Weaver's Week 2018-04-22

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We're very sad to report the death of Dale Winton, aged just 62. A full obituary will appear next week.

"Tell me why," sang Jimmy Somerville in 1984. We asked the same question after seeing two shows recently. An app came along to lighten our mood, and many things were widely believed to have been errors.


I Don't Like Mondays

I Don't Like Mondays

Alaska TV Productions and Magnum Media in association with Travesty Media for Channel 4, 6-20 April

The opening title scene features Alan Carr smashing up some office furniture and digital alarm clocks. The digital alarm provides a suitable metaphor for the whole programme: it's loud, grating, and if left unattended will go on for a full hour.

I Don't Like Mondays Tonight, Richard, I'm going to be...

Yes, this is an Alan Carr programme, hosted by Alan Carr. Just from this fact, we can make a decent guess at what it's going to be like: camp, obsessed with celebrity, and not at all challenging to the mainstream. Why does Channel 4 love Alan Carr, when he's the antithesis of their publicly-stated mission to be different?

During the course of the hour, we'll see Alan Carr doing silly things with a guest celebrity. He might play trolley skittles, or milk a cow, or have a wrestling bout in those large inflatable sumo suits that were all the rage circa 1995. If you're an Alan Carr fan, this will be the best thing since sliced bread. For the rest of us, it's a way to generate random numbers between 1 and 120.

I Don't Like Mondays Re-enacting Speed 4 with Jonathan Ross.

At this point, we'll pause to compare I Don't Like Mondays with Talking Telephone Numbers. ITV's variety show from the 90s – hosted by Phillip Schofield and Emma Forbes – took twenty minutes to generate five digits, with a variety skit attached to each one. It was decent entertainment – if this magic trick doesn't work for you, there will be something different along in a couple of minutes.

Talking Telephone Numbers ran for five years. The suspiciously-similar revival Magic Numbers ran for the summer of 2010 and never appeared again, mainly because of its hopeless all-or-nothing endgame. But it brought Stephen Mulhern to primetime, so there are reasons to remember it.

I Don't Like Mondays "Bubble wrap wrestling", it's a thing, apparently.

The stunts on Talking Telephone Numbers and Magic Numbers had one purpose: produce a digit. Everything was done to make the figure the star. On I Don't Like Mondays, our attention is split. Are we looking at Alan Carr joshing about, or are we looking for the number? The show sends out mixed messages, it confuses us.

Anyway, however they're generated, I Don't Like Mondays has generated two numbers. These match two people in the audience – twenty-to-forty-somethings, bright and shiny. These two people come down to the front, and answer a play-off question. It's posed by Alan's Bored Room, populated by six out-of-work celebrities (Miranda Hart, Trevor McDoughnut, D:Ream's Brian Cox, Mo Farah, Dawn French, and celebrity husband David Mitchell).

I Don't Like Mondays Goldfist: meet you at the observatory on top of the hill. Xoxo, Brian Rocks.

A question will arise from their discussion, such as "what percentage of people bring cakes into work for their birthday?" The studio players enter their guesses on keypads, they're shown on screen, and the one closest to the correct answer wins. The other player returns to their seat in the audience, but gets "triple pay Monday", twice their daily wage.

There's a particular weakness in the script. It's written from a particular point of view. It's aimed at people who spend their life in an office, crammed full of "who's nicked the stapler" and "ever pilfered someone's lunch from the fridge" jokes. It's aimed at people who work Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-five. In this day and age, that's a hefty set of assumptions. People who work in retail are excluded. Those who have to take two jobs, or work night shifts, or weekends, they're also excluded. The Channel 4 continuity announcer, she doesn't knock off work at 5pm, otherwise there'd be no-one to introduce this show.

I Don't Like Mondays Know your audience.

"Triple pay Monday" serves as a perfect example of the script's assumptions. The whole script assumes Monday is the first day of the working week. It assumes returning to work is a thing of evil, and that the weekend is far more fun. For a chunk of the viewers, this isn't so.

The first three parts of the show generate three numbers and ask three questions. There's approximately zero game, a huge amount of shouting. There's a huge amount of Alan Carr being naughty, like the naughty pirates on Swashbuckle.

I Don't Like Mondays Just don't land on a Monday.

Mercifully, the final part is entirely game, and it's a spectacular finish. The three finalists are pinned to giant spinning wheels, and spun round. The wheel is marked with days of the week, and the contestants hope not to land on a Monday. If all the contestants avoid Monday, the winner will get a bonus prize.

But if someone does land on Monday, they'll face a difficult question about a celebrity and their previous employment. Three possible answers, it's unlikely that anyone will know the answer, or be able to work it out. Get it wrong, and that's it, game over. Right answer, stay in the game, and spin on. And on the next spin, another day will turn into a Monday.

I Don't Like Mondays Boss: I quit. Xoxo, Annie Winner.

Eventually, a winner is found. Their prize is a year's wage – not necessarily their own, but the top wage amongst the three finalists. Like all of the audience, the winner has come into the studio with a resignation letter loaded onto their phone. With the touch of a button, Alan will resign the winner from their job, and we'll get the conclusion to The Krypton Factor 2009 theme. A lovely string-and-synth stab, but out of place, and enough to distract us when we first heard it.

Bluntly, I Don't Like Mondays is Alan Carr doing silly things, with a modest (though expensive) game wrapped around it. Viewer reaction has been muted, because approximately no-one's watched the show. And, with the series being shown in two blocks of three episodes, it can't build up any momentum amongst Alan Carr's fanbase. Doesn't feel like it can be a hit.

I Don't Like Mondays Alan and the winner wave goodbye.

Change Your Tune

Change Your Tune

Twofour (part of ITV Studios) for ITV, from 1 April

Here's Baz Ashwarmi, introducing us to someone who cannot sing. At all. Seriously, they're rubbish at this singing lark. This column thought our caterwauling was tuneless, but we're like The Great Wakkorotti compared to this tuneless dirge.

The bad singer has three options. They can pretend they've got talent, get buzzed off The X Factor in two seconds flat, and get a few grand from nightclub PAs. The singer can pay a few grand to SMRTV, and become that broadcaster's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, more on that story next month.

Change Your Tune Bring your own earplugs, audience.

Or the bad singer can (gasp!) become a good singer. How might this happen? Step forward great vocal coaches: Me'sha Bryan, Jennifer John, Gillian McLaren Scott, Jono McNeil, Jai Ramage, Juliet Russell. On some shows, such as The X Factor, the vocal tutor doesn't have much work to do. The singers are already superb and their job is to help the singer bring out their own best performance. On Change Your Tune, the coach has a job of work to do. People who cannot sing suddenly become able to sing barnstorming pieces. How does this happen?

Very good question. How the coaches works their magic is not shown. Instead, we go straight from "before" to "after". From someone singing right out of tune into someone giving a superb performance, with no explanation of how they got there.

Change Your Tune A good singer, with backing dancers and all.

The contest in Change Your Tune is nebulous. The studio audience votes for something after each performance, and the highest score over the show wins £10,000. It's not clear what the studio audience is asked to vote on.

We found Change Your Tune to be unsatisfactory. The performances don't work as a light entertainment show. The "before" pieces are Rubbish Karaoke at Oscar's Grouchy Club, the "after" pieces are Decent Karaoke Down Your Local, but a long way short of Got Talent standard.

Each performance is shown as before-and-after, there's no journey for the singer. We have no clue how hard they've worked. Compare this show to Davina McCall's This Time Next Year, where people pledge to do something before a studio audience, then come back a year later to assess their performance. Did Tim give up smoking? Has Jo learned a new language? The year passes in no time, but we get the journey from the conversation and the film afterwards.

Change Your Tune The winner takes 10 grand and one glitterfall.

Change Your Tune has the same conceit, but the framing is far less satisfactory. It's as though we're watching Tim not smoking — and that's it. It might have been OK as a one-off, but a full series is way too much. To no-one's surprise, Change Your Tune has been relegated in the schedules – new episodes have been shunted back from 7pm to 4pm, and narrative repeats from 11am to 12 midnight. So less Change Your Tune and more Change Your Time.

Tenable App

Barnstorm for Ios and Android

Download here

Let's start with a confession. This column is not a tremendous fan of Tenable. The episodes we've seen were helped by strong teams, who knew each other, and could bring their own bonhomie to the studio. All teams are helped by Warwick Davis, a charming and personable host. The gameplay we can take or leave.

So, to give the app a fair crack, we played rounds with some friends. They liked it, their enthusiasm was infectious, and at least one has bought the app. And the result is a more positive review than we'd have written alone.

Top ten Graham Norton guests? Intriguing.

Barnstorm's app recreates Tenable as it is on screen, with a few differences. The show works around lists of ten items, and asks the player to score five before they can bank cash for the endgame. Very sensibly, the app chooses not to parse players' typing errorrs, but to make these lists multiple-choice: all ten correct answers, plus six distractors.

It's necessary to swipe left and right to see all the answers, there's no view to display all 16 possibilities. Why not? Think about a phone. Small screen, some cramped writing, can't see long answers, and that restricts the questions too much. They've made the right decision.

Some of the questions have been used on the show, others are fresh for the app. This leads to some quite clunky categories – our friends at Buzzerblog got "The six Nobel prizes and four women to be Time person of the year", two barely-related categories forced together to give 10 answers. It's possible to purchase additional question packs, if you want a specialist game on films or music or sport.

The lifelines play out like on the show – the first wrong answer will be discarded, and "nominate" will pick out one of the possibilities. In our experience, "nominate" is more likely than not to select a right answer, though it could be a random choice. "Overrule" is absent – the developers admit they have no reason to include it, and no way that flows easily, so out it goes.

One cannot over-rule? Hmph!

After you've selected an answer, a disembodied Warwick will ask if it's there. The familiar triangle with its banded lights, the irritating music sting starts. We can tap the screen to skip the animation, but have to do this every single time. Warwick's additional information about each answer appears as a caption at the bottom of the screen. We're impressed with the "failure" animation, falling into a vortex in the centre of the triangle.

The "captain's list" allows one to buy back extra players (or win extra lives) for the final round. The final question has more options, and loses a life for each incorrect option.

Says it all.

As well as the standard five-player game, the app allows for smaller teams, or solo challenges against a single list. There's a two-player multiplayer option, pass the device from player to player and give alternate answers. We'd have liked to see an option for two players to compete against each other on the same list. There's no way to play along with the show as it's broadcast – this isn't like The Million Pound Drapp.

Overall, this is a faithful adaptation of the television programme. You'll need to bring your own bonhomie, and your own chatter between rounds – Warwick only voiced a limited number of samples, and they roll around often. Our reservations are almost entirely with the Tenable format, and not with the app itself.

Would we recommend it? It's £2 for a good number of games, and we reckon there's some hundreds of lists on the base app. Compared to many forms of entertainment, £2 is good value – a quarter of a book, 15 minutes of a film, a frozen pizza. If you like Tenable, and enjoy shouting at the screen, this could be a good one.

Download here

Full disclosure: Barnstorm provided an advance review copy of the app, which we tested on an I-phone 6. Images are from Barnstorm's promotions, we're giving no spoilers not already in the public sphere.

This Week and Next

The Hauxwell Family from Essex took part in last week's edition of The Crystal Maze. This is widely believed to be an error. Right from the start, it was clear that the team were going to have trouble; never in the course of Crystal Maze history has the question to get into Future World been answered incorrectly. Disaster continued to pursue the team from zone to zone, and often got a head start on the siblings.

After an otiose hour of defeat, error, cockup, and futility, the team gathered at the dome. They had won two crystals, but suffered two lockins. They chose to buy each other out, and achieved the grand non-total of no crystals. Zero. Zlich. Zip. Nada. Their final score, after no time collecting, was 0 tokens. This is still better than 15% of previous teams.

Only Connect reached the semi-finals, a one-match playoff between direct qualifiers (Belgophiles) and second-elimination survivors (Vikings). The Vikings won the toss, and chose to defer. This is widely believed to be an error. The Belgophiles saw the clue "J K Galbraith", conferred for about 25 seconds, and pressed the button. Sound the Five Point Klaxon! "Women authors with male pseudonyms", their answer, for Five Points.

The gap would never shrink smaller. The music round consisted of tunes with Morse code embedded within. There was a gorgeous question about countries and clues to their currencies. 8-2 after the Connections, and 8-2 after the Sequences, clearly no-one remembers Mouse Trap with Steve Johnson. Rock-hard walls allowed the Vikings to close the gap to 12-7, but some incorrect buzzer speculation gave a final score of 18-5 to the Belgophiles.

University Challenge had its second semi-final, between Merton Oxford and Newcastle. Merton got off to the better start, opening up a 100-15 lead. Then Newcastle got their buzzer fingers working, and Molly Nielsen piloted the music set, on mid-20th century composers. Benjamin Britten, Bartok, Poulenc.

And then Paxman asked, "and finally, who wrote this piece by Copeland", giving the answer to the question. This is widely believed to be an error.

The recording stopped, and the producers held a hurried conference. For whatever reason, there isn't a spare music bonus question, and while Merton were prepared to let Newcastle have the points, the producers would not let it fly. Mercifully, the UC question writers were able to dredge up some Khachaturian, and the show could continue. Newcastle had recovered to trail 80-95, but their challenge petered out, thanks in part to some incorrect interruptions from Molly Nielsen. Merton's winning score was 220-110, and the fact of their victory was never in doubt. We fear the margin reflects the administrative error.

BARB ratings in the week to 8 April.

  1. Coronation Street tops the charts (ITV, Mon, 8.55m). Saturday Night Takeaway the top game (ITV, Sat, 7.65m).
  2. The final for BBC The Voice (ITV, Sat, 5.6m), and last edition of Minor Celebrity Burn-Off (C4, Tue, 5m). Have I Got News for You returned (BBC1, Fri, 5.2m) and beat Masterchef (BBC1, Wed, 4.95m). The Generation Game slipped over a million (BBC1, Sun, 3.7m).
  3. On the digital channels, Celebrity Juice still the top game (ITV2, Thu, 1.055m), followed by Hell's Kitchen (ITV2, Wed, 500,000) and Yankee Next Top Model (UK Living, Fri, 455,000). By comparison, I Don't Like Mondays launched to just 710,000.
  4. BBC Young Musician bowed with 330,000 (BBC4, Fri), and Last Commanders concluded with 175,000 (CBBC, Tue). While the story arc didn't reach much of a conclusion, there was a real story arc, so let's give praise where we can.

A quiet week for new shows: Censored (Radio 2, Mon) is an interesting pilot programme. We've the finals of Band Cymru (S4C, Sun) and of University Challenge (BBC2, Mon).

Photo credits: Alaska / Magnum / Travesty, Twofour, Barnstorm

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