Weaver's Week 2006-06-04
Schulze-Condorcet, and other big words
'Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.'
A late result from Montenegro: Podgorica for the Wonning! "We want to enter No Name to Eurovision every single year, no matter what you Serbs want, and we'll leave the union to make it happen." So spoke the voters of Macedonia in a referendum on 21 May, and the race is now on to ensure they can send No Name to Helsinki.
Eurovision Song Contest Analysis
Derek Gatherer from Sussex Uni has a new paper 1. It updates the work of Fenn et al, which we covered last year. Gatherer has made some judgements that aren't necessarily borne from the evidence. "In 2003 and 2005, the Balkan Bloc vote was sufficient to swing the result of the contest to a Balkan Bloc member, which would not otherwise have been the winner."
This column begs to disagree: 2003 was a Russian loss through under-rehearsal and gross incompetence, rather than a clear Turkish victory - the paper analyses only Turkey against runner-up Belgium. The presumption that Greece's win last year was due to bloc voting is predicated on links with Serbia and Montenegro and with Albania, for which just two year's data exist. These were years when Greece finished third and first, when many countries voted for Greece, so this is more tenuous evidence, primarily of how the Greeks voted.
Gatherer's work does point to the current strongest links, which are described in these two-way relationships (so, for instance, Iceland and Norway are close, as are Norway and Sweden, but not Iceland and Sweden.)
- Baltic Bloc: Iceland - Norway - Sweden - Finland - Estonia - Latvia - Lithuania; also Denmark - Sweden.
- Balkan Bloc: Turkey - Bosnia - Croatia - Slovenia; Macedonia - Albania - Greece - Serbia and Montenegro; Cyprus - Greece - Romania; Croatia - Macedonia - SeM.
- Warsaw Pact: Poland - Ukraine - Russia.
- Partial Benelux: Belgium - Netherlands.
- Pyrenean Axis: Andorra - Spain.
Last year, we discussed Fenn's suggestion that the UK and Ireland were loosely attached to the Baltic bloc, and early evidence suggests Belarus may lean towards the Warsaw Pact. Going into this contest, we were looking for France and Monaco to join the Pyrenean Axis. Germany, Israel, Moldova, Switzerland, Armenia, and Bulgaria do not have clear links over recent years.
This year, Finland picked up 78 points from its Baltic Bloc neighbours, never fewer than an 8, but would still have won by 30 points if the entire bloc vanished. That move would, however, have chopped almost 40 points from Ireland's score, and dropped Lithuania and Sweden into a five-way battle for fifth.
Taking out the Balkans removes 87 from Bosnia's total, including six top scores, but would still leave them third. Major losers would be Macedonia and Croatia, down to 17 and 12 points respectively.
Of our suggestions, the UK and Ireland both voted for 5 of the possible 6 in the final. Britain took 5 votes from the 9 countries, Ireland took something from all 9 in semi and final. This supports our contention that the North Sea is an arm of the Baltic.
Belarus scored from Ukraine, Moldova, and Russia, and twice put Russia-Ukraine as its top two; Poland scored 4, Moldova nothing. Other evidence - mainly from Moldova's voting - suggests that the bloc might evolve into a Moscow Sphere, including Russia, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, and Armenia. It's worth noting that five of these six countries voted for Norway. Obviously, more data is needed for Armenia, and it's possible that the known Romania-Moldova axis will link this group to the Balkan bloc.
Monaco's habit of using the back-up jury because only a handful of people vote means it's unlikely they'll ever join any other group. There's no evidence from this year to suggest France votes along similar lines to Andorra or Spain; indeed, there's not too much evidence to support a strong alliance between those two, and perhaps more to indicate a Portugal-Andorra affinity.
Poland was closest to the overall voting pattern in the final, followed by Greece and Belarus. Monaco was so far off the pace as to running a different race; Bosnia and Albania were also watching different shows. In the semis, France was most out of touch, closely followed by Albania and those Monegasques. Iceland gave the model votes, with Poland and Bulgaria also showing they're with it. The UK's votes were more out than in touch.
Some countries would not have qualified if the decision was based on the number of countries that preferred one song to another. Poland (19 votes), Belgium (17), and Iceland (16) enjoyed wider support than Turkey (13) and Macedonia (10), but where these latter countries scored, they scored well. Seven countries placed Macedonia in their top three, while Iceland never rose above fourth in anyone's list. Had the Schulze-Condorcet method - working out the more popular for each pair of countries, then ranking in order - been applied to the semis, Poland and Iceland would have taken these two spots. The UK is a particular loser in this analysis; S-C voting in the final would have lifted Daz from 19th to 13th, Norway and Lithuania also gain.
This is more than a dustily academic matter, as placing tenth affects qualification for the finals. The current voting system is very good at finding the winner, but is rather poor at determining which one of two, or which two of five, deserve to progress. This column argued last year that Schulze-Condorcet voting would be more appropriate to determine qualifiers, and nothing we've seen this year has changed that opinion.
Before this year's event, the EBU was floating an idea to have just six automatic qualifiers, and a 30-nation qualifier. This would be even worse, as the draw effect comes into play. Evidence from national finals, and from all sorts of voting shows, clearly shows early performances are disadvantaged against later draws. In a 30-song qualifier, this could easily account for five places. Regionalised semi-finals are a non-starter - just to pick one broadcaster, the BBC is already throwing the semi out on an obscure part of the network, and wouldn't willingly give two evenings for a North and South qualifier.
How to resolve this problem? The reverse recap - as used at Eurovision a few years ago - appears to trim this phenomenon by about one place. Other possible solutions: break ties so that the earlier appearance wins, or vary the length of the recaps. For the final, we might give a 10-second recap for the last song, 10-and-a-third for next-to-last, and so on, up to 17-and-two-thirds for the first. The resulting clips last about the same time as the existing recap.
The voting didn't work as television this year; too fast, too much information to take in. A scoreboard filling more than half the screen would help. Getting each voting person to record their piece onto tape and then playing it in the correct place would speed things up markedly - no more "Thank you for a lovely evening", and perhaps allow us to see them give 6 and 7, slowing down the presentation to cope with the viewers' mental processes.
The Identikit Eurovision, powered by SVT, seems to have finally ended. The staging is high quality, but having the same people in charge of the show for six years out of seven leads to stale thinking. YLT will put on a different show and the change will do the contest a lot of good.
And Terry Wogan. Can we take him out now? This column found him more annoying than entertaining, and it's surely time to say thank you and goodnight. Let someone new take the reins - Paddy O'Connell has been doing an acceptable job on the Thursday, Michael Underwood might be tempted back from ITV for a decent show, and there's the ever-reliable Fearne Cotton. For the UK performer, perhaps the BBC should stop trying to win Eurovision 1991, and find something that's hummable and a bit ethnic. Restricting the search to middle-of-the-road pop is a needless constraint.
Countdown Championship Of Champions
29 May: Mark Tournoff (11w, 1127p at -113) v Steve Graston (7w, 845p)
Mark was the champion in December 2004, beating Paul Gallen (who we'll see next week) on a crucial conundrum; since we last met, he's written a novel, "A Nightmare in Paradise." Steve Graston lost to Stewart Holden in June 2004; at this early date, Par has not yet been invented. Stewart is not in this tournament. Susie points out that she's guarding a new dictionary, the Revised New Oxford Dictionary of English.
No ground is given in the early exchanges, but Mark spots COASTLINE in the last letters of the first part, and races ahead; it's 48-30 when everyone ignores Ron Atkinson. Mark spots EXORDIAL after the break, and in a high-scoring game, he's eased into an 87-61 lead at the second anecdote, and breaks the century with three rounds to go. Mark's game isn't as spectacular as some recent players, but it's very effective, as we see with the final letters winner IPOMOEA - not the place where girls come from, but a plant known as Morning Glory. Mark's winning score here is 119-83, and he's 12-below-Par for the game. Steve missed the nine and the conundrum to finish at +11. Mark will meet Chris Cummins or Matthew Shore - they play next Wednesday.
30 May: John Davies (11w, 1066p) v Gary Male (9w, 913p)
John won the tournament back in June 2003; Gary fell to Steve Graston in the June 2004 semi-finals. Who had the start of today's programme as the time Des and Ron would bring back the memory of the 83 cup final? John moves into a big lead thanks to SEALPOINT, a marking on a cat's fur. Gary falls further behind when his PROFUSED* is disallowed in a round where he declared second. 50-24 is the score at the joke. John's lead extends with INFRARED, which hasn't been hyphenated for the last few dictionaries, and picks up seven on a four-large numbers, to lead 84-43 at the break. John bites off more than he can chew with POMASES*, a pluralised mass noun, but Gary is 35 behind with three to play, and needs a niner. He tries for a niner, but GREENOUTS* simply isn't there. Gary gets the conundrum, but John wins, 106-73. With Par at 104, John declared at -2, Gary had two disallowed words and +16. John will face Paul Gallen or Eamonn Timmins in the next round.
31 May: Conor Travers (11w, 1211p at -88) v John Hunt (9w, 910p at +43)
John made the semi-finals in December 2004, losing to Paul Gallen - a re-match is possible in the semis. John is the only retired contestant here. Conor is the only schoolboy in the tournament; further description is superfluous, but here's last week's Week for the record. "What do you mean, only seven?" asks Des following John's first declaration. "Eight," says Conor, winning with FRIGATES. Conor gets his first nine of the week with NARCOTISE, John chips in with REACTIONS, and Honest Ron claims CREATIONS. Tens all round from a trivial numbers game means it's 47-39 at the intermission. Conor sneaks further ahead during the second period on the back of an ANTELOPE, and moves further ahead thanks to a brilliant numbers game; Conor's lead is 83-60. There's no real movement in the final rounds, until Conor gets the conundrum after almost two seconds. His winning score is 124-91, winning his twelfth game, and recording his twelfth sub-par score! Par was 108, John declared for 105. Conor will meet John Brackstone or David Wilson on 12 June.
1 June: Jack Welsby (9w, 997p at -52) v Jon O'Neill (9w, 982p at +10)
Jon is still taking A-levels, and lost in the semis to John Mayhew (who we'll be seeing tomorrow) last summer. Jack is still the best subtitler in the business, and lost his semi in December 2004 to Mark Tournoff (qv). Both games went to crucial conundrums. Jack takes a 7-point lead with AMOEBAS in the opening round, but Jon offers the perfectly acceptable EUROLAND, the area that uses the single European currency, and a word that doesn't take a capital letter. Such are the advantages of playing with a new dictionary. We're racing through the rounds today, 39-32 at the anecdote. Honours are even through the second period, including Jon's offer of APTEROUS (like Westlife, without wings) until Jack offers SENARII, the plural of a six-footed verse. Jon pulls seven back through a stonking numbers game, so it's 69-62 to Jack. The lead is extended through TAUTENED, and both players miss the nine in the next round. Jon wins the race to the buzzer and solves the conundrum in a heartbeat, but it's Jack who wins, 99-94. Par was 105, Jack declared for 106, Jon for 107.
2 June: John Mayhew (11w, 1075 at +8) v Paul Howe (9w, 1033 at -36)
John won the tie-break conundrum last July, a wonderful way to end the series. Paul lost on Wednesday last week to Conor - he's a database developer, and says that "it involves developing databases." Honours are even after a tricky first period - both players have 37 points when we reach for the mute button. Paul breaks the deadlock after the break with SAMPLERS, pieces of embroidery. Paul's studies involved GEOMATICS - the application of computers and mathematics to geography - and that blows the game open. MORDANT and a better numbers game extends the lead to 85-45 at the break. With that sort of lead, the third period holds few surprises - John gets the conundrum, but Paul wins, 117-87. Par was 106, John declared for 115, Paul for 117. Paul and Conor will not meet before the final
5 June: John Brackstone v David Wilson
6 June: Paul Gallen v Eamonn Timmins
7 June: Chris Cummins v Matthew Shore
8 June: Mark Tournoff v Wednesday's winner
9 June: John Davies v Tuesday's winner
Mr Timmins and Mr Cummins come from the December 2003 finals. Here's that full draw graphic again.
|First Round||Quarter Finals||Semifinals||Final|
|Tournoff / Cummins / Shore|
|Welsby / Howe|
|Travers / Brackstone / Wilson|
|Gallen / Timmins / Davies|
First round, heat 8 - 25 May, 9.01pm
Neil Dickinson will take the History of Metal Mining in Britain. This is very good working, the contender knows just about everything there is to know about mines. Well, almost everything - his score of 13 (2) indicates there's just a little headroom.
Mary Rodger offers Kettle's Yard and its Artists. The first question explains what on earth this is - an art collection from the middle of the last century. Mrs Rodger takes a little time, but offers accurate answers. 12 (0)
Trevor Rhodes will discuss the Life and Films of Lindsay Anderson. Again, the opening question sets the scene - it's an actor from post-war films. Mr Rhodes moves through the questions very quickly, and answers them almost entirely correctly. 16 (0) is a tremendous score.
David Simms has the Chronicles of Narnia books. Again, swift answers are the order of the day, and 14 (4) is a very respectable score. This column has read the books a few times, but could only get six.
Mrs Rodger explains further about the Cambridge art installation before launching into her round, which finishes on 17 (5). Mr Dickson suggests that the British empire was built on the metal mines, but that most of them have become uneconomic. His second round is hit-and-miss, ending on 22 (8).
Mr Simms also read the Narnia books in his youth, and finds they're excellent nostalgia traps. He may have appeared on Mastermind in 1988, talking about Lawn Tennis. His second general knowledge question asks for the directory of the Anglican clergy, traditionally "A study of old fossils". He has 24 (5).
Mr Rhodes requires nine to win, and notes that Mr Anderson made the famous "Wham! In China" film - it was all China and no Wham. He gets there, just about, finishing on 26 (3).
First round, heat 9 - 1 June, 10.01pm
Steevan Glover takes the Films of Stanley Kubrick. As ever, we know nothing about films, but this is a good round without being great. 11 (2) doesn't rule him out at all.
Graham Sleep has Anglo-Scottish Warfare, 1296-1540. He's breathing very heavily on his way into the chair, a clear case of nerves. In spite of the nerves, Mr Sleep performs very well, making 11 (4).
Derek Blackburn bounces into the chair, offering the Life and Work of David Bowie. After two questions, and two passes, he's deflating faster than a balloon that's been introduced to a pincushion, before recovering towards the end. Final score is 7 (6).
Charlotte Ireland will talk on the Bodyline Ashes tour of Australia. Which the English rather won, something we've not seen too often since. The round is rather reminiscent of more recent English tours down under, finishing on 8 (2).
Mr Sleep gets a twist on the old "Who is the Home Secretary" question, being asked what was John Reid's previous ministry. He finishes on 12 (11), which isn't going to be a winning score. Mrs Ireland is asked which television host was shafted in Erewash, and we thank the question setters for letting us use that old joke. 13 (6) is also not going to win.
Mr Glover, whose slightly unusual name owes to his father, finds the going a little more tough, and advances to 18 (5). Mr Sleep starts out less nervous than he was first time round, but becomes more and more uncomfortable. He finishes on 14 (7), so Mr Glover has won an unusually low-scoring week.
This Week And Next
A new Most Popular Game Show in the week to 21 May, to the surprise of no-one. The Eurovision Song Contest beat all-comers, scooping 8.3 million viewers for its Saturday final. Channel 4's Big Brother took in a measly 7.1 for its Thursday opening, and almost half those viewers had found something less boring by Saturday. Jet Set came third, with 5.4 million seeing Eamonn Holmes and Sarah Cawood engage in some unrehearsed bare-knuckle boxing. 4.7m for HIGNFY, 4.6m followed Dance Fever to Sunday, 4.5m for Question of Sport, and just 3.3m for Millionaire.
Deal or No Deal, now reduced to Channel 4's second-favourite game show, managed 3.8m, but the Saturday show beat Millionaire by 200,000. The University Challenge final picked up 3.1m, there were 2.6m for Link and Great British Menu, Mastermind bounced up to 2.3m, leaving Eggheads trailing at 2m. Never Mind the Full Stops had 150,000 viewers on BBC4, More4 scored 300,000 for Deal, ITV2 slotted 577,000 with Pop Idle, but E4 rules the roost, notching up 1.675 million for the first of a million Big Brother shows. The Eurovision qualifier didn't make BBC3's top ten.
Next week: all the other news we haven't had space to put in recently.
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