Weaver's Week 2018-05-06

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How can you make event television on a budget of approximately £ZERO?


Only Connect

Only Connect (2)

Parasol (an RDF company) for BBC2, 30 April

Right from the start, we can see that this is going to be a special event. They're not playing the show's theme on the usual strings. No, they've got a vocal group in the studio! Seven close-harmony singers, singing in close harmony.

Only Connect (2)

Victoria Coren Mitchell welcomes us to the programme, and asks difficult questions about time. Where did it come from? Where did it go? What, we wonder, is the relevance of Cotton-Eye Joe? More on this story later.

Competing in this final are the Escapologists – Frank Paul, Tom Rowell, and Lydia Mizon. They play the Belgophiles – Helen Fasham, Ben Fasham, and Phil Small. These sides met earlier in the contest, the Belgophiles won, just like they've won all other matches.

The first round is to spot the Connection between four clues. The first such link: the clue starts with a chemical element's symbol, the rest of the clue is a property of that chemical. The Belgophiles score two, but the Escapologists know that "Esquivalience" is one of many copyright traps. Frank Paul explains all of the clues, and would get an offer of marriage from the host if, er, she wasn't already married.

Good news for David Mitchell, a point for the Belgophiles as they see pictures and common English words. Translate the word (for instance, Tooth) into French (Dent), and the picture is an English version of that word. The greatest New Kids on the Block Song ("Tonight") graces the music round; neither side knows that all share their names with songs in West Side Story.

Only Connect (2) Six for the Rocky statue.

It's high time someone stood up for the quality of this game. Phil Small does exactly that, as he models the poses of various famous statues, and how they give cricket umpire's signals. A point to the Belgophiles there. Weeping things give a point to the Escapologists, and Connections ends in a 4-4 draw.

Sequences follows next, and the highest peaks on the rocky planets nets two for the Belgophiles. The Escapologists have a long debate about the picture clues, and buzz for 3 points – stills from films with First, Second, Third, Fourth in the title. From Only Fools and Horses, the Trotter family lineage nets two for the Belgophiles.

Only Connect (2) The Belgophiles, finalists.

Believe it or not, Only Connect hasn't always been on BBC2. For the first five years of its life, The OC was seen on BBC4, the thinking person's channel. Short runs popped up here and there, and music was confined to the Connections round. Then they moved to BBC2, and the transfer fee included "a longer run" and "more music for the Sequences." This is episode 37 of 37, and this sequence runs through "I am", "You are", and would go through "She is" to "We are". First, second, third person singular and first person plural of "to be".

As is also traditional, the show doesn't play the final music clip. Rather than ask the teams to sing it (usually an exercise in toe-curling, though the Meeples' "American pie" had merit), there's a group of singers in the studio, so let's use them. Three to the Escapologists on the question. No score on events in 1415, 1617, 1819, 2021, but the Escapologists nab three on letter sequences retreating to ANSWER. After the Sequences round, they lead 13-8.

The Walls in the final are always different. We've had collections of four-letter words, we've had three-letter abbreviations, we've had numbers. The Escapologists' wall is just difficult: anagrammed countries, characters from Romeo and Juliet, ball sports, and the back half of luxury car makers. False leads in that wall included Volkswagen cars and NATO letters. Four points!

Only Connect (2) The Escapologists, finalists.

The Belgophiles also get a difficult wall: NATO letters, Volkswagen cars, public schools, and words containing a shortform of "Richard". False leads in that wall included ball sports and Shakespeare characters. Who writes this devilish slice of genius? Three points!

Missing Vowels continues the celebration of all things Only Connect: the sets are "Associated with Connections or Sequences", "Walls", and "They're all missing vowels". As time expires, the Escapologists run out the winners, 21-14. The closing ceremony starts with a scatalogical reference from the host, and finishes with the trophy presentation.

Only Connect (2)

It's been an enjoyable series, and the structure has been almost spot on: between the first round and the semi-final, no-one leaves after a single defeat, which is both fair and means we have the right number of teams to remember at any time.

Ready or Not

Ready or Not

Remedy Scotland and Argonon for BBC1, from 31 March

Our original plan was to compare Only Connect with Tough Quiz, an ABC (Down Under) quiz that is as tough as it sounds. However, the obituary for Dale Winton threw our plans off, and we want to review Ready or Not while it's still on air. Tough Quiz will follow later in the summer.

Ready or Not isn't a single coherent programme. There isn't a beginning, a middle, and an end to the show. No, Ready or Not is a clip show, six or seven micro-programmes presented under one banner. Each of these little programmes is a small game show in its own right, edited into a short story on its own.

So, what are these little games? In no particular order:

Ready or Not Winners!

Sam and Mark's Elevator Game

Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes (from Sam and Mark's Friday Wind-Up) are in a lift. An unsuspecting member of the public gets in the lift. Mark (or Sam) will nip out and run to a floor with a generous prize. Sam (or Mark) will ask the player a general knowledge question. Get it wrong and they're out the lift. Get it right, and they can pick a floor. When the lift door opens, if they see the prize they win it, otherwise Sam asks another question.

For our money, this is the best game proper, there is natural tension before the lift door opens, and Sam and Mark have got their glitzy game show host personae down to a tee.

Scream Out Answers As You Descend the Slide

London Hughes (from Smashed) asks her players to name items in a category. Tom Hanks films, or countries in Africa, for instance. They have as long as it takes to come down the slide at the BT Sports Tower to shout out answers. £10 for each right answer.

Crumpet the Talking Dog

A talking dog asks trivia questions, and gives away money for right answers.

Ready or Not Crumpet will talk back.

Matthew Crosby Surprises People

Matthew Crosby (Transmission Impossible) hides under a table, with a vase of flowers as a hat. Once he has some customers, he'll pop out of the table and ask his players questions. The better player can win cash, if they can get bread rolls in a hat on their head. The most absurd set-up: you are in a market, being asked questions by a man in a vegetable stall, while some stranger chucks peppers at you.

Question Mark

Matt Ralph (in very unflattering lycra) runs round the streets of a town, asking trivia questions. A tenner to anyone who gives the right answer.

Ready or Not Subtlety is not his middle name.

Quiz Me Quick

Laura Jackson (from Take Me Out The Gossip, in character as "Quiztina") stops people in the street, and asks them questions. Four right answers wins £100. The effect here is a bit like Stephen Mulhern's In For a Penny With Stephen Mulhern, but being based on questions rather than stunts it's sufficiently different.

The Gallery Headset

You know those earpieces you can hire at the big galleries? The ones that explain the exhibits and gee you through in a decent time? Pete Donaldson (Xfm) has hijacked the transmission, and asks people to do silly and sillier things, with the promise of cash and prizes.

Don't Panic

Tom Allen (Wedding Day Winners) unveils his big board. Identify some things at great speed, and give three answers to a category in ten seconds. And try not to panic.

Ready or Not Laura Jackson.

Boiled down to its basics, Ready or Not is – essentially – six really short games, edited into a half-hour slot. Watched from start to finish, it can be exhausting. Some of the segments are in-yer-face and incredibly fast – Question Mark moves so fast it makes Anneka Rice seem calm. For some of the games, the prize is not the big thing, the focus is on people's reactions. The Gallery Headset and Crumpet are good examples of this Candid Camera type show.

While there's little surprise in the micro-formats, they've edited it well. Ready or Not is a slick package, cut to upbeat music. It flows well, and there's just enough give and take in the segments to provide a little relaxation.

Ready or Not Pepper on!

The quick cut between isolated segments is not a new trick, but we haven't seen it in ages. It's the same style we remember from the 1995 primetime comicbook Glam Metal Detectives, and from Sunday morning show For Amusement Only. The good news: no Rick Adams on Ready or Not. The bad news: no Pepper Choir.

Paddy McGuinness provides a linking narration. Did we need him? Frankly, no. We could hear any necessary explanation from each segment's hosts. The narration adds little of value, it particularly spoils the illusion on Crumpet the Talking Dog.

We are getting a slight comic-book vibe from this show, like it's The Nutty come to life. It's as if Crumpet and Question Mark and the others all live in one town, and have their own individual stories in their own style. Eventually, when the show gets established, they can cross over into each other's strips – er, pages.

Will that happen? Not sure it will. Ready or Not has been panned by critics, obviously. It's fun, it doesn't take itself seriously, and it's not aimed at snooty critics. Unfortunately, viewers haven't been watching the programme: warm weather and inconsistent scheduling have prevented it from building any momentum.

Countdown Update

What's happened in Leeds in the last couple of months? We left it with Zarte Siempre completing his octochamp run. 967 was his total, the second-greatest points haul in the heats.

It would be impossible to follow that, and lots of people had small numbers of wins for the rest of March. Patrick Murphy and Ted Anscomb won one game each, as did Ed Morrison. A pair for Mohsin Shabir and Glen Jones. Maria Frizelle had three wins, as did John Cole.

George Armstrong won four games over Easter, but lost a cracking game to Luke O'Neill 90-87. Luke lost his next match to Dougie MacKay, and Dougie went on to record seven wins. Were we denied a greater match between George and Dougie? Quite possibly.

Dougie lost his eighth match, 93-91 to Mac Walker. Dougie thus becomes the first person to lose their eighth game since July 2015. Mac had four wins, Jason Palmer had three, and Toby McDonald has six wins so far. Since Dougie began his run, the quality has improved, as this column's daily scores on the letters have gone from about 30 to about 0.

This Week and Next

BARB ratings in the week to 22 April.

  1. This Territory's Got Talent remains the most popular show on telly (ITV, Sat, 10.15m).
  2. Next biggest games are Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri, 4.65m) and a Pointless Celebrities rerun (BBC1, Sat, 3.85m). Ninja Warrior suffered opposite men's football, knocked to 2.85m (ITV, Sat).
  3. University Challenge moved back ahead of Only Connect (BBC2, Mon, 2.45m and 2.25m). Antiques Road Trip (BBC2, Tue, 1.35m) is more popular than The Crystal Maze (C4, Sun, 1.15m).
  4. Unusual scenes on ITV2, as Celebrity Juice falls below a million (ITV2, Thu, 990,000). It still beat off Got More Talent (Sat, 945,000), with Yankee Next Top Model (UK Living, 415,000) a distant third.

Do we need more editions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? We'll have to find out (ITV, all week). Will it be Carnage? No, that's on The Satellite Channel (Sun).

No longer the crème de la crème, the dumbed-down Breadxit Professionals hit C4 (Sun). No longer worth a million, Davina hosts The 100k Drop (C4, weekdays).

It's Senior Eurovision Song Contest week. The semi-finals are Tue and Thu on RTE2 and BBC4 (also Tue on RTE Radio 1), and the final is on RTE1, RTE Radio 1, BBC1, Radio 2, and many many other participating broadcasters.

This column goes all-Eurovision for the next two weeks, and we'll publish the semi-final review on Saturday.

Photo credits: Parasol, Remedy Scotland / Argonon

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