Weaver's Week 2005-05-22

Weaver's Week Index


The Awakening - 22 May 2005

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

"Why do you have to vote on everything? Isn't it enough just to watch?" - Patrick O'Connell.

Junior Mastermind

(1900 weeknights, BBC-1)

Surely this contest, rewarding knowledge, only knowledge, and certainly not voting will meet with approval in the O'C household. The contest is open to ten- and eleven-year-olds, and the prize is a rather plush engraved glass trophy. The nightly winners, plus the highest-scoring runner-up, progress to the Saturday final. It's show policy not to give surnames; we will not divert from this.

Night one:

Robin from Surrey is taking The Vicar Of Dibley, a situation comedy about - oh, you can guess. This youngster knows his Dibley, making a magnificent 17 (0).

Rahul from Sheffield tells us about the Artemis Fowl books. This column is clearly getting old, as we have no idea what any of these questions are about. 9 (3).

Emma from Epping is talking about Howard Carter and Tutankhamun. 12 (0) is a very respectable score, especially in a tricky subject.

William from Dublin has opted for Winston Churchill. It's another good round, finishing on 10 (1). He launches into a vituperative rant against the tabloid press before his general knowledge round.

In the general knowledge set, Rahul finishes on 17 (9), William on 17 (1) after pausing for ages thinking of a good guess rather than passing. Emma does very well to make 26 (1), but she can't catch Robin's 29 (3).

Also on this show, we learn that the Mastermind producers would have rejected "The Wombles" as a specialist subject.

So, Robin's specialist knowledge has seen him through to the final. Emma will have to wait and see if her 26 will suffice.

Night two:

Jackson from London has the Music of The Beatles. He knows his onions, scoring 14 (3).

Antonia is from Leeds, and has taken Dolphins. A tentative start ensures she finishes on 9 (3).

Isabel from County Durham has been reading the Complete Works of Beatrix Potter. She just can't quite get out the answers, and scores 9 (0).

Tom from Kent talks about the Life and Career of Alexander Graham Bell. This is a superlative round, finishing on a quite remarkable 18 (0).

Second time around, Antonia has a good finish, making 20 (3). Isabel plays a safe round, finishing on 16 (2). Jackson pays an unfortunate visit to Pass Hell during the round, struggling to 21 (8), so Tom can take it easy, finishing on 28 (3).

We're jolly pleased that the Greatest Children's Game Show of recent years, Raven, got a mention on prime-time television. Any danger of putting the show in this early-evening slot, Auntie?

Night three:

Joseph from Salisbury has Enid Blyton's Famous Five books. This column clearly read the books too often in our youth, scoring six. Joseph put us to shame, scoring 14 (2).

Abigail from Falkirk is taking the History of Cadbury's, the chocolate makers. She scores 13 (2), and made us rush off to the chocolate shop.

Jawward from South Yorkshire is telling us about Egyptian Deities. By Toutatis (sorry, he's a Gaul), this chap knows his deities, scoring 13 (4).

Katherine from Milton Keynes takes the Back To The Future trilogy. This is another brilliant score, making 14 (2). Grown-ups, be very ashamed.

Jawward finishes on 19 (9), Abigail on 20 (6), Joseph finishes on 24 (7), and Katherine on 21 (7). Joseph had the best general knowledge round, and he takes his place in the Saturday final.

Night four:

Matty from Stafford has the History of the English Longbow. This would confound and confuse many senior contestants; he scores 5 (4).

Andrew from Glasgow has picked the Star Wars Trilogy, as in the first three movies filmed, but not in the expanded story arc. He's seen the films a lot, finishing on 15 (2). Before his general knowledge round, Andrew launches into a passionate defence of people with Asperger's syndrome. So heartfelt is his speech that it seems to take his steam away in the opening moments.

Hannah from South Yorkshire offers the His Dark Materials trilogy, one successfully offered by a senior contestant last year. She does even better, making 16 (2). When asked about her favourite teacher, Hannah gives the very diplomatic answer that they're all different, and she can't compare them.

William from London will talk about Black Holes. As in places where nothing can escape, not even light; not to be confused with the Milton Keynes one-way system. He does rather well, making 13 (4).

Matty has a further unfortunate trip to pass hell, making 10 (10). William starts strongly, finishes well, but doesn't score well in the middle - 21 (10) is his final score. Andrew has rather a lot of passes, and finishes on 24 (10). Hannah starts brilliantly, but hits a major pot-hole, thinks just too long on the last question, and finishes on 23 (7).

It's Andrew who will make it through to the final; Emma, from the opening night, still has the best runner-up spot.

Night five:

Sam from the Lake District has the entirety of The Plantagenets to swot up on. Usually, we'd cast an "if only he'd picked a smaller subject" glance in the direction of a contestant who picked such a large subject. Such glances are not required here, Sam has scored a jaw-dropping 19 (0).

Trystan from Berkshire will attempt to follow that with the Life and Career of Michael Schumacher. He does well, making it to 11 (3).

James from Sheffield talks about Fawlty Towers. He also does exceptionally well, making 17 (1). He wants to be a barrister, not for the social goodness, but because they make a lot of money. With that attitude, he'll go far; with that score, it looks like Emma won't be joining us tomorrow.

Anna from London will be joining us tonight, and she's got the films of Hayao Miyazaki. That's a Japanese animator, for those of us who don't know him from Adam. 11 (2) is the score; it would have put her in contention most nights.

Trystan makes it to 17 (6), Anna to 16 (10). James, poor lamb, has the look of a rabbit staring directly into the headlights of an oncoming torrent of questions; 21 (9) is his final score. Sam doesn't quite manage to break records, finishing on a very creditable 28 (3).

So, Robin, Tom, Joseph, Andrew, Sam, and Emma will be the final six. After the football today, or in this column next week.

The Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Final

(BBC-3, 2000 Thursday)

Paddy O'Connell's on duty behind the mike. The hosts began with a knuckle-clenching six minutes of wondering how they should start the show. How's about cutting the dancers, the military band performing "Amarillo," and the leather-clad vixens. Just get on with it already!

A man from Ukrainian television asked Mr O'Connell if the man in the fluffy photo-frame was the British prime minister. It's Terry Wogan.

Austria starts the proceedings with a jaunty number featuring some yodelling. Could make the final, this could.

Lithuania are rather insistent and a little shrill, Portugal (sadly) even more so.
Moldova are a cross between those Turkish entrants from last year and Busted, and are dark horses for the win.
Latvia have sent 40% of Westlife.
Monaco has sent a typically bombastic loud love song, while Israel goes for an atypical bombastic loud love song. Both have sent female singers in floor-length dresses; both will cancel each other out.
It's another huge dress for Belarus, in a quirky disco number; this might just do the trick.

The postcards between the songs feature scenes from the Ukrainian life, seemingly without any rhyme or reason.

The Netherlands have sent a Mel B look-alike, with another bombastic loud love song.
Iceland have sent Selma, the 1999 runner-up, with a re-tread of her wistful, up-tempo number from then. Should make the final.

Belgium are singing in French, and have sent the first solo gentleman of the evening, performing a bombastic loud love song. Is anyone spotting a pattern here?
Estonia have brought their turntables, and the oversized vinyl records that Romania used two years ago. Their song is more Precious than perfect.
Norway have pulled off an amazing coup, getting Bon Jovi to reform for the night; their song is rather marred by overloading the volume limiters, so it sounds like it's being performed through a sock.
Romania have gone down an interesting route, merging folk with drums made out of oil cans.
Hungary are back for the first time since 1998, and surely their lyricists can come up with more than a song that goes "Ah ya na na na na na." And a singer who isn't so far off as to be on the next key down.

Finland is a close-harmony advert for washing powder, and their song is a throw-back to the be-nice-to-each-other sentiment popular circa 1990. Might just be there.

The stage this year is entirely glass, with lights under the entire floor, but no video projection. This is more effective than the porthole we've had for the past couple of years. There are some intricate pillars going up to the ceiling on the sides, perhaps modelled on icicles and stalagmites. The globe lights are back from last year, again hung over the audience. Behind the stage is a curved mirror wall and a large globe, and there are small podia for the backing singers. The design is deceptively simple, with intricacies, such as the mirror wall rotating on flat panels.

The Macedonia singer is being pulled by some long-haired maidens; this could, just, be in the shake-up.
Andorra tries to merge the ethnic feel of "Wild Dances," a sensual Spanish dance, and Phoebe from Friends in another floor-length skirt.
Now, Switzerland have poached Vanilla Ninja from their native Estonia. One of the biggest bands in Europe are surely in contention for the grand prix on Saturday, no matter what Mr O'Connell might think.
Croatia are only appearing here on tie-breakers, one more point would have put them automatically into the final. The singer's wearing a tie, and the song has a welcome ethnic feel. Not sure about the drummer doing hand-stands, though.
Bulgaria, the night's second debutants, won't go far with this jazz number. Ireland don't want to win this year, otherwise they wouldn't send a "Diva" knock-off.

Slovenia, everyone's pre-contest favourites (it says here), deliver a very ethnic punk song. Clearly the game plan is to qualify directly for the final with this, then deliver the knock-out blow next year.
Denmark could have sent the Olsens; instead, they've sent a grown-up Nordic Take That. Could take advantage of the late draw to progress.
And finally! Poland pump up the beats per minute in what someone is going to have to describe as a Polska polka. Thoroughly fun, but probably won't work twice.

The interval act is a modern ballet, of which there isn't enough on BBC-3. Never mind Flashmob The Opera, why not Flashmob The Dance?

Anyway. The ten progressing are in the green envelopes, and they'll appear in the main draw as follows. Saturday's opener will be Hungary; fourth and fifth will be Romania and Norway. When was the last winner from fifth? Moldova appear in seventh. Coming before Serbia and Montenegro will be Israel; after the break comes Denmark. The warm-up act for the hosts will be Macedonia, which is a bit of a surprise. Before favourites Greece will be Croatia; last-but-two is Switzerland, followed by - get this! - Latvia. Iceland, the fan's favourite, have failed to make the final.

That draw in full:

HUNGARY / United Kingdom / Malta / ROMANIA / NORWAY
Turkey / MOLDOVA / Albania / Cyprus / Spain
ISRAEL / Serbia and Montenegro / DENMARK / Sweden / MACEDONIA
Ukraine / Germany / CROATIA / Greece / Russia

Bosnia Herzegovina / SWITZERLAND / LATVIA / France

It's Norway, Serbia and Montenegro, or the last six for the winner, surely.

This Week And Next

Our friends at the Sunday Times are still obsessing over Millionaire. A large story last week-end "revealed" that the average prize per player has dropped from £55,593 to £41,844. Host Chris Tarrant is inaccurately blamed for "throwing in more stopper questions," ones that cause people to not play. A preponderance of popular culture questions is not finding favour with other commentators, reports the UK's largest tabloid. Celador disagrees, saying "It's just not true that the questions are getting harder."

There's only one way to settle this - testing of all the questions on a large panel, under properly controlled conditions, with adequate statistical measurements in place. Printing four questions at random in a national newspaper doesn't exactly help the discussion.

Far be it from us to suggest that the British public haven't completely fallen in love with ITV's Celebrity Love Island. We'd be the last to suggest that the Monkey might have been a little desperate when scheduling a show in prime-time every night for five weeks, and no-one could ever accuse us of being amongst the carpers, suggesting that it become the third game show cancelled by ITV this year. No, we only want to point out that a leading bookmaker has taken bets of £28 on the winner, and that's our comment.

CLI continues next week, so does The Farm, and there's a new series of Big Brother, too. Eggheads begins a two-week crack into BBC2's 6pm slot, while Eurovision and (hopefully) Junior Mastermind have their finals tonight.

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