Weaver's Week 2003-04-26

Weaver's Week Index

26th April 2003

Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.

Hello again, everybody. Thanks to Nick for filling in so ably these past two weeks, and he'll no doubt be pleased to learn that there will be no more vacations for a year or so. Fresh and recovered from a two week stay in Ann Arbor, there's only the one lead story. Some things never change.

NICKED! (The Show May Be Over, But The Game Goes On!)

The trial result came out on April 7. Thanks to a large snowfall in lower Michigan, that day was spent cooped up in my hotel room, idly flicking through the channels. Not one of them gave the news about The Court Case Of The Year, still less showed the fracas amongst the press outside Southwark Crown Court.

Both sides in the case have been putting their sides of the story across all channels. Celador and ITV combined for a 90 minute drama-documentary on Monday night, including previously unscreened footage of Charles Ingram's appearance on MILLIONAIRE, and we turn to that in a moment.

Mr and Mrs Ingram got their response in first, appearing on ITV's morning show, GMTV, on April 15. Mr Ingram said he had considered killing himself after seeing a tape of the show, but was saved by support from his daughter. Both Ingrams have lost their jobs, and will shortly move out of their house and into a caravan. Mr Ingram reckoned that the footage shown at the trial had been adjusted in terms of volume, giving a distorted view of the studio. The couple intends to appeal their conviction.

Tecwen Whittock brought out his guns on RICHARD AND JUDY on April 16. He confirmed that he had resigned his job as a college lecturer, and suggested that the crucial tape - with enhanced coughing - was of less evidential value than the tape containing what went through Mr Ingram's microphone. The Guardian reported that the twelfth juror was removed from the panel after talking about the case in a public house, and saying how fantastic it was to be on the NICKED! jury.

ITV aired Celador's side of the story, fronted by controversial documentary maker Martin Bashir. In essence, this was the prosecution's star witness, That Tape, plus contributions from some other, more minor, witnesses. We heard how the production staff got very concerned as early as question 10, and briefly stopped recording during a commercial break. We heard something that appeared to be Mr Whittock confirming an answer with a neighbouring contestant. And, throughout, we heard Mr Bashir putting across the "this is how they did it" line.

Those who have the documentary on tape might look carefully at the shots of Diana Ingram. Pay close attention to her watch. You'll see how questions 11-15 take at least 100 minutes to play, and how the million pound question begins before 8:05, and is still being debated at 8:25. On screen, the suspicious coughs are compressed into less than an hour. In real life, they took all night. After her husband has taken the best part of three hours to answer eight questions, putting her to hell and back, would Diana Ingram have reasonably run out of emotion?

The edited-for-broadcast footage was a bit of a missed opportunity, being the soundtrack to the documentary, shorn of Mr Bashir's ramblings and the filmed inserts. The suspicious coughs were again amplified; would we reach different conclusions if we heard the sound only through Mr Ingram and Mr Tarrant's microphones?

Almost 17 million people saw the ITV documentary, and 1.3 million the follow-up show on ITV2. This isn't quite the 19.2 million MILLIONAIRE record from January 1999, but it is the biggest audience for a factual show since Diana Spencer's funeral in September 1997.

Had Mr Whittock not been able to find the answer to question 13, and Mr Ingram retired on £125,000, it's very doubtful that we would be having this entertainment today. On such small pegs does history turn.

Where was Mr Ingram's side of the story? Absent without leave. Would it leave ITV and Celador open to ridicule if they offered the Nicked Three a chance to put their side of the story? Was the Monkey worried that the case would be blown to smithereens if exposed to hostile crossfire, or just a little coughing from the background? Perhaps not, but the lack of balance seriously affected the show.

In The Guardian, Gwyn Topham suggested Celador should quietly honour the cheque, as Mr Ingram has given their flagging show the sort of lift that money can't buy.

This whole case has reminded me of Neil Hamilton's failed libel action against Mohammed Fayed a few years ago. That trial, pitting a disgraced former MP against the owner of Harrods' store, contained more entertainment value than anyone thought possible. Mr Fayed launched a stinging attack on the corruption in British society, the royal family, the presence of Mr and Mrs Hamilton, and the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow. Libel expert Mr Ian Hislop commented that the public didn't much mind who lost, so long as they both did.

The parallels are also obvious to PR guru Max Clifford. He suggests that Mr and Mrs Ingram have a career on chat shows and pantomime for the taking, perhaps enough to eclipse Mr and Mrs Hamilton. One very tabloid reported that the duo could be looking at an eight-figure income; though British companies can't pay them, the law is powerless against foreign organisations buying their story.

The Ingrams put their defence - nothing at all happened - on the BBC's HARD TALK programme on Thursday. They also used the interview to indicate that they wouldn't be appealing the conviction. Mr Whittock has still to confirm his intentions. With Celador negotiating the film rights, this case shows no signs of running out of steam just yet.

With the renewed interest in Millionaire, this column will be keeping an eagle eye on the show. (Memo to self: set alarm for 0925 Sunday.)


Michael Furlong thought that he was going to have a good day out at Chris Evans' expense. Instead, he's set to spend time behind bars in Ireland. Mr Furlong, from Hayes in west London, won the weekly contest on C4's BOYS AND GIRLS a few weeks ago, and spent the following week blowing £100,000 of someone else's money.

Even though ratings for B&G have been minimal-to-nil, someone in the Irish Republic spotted him on screen, and put six and eight together to make fifteen.

Mr Furlong, formerly of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, is facing charges of causing the death of a schoolgirl by dangerous driving, and must answer those charges in the Irish Republic. Mr Furlong's solicitor indicated that there would be no appeal against the order, thus ending media interest in the case.

This is the problem with BOYS AND GIRLS: its court cases are as dull and lifeless as the rest of the show.


The first in a short series of reviews from my US stint.

Take six contestants, stick them in the studio, and wave large amounts of loot under their noses. One contestant is given all the answers. Which one is it?

Remember LIAR, last summer's show where we tried to second guess which person was the real jailbird, peer of the realm, or fiction writer? Take the need to convince other players and the audience of the veracity of your claims.

Remember TOPRANKO!, last summer's show where we tried to run down top ten lists? The top tens provide the basis for the questions, though these questions are more of the form "Top ten ways to spy on your lover" than "Top ten Jeffrey Archer bestsellers."

Remember THE ENEMY WITHIN, last spring's show where we tried to spot the joker in the pack? One contestant is given all the answers to the round. There's contestant voting, with a requirement for a majority.

Remember THE WEAKEST LINK? The podia from that show have been dusted off and given a slight spring clean, and the host stands in the middle spot. In each podium is a large monitor, and it's on this monitor that the cheat sees all the answers.

The premise, then, is for honest contestants to give answers that fit on the top ten list. The top answer is worth $250, the tenth top answer $2500. There are humungous bonuses dished out in early rounds for high scorers.

After each round, there's some accusations, and some voting. If three or more contestants agree that one person is the cheater, that person is off the show and wins nothing. If that person is not the cheater, the remaining contestants lose half their money; if that person is the cheater, a new sneak is picked for the next round of questioning.

Should the required three not agree on one person, then the cheater eliminates one honest contestant by pushing on a button under their desk.

Repeat until three remain, at which point the audience takes the vote. A 51% majority is needed to mark someone as a fibber, not easy for a three-way vote. Then run a head-to-head final, stack the cash in pyramids, unmask the cheater, and only then reveal the audience vote. Whoever the audience deems is not the cheater wins the money - in the reviewed show, this was just over $100,000 for both players.

Dirty Rotten Cheater is a stylish show, with some very interesting camera angles, and a nifty little logo of a cartoon villain that's right out of the Pink Panther shorts. In the endgame, the cheater is revealed in a funky manner - the pyramids into which cash is thrown contain trapdoors, and the losing contestant sees $100,000 literally vanish in front of their eyes.

For all the style and wit, though, this show seems to lack a certain something. It's a well made show, it's entertaining, and its 8pm Monday timeslot has little significant opposition. Dirty Rotten Cheater just doesn't quite hang together, and given that the constituent ideas have been tried and failed in the UK, I can't see the combination coming to our screens any time soon.


If it's Easter, it must be the start of the BIG BROTHER rumour season. The Daily Comic led the pack on Monday, with a rumour that a transsexual would be gracing Chateau Davina when the new series begins. Oddly enough, that same rumour turned out to have no legs last year.

Stephen Fry has vowed not to appear on any further episodes of HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU, following the sacking of Angus Deayton. Fry said it was "greasy, miserable, British and pathetic" to fire TV's Mr Sex after providing so much entertainment to the viewing public last autumn. His view is not shared by regular panellist Paul Merton, who called Deayton "dull" and his loss "not a big deal." Tonight's host is Martin Clunes; next week is William Hague, and surely the brown suited one would do a better job.

There's a rumour that viewers will be able to crack the case in THE MURDER GAME after tonight's episode. My money remains on the bloke claiming to be the detective - he's already sent four people and one timeslot off to certain death, and the sooner this maniac is stopped the better it will be for all of us. 2235 BBC1 Saturday.

He's off the Lottery Corporation's show, and FRIENDS LIKE THESE has become the latest victim of the Primetime Axe, but there's no getting rid of Ian Wright. The man whose first name is woefully short of vowels hosts a new series of I'D DO ANYTHING, where people get cash rewards for braving their greatest fears. Does this mean the BBC will be handing out large wodges for anyone who actually watches this show? 1800 Saturday.

Dale Winton returns with IN IT TO WIN IT, the "exciting" "new" "quiz" "show" from the Lottery Corp. They got one right there, but didn't get the Blunderball, so no prizes. 1945 Saturday.

If you somehow managed to miss Celador's side of the story, watch it again at 2115 Saturday on the increasingly ludicrous ITV "News" Channel. Blimey, listings for two of the leading rolling news stations in one week; anyone got the guest list for LARRY KING "LIVE"?

Erstwhile Friends... hosts Antan Dec return with a new series of I'M A CELEBRITY, GET ME OUT OF HERE. 2100 weeknights on ITV, with notionally-complete coverage on ITV2 from around midnight to around 1800. Who competes? Who cares!

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