Weaver's Week 2023-04-23

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Rise and Fall


Rise and Fall

Studio Lambert / Motion Content Group for Channel 4, 19 March – 14 April (18 episodes)

"It's the new show from the people behind The Traitors!" shouted the Channel 4 continuity announcer. "It's the new show from the people behind Love Thy Neighbour," muttered the game show column, remembering the most horribly manipulated programme it's ever been our misfortune to try and review.

Rise and Fall It's the lovely host, Greg James!

The good news, Rise and Fall is not as manipulated as Love Thy Neighbour. The bad news, Rise and Fall is not as gripping as The Traitors. On a scale of Studio Lambert productions, it's somewhere around Race Across the World – plenty of good elements, but the show isn't as brilliant as it could be. Rise and Fall is interesting – we didn't mean to write a review as long as the epic for The Traitors, but we seem to have done so. Grab a cocoa, this is a long read.

What happens on Rise and Fall? Sixteen strangers arrive at "an iconic building in central London" (and we'll come back to that later). They're greeted by host Greg James, who is suited and booted like a good 'un. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, the contestants will attempt to build up a large prize, and one of them will eventually win it.

Rise and Fall Life in the penthouse happens on many levels.

Like on The Traitors, contestants are divided into uneven groups. Six of them emerge to rise to the penthouse, where they'll live in the lap of luxury. These people become "The Rulers", with absolute power over the course of the game. Their one job is to manage the prize fund: make sure it's as big as possible at the end of the show. At the end of the show, only a Ruler can win the prize.

But the "Rulers" won't be able to directly increase the prize fund: that task falls to the others contestants. "The Grafters" live in a windowless basement, subsist on a basic diet of bread rolls and broth, and sleep – or attempt to sleep – on hard beds. Unlike The Traitors, contestants had some sort of say into whether they started as a Ruler or a Grafter – there was some negotiation between the players before the initial six Rulers emerged.

Rise and Fall The Grafters, in their standard-issue jumpsuits.

Up and down

Rise and Fall had a consistent cycle, like on The Traitors. Unlike in Claudia's drunken castle, the cycle lasted two days.

We'll begin the cycle with a "work shift", the primary opportunity to put money in the prize fund. These tasks all took place in a large room in the basement, specially dressed for the task. Amongst the tasks during the series were pet food tasters, lost property workers, sewage disposal, an airport's baggage handling, an oil plant, and carrying bricks. None of the tasks was pleasant, all could conceivably be won, all could be lost.

Rise and Fall Today, the Grafters will be fishing stuff out of fake sewage.

Each task was divided into a handful of sections – complete the first for a small prize, say £1000. Complete the next for perhaps £2000. The third section might be worth £4000, if there's a fourth it might be for £7000, and the last for big money, say £11,000. Yes, they were prepared to offer £25,000 in one work shift.

But if the Grafters fail to complete any of the sections, all of the money earned is lost – both for that section and everything they've done before. In our example, they might have completed three sections, earned £7000. Is it worth the risk to double that, with the prospect of nothing if they fail? That's a decision for the Rulers to take.

Rise and Fall Greg James explains something to the Rulers in their Red Room.

The Rulers don't act blind. They have a camera feed from the work room to their "Red Room". They can see how well the Grafters are doing – or aren't doing. And only the Rulers know how the next section will be harder than the current one – maintain effort for a longer time, more things to do, more difficult tasks to complete. Any one Ruler can force the Grafters to go for another section; unanimity is required to end the shift and bank the money.

Once the shift ends, each group returns to its normal living quarters. The Grafters go back to their dingy basement, the Rulers to their penthouse in the sky. The Rulers often have the opportunity to send gifts to the basement, portions of their sumptuous meal – but these come at luxury hotel prices, £100 for a regular portion of curry.

Down and out

Rise and Fall

Still on the first day, the Rulers have a decision to make. One of their number is to be eliminated from the contest. The group gathers in their "Red Room", a wall with red wallpaper and carpets, and a large triangular table. This table is similar to the Round Table in The Traitors, it contains cameras to give lots of close-ups without any camerafolk getting in the players' eyeline.

The Rulers debate how they've done, how they're getting on with each other. Who is responsible for running up the prize fund, who has brought it down? Who do the players think is the weakest Ruler? Whoever gets the most votes is dismissed at once, they leave the ruler's brooch on the table and take the lift down to the lobby and out of the game.

Rise and Fall Ruler James considers who is the weakest link.

All of this is shown on a screen for the entertainment and education of the Grafters. These are the people who sent you expensive curry; these are the people who pushed you to earn £6000. These people are squabbling and fighting about which bald man should have the comb first. Call themselves rulers? They couldn't even rule a straight line.

We praised Studio Lambert for keeping BBC1's The Traitors at one day, one episode. They didn't follow that sensible advice when editing NBC's Traitors, and ignore it here. Every time, the vote reveal is done to build up tension; every time, it's split into tomorrow's episode as something of a cliffhanger. First time, it almost works; when done every time, it's a cliché.

Up, up, and away

Rise and Fall

Back in the game, and dawn breaks for a new day. There's going to be "a test of leadership skills" – usually an Overtime shift, where two of the Rulers pick small teams of Grafters to do a repetitive job. Blow up balloons, make profiteroles, fold paper swans. The Rulers try to guess how many repetitions the Grafters can do in a couple of hours, and are paid £10 for each one completed – because these are long tasks, the pot can increase by £4000 or so.

Rise and Fall Grafter Matt has made 120 paper swans in an hour, and added to the prize fund.

Not every off-day has an Overtime shift. Sometimes, the Grafters will be allowed to request something – a pack of cards, salt for the broth, artificial flowers to brighten the place up. There was feedback in both directions – the Grafters told the Rulers what they thought of them, the Rulers gave "inspirational" "advice" to the Grafters.

We may have a new person arrive in the basement – the producers wanted to keep the number of Grafters at or about 10 for most of the series.

Rise and Fall A Grafter pats the ballot box after casting their vote.

Yesterday, one of the Rulers was given their marching orders. Today, one of the Grafters will rise to replace them. The top two in a vote go up to the penthouse, and the existing Rulers pick one of the Grafters to join their number – and be immune from tomorrow's elimination vote. The other Grafter will be sent down, to be part of tomorrow's work shift... and the cycle continues.

As the series progressed, there were a few twists to the format. Rulers could be sent down to the basement to work as a Grafter, either through an elimination vote, or from another decision elsewhere in the game. Two people were picked from three to be Rulers, and immunity rules ended near the end of the series.

Rise and Fall Grafters Eddie, Sophie, and Isaak in the lift, rising to be considered as a Ruler.

Final cut

How did the final work? Six rulers after the final "rise vote"; they became seven when the best performer in the "work shift" was appointed the next ruler. One left through the normal vote-out, another went from losing a popularity contest amongst the Grafters.

A popularity contest? Let us explain. The remaining Grafters had been joined by all of the defenestrated Rulers. Each of the current Rulers picked one person to carry bricks on their behalf; the other Grafters organised themselves to support one person they would like to win. Nobody chose to help one of the carriers, and the Ruler who picked him was eliminated as soon as the challenge was finished.

Rise and Fall Jack, on the far left, squandered £14,000 from the prize find before other Rulers voted him out. Jack stands alone.

Five went into the final board meeting, and again voted one of their number out as a Ruler. That person then chose someone else to eliminate, and that person picked someone else to eliminate. These three players picked the winner amongst the two remaining Rulers. It's complex when written down, but Greg James explained it very clearly. And the eventual winner proved another point from The Traitors – the way to someone's heart is through food.

Greg James, in fact, was the secret sauce to keep Rise and Fall watchable. He was present in the Red Room for the work shifts, explaining the challenge and acting as the moderating voice in the discussions. For viewers, he gave a sharp narration, often with wry one-liners to reduce tension and gently take the mick out of the format. We're reminded of Greg's work on BBC3's I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse, and his charming and warm shows on Radio 1. Greg's got a lot of talent, he's already gone far, he's surely on the road to becoming a cultural treasure, the millennial generation's Phillip Schofield.

Rise and Fall Greg James, seriously impressive presenter.

When Greg wasn't around, plot developments were narrated by The Lift, given voice by actor Emma Clarke. Sentences. Were delivered. In a strange and. Unnatural. Staccato manner. Clearly artificial, very unnerving, and one of the most recognisable parts of the series.

Alliances and strategy and casting

Another point we noticed from The Traitors: the show stands and falls by its casting decisions. Rise and Fall got its casting approximately right, but approximately may not have been good enough.

Rise and Fall Before the initial selection, contestant Ali talks with Rishika, with Eddie passing in the background.

The cast tended to be young, a lot of twenty-and thirty-somethings; only a couple of the contestants had a full-time job in the 20th century. There wasn't the mixture of outlooks, the diversity of experience, we got from The Traitors. And this reflected in the show – the initial panel of Rulers was a mix of ages, skin colours, and genders. At one point, the panel had entirely been replaced by young white men.

There were a lot of comings and goings, not helped when four people left the competition early. One quit on the first day when they couldn't hack conditions in the basement. One was withdrawn on medical advice, and returned for the final day. Another was removed after being violent to other contestants. And one contestant resigned as a Ruler after losing a large amount from the prize fund; he was allowed back as a Grafter the next day. The early quitter and the violent contestant didn't return on the final day, all the others were somewhere in the game for the final.

Rise and Fall Rulers Sydney and Rossi plot over their cocktails.

It quickly became clear that the strategy was all about alliances. Get yourself up in the vote, winkle out the original rulers, and a band of three should be safe to get through to the final. Except... none of the contestants was able to follow that plan. Paranoia stalked the penthouse, guilt and second-guessing filled everyone's minds. People briefed against their former allies, and weakened their own position by doing so.

And, down in the basement, there was a camaraderie forged through a shared traumatic experience. Strong friendships were formed, some of which survived into the penthouse, some of which factored into the final vote. In the end, food proved to be the glue to bind the group together, and the person who took care of the food in the basement walked away with the prize.

Rise and Fall Some of the Grafters plot over exercise equipment.

Who has the power?

At heart, Rise and Fall was about power. Who's got it, how they're using it, whether they're convincing the other powerful people that they're doing well. Who wants power now, who is prepared to bide their time – or relinquish it. Was there a metaphor about social mobility? Only slightly, after the first couple of cycles this column just accepted the machinations – the literal ups and downs – as part of the production furniture.

Executive producer Mike Cotton said that the show was inspired by the fallout of Partygate, and that it reflects how the outside world works. “The taxpayers are the Grafters and build a prize fund of money and then the government takes control of the money and decides how to spend it.” Except that in the world of Rise and Fall, money can only be spent for the betterment of the Grafters, and can't be siphoned off to your dodgy mate who pretends to sell coals to Newcastle.

Rise and Fall Press your button if you're happy to sell coals to Newcastle.

The show also presumed a system where not everyone has power. This accurately reflects the society it's shown in. Would a co-operative system have made for a better social experiment? Can the people at Studio Lambert devise a co-op game show? (Can you, dear reader?)

Viewer and broadcaster reaction

Rise and Fall took forever to get going. There were six episodes in the first week – an hour every night. That was a slog, especially when we found the Rulers really were some of the most manipulative and nasty and selfish people they could cast. But, as the show wore on, we found ourselves coming to care about a lot of the contestants, get a bit more involved with their journeys. This series found that the strongest bonds were "grafters from the basement" versus "initial rulers".; once the original six were in a minority, the show brightened up.

Rise and Fall The Rulers walk along the corridor to the Red Room. Reminded us of the newly-armoured hunters strutting their stuff on Prosiect Z.

There was an overlap between the show being filmed and when it went out. We know the final day of recording was 24 March, which suggests the players began filming on 6 or 7 March. Transmissions began on 19 March, and it quickly became clear that the show was getting kicked by the usual hyper-online snarkers. Were twists put in after the transmissions started, ones that we wouldn't see until the final week? It's difficult to see any.

We did note that the show offered far more than the headline £100,000 in its various work shifts, evidently the producers knew that the Rulers would buy most of the rewards available. The producers kept a close eye on the prize, and fiddled with amounts to make sure that the final amount was reasonably close to £100,000 – a life-changing amount of money, three years' wages at once.

Rise and Fall Channel 4's electronic billboard. They didn't make clear that this comment was made before the show went on air.

Channel 4 also put massive marketing muscle behind this programme. It's not unusual for high-profile new series to get poster campaigns before they start, shown on the advertising billboards in shopping centres. It is very unusual for a series to get this treatment in its final week, using actual quotes from people on Reddit. (People post on Reddit, although only after being bribed with site perks. There were very few posts on the Mastodon network, and so few on Tumblr that the tag is still dominated by Rise And Fall Bedding.)

Channel 4 wanted Rise and Fall to be a hit. Viewers didn't agree – 7-day ratings were around 700,000, below par for the 10pm hour. But how well will it do in the long tail, people who watch via 4OD months after the show went out?

The verdict: "Rise", "fall", or "and"?

Rise and Fall Matt is the first at the Ruler's breakfast table. He's not been murdered in the night.

From our point of view, Rise and Fall never really delivered on its central thesis. Greg claimed at the start of every episode, "the gap between top and bottom has never been closer". Well, no, you've never demonstrated that. You've never attempted to demonstrate that. Some people climb the greasy pole. Some fall down it. Some jump off, some are pushed.

The show avoided other programmes' capitalist theatrics, and quickly turned out to have absolutely nothing to do with business acumen. Whether you knew how to make a profit or not, it didn't alter your chance of success in this show. Rise and Fall was all about soft management skills, keeping people onside. Give people in the basement a reason to like you, not give anyone in the penthouse a reason to hate you. Some have argued that Rise and Fall is an allegory for the divergent and mutually-incomprehensible societies on these islands; if it is, the takeaway we've got is that a sensible unifying force is more powerful than any amount of bluster and falsehoods.

Rise and Fall The lift: the star of the show?

Did the show attempt to address questions in society, to tell a story about modern life? That it did, touching on racism and sexism as all the rulers became young white men – they never mentioned this on the broadcast, we had to fill in our own blanks. We couldn't imagine any other channel but Channel 4 making this show. If we were a Channel 4 commissioner, we would consider a second series – Studio Lambert would need to convince us what they can do differently second time around, and Channel 4 need to be convinced that A N Other show wouldn't also reflect society.

Rise and Fall was a fascinating experiment. We're not sorry that we stuck it out to the end. But nor are we crying out for the next series, like we were after The Traitors. And that leaves the lift somewhere around the middle: good, but not great.

Rise and Fall Champagne to the winner. Real pain to... not sure.

Watch more

The whole series on 4OD, free registration required, .gb only, some strong language, occasional violence and electric shocks.

The winner's journey (which, obviously, gives away the winner)

Contestant Rachel talks about her time on the show

Sidebar: 55 Broadway

Rise and Fall

The show chose not to name its location. Rise and Fall was filmed at 55 Broadway, which was London Underground's home until recently. The building was designed by architect Charles Holden. It's a cruciform shape, because the site is a strange shape; steel frames are clad with Portland stone in the architectural fashion of 1929.

The executive suite, on the seventh floor, had oak-panelled corridors and very high ceilings. Some of the director's rooms had personal en suite bathrooms. A ninth floor was built, but London County Council insisted that nobody could live there because it was so high in the air. The whole building was decorated in the art deco style, and is a Grade 1 listed structure – which basically means that nobody can make major alterations to the exterior or interior.

Rise and Fall The huge, spacious, luxurious, high-ceilinged, glorious lobby.

But all things change, and 55 Broadway was sold in 2015 to Integrity International Group. London Underground moved to new offices in Stratford, and eventually left the building in early March 2020. IIG hoped to turn the building into a luxury hotel during spring 2020. Yeah, right.

Three years on, the building has finally been refurbished, converted into something of a swish suite. But, evidently, the basement will be a bargain destination.

As a very subtle nod to the building and its history, Rise and Fall used the London Underground typeface for all its captions.

Rise and Fall Rise and Fall Name, age, job, and an indication of place in the game. One great idea from The Traitors has sunk in.

Can AI win Only Connect yet?

This week, we learned that ukgameshows.com is in the training materials for many of the autocomplete bots; on one, we're the 7195th most important site on the entire web. That's a strange choice, good luck to all researchers trying to find any intelligence (artificial or otherwise) on this site, it's Richard Osman fanning and University Challenge muttering and crap jokes all the way down.

Wanting to get our revenge, we asked one of those autocomplete bots an Only Connect style question.

What links: the first man to walk on the moon; the lead singer of the band Queen; a famous English physicist known for his work on gravity; the actor who played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series "Sherlock"?

The answer we got might be enough to satisfy Victoria Coren Mitchell, or at least have her sipping another gin while the fact-checkers check some facts.

They all have objects named after them in space.
Starting with the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, he has a crater on the moon named after him. The crater is located in the south-western part of the moon and is about 4 kilometres wide.


Moving on to the lead singer of the band Queen, Freddie Mercury, he has an asteroid named after him. The asteroid is called "Freddiemercury" and was discovered in 1991, the same year that Mercury passed away.
The famous English physicist known for his work on gravity is Sir Isaac Newton. Newton has a comet named after him, which is called "Comet Newton" or "C/1680 V1". The comet was first observed by Newton himself back in 1680 and was the first comet to be discovered using a telescope.
Finally, the actor who played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series "Sherlock" is Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch has an asteroid named after him, which is called "Benedictcumberbatch" and was discovered in 2000. The asteroid is about 2 miles wide and is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Weaver's Week 2017-05-14 Man in the moon.

Citations were provided – but to five articles about the 1969 moon landing. No points to our autocomplete bot, because the Benedictcumberbatch asteroid is something it completely made up. Cumbles has, however, been named in the cast of forthcoming movie Asteroid City.

Our friends at Fantasy University Challenge asked the same question of their autocomplete bot. Its response left us speechless.

Isaac "Neil" Newton?!?!?!?!?

Never mind, AI autocomplete bots. You can always go on Wheel of Fortune.

In other news

Goodbye, possums. Barry Humphries has died, aged 87. The Aussie was best known for his comedy creation Dame Edna Everage, an outlandish housewife from suburban Melbourne with huge spectacles and an even bigger ego. Although the character was slated by Bamber Gascoigne in the 1960s, it proved popular with the general public. For a time in the late 1980s Everage rubbed shoulders with the giants of television, hosting three editions of An Audience With... on ITV, chat show The Dame Edna Experience, and women's quiz Dame Edna's Neighbourhood Watch. Edna's last appearance on telly was on Celebrity Bake Off in 2015.

But there were more strings to Barry Humphries' bow. He invented Sir Les Patterson, so uncouth that even the National Party think he's vulgar. Sir Les would have been first into the lift on Rise and Fall, both going up and going out. Barry Humphries honed his art at the London theatre revues in the 1960s and 1970s, and judged musical casting show I'd Do Anything in his own name. Barry did his farewell tour in 2012-13, and promptly unretired due to popular demand. He died of complications following hip surgery, after suffering a fall at home a couple of months ago.

Destination X is a new commission from the BBC and NBC Universal – the same pair who teamed up for The Traitors. Ten contestants go on a road trip, but have no idea where they are. They must work out their location from clues provided, some of which may not be fully reliable. At the end of the show, each player pinpoints their location on a map, and whoever's furthest away is eliminated. Apparently the format is huge on VTM in Flanders.

Quiz Digest

  • The Linda McCartney range of not-quite-meat products are made in Fakenham. Similarly, cars are made in Fordham, weapons in Dagenham, McDougal's "hamburgers" are grown in Spewingham, roof timbers in Evesham, and there are lots of nurseries in Humpingham.
  • In the game of Boggle, all the letter "K" appear on the same cube as the letter "F". You'll never be able to play words like "Flack". (kottke.org)
  • If your breath smells of garlic, eat parsley. It helps to reduce the sulphur compounds that can cause bad breath. Other foods to reduce sulphur include raw apple, spinach, green tea, and mint. They also work to hide the smell of gin, apparently. Not that we know this from experience. Honest. (Alexander Armstrong on Pointless)

Quizzy Mondays

Ben Spicer took the final place in the Mastermind final. His second specialist subject, the band Coldplay, yielded a near-perfect round. General knowledge wasn't his strongest suit, but none of the contestants coped terribly well with tough questions this week.

Great news for all University Challenge viewers, as Newnham Cambridge will be back again. The gung-ho team fired up their buzzers and soundly beat Jesus Cambridge. We're impressed by their swift wits on the buzzer, and the open and helpful conferring – something we viewers only get to hear because of the Perspex screens. Newnham covered all bases – minor parts of the Nordic region, the work of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, and film musicals that earned a platinum disc for record sales. Jesus were no slouches, with early philosophers and Henrietta Lacks providing useful returns.

The Mastermind final (BBC2, Mon) will be next week's lead review. I'm a Celebrity South Africa begins, featuring many old contestants (VM1 and ITV network, from Mon). Arabella Weir on Celebrity Mastermind next Saturday, when it's Tamzin Outhwaite on Pointless Celebrities, and In for a Penny visits Lincoln.

It's the Interior Design Masters final (BBC1, Tue), the feast on Farm to Feast: Best Menu Wins (BBC1, NI), and we're sorry to hear that the new series of The News Quiz (R4, Fri) is ill. Wait, no, the new series of The News Quiz is 111.

Pictures: Studio Lambert, Remarkable Television, EBU/NTU

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