

So, after a gentle discussion to start the show and introduce the panellists, we move into the first question. Who was the most popular at school? Our celebs discuss the matter, giving some anecdotes about themselves. It's a mixture of exposition and entertainment: we might learn something about the celebs, but only what they want us to know, and only in the way they want us to know.

Saturday Night Line Up Yes, those are pictures of each celeb behind their seat.

If we were in any doubt, we're going to be treated to some pictures from the celeb's family album. How did they know to bring the pictures in? This conversation might not be rehearsed, but it sure as anything ain't spontaneous.

Eventually, they head over to the lines board, and sort themselves into some sort of order. There's a lot of debate between the players. Paul gives the result, and awards points.

Saturday Night Line Up Put yourselves in some sort of order. If you can.

Repeat this a couple of times – and put an ad break before the second line-up. Then there's another question, this time asked and judged by another celebrity rather than the public. Is this an excuse to get Countdown host Trevor McDonald on the programe? Could be. Then another question decided by the public. And after the break, a quick-fire round with lots of decisions, lots of points, and somewhat less discussion.

There's a lot to like about Saturday Night Line Up. Paul O'Grady keeps the show moving, and he keeps it moving without appearing to make any effort. There's a gentle forward pace throughout. We might get some jokes running through an episode, but we won't return to a discussion once we've moved on.

Saturday Night Line Up Ross Kemp pulls a funny face.

We can see that the conversation is lubricated: each player has a glass of something nice, we might occasionally see them sip from it. Being a post-watershed show, the celebs are (gasp!) allowed to drink alcohol without anyone batting an eyelid. They're also allowed bad language, a small allowance of f-bombs to be used sparingly.

The shows we've seen always end with "Who is the richest?". Remember, this is not a question of fact, but a question of who the people in Kantar Research's poll believe to be rich. Everyone tries to cluster around the "poorest" end.

Saturday Night Line Up No, you're richer than I am.

It is a contest, they do keep score, but this is not a competition of any meaning. The prize is something small and personalised to each player, literally no expense spent. And then it's time for the closing music – Glyn M Owen and No Sheet Music composed a jaunty, brassy theme, used sparingly to remain fresh.

Adverts for Saturday Night Line Up did it no favours – this isn't a "raucous" show, as Paul said. No, it's a pleasant chat show, about the shared experiences we've all had, whether long ago or recent. Questions like "who was most popular at school" and "who would have been best to be locked down with" are conversation starters, the Topics For Discussion they had on very early Big Brother.

Saturday Night Line Up The order dictated by the public.

It's an excuse for celebrities to tell us about themselves, give some anecdotes they've told before, occasionally give some revelations. Can't help but feel that the really good stuff would be saved for Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross. But Paul O'Grady never liked to plug the latest DVD, and this format forces attention to be on the guest as a person, not as a creator of other stuff.

In the last century, 9.30 on a Saturday night was Parkinson time, Michael Parkinson hosted an entertaining and gently probing chat show. Saturday Night Line Up is as entertaining as Parky, and feels a clearer and less attritional watch. (Is that because Paul O'Grady is a host more to this column's taste than Parkinson? Could be!)

Saturday Night Line Up Tonight's high-quality prize from the Tat Raffle.

Saturday Line Up hasn't set the world on fire. It's not a groundbreaking or brilliant show, but it is thoroughly competent. It's not quite got the calibre of guest to be a must-watch every week, but it's not far away. It feels like a show ITV could quietly commission year after year, let tick on in the background, until it's been so long it's an essential part of Saturday nights.

Coming soon to this intermission...

Two years after the last event, it's high time for television's great and good to gather in Cannes. It's also the biannual (biennial festival? both seem to apply) Ahem. The biannual MIPCOM Festival of Television Formats. Of course, the Week's budget doesn't stretch to a week in sunny Cannes, it doesn't even stretch to a wet weekend in Cleethorpes, so we had to look at the press releases and coverage from folk on the ground.

What highlights were on offer? What shows (brilliant or otherwise) are on the market? What game shows might we review in the next couple of years?

* Drag Me Out, well-known drag artists create oh-so-fabulous personae for celebrities: best wins a prize.

* Alter Ego, singers perform while hooked up to motion-capture technology, then their computerised avatars perform on stage.

The Crystal Maze A bit like this.

* Avastars, singers perform while hooked up to motion-capture technology, then their computerised avatars perform on stage with real dancers.

* ABBA Stars, singers perform while hooked up to motion-capture technology, then their computerised avatars perform on stage and sing "Waterloo" and "Dancing queen" like it's the 1970s.

* DNA Singer, a famous singer's relative performs on stage, while the panel tries to work out who their famous relative is.

* Race Against the Tide, competitive sandcastles, with the risk of everything getting washed away.

* My Tiny Restaurant, ten teams create a miniaturised restaurant and convince a panel their food is best.

Small Talk The ideal host for all these small shows.

* Tiny House Battle, builders make rival houses from scratch in no more than a week, and with a limited budget.

* Tiny House for Big Love, singles tour the area in self-contained caravanettes. Will they secure Mr Right (or Ms Right Now) at each stop?

* Love Van, a road trip dating show, in the Blair Witch self-shot style.

* Sexy Hands, dating in sign language.

* Date or Drop, hear a brief pitch from hopeful partners. Those who don't interest are dropped through a trapdoor and go to hospital for a very long time (ie forever).

* The Herd, celebrities answer questions, but will only get points for answering in the same way as other players. Sounds a bit like the inverse of that round on House of Games (3) where Richard spoils the contestants' answers.

Family Fortunes Or some other show.

* Contagion, try to work out which passengers on a plane are carrying a deadly virus, using only the power of Excel spreadsheets. Sounds like the sort of gripping* show Channel 4 would shove on after Bake Off.

* Beat the Pigeon, cover a long distance journey by land, faster than a homing pigeon can navigate back to their loft.

* Hunting Season sees celebrities (alone, or as a small group) attempt to flee from a team of three prison guards. The fugitives wear a transmitter that sends GPS coordinates to the hunters every 10 minutes. They win the game if they manage to stay out of the hunters' reach for four hours. Will we have a review in a future Week? Bet your left eyebrow!

Eurovision Song Contest Will one of these be featured? Bet your right eyebrow!

* A Quiz for You, a quiz tailored around the everyday life of the contestant.

* Car Wars, remote control car racing, tests skills and sheer speed. We've seen this on the orange wire, it's pleasantly moreish.

* Dating With Dogs. Look, what do you expect from a show called "Dating with Dogs". Sheesh, it's the best pithy title since "Wheel of Fortune". So simple, even Mike Richards could understand it.

'Squids in

Inevitably, there have been a number of quick turnaround rip-offs on a theme.

* The Squid Game, people compete in very simple childish pastimes. There's a really big prize – a chateau in the Loire – and a real risk of going to hospital for a very long time (ie forever).

* The Raven Game, people compete in very simple childish pastimes. There's no prize beyond great honour, and a real risk of being rescued from peril by that nice Raven.

Weaver's Week 2020-11-29 Or being shown the light by his dark cousin.

* The Quids Game, people compete in very simple childish pastimes for a cash prize, and a real risk of going home with nothing.

* The Sid Game, people compete in one very simple childish pastime, passing on information about British Gas shares. The risk is that shares can go down as well as up, and you may not get back the money you gambled.

* The Skid Game, people drive a car with poor handling around a slippery track in wet weather. Competitors draw places to stand, with the risk of being knocked over and going to hospital for a very long time (ie forever).

* The S'jid Game, people compete to ignore the big problems on their in-tray. Throwing people out to somewhere they've never visited? All in a day's "work". About to blow up the economy for your own paymasters? Easy peasy lemn on squeezy. 160,000 people dead on your watch? Let the illness run riot! Nobody is going to hospital for a very long time, coz they're all closed.

* The Squit Game, toilet humour of the most painful kind. Winners get a course of Imodium, losers get a course of salts at Epsom hospital for a very long time (ie forever).

* The Spawn Game, people compete to work out whose children are playing very simple childish pastimes.

* The Octopus Game, people compete in very simple childish pastimes, winner is the first to tickle Ted.

Cooking With the Stars "What's the recipe today, Jim?"

* The Chowder Game, a high-stakes challenge where people compete to eat Olive's school dinners. There's a really big prize – two chateaux in the Loire – and the real risk of not going to hospital for a very long time (ie forever) because you're dead.

* The Spud Game, people try to figure out who owns this potato. There's a real risk of being hit by a projectile fired from a pea-shooter, or being invited to a Dinmakers "concert".

* The Sn'id Game, people try to figure out who amongst them is sabotaging their efforts and needs to be thrown off the ship and sent to hospital for a very long time (ie forever).

While we're on the topic of Squid Game, the good folk at Teen Librarian Toolbox have a dozen recommendations for further reading. First person to spoil any of these books will go to hospital for a very long time (ie forever).

In other news

Unforgivable has won the Best Entertainment Programme at the Broadcast Digital Awards, sponsored by Broadcast magazine. Don't Hate the Playaz won Best Lockdown Show. Cbeebies was Best Specialist Channel, Dave won Channel of the Year.

Vital statistics Carol Vorderman (4832). Linda Barrett (about 40). Rachel Riley (about 3100). Now, Anne-Marie Imafidon becomes the fourth arithmetician on Channel 4's Countdown. She'll take over from Rachel Riley while Rachel is on maternity leave. We'll see Anne-Marie on screen in December, and presumably as an Only Connect answer in 2023.

The traitors BBC1 is to show a version of De Verraders badly translated into English. The original show has the team doing challenges to win prizes, but saboteurs try to stop the team from winning. Like Trapped, the team try to vote off the saboteur; unlike Trapped, the surviving sabs also get to vote off a genuine player on every floor. Expect to see De Verraders at 10pm every night for the foreseeable future.

Trapped You have failed mis-er-a-bly!

Some television ratings stories make headlines. On 4 October, more people watched Only Connect live on BBC2 than watched The East Enders live on BBC1. Allowing for seven-day catchup, we expect the London soap will turn out on top when final figures are released.

Some television ratings stories pass under everyone's radar. In a recent week, more people watched Only Connect on BBC2 than any episode of The Chase on ITV. 2.9 million saw the OC on 20 September, new episodes of The Chase that week ranged from 2.55 to 2.7 million. Even that Saturday's Beat the Chasers fell behind the hieroglyphs 'n' walls show, beaten by 20,000 viewers.

Only Connect (2) Beat the chasers? All in a night's work for Vic and the glyphs.

Two weeks of Quizzy Mondays. As befits the most popular quiz on television, Only Connect moved into the winners' round: victors to the quarter-finals, losers get one last chance. That's great news for the Librarians, who lost 18-12 to the Animal Lovers. Highlights included a list of Ian Beale's wives: he's a character on The East Enders, a BBC1 drama that nobody watches. Great link: a connection of kangaroo words (which contain a synonym, like "noble" in "honourable") then the concept comes up in Missing Vowels. Dubious claim: that Hoddle and Waddle sung on "Diamond lights".

This week, Golfers beat Jukeboxers by 24-16. Missing Vowels proved crucial, but the Golfers had been scoring well throughout. They'd scored on "nobodies", and three points on the music sequence (yes, music sequences are back). Golfers gave themselves a good chance on the wall, they had about a minute on the clock to think about the final link, and used it – plus as much stalling as possible during the other links. Jukeboxers scored on the question about Greta Thunberg's nicknames, and the question Victoria described as the hardest ever: it illustrates the chorus from The Wurzel's 1976 smash "Combine harvester".

University Challenge completed its heats. Bristol beat Wolfson Oxford by 165-110. Video games released in 2001 is the non-traditional question, Chinese history is very traditional. This week's geography question was on the Canadian border, neatly sidestepping the domestic troubles we've seen all year.

Birmingham beat Sussex by 245-10 this week. It's the lowest student score in the BBC revival, and may be the lowest student score of all time. Sussex's squad weren't bad, but Birmingham were just that moment better on the buzzers. Prior to the filming, Birmingham played practice matches against Bristol; Sussex suffered from their original captain being taken ill in the day before recording. And they got some questions right, which is more than Reading managed in a celebrity edition a few years back.

Mastermind was won by Patrick Wilson, an expert on JRR Tolkein's Middle Earth, and winning the game on general knowledge. Gill Austen had an excellent round on Castles of Northumberland. This week, Richard Aubrey won with the combined Yes Prime Minister and Yes Minister; his keys to victory were some swift thinking in the specialist round, and an inch-better general knowledge performance. Sam Anderson (films of Paul Thomas Anderson) finished just one point off the win.

BBC Brain has reached its semi-finals. Phil Small was the first person into the final, defeating Chris Kilbride and Rachael Neiman-Wiseman by a small margin. The match turned with two bonuses for Phil, the size of the Order of Merit, and offering "Taron Edgerton" after "Tariq Edgerton" had been declined: a tough decision, but a correct decision.

Wish we could say the same about Jeopardy!, which disallowed the written answer "biathalon" when they wanted "biathlon". We note how "biathalon" is a common pronunciation, and lexicography is one area where the most popular answer wins. We also note how Jeopardy! has allowed "triathalon" and "pentathalon" in the past. Language is ever-evolving, and while some haughty snobs may turn up their nose at "biathalon", the meaning of the word is clear. It's a shockingly poor decision; mercifully, it didn't alter the show's outcome. The producer responsible has been reassigned to less intellectually demanding duties, and will now head Dating with Dogs.

The BBC New Comedy Award is on television this year (BBC1, Tue and Wed). Joel Dommett opens The Love Trap (C4, Wed), then Mel Giedroyc seeks something Handmade (C4, Thu). It's finals week in Ireland, as Glow Up Ireland and Junior Eurovision both reach their conclusions. Something new on RTÉ1 next Saturday, Last Singer Standing is a test of ability, nerve, and Nicky Byrne's hosting abilities.

Pictures: Olga TV / Silver Star Productions, Fizz (a Banijay company), Reg Grundy Productions, Central, EBU/NOS/AVROTROS, De Mensen, South Shore, CBBC. Parasol/RDF.

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