Weaver's Week 2023-07-23

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Moneyball came back on ITV last night. Did you miss it? Well done.

Moneyball is not the best quiz involving a giant rolling ball on television at the moment. But this might be!


De kwiz met ballen

Talpa for SBS6, from 24 June

How can we tell? Not because it's on Dutch telly, though that always helps. No, it's a better show because it's not got just one giant rolling ball. It's not got just two giant rolling balls. De kwis met ballen has six (count 'em!) six giant rolling balls.

A huge ramp, six yellow balls, and a swimming pool.

The stars of the show start at the top of a ramp. From time to time, they'll be released to do what balls naturally do, and anything in their path will be given the most gentle of nudges forwards.

Which would be fine, except that this really gentle nudge forward is done to a human standing on the edge of a swimming pool. And if you get a gentle nudge from a giant rolling ball, you're going to fall into the water.

Gravity never takes a day off.

And that, folks, is De kwiz met ballen. Get the question right, or get knocked in the drink.

Now let's fill in a few details. Johnny De Mol is the host, he's the son of legendary game show producer John De Mol (Big Brother, The Voice, The DJ Kat Show); John De Mol also produces this show. The set is designed to look like a beach club, there are changing rooms painted on the set, and some rubber rings for people who might want to thrash around in the pool.

Johnny De Mol, the host with the most connections.

Our sample episode begins with a rollover team from last week. (Rollover team? Balls? Please yourselves.) Very quickly, we're reminded of what happened last week – that two of the players managed to get themselves knocked out on the first two questions.

Three players survive, and they're looking for correct answers to a question. It's question three of a possible ten. It's about children's rhymes, which of them have an animal in the words?

It helps to know lots of Dutch culture here.

Straight away, we find ourselves being sung at. Yes, to find the answer, the teams are singing their nursery rhymes back to themselves. There's a lot of singing to be done, it takes a really long time to get to a decision.

Eventually, after a lot of conferring and some singing, our players pick their answers. Each answer is numbered from one to six, and the player stands on a mark by the answer they think is correct.

Our contestants stand by their answers.

And then Johnny releases the balls. If you're standing on a right answer, you're safe – a little stick thing will pop up and halt the ball so it never reaches you.

But if you're standing on a wrong answer, there's nothing to stop the ball, and the small force of its impact will throw you literally six inches forward. And when six inches forward puts you over a drop, gravity will do the rest.

Ball 6 rolls down.


Eliminated contestants climb out of the pool, they're commiserated with. They then disappear into a changing cubicle to dry off, grab a fluffy yellow dressing gown, and sit on a sun lounger for the rest of the game. Might be asked to heckle or cheer from time to time, eliminated players don't get to give advice on the questions.

Oh dear. That's a knock-in.

The game continues. There's another question, about geography. Which of these places are at least 1000km from Amsterdam? Six options, of which only two are right. How do we know there are two right answers? Because two people are playing, two people are trying to answer, and both can survive to the end. There's always one right answer per player in the round.

Next, it's a question about people born in the current century. We recall that being a topic on Bridge of Lies. Indeed, the question-writing is as good as Bridge of Lies: these are questions to incite debate, to spark discussion. It's more natural to have it amongst members of a team, and Johnny De Mol is much more bouncy and insubstantial than the formidable Ross Kemp.

People born this century? Billie Eilish and Amalia d'Orange.

So long as someone gets each question right, they go up the money ladder. The money starts low – € 100 per correct answer to € 500, then it doubles at every turn to a maximum prize of € 25.000 (£21,550).

Later questions go on about amusement parks in the Netherlands, and about people who were alive in the same time as Albert Einstein. Yes, he lived in the same time as Walt Disney. Our team make light work of this, and very soon they're up to question eight of a possible ten.

Oh dear, an error. "Just push me in", says our player. And the host does.

Eliminated contestants lounge around like Talpa TV execs.

For such a frivolous and silly game, there's a palpable air of tension as we move to question nine. There's no "stop or play on" decision, you get the money for the last level you reached on the ladder. Play on until you're all wet.

€ 5000 guaranteed, € 10.000 if the one remaining player can get the one right answer

She cannot get the right answer. Never mind, it's a grand each, and the team leaves with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Enter our new heroes.

And so we must move on. Let's meet a new team, introduced by a punchy little video package. And a lovely shot, where the new players – and the balls – appear to rise up at the top of the ramp.

For what is a fairly basic show, they've got some really lovely visual moments – this "heroes coming over the mountain" swoop, and a "people falling in" camera just on the rim of the pool. They are very sparing with these shots, they're additions to the main flow of the game.

A very careful low shot.

The main shot is of a person teetering on the edge as a ball comes down the slope towards them. The camera angle is carefully chosen so as to hide the rising pole that could stop the ball – it literally happens behind the player's back.

Our new team descends, have a quick chat with the host. Everyone's in beach wear, denim shorts and loose t-shirts. Almost as if they know they're going for a dip very soon.

Not on the first question, everyone is able to pick a real cooking term, nobody tries to stand behind "onaneren", which is not the sort of beating we want to see in the kitchen. There's a longer discussion about people who were dead by 40. Four players pick their answer, then there's almost a stand-up row about who gets the last choices.

The debate goes on so long that Ball 3 knocks off for a cup of tea and a sticky bun.

And so the programme goes on. Each episode is 45 minutes of play, and a full game – where they get to question nine or ten – will last about two-thirds of this. That's long enough to get to know the team, but not so long that they bore us. And it means that most episodes will end with a rollover team for next week.

Let's be honest, nobody's going to watch De kwiz met ballen for highbrow quizzing. This is a fun show, an entertainment for the whole family. Youngest viewers want to see people being knocked in the pool, older folk can play along with the quiz, everyone chortles as the confident take a fall.

It's an amusement with prizes.

The show happens to have decent cash prizes, and in the hands of a good host it's a bright and breezy diversion. The kijkcijfers – viewing figures – have been low for SBS6's Saturday night average, but it looks to be reasonably cheap to produce, helped by some sponsorship from the yellow balls of the Dutch national lottery.

Could De kwiz met ballen work over here? Of course it could. It's the questions they can't quite get into Bridge of Lies coupled with a small bit of the tank from The Void – and a big blast of fun like ITV has almost forgotten how to do. Swap the euro for quid (bring the top prize down to £20,000 if you absolutely must), bring in Rylan or Ian Wright to host, and ITV has a very decent show for the slot currently occupied by Moneyball. And a repeat slot on ITV2, indefinitely – just as they've done with Supermarket Sweep and Stephen Mulhern's Catchphrase.

You don't get this anywhere else.

In other news

Didier Bruyère We're very sorry to report the death of Didier Bruyère. An excellent quizzer in any language, Didier featured in the final of Mastermind in 2013, went deep into the next series of Only Connect, and was a welcome regular on shows like BBC Brain and Fifteen-to-One. Off the television screen, he was World Quiz Champion in 2022, twice runner-up in the event, and four times on the podium in the European Quiz Championships. And all of this in his second language – Didier's first tongue was French. Didier Bruyère died on Tuesday; he is survived by his wife Anna.

Mastermind Didier Bruyère in 2013.

Yvonne Littlewood had died, aged 95. She was the outstanding producer and director in BBC Light Entertainment of the 1960s, with shows including the Eurovision Song Contest of 1963, long-running variety shows starring Nana Mouskouri, Petula Clark, and Val Doonican, and a long-standing association with the Royal Variety Show.

From the archives Twenty years this week since Jenson Button went lawnmower racing with Ted Kravitz. It's from the time when ITV showed the motor racing, and had a lot of time to fill. (This from the Why Don't Youtube newsletter, your one-stop guide to nostalgia from this week in television history.)

Quizzy Monday

Two of the four parts of Quizzy Monday came back this week: Only Connect and University Challenge. (We understand Mastermind is back in early August, no word on new House of Games.)

A question on the emphasis pattern in iambic tetrameter. Welcome to Only Connect, where the Gunners beat Cribbagers by 25-11. Gunners used at least one of their cat's lives, scoring with sequences of eight to five nations, without ever mentioning "nations". Just bobbled over the line. Not that this altered the game at all – the sequences and wall didn't fall for the Cribbagers, they did fall for the Gunners, and the lopsided result doesn't reflect the sides' abilities.

They picked a good game to start the University Challenge series, as Manchester The Team Everyone Wants To Beat drew with Trinity Cambridge, 175-175. Manchester won the tiebreak, asking about the Guerilla Girls' poster "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?"

The local side had the best of early exchanges, but fell behind 110-55 at one point. Three starters at the end pushed them back into contention. For our money the turning point was a bonus set on three word phrases of a common length – Manchester talked to each other, puzzled it out. We appreciated the starter asking about the Warwickshire CC, the superteam of 1994, when UC was revived.

The Week does not rush to judgement. University Challenge is a long series. We want to give new host Amol Rajan a fair crack of the whip, assess his performance over an extended period. We're not going to give a running commentary, and intend to defer discussion until December – either the end of the year, or a Week in December.

Quiz digest

  • Rio de Janiero and Tokyo are almost exact antipodes points. Go through the centre of the earth for the shortest way from Dan Walker's Beach Book Club to (er) whatever the highlight of Tokyo '20 was. (University Challenge)
  • Louis Diat invented the vichyssoise soup, to cool off overheated patrons at his New York restaurant. Regrettably for our memory, the restaurant was the Ritz-Carlton, not the I Touladis. (Telegraph Pub Quiz)

This column's going to have a bit of a summer pause: no edition next week, and when we return on 6 August it's a Living Legend look back at the career of Gordon Burns.

Between now and then, Quizzy Mondays continues at reduced power, aided by fresh episodes of Pointless from 1 August (BBC1), Alexander is joined by Lucy Porter from Pro/Celebrity Face/Off. Richard Osman's also on a break, no House of Games in the first week of August. On BBC3, The Traitors Down Under continues (three eps a week, concluding on Wednesday 2 August).

Celebrity Masterchef is back (BBC1, 2 August) with Dani Dyer and Marcus Brigstocke. RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under (BBC3, Fridays) airs a few hours after first transmission in Australia.

Pictures: Talpa, BBC.

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