Weaver's Week 2018-06-24

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Two of the longest-running shows crowned champions this week. Later, we'll name the newest Brain, but first we have a clock to run down.



Yorkshire TV for Channel 4, 2 November 1982 – present

Before the finals week proper, we need to doff caps to daily champions who didn't make the elite eight. Steve Middle (3 wins) and Amy Benfield (2 wins) both looked very promising contestants. Mick Purdie and Darren Findlay (3 wins each) were still too good for us. (And remember, this column usually catches Countdown in the Masters slot, on Channel 4+1 over breakfast.)


Countdown Let the challenge begin.

We think it's fair to say that there have been three levels of champions' play this series. All have been good enough to win, and some have done enough to make the quarter-finals. Four or five players have been very good, would make the quarters in most series. And then there's been Zarte Siempre. The number one seed won eight games in March, and never offered fewer than 10 maxima in a game. Zarte faced Jan Pask, winner of five games at the end of May. This wasn't so much a competition as an exhibition of Zarte's brilliance, and of Jan's good humour. Zarte won by 124-19, scored 11 maximum rounds, and the nine letter word Estimator.

The next two best players met early. Toby McDonald won eight in April and May, Philip Aston had his six-match winning streak stopped by Zarte. We had Toby as slight favourite, but no real surprise that Philip won 104-97. Both players went toe-to-toe, daring each other to make a mistake. Philip's winning words were "Ariola" and "Operates", Toby won just the one round with "Growers". Easy numbers games helped neither player.

Countdown Causing a commotion: Philip Aston.

Chris Thorn won his eight in January. Dougie Mackay was a seven-game winner in April. Both were very consistent players, and we reckoned this match could go to the wire. Dougie moves ahead after solving the first numbers game, and there the gap stayed. "Ten points ahead." "Ten points apart". We could almost replace Nick Hewer with a recording. Until the third numbers pick, and Dougie's lead increases to 17. Six small didn't do it for Chris, as it had in the heats. A pair of disallowed words breathed some interest into the game, then a nine "Dovetails" for Dougie, and that's it. Dougie wins, 97-68.

Last series, Finals Week was all octochamps, all the time. This series, there's just two octobattles. Phil Davies (eight in February) and Paul Harper (eight in May) meet for the right to be beaten by Zarte tomorrow. Phil takes the early lead with "Palates", then "Outranges", and it's 25-0 after two rounds, and we're already writing "game over" in our book. It's 42-0 after found rounds. And then Paul wins a couple of letters rounds, and another, and Phil makes a mis-declaration. Are we on for the greatest comeback since Lazarus? No; the non-English "pommes" stops Paul in his tracks, and 81-69 the final score. Much closer than it looked.


Countdown Top seed: Zarte Siempre.

How very disagreeable. Zarte's opening offer of "disagreer" is knocked back by Susie, the agent noun hasn't (yet) made the dictionary. Unusual for Zarte to be behind, and even more rare for him to still be behind at the anecdote – there's nothing to split the players in letters and numbers selections. The gap shrinks to a single point as Phil can't be "weasely" without another L.

The gap remains at one point even through the third numbers, a stinking six-small selection that has many ways to reach 918. Finally, after ten rounds behind, normal service is resumed. "Muriates" gives Zarte a seven-point lead, and it doubles when Phil tries "tonable" to no score. He might have been chasing the game, but Zarte has won by 112-88, and another 11-max game. Squeaky bum time for a while, and another cracking match.

What is "Monradite"? It's a mineral, and it's an 18-point lead for Philip Aston early in the second semi-final. That lead shrinks within moments, as Dougie solves a three-large numbers selection. It's game on, but it feels like Philip's more likely to snap back with a winner. He gets two, "Gayness" a great spot, and benefits from "Periods" when Dougie misses a sitter. It allows Philip to risk "loomier" – even after this falls, he's 15 ahead. The last numbers round pads Philip's score a little, 98-76.

Grand final

Back on 1 March, we were all shivering as the Beast from the East made it feel colder than cold. We were all warmed by a titanic Countdown battle, as Zarte Siempre defeated Philip Aston by 121-97. Today, 22 June, it's pleasantly warm, and two of the coolest customers are back. Zarte wants to become the latest Xicount, eleven games unbeaten in the main series. Philip wants to become the first player to lose a heat and win the series since Callum Todd at Christmas 2013. And he wants to be the only player other than reigning Champion of Champions Dylan Taylor to defeat Zarte.

Another titanic battle is in prospect, and nothing will be left on the shelf. Philip risks "Movables" in the opening round – he's not sure, but scores. "Titanic" is offered in round two. Zarte moves ahead after the adverts, "Repushed" is an eight-letter winner. Even "Cowgirls" get the blues, thanks to two particularly easy numbers games. "They're 30-second breathers," muses Rachel Riley. Nick Hewer gives £20 to Paul Zenon for his magic trick; let's hope Nick doesn't see the hucksters on Westminster Bridge.

"I want a numbers game worthy of the final." No, it's another easy round, like "Another" was a winning word for both players. The rounds tick down, "Idolator" wins for both players, and then something gives. Zarte offers "superking", only to hear "It's not there" from Susie Dent. Philip's offer, "Perusing" wins the round and draws him level.

90-90 becomes 108-108 as "Notarised" is almost spelled out on the board. "A real nine, this time," snarks Philip. Ooh, catty. This column can't get the last numbers game, but both players can. So it's 118-118 going into the crucial conundrum.

"Usedlogic" is the scramble. "Glucoside" the solution. Ten-and-a-half seconds is the time it takes Zarte to buzz in and get the answer. He wins, 128-118.

Back on 1 March, Zarte won by 12 maximum rounds to 11. He's never got more maximums in one show. Until today; Zarte scored the maximum in 14 rounds, Phil in 13. It's been a spectacular final, the peak to a high-quality week.

Countdown Zarte examines the fine company he's in.

And if you missed it, Channel 4 repeat this final at 6am on Monday 2 July. It'll be better than Good Morning Viewers, you be sure of it.

Brain of This Territory

BBC Light Programme, 1948 – present

"Knockout general knowledge in all senses of the word," promises our host, Russell Davies. Our competitors are:

  • Jack Bennett, a student from Lancaster
  • Clive Dunning, a teacher from Stockton-on-Tees
  • Mark Eves, an accountant from Bexley
  • Brian Thompson, retired teacher from Liverpool

They go for the Brain Silver Salver, a dish to polish and dust and buff for all eternity. Jack Bennett is timed out when he offers "Bishop of London", an easy point for Clive Dunning. Brian Thompson knows the places listed by The Proclaimers in "Letter from America", and that gives him a lead after round one.

Wogan's Cavern? Turns out to be in Pembroke, just beneath the castle, and not (as we all thought) a large space where a wine cellar once was. Clive Dunning scores three on his turn, and now trails Brian Thompson by 5-4.

Terry Wogan Nothing to do with Wogan's Cavern, apparently.

Even in this contest, we can learn something, like how Roman towns were on a north-south axis around their main street. With Brian Thompson not troubling the scorers, Clive Dunning moves ahead by 7-4.

"Gezundheit!" Literally translates as "your good health", and it's part of Jack Bennett's run of four in a row. He's defeated by a coin-hiding pub game known as spoof. Clive Dunning picks up two bonus points, and now leads Jack Bennett by 9-7.

Stamp collecting was originally known as "missionary", because the religious proselytisers used them most. The panel are defeated by where HMS Belfast trains its guns: Scratchwood service station, for reasons that should be obvious. That's part of Clive Dunning's four in a row, now leading by six points.

The final round's an anticlimax, as the contenders get just one of their own first questions right. Bonuses go around, and the final scores are Mark Eves 3, Jack Bennett 7, Brian Thompson 7, Clive Dunning 15.

So Clive Dunning, a teacher from Stockton-on-Tees, becomes the Brain of 2018. Well done to him, and we look forward to his appearance in Top Brain of 2020.

This Week and Next

Two new rounds on House of Games (3) this week.

  • Venn Will I Be Famous? Here are three famous faces. Here are two statements. Which of the faces fits both statements? Could have seen more than one pass of this.
  • Love Forty. Age comes to us all, and this round features two grown men running around a patch of grass, sometimes using a racket to hit an innocent ball. Good to see the contestants out of their seats, but not entirely sure this should have filled the whole of Tuesday's episode.

Raven The lights! The effects! The sheer impossibility!

No new challenges from the new series of Raven, so we could just watch and enjoy. Cheer for the good guys, go "gah" when needed, and wow at the marvellous series finale. Highlight had to be finalists Sotteo and Cahira playing the prism game, the only warriors out of 11 on Raven and Filteach to use all the information at her disposal. Lowlight remains how the contestants aren't colour-coded in the final tournament: from the back, when they're climbing trees, we cannot tell anyone from anyone else.

BARB ratings in the week to 10 June.

  1. Coronation Street is still the most popular show (ITV, Mon, 8.4m). Love Island is the most popular game show, the new series began with 4.05m viewers (ITV2, Mon), and all six weekly episodes were over 3.5m. Never before has an ITV2 game show topped our charts.
  2. The Chase for Soccer Aid came second (ITV, Fri, 2.9m), with the Ninja Warrior final third (ITV, Sat, 2.8m). No game shows made the BBC1 top 30.
  3. Breadxit Crème de la Crème brought the viewers to Channel 4 (Sun, 1.9m), in a way The Crystal Maze didn't (Fri, 1.45m). Mock the Week returned (BBC2, Thu, 1.25m), and House of Games continued (BBC2, Fri, 930,000).
  4. The Saturday night Love Island highlights show scored 1.09m. Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 745,000) comes next, with Taskmaster (Dave, Wed, 675,000) suffering against the Flack-and-Stirling juggernaut.
  5. Raven pulls 140,000 to CBBC (Mon), and Master of Photography brings 110,000 to Artsworld (Tue).

As the BBC marks the National Health Service, there's a quiz show, Best Junior Doctors (BBC2, weekdays). Radio 4 welcomes The 3rd Degree and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (both Mon).

After repelling pro-Poutine invaders on Thursday, Mark Pougatch's The World Cup With Stephen Mulhern moves into the Double Points Second Round. From next Saturday, we try to work with Schedule A, Schedule B, the dreaded Extra Time. When will Who Dares Wins be on? Will it be pointless tuning in for Pointless? We might even sneak a game of Kicks From The Penalty Mark (a 12 Yard format). Who knows!

Photo credits: YTV, BBC

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