Weaver's Week 2013-01-13
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Happy new year! Coming up, a hit new show from ITV2, but first we need to find the 2011-12 winners of Only Connect.
The Championship of Champions: Analysts v Scribes
Victoria is listening to Whitesnake, the Scribes are more interested in good red wine, folk music, and Liverpool FC. They won The OC in 2012; 2011's winners were the Analysts, into trekking, Spanish, and Altrincham FC. We think we'll be doing well if we get one point tonight.
The Analysts are batting: a 10-foot gypsum statue, a "plastic wood" submarine, a jawbone and human skull. Things found in films? Piltdown man? Paper cut-outs of fairies gives it away: things used to create hoax creatures. The Cardiff Giant, Loch Ness monster, and the last was Cottingley Fairies. That's a point. Mars Climate Orbiter, Stonehenge in This is Spinal Tap: measurement mix-ups. The Orbiter confused Newtons and pounds, and there's no time for Jimbo of the Jet Set. Three points for a 3-1 lead.
Pictures for the Analysts: a pool in a wood, a garden door, a wooden wardrobe, and a picture of a ship. "In the titles of children's books?" "By CS Lewis?" Gateways to Narnia the answer they almost got. Music for the Scribes: something operatic, the Only Connect sting, "The Entertainer", Sting's "Fields of Gold". It's a guess. After an interminable pause: "Ends of quiz shows". Nothing for the Analysts, who belatedly realise it is Stings: "The Entertainer" from the film Sting, and the first was "Death, where is thy sting?" Still 3-1 to the Scribes.
Professor Layton and Uncle Sam and Alan Sugar and Lord Kitchener for the Analysts, and then one of the Analysts demonstrates, by pointing. Good for a point. For the Scribes, it's the memorial park in Hiroshima, Anfield, the Unknown Soldier in Paris, and that's enough to buzz in for eternal flames. Two points, so the Scribes lead by 5-2.
"Ah, that familiar sting."
Sequences next, and the Analysts have "Prefix for nine", "He spilled his seed on the ground", and "Prefix for 10 to the power of -9". That's Nona, Onan, Nano, so "attribution to unknown author" – Anon – is two well-earned points. Imbolc and Ostara and Beltane. Easter and Hallowe'en are not the answers: it's Pagan festivals, so Midsummer. 5-4 now.
Pictures for the Analysts: a lotus flower for 1000, a coil of rope for 100, a yoke for 10. They're thinking hieroglyphs, and guess at a bird for 1. No. "A parrot for 1," and Victoria has a go – she's cruel, but not that cruel. The Egyptian for 1 was a staff, or stick, or probably a cigar. For the Analysts there's SATOR, AREPO, TENET. Will they be singing with pain at this palindrome? "MADAM" is their answer. No. "ROTAS". It's the right idea, the SATOR word square, but ROTAS is line five. The answer: OPERA. 5-4.
"Secret Diary" has the Analysts thinking of Adrian Mole. Close: "Parish News" is the second clue, so Private Eye spoofs of prime minister communications, followed by Prime Ministerial Decree to The New Coalition Academy Newsletter and three points. The Scribes could use a score: Edward Borough, John Neville, Henry VIII. Numbers of wives? "The man I met on the way to St Ives", not the man with seven wives. Try "Richard Burton"? It's Thomas Seymour: the husbands of Catherine Parr. The Analysts have gambled and won, leading 7-5.
Remember the Play Along walls? Numbers 268 and 269; the Scribes think there are sorts of prize, but that's far too obvious. Maybe there are types of corn. Ah! There are words that form new words when prefixed with "A" – this will really surprise Victoria, who thought that wouldn't go. Then the types of seed come out, and the panel has the luxury of some thinking time. Continental ____ concepts in plate tectonics and sporting prizes are the last two. Ten points!
The Analysts don't know it, their work is cut out. They're looking at former Yugoslav places – Croatia, to be exact – and boxing champions – but there's at least six of those. World Middleweight champs, just the four. Pop groups with duplicated words – the clues are "Duran" and "Talk" – and the team are doing a lot of staring and chatting but not really jabbing at anything. Eventually, the boxers come out, followed swiftly by the pop groups. But what's the fourth set? Ah, that's where the time pressure came. Big cats with one letter changed was the absolutely devious connection. Seven points!
That means the Scribes are back in the lead, 15-14. Three minutes to the hour, Missing Vowels o'clock. Literary aunts brings the sides level, 2-1 to the Analysts. Films with photographer protagonists, that's to the Scribes 3-1. Correct versions of misquotations is with the Analysts by 2-1, but they trail by a point. Works of JMW Turner, just one answered. It goes to the Scribes, and the game follows with it. The Analysts have 19, the Scribes have 21, and are justly the Champions of Champions.
And if you reckon you can understand some of tonight's questions, applications are open for the new series. Further details at http://www.bbc.co.uk/onlyconnect
STV Productions for ITV2, from 3 January
Celebrity Juice is a huge hit, but it can't run all year round. At the moment, its slot is filled with Fake Reaction, in which various ITV2 celebrities are hit by painful and/or demeaning things. Such as, being invited onto an ITV2 panel show.
The basic premise is simple, and best explained by means of an example. Three celebrities are lying on a couch so that all we can see are their heads. While they're being massaged, something is being put on their backs. For two of them, it's warm stones; for the other, bloodsucking snails. The other team is to guess which opponent is falling victim to Vampire Brian.
It's clear that Fake Reaction is a test of acting skill and ability. Can the ex-Eastender convince that he's not eating cat food? Will the Irish comedian show that his tootsies are being tickled? Does the Only Way is Essex person really not know the difference between cockroaches and guinea pigs? (She doesn't, or at least her lack of knowledge was convincing.) This is an interesting idea, it's something we don't normally see on television. Perhaps the closest analogy is to Call My Bluff, a very old word game from many moons ago.
Perhaps that's why producers STV have decided not to play up the acting test, because it makes the ITV2 audience think of dead skulls and luvvies and it's not their level. Instead, it's all done as a studio-based I'm a Celebrity, majoring on the gross and the icky. This strikes us as a bit of a wasted opportunity, there's more to the programme than The Yuck Factor.
Indeed, we understand that Fake Reaction was originally piloted for BBC3, presumably along the slightly more worthy lines of a deception and judgement test. We can understand why the pink 'un passed on this programme, it's far closer to ITV2, right down to the graphics – simple drawings of faces in various contortions.
Host Matt Edmondson is sparky and bright and witty, and quite possibly the best thing about the programme. We weren't surprised to learn that the challenges have been devised by Ed West, who we remember from Big Brother as someone whose tasks made compelling telly. We may not always have liked what he did, but we admire his ability to spark television we couldn't stop watching, and that was never a guilty pleasure.
Less pleasureable is "Hot Meat", a character played by Matt Ralph. He fills the same role on Fake Reaction as The Body does on The Cube: demonstrating what's about to happen. Where The Body has poise and grace, Hot Meat has a wrestling outfit and delusions of his own adequacy.
A game of Fake Reaction will always be decided in the final round, a solo challenge; the first two-thirds of the show are just to determine who avoids taking this forfeit. This would be annoying if anyone was going to remember who won and lost, but no-one will remember the winners tomorrow morning.
There is an audience for this sort of programme, and this column finds the yuk of the crude outweighs the yum of the acting. The show isn't particularly to our taste, but it's well made and those who like it will really like it. And if it makes a star of Matt Edmondson, we'll be pleased.
Countdown's Supreme Championship II began this week. Eight weeks is too long for a 32-game knockout tournament, so the first nine games are play-ins for the main draw.
Match 1 had two series runners-up: Tom Hargreaves (2002) and Nicki Sellars (2010). Tom had one winner in the opening period, but it was his declaration of "Epilators" that decided the game: that was a winner, it forced Nicki into an error straight after, and the final score was 117-57. Tom will wait four weeks to play David O'Donnell.
Match 2 pitted Wayne Kelly (a 1994 runner-up) against Nick Wainwright (a champion from 2007). This match is also won in the second period – Nick adds a spurious I to the wall painting to make "murial", Wayne has a winner of his own in "Cremate", and Nick's "epigeals" is disallowed: "epigeal" is in as an adjective, and doesn't take a plural form. Wayne's winning score is 105-68, and he'll next meet tomorrow's winner.
Match 3 was contested by two recent contenders, Mark Deeks (semi-finalist in 2011) and Jack Hurst (champion in 2010). Mark risked "outleapt" in the first round, to no avail. He knows it's a marathon, not a sprint, and the gents remain toe-to-toe until Jack's winner "Consumer" in round nine. The rounds ticked by, Mark's chances fell in each, and though he got the conundrum in a split second, Jack had won two rounds and the game, 108-103. Wayne Kelly awaits in four weeks.
Two former champions were involved in match 4: Ben Wilson (2001) and Conor Travers (2006). Ben has lost none of his magic, risking "Stotty" – a foodstuff – to win round two. After the anecdote, Conor rings the nine-letter bell with "Floruited", the period when someone lived, to leap ahead by a dozen. Ben's risk of "Upvote" isn't allowed, and Conor adds the conundrum to win at a canter, 117-91. His next game will be against tomorrow's winner.
Mark Tournoff (series champ, 2004) met Nick Deller (quarter-finalist, 1994) in match 5. "Will nobody break away?" asks this week's host after round eight, when the two players have gone toe-to-toe. The breakaway occurs in the very next round, when Nick's "Tichier" is rejected – it should be "titchier". In the final period, Mark offers "Vagues", which is also disallowed for only being there as an adjective. He still leads by one point, the thinnest possible line between defeat and victory. The host is still going on about breakaways, the players are pulling up – thanks to some easy numbers, both have a century going into the conundrum. The scramble is made. The clock ticks. And ticks. And ticks. And then, on 29.5 seconds, Nick buzzes. It's a guess, it's a wrong guess. Mark has won, by 101-100.
This Week And Next
Two champions entered the University Challenge arena: only one could emerge alive in the tournament. Magdalen Oxford got past Sidney Sussex Cambridge on 3 September; a week later, Manchester led Lincoln Oxford for about one second, the one with the gong. Not until the tenth question is a wrong answer given; not until ten minutes do we wonder if the players are getting confused, suggesting the Bayeux embroidery is usually housed in Paris, and that a rhyming couplet is "Top brass". Insert, about here, Mr. Declan Donnelly reprising the rules of Wonky Donkey.
Though Magdalen got the first starter, Manchester picked up six of the next nine, and enjoyed a lead of 70 points by the audio round. Neither side did well in the third stanza, with five starters dropped, and when Manchester picks up a couple of starters of their own, the result is assured. Manchester remains on course to retain their title, winning the game by 220-90. All of Magdalen's side answered one starter correctly, only Will (that's what he calls himself!) got more than one.
Heat 19 of Mastermind, so the semi-finals may be upon us before the weather warms up again. We'll note that most of this week's specialist subjects could very easily have been offered forty years ago.
- Karen Barnes (Anne Boleyn) started her first round strongly, but picked up a few errors and concluded on 8 (1). Her second round begins with the note "there is nothing like a dame", and finishes with "The Liver Birds". A final of 19 (1) is nothing to be ashamed of; some weeks, that's near winning pace.
- Phil Saunders ("Wallander" novels) may have found these works through the BBC4 drama. These two minute rounds allow for a slack bit and a recovery, as demonstrated here: 10 (4) the final score. He kicks off with Star Trek's mission to boldly annoy language pedants, and finishes with a bottle of Chianti. Sadly, only a question about it. 20 (6) the final score.
- Richard Tarleton (Shakespeare's Tragedies) certainly doesn't have a tragedy of a round, making 11 (2). Cassius Clay's new name begins his round, and he continues to score well through his time. The Milan football derby brings his round to a close, with 27 (6) on the board.
- Graham Barker (Sir William Walton) is cursed with long questions, and blessed with a 12 (0) score. He also knows that he has a stiff target: fifteen to win. We know that if he doesn't make it, he's not coming back. The round includes what is positively the final reference to Christmas carols, apart from those in the festive round-up below. And it doesn't quite end in success, closing on 25 (0).
So Richard Tarleton will come back in the Top Thirty.
Some notes from the Christmas period. University Challenge had an alumni-and-staff series, won by a team representing New College Oxford. We'll be seeing more of New in the main series. Mastermind also had some celebrity editions, we were particularly impressed by Naga Munchetty's performance on golf, and all-round work from Nick Hancock and Tim Bentinck. That Dog Can Dance! was an entertaining and lightweight diversion for Boxing Day; Dale's Great Getaway was seen by about ten people, and we may be alone in saying it was entertaining fluff, though the bonus round can go. BBC Scotland had a little nostalgia quiz of their own, Scots on the Box, remarkable only for one thing. The First Class revival starts here!
One hundred metres later, the First Class revival ends here. The Superstars revival lasted for 100m, and seven other events, and it looks like the BBC will try to mount another series during 2013. The Chase also had a bit of history, as a solo challenger managed to beat one of The Chasers, and take home £60,000. It's the highest amount won on the daily show.
Already under way is the new series of Celebrity Big Brother. It began without Jim Davidson, as he had been arrested in a very public manner by police investigating matters arising out of the Jimmy Savile case. Writing in The Observer, Victoria Coren made some more general points about Mr. Davidson's arrest. Elsewhere, Will Sturgeon's The Media Blog noted how the Daily Star changed its tune about Jim Davidson. Over four consecutive days, the organ described Mr. Davidson as:
- 31 December: "Celebrity Big Brother star..."
- 1 January: "Celeb Big Brother..."
- 2 January: "Comedian..."
- 3 January: "The controversial comic..."
The Daily Star is published by Northern and Shell, the same organisation that owns Channel 5. As Northern and Shell declines to recognise the Press Council, this column decline to recognise its publications as newspapers. We noted that Challenge has kept repeats of Big Break in their schedules, as they still air episodes of Ninja Warrior narrated by Stuart Hall. The BBC declines to repeat episodes of Top of the Pops hosted by Dave Lee Travis.
OFCOM news, and a standards report came out this week. We have nothing to note from it, other than that all remaining complaints against The X Factor appear to have been dismissed.
In other regulatory news, we note that the Maily Troll has been reproducing extracts from the The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, on the pretext that they're the greatest affront to civilisation ever and the worst thing anyone has ever seen. Do they not have mirrors at the Maily Troll's offices? Anyway, the taxdodging corporation has been breaching the privacy of Big Fat Quiz participant Jack Whitehall, using Big Fat Quiz as an excuse to publish pictures of inebriated women in states of undress, and encouraging its readers to complain to OFCOM. No fewer than 5 (five) people moaned about the original programme, and in spite of manufacturing public outrage for a week, the regulator is now reporting only about 150 complaints. The X Factor can rack that up in a night. We trust that OFCOM will consider the case on its actual merits, and will treat these moans by people who haven't even watched the programme with the brevity they deserve.
Quickly through three weeks of ratings. The week to 16 December was headed by Strictly (11.5m) from A Question of Sport (4.9m) and HIGNFY (4.85m). Take Me Out had 4.05m, barely beating Masterchef The Professionals (3.9m). Celeb Juice had 1.7m, and Deal 1.5m.
The Strictly final won the week to 23 December, with 13.35m viewers. Pointless Celebrities had 6m, HIGNFY 5.6m, and the last Young Apprentice 4.6m. Live Millionaire had 3.75m, a pantomime edition of The Chase 3.4m, and Paddy's Show and Telly 2.9m. A Celebrity Juice compilation took 1.29m, the Only Connect final 1.08m.
And in Christmas week, Strictly continued its reign with 9.15m seeing the show. Superstars 2012 had a very respectable 6.3m, and Pointless Celebrities 5.45m. Famous Family Fortunes had 5.05m, That Dog Can Dance! 3.65m, Big Fat Quiz of the Year 3.4m, a Mock the Week compilation 1.75m, and World's Strongest Man on Channel 5 scored 1.65m.
Next week's Week expects to discuss Channel 4's new quiz, Face the Clock. Before then, 8 Out of 10 Cats is back (C4, 9pm Fri), Pop Idol Us appears on Five Star (8pm Thu), and next Saturday's notes are Britain's Brightest (6.45), Splash! (7pm), Take Me Out (8.30), but – sadly – no Bob's Full House.
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