Weaver's Week 2004-05-22
22 May 2004
Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.
Euro Vision - Weaver's Week
This week, we said goodbye to mathematician John Hammersley. He was the developer of the Monte Carlo simulation, modelling future events by random chance; and of percolation theories of liquid. Two applications of his work: the Plinko game from THE PRICE IS RIGHT; and the Pair Picker from ALL OR NOTHING.
THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST FINAL (BBC1, 2000 Saturday)
Quickly back to the semi-final. Serbia and Montenegro won, with 263 points, the Ukraine on 258, Greece on 238. There were scores of around 150 for Albania, Cyprus, the Netherlands, and Bosnia 133. Malta, Croatia, and Macedonia picked up the last places on just over 70 points. The Netherlands picked up a good advantage from being drawn last in the semi final.
Some quirks of the semi voting: Andorra's 12 came from Spain, while Ireland voted for Latvia - Irish televoters put Latvia sixth last year, and only the telecoms company's failure prevented those votes from reaching Riga.
The sound quality on the television transmission was atrocious on both nights. We've not yet managed to work out if the problem was caused by the BBC circuits, or whether it was something seen and (mis)heard across the world, but the beginning of most of the songs was inaudible. Poland really suffered from this phenomenon, Bosnia and Germany were also marred noticeably.
By using the same staging as last year, and because of the sound problems throughout the contest, this column didn't enjoy this year's contest as much as last year. In fairness, that's partly because every song in Riga was worth writing about, while that depth of quality wasn't present in Istanbul.
The song by song analysis, mostly from the Eurovision: A Little Bit More show:
Spain - Ramon - Para Llenarme de ti
This column has a blind spot towards Spanish entries. "Thumbs down" - the UK Backup Jury.
Austria - Tie Break - Du Bist
Threw paint around during the press conference, and could have done more with a late draw.
Norway - Knut Anders Sorum - High
Almost anthemic, and blimmin' good.
France - Jonatan Cerrada - A Chaque Pa
s Formula francophone pop. "Wasn't a bad song, then this mad woman appears on stilts, dancing to a different song." - Lorraine Kelly.
Serbia & Montenegro - Zeljko Joksimovic - Lane Moje
"Very organic, had its own cultural feel" - Carrie Grant. Very ethnic, doesn't stick in my mind.
Malta - Julie & Ludwig - On Again Off Again
Such fun, even Paddy was joining in. "She had a Mariah Carey look, he had a k d lang look" - Joe Mace.
Netherlands - Re-Union - Without You
Trying for the ease of the Olsens. Not quite getting there.
Germany - Max - Can't Wait Until Tonight
"One strip, two eyebrows" - Pam Hunt. Jazzy, a little constipated at the end.
Albania - Anjeza Shahini - The Image Of You
Nervy, shrill, but a great performance of a mediocre song.
Ukraine - Ruslana - Wild Dance
"Choreography, costume, visually it was spot on." - Kevin Adams. File with Riverdance, Guildo Horn, Brainstorm, and Tatu as Event Television.
Croatia - Ivan Mikulic - You Are the Only One
"Top of the clarts" - BBC subtitlers. They should never have stopped sending class Europop.
Bosnia Herzegovina - Deen - In the Disco
Oh for a decent soundman! "They went down to GAY and found him and two easy girls" - Kevin Adams.
Belgium - Xandee - 1 Life
In-yer-face foot-tappin' pop. Last seen disappearing behind Paddy and Julie and Ludwig.
Russia - Julia Savicheva - Believe Me
Avril Lavigne goes europop and surrounds herself with topless blokes and paints their torsos. Not up to the country's usual standard. "She gave him a great wap!" - Kevin Adams.
Macedonia - Tose Proseki - Life
The chair dancers. Perhaps better with less backing track. "Bandages coming out of his coat was genius" - Kevin Adams.
Greece - Sakis Rouvas - Shake It
"Massive in the Hellenics, you came here with a massive song" - Patrick O'Connell. What are the Greeks wearing this year? Very little!
Iceland - Jonsi - Heaven
This is Icelandic, in a "they could (and perhaps should) play this at the Olympics" manner. "I wanna tour with you" - Robert Williams (who?)
Ireland - Chris Doran - If My World Stopped Turning
This is the result of a five-month star search? RTE is "reviewing" the future of You're A Star. "People didn't like it because it was crap" - Bryan McFadden, who wrote it.
Poland - Blue Café - Love Song
A simple jazz song. A *very* simple jazz song. Some audible vocals would be nice.
UK - James Fox - Hold On to Our Love
"He couldn't have done that song better" - Carrie Grant. Was Paris from SA2 one of the backing singers?
Cyprus - Lisa Andreas - Stronger Every Minute
Good singer, not her best song. "Fifth! Fifth is great" - Lisa Andreas.
Turkey - Athena - For Real
Reminds us of Bad Manners or Madness. The phrase "we don't want to host your damned contest next year" springs to mind.
Romania - Sandra - I Admit
Good little song. Could be a dark horse. "A wee bit hard" - Lorraine Kelly.
Sweden - Lena Philipson - It Hurts
"The microphone stand work was particularly memorable" - Joe Mace. Recycling the bridge from 2002, and not enough of a bang to win from dead last.
In the event, the Ukraine won by just over 20 points from Serbia and Montenegro, with Greece just behind in third. Turkey finished a distant fourth.
Make no mistake: the right song won. 28 countries (from 35 voting) placed them top five, and only those well-known judges of pop songular excellence Switzerland failed to give something to the Ukraine. Switzerland's own entry - a rejected song for the Tweenies, we reckon - had suffered the most miserable result in Eurovision history in the semi-final. Serbia & Montenegro and Greece picked up something from everyone, with 26 and 28 top five finishes respectively. S&M came into second from 14 top twos, compared with Greece's 9 - coupled with the Ukraine's 13, the top three took exactly half the 10s and 12s available.
Last year, the winner was decided primarily by Cyprus and Greece voting for Turkey, partly by the UK and Ireland listening to their homophobia and not voting for Russia, and slightly by a breakdown in the Irish telecom system. If any victory can be deemed to be by political / "friendly" voting, it was the 2003 winner. This year, the margin was almost 10%. Not as large as Latvia and Estonia's winning margins in 2002 and 2001, but no evidence that the contest winner was swung by friendly voting.
Cyprus pipped Sweden for fifth on tie-breakers (Cyprus missed 3 scores, Sweden 5.) Albania finished a comfortable seventh on her debut, Germany 8th, just ahead of Bosnia Herzegovina and Spain. Russia's 11th place is enough to bring her back next year. Malta took the all-important 12th place and automatic entry to next year's final, but had to rely on tie-breakers. Malta's 50 points came from 16 countries, never ranking higher than 5th; Croatia took 50, but they came from just 11 countries, and that ranks them lower. Macedonia finished 14th, making 47 from just 9 votes.
France took 40 points, the UK pipped Poland for 16th in the high 20s. Romania, Iceland, and the Netherlands ended just in double figures, and should have done far better; Austria and Belgium picked up multiple votes. Ireland's 7 all came from one of the most odious political votes, from the UK; Norway's 3 resulted from another longstanding arrangement with Sweden.
The thirty six countries voting went reasonably swiftly on the television, thanks to the hosts only repeating the votes in one language, and the tightness of the contest leaving us with something to work out. Full marks to Lauris Reyniks (the middle part of FLY) from Latvia for doing something to enliven the process. Listening back on the radio broadcast, though, the voting feels like it's been going on forever, then the hostess says "Still 26 countries to vote"
and we're not even a third of the way through. It's too long. Far too long.
Next week: some observations and suggestions on the thorny "friendly voting" matter.
VAULT WATCH (ITV, 2000 Tuesday)
Tuesday last week brought us the welcome return of the one quiz that's guaranteed to have this column shouting at the television. Not so much because we think the people inside can hear, but because we can't believe just how little they know.
As last year, host Melanie Sykes is wearing black - it's not as eye-poppingly headache-inducingly bad as previous host Davina McCall's infamous pepto pink outfit, but it does get a little tedious to see her in the same colour every week. At the end of last year's series, £100,000 was left in the jackpot prize fund. This week's jackpot: £100,000. Once again, someone in ITV control has lost the money behind the sofa, where it's joined 200 grand that went missing in similar circumstances last year. Hmm. Anyone know where this sofa is?
To spin out the first part long enough to fill the hour, there are now five contestants (count 'em!) on Contestant's Row. This gives five opportunities for the first set of home brokers to win money, but there's still no chance for the second set to win anything. There seems to be some method for the home brokers to indicate that they know the answer, perhaps by pressing a button on their keypad.
Now, we have a theory about being a contestant on this show: guess, guess, guess, and guess some more. If you're asked about a planet, reel off as many planets as you know before passing. If you're asked about coastal cities, reel off as many cities on the coast as you can, and we won't laugh too loudly when you suggest Birmingham is on the coast.
We will shout at you when you go "£200." "£100." "£150." "Deal for £150," because that's boring and wastes your own time. We will, however, cheer and holler when you suggest that we've recently seen the 25th anniversary of "Mister Tony Blair" coming to power, because it feels like it should be right. We'll also cheer when you interrupt questions that go on and on and on like something off UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE because long and rambling questions are bad, especially on this show, and especially given Mel's slow diction.
We will look nervous when we ask "Which mountain range separates Europe and Asia?" Andes? Himalayas? Well known mountain ranges, but a little out of place. We will be amazed when you call Billy Connolly a "comedienne." We will be even more amazed when we hear "£250" "£300" "Deal for £350." We will be annoyed when you're asked about vegetables, but pass straight away. You're not going to progress by spending money with the brokers, unless they'll help you hit a bonus. Buying eight answers from the brokers for £1800 will leave you with a Jemini-tastic grand non-total of nothing. Though when people will pay you stupid money - £400 in the opening round - for a standard answer, they only have themselves to blame.
And we will laugh loudly when this happens:
"There are four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and what?"
The home jackpot hasn't been won in either week, so £300,000 is in the kitty for Tuesday.
THIS WEEK AND NEXT
Charles Ingram's appeal was heard this week, and was kicked into touch by the Court of Appeal. Mr Ingram was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000 at the conclusion of the Nicked! trial in April last year. Mr Ingram's argument against the monetary fine rested on his debts of around £300,000; as most of those debts arose from his unsuccessful civil challenge to Celador, the judge reckoned Mr Ingram had been the architect of his own misfortune.
Diana Ingram's appeal - to have her fine and costs assessed separately from her husband's - was successful, and as she has no independent means, her fines and costs were set aside.
On the same day, Martin Bashir announced that he would leave ITV to work on programmes for the Disney-owned ABC network. Mr Bashir had fronted a 90-minute hatchet job on the Ingrams following last year's trial.
Next week: Ian Wright fulfils people's nightmares in I'D DO ANYTHING, Gopherman has even more statistical rubbish in TEST THE NATION, Angus Deayton is smug on ITV's new celeb-situation-game HELL'S KITCHEN, Brainteaser returns to 1330 and Memory Bank fills a full hour from 1100, and Dermot O'Leary spends more time reviewing BIG BROTHER'S BEST BITS than any contestant spends in the house.