Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Deal or No Deal to end (finally)

Well, it's been a long time coming, but, last Friday, Channel 4 finally announced that Deal will not be recommissioned and will end this December, after just over eleven years on air.

Hardly surprising. The show has been on its last legs for some time, and the two month break last year, and the five month and ongoing break this year has only really served to confirm that the show is running out of steam, and that the show was on its way out.

But it is still sad news, despite it being almost certainly the right thing to do.

Back in November 2005, when the show was just a few weeks old, Weaver's Week wrote:
  • "With the possible exception of Swap Shop, Noel has always dragged a joke out beyond the point at which it's funny. Late Late Breakfast, for example, had become an unwatchable mess long before it was forced into cancellation. House Party should have come off air in 1995 or 96. when it was still at the peak of its game. The less said about the final series of Telly Addicts the better."
TBH, I think the same thing could be said of Deal. IMO, the show should either have come off the air at the end of 2013, on the back of the high of the first male £250,000-aire and with nothing else really left to see, or at the end of 2014, having tried and failed to re-invent itself with Box 23 and the Offer Button and bowed out while still half-watchable.

But, having reached nine years, I can understand TPTB wanting to film another batch of shows, enough to take it up to its tenth birthday. Fair enough, but, nearly two years after being filmed, the final batch of shows still hasn't finished being shown! (Thanks Fifteen-to-One 2.0!)

The writing was on the wall for the show's prospects as early as the start of 2013. Despite being one of the better periods of the hour-long era, the viewing figures had capitulated from around the low millions to non-Only Connect BBC4 level figures. Three things this could be attributed to: the rise of Tipping Point on ITV, the loss of the CBBC slot on BBC1, and just a general feeling that the show had run its course.

The addition of Box 23, at the start of 2014, and the Offer Button, that September, were presumably designed to try and claw back some of the lost viewing figures. But all they really did was alienate the loyal long term viewers, who felt the show had well and truly shark-jumped, and that the idea of a blue win of any kind suddenly being rescued by +£10,000 for no risk whatsoever was completely unfair, especially on the pre-Box 23 blue winners who hadn't had that luxury.

Of course, there had been a few pre-Box 23 instances of a blue winner getting bailed out. Paul 'PJ' Johnson, who won 1p in May 2007 after being given a swap-only final offer on a 1p-£75,000 final offer (he had swapped at the first offer but left his old box to the end); after his win, the Banker told him he could also win whatever that day's prize was on the viewer's competition they had going at the time. Thus, he got an extra £15,000, the maximum possible, for his troubles. (Anji Marks, who won 1p in similar circumstances three years later, was not allowed such a bailout, much to everyone's fury)

And in August 2008, Brian Kelly, the first player following the show's summer break, won just 50p, and then revealed he had a very modest target of about £2,500 so he could pay off his mother's mortgage. After his game was over, the Banker offered to pay him the £2,500 for the coffee mug he had bought along as a good luck charm. Very few were impressed by this.

Many people think PJ's result was the first time the show went too far with its treatment of its players. I remember David 'KP' Howes describing it as 'the death of a TV show', or words to that extent. He said the same thing earlier that year when Craig Collier, who played immediately after Laura Pearce's first ever £250,000 win, was given swap-only offers until the £250,000 went!

The show regularly attracted huge audience of circa 2,500,000 for most of the first two or so years of its run. After that, however, the show began to lose its appeal, on the grounds that the format was now tried and tested, and the increasing number of 'sob story' players, clearly chosen because TPTB thought their story would make it easier to root for them. One could say, however, this was one of Deal's strong points during it's middle years: players from all walks of life gelling brilliantly as a team.

This was also, however, one of the show's biggest problems. Because the players had become such good friends and genuinely cared about each other, they, naturally, didn't want to see each other crash in their games, and thus would advocate they take the money while they had the chance. This came to a head during the summer of 2013, when almost every player advocated their friends to take the money while they still could, leading to the Banker decreasing his offer generosity and not really upping it again until the following summer.

By 2010, the show was still drawing respectable audiences of just over 1 and a half million. Even as late as late 2012, the show was still getting half decent figures of around 1.25 million. It wasn't really until 2013 that the figures dropped dramatically.

The move to an hour long slot in 2011 is often cited to be when the show started to lose its appeal (due to the extra run time requiring extra chat/padding). Figures show the ratings survived the increase at first, and it wasn't really until later that year/next year that things began to drop seriously.

I suppose, when you've got a show running (almost) daily, weekly, the format will slow easily, and you need to twiddle with things a bit to keep the viewers interested. The arrival of the Banker's Gamble in late 2007, whereby a contestant could give back their winnings at the final offer and open their box and win its contents, was met with a mixed response, to say the least. And, while most gradually accepted it as a legitimate device over time, many, including almost the entire regular frequenters of the now defunct ilovedealornodeal.com, never accepted it, and would describe any game in which it was used as 'rubbish', regardless of whether it was dealt or not.

To be fair, however, the show has done terrifically to run as long as it has. Many, including myself, have felt the show has overrun its course and should have ended a couple of years ago, but to reach eleven years on air isn't bad for a daily daytime show. In the same article I quoted earlier, WW wrote:
  • "This column is not convinced that Deal or No Deal will last forever, or even as long as Weakest Link... It will have a good run, of that we're certain."
Again, that's pretty much whats happened. It has had a good run, though only a few months short of the eleven and a half year run of Annie R. and co.

We will always have fond memories of the high and low points of Deal's run; they can never be wiped. But now is definitely the time to put the show away and let it go with dignity. The door will always be open for some kind of revival at some point, but the original show has run its course, and now is the time for it to finish up.

Thank you Noel, Glenn and co for the memories; we'll always have plenty of them.

Back with my usual UC review on Monday. See yous then.

Monday, 22 August 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 7: Balliol vs Imperial

Evening all. Back to the usual time slot this week, in a week when I've been seriously thinking about the future of the show and of this blog. I will try not to use the same phrases within all my reviews from now on, and I have also had a think about how the show's format could be tweaked and made fairer. I'll maybe publish my thoughts on that later in the week. On with tonight.

Balliol College Oxford is one of the university's oldest, founded in 1265 by John de Balliol, and alumni include prime ministers Asquith, Macmillan and Heath, another political heavyweight Denis Healey, and quiz legend Ian Bayley, who represented the college on the show in 2000-01. The college last sent a team three years ago, who unluckily lost in the first round; the 98-99 team reckon they could've won had they not lost their first match due to a dubious question. This year's foursome were:
Freddie Potts, from Newcastle, studying History
Jacob Lloyd, from London, studying English
Captain: Joey Goldman, from London, studying Philosophy and Theology
Ben Pope, from Sydney, studying Astrophysics

Imperial College London was founded in 1907, becoming independent on it's centenary, and alumni include penicillin re-rediscover Sir Alexander Fleming, Skyline from the DoND forum, and quiz legend Ian Bayley, who represented the college on the show in 96-97. It won the series in 95-96 and 2000-01, finishing second the following year; last year's impressive team fell in the quarter-finals. This year's quartet were:
Rupert Belsham, from London, studying Physics
Lottie Whittingham, from Tincleton in Dorset, studying Medicine
Captain: Jasper Menkus, from San Francisco, studying Physics
Nas Andriopoulos, from Bradford-on-Avon, studying Chemistry with Molecular Physics

Off we set again then, and the first starter of the night was taken by Mr Belsham, but his side didn't take any bonuses on Germany. Mr Lloyd took the second starter for Balliol, and they went one better than their opponents, taking one bonus on wikis. Neither side recognised the colour 'shocking pink' for the next starter; Balliol lost five on the next, allowing Imperial to take the lead, but no bonuses followed again. The first picture round was on maps with countries highlighted whose two letter abbrevs form a capital city's name (BR-US-SE-LS); neither side got that, but Imperial, who got the bonuses, took two of them. Thus, they led 40-10.

It was then Imperial's turn to lose five; Balliol couldn't pick up, but Mr Pope did take the next starter, and a full bonus set on astronomy went their way, including the Hale-Bopp comet, which, thanks to HIGNFY, I've always assumed was pronounced 'Hally-Bopp'. Imperial then unluckily lost another five on the next starter, allowing Mr Pope the dubious pleasure of correctly answering 'Taylor Swift'! Just the one bonus accompanied that starter. Mr Menkus identified rhinoceroses to take Imperial back into the match, but, again, they dropped all the resultant bonuses.

The music round, on pieces influenced by Antonio Salieri, went to Balliol, who couldn't take any of the bonuses, but they still slenderly led 60-40. Mr Pope unluckily lost five on the next starter, buzzing after the question mark and getting caught out by extra spiel; Imperial couldn't pick up. Mr Potts made up for his colleague's error by taking the next starter, allowing his side to take two bonuses. A second starter in a row went to Mr Potts, and a bonus set on the views of EH Gombrich proved to their liking, as they took a full set.

The second picture round, on robots in films, went to Balliol, who took two bonuses, increasing their lead to 120-40. The Oxonians now had the bits between their collective teeth, as Mr Goldman took the next starter and a full bonus set on Anglo-Japanese treaties added to their score. Mr Pope got just close enough to the next starter's answer for Paxo to give leeway and the points, and when the side took two bonuses, that was most likely game over.

Unless Imperial could get a run together. Mr Goldman didn't want to let them though; he identified Martin Amis for the next starter, and the side, again, took two bonuses on chemistry. A slip-up would surely prove immaterial to the final score; Imperial picked up the points, ensuring they wouldn't be joining the Sub-50 Club. Just one bonus followed. Mr Lloyd took Balliol's latest starter, and a full bonus set lifted them over the 200-mark. Another Balliol starter, two more bonuses, and another immaterial, unpicked-up penalty ended the match. At the gong, Balliol won 220-55.

An odd match that started slowly, then shot into gear once Balliol gathered steam in the second half. Unlucky Imperial, who were undone in the second half having been very much in it in the first, but thanks very much for playing. Very well done to Balliol though; an excellent first showing despite the slow start, and they could be one to watch in the next round. Best of luck to them for then!

Messrs Goldman and Pope were joint best buzzers of the night, with four each, while Mr Menkus was Imperial's best with two. On the bonuses, Balliol converted a decent 24 out of 36 (with a not so decent four penalties), while Imperial managed just 3 out of 15 (with two penalties), and, once again, all eight players got at least one starter correct.

Next week's match: Robinson College Cambridge vs Wadham College Oxford, in a repeat of a very one sided first round match from ten years ago! (It's on YT somehwere)

Only Connect saw the first of the play-offs from the first half of the draw. I'll cover it alongside the second next week, as I'm away for a couple of nights as of tomorrow. I do, however, plan to talk more about Deal, given it has now officially be cancelled. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Ground A Round 1: Match 6: Korfballers vs Channel Islanders

OK, you may have noticed I've gone back and changed the titles of my previous reviews of this series. I've done so for reasons that will become clear at the end of this review. Whatever the case, this was the final match of the top half of the draw, and the runners-up would need to beat 13 to definitely come back. Playing were the Korfballers, Taissa Csaky, Niall Sheekey and captain Michael Jelley (brother of Simon Jelley of the Technologists from Series 5) and the Channel Islanders, Sean McManus, his wife Caroline, and her daughter captain Tabitha Osbourne.

Round 1. The Islanders went first, and kicked off the show with Eye of Horus: 'Rugby league: Keegan Hurst', then 'Cricket: Steven Davies', then 'Football: Thomas Hitzlsperger', and finally 'Rugby union: Gareth Thomas'. They offered that they all moved in from another sport; not right. Their opponents offered that they were the first players of those sports to come out as gay; close enough: they weren't the first, but they are all openly gay sportsmen. For their own first question, the Korfballers chose Two Reeds: 'Cold Mountain', then 'Litchfield', then 'Slade', and finally 'Azakaban'. They mentioned it at the third clue, but got it for sure at the fourth: they are fictional prisons. The Islanders chose Lion next: 'Perforated number', then 'Three-dimensional watermarks', then 'Ada Lovelace, Anish Kapoor and the Penny Black', and finally 'Embedded RFID chip containing image of holder'. They didn't get it, and their opponents didn't get it precise enough: they can all be found on UK passports. The Korfballers chose Twisted Flax next, and got the music question: we heard Alan Price's 'Don't Stop the Carnival', then Rihanna's 'Don't Stop the Music', then 'Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough' by MJ; this was enough for them to offer 'Don't Stop' for two points, having not recognised the first track, but they did know the other two. The Islanders chose Water next, and got the picture set: we saw a drawing of Shakespeare's the Tempest with Miranda circled, then a map of the US with the city of Charlotte highlighted, then the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue panel with the empty seat for Samantha circled, and finally Stephen King's Carrie. They didn't get it, and their opponents didn't either. I did though, and they saw it too late: they are characters from Sex and the City. Left with Horned Viper, the Korfballers saw 'Annabel Lee', then 'Delilah', then 'Rebecca', and finally 'Weekend at Bernie's'. They didn't quite get it, their opponents hit the nail on the head: they are works where the eponymous character is dead. At the end of the first round, the Korfballers led 4-1.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Islanders kicked the round off with Two Reeds: 'Baht', then 'Riel', and then 'Dong'; they correctly offered 'Yuan' for two points, the sequence being Asian currencies going west to east towards China. The Korfballers chose 'Lion' next: 'Quantity of fights: 5', then 'Quantity of fighters: 4', and then 'Cessation of fighting: 3'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. They are the rules of Fight Club, so 'Secrecy: 2' would complete the set. (The numbers represent the number of the rule, rather than a quantity) The Islanders chose Twisted Flax next, and got the picture set: we saw Sir Elton John, then John Hannah, and then Hannah Gordon; they offered 'Gordon Brown' for two points, the link being a simple overlapping of names. (As someone has pointed out, they surely wouldn't have been able to get that until the third clue) The Korfballers chose Eye of Horus next: 'Kings' (crosses out), then 'Elvis' (ditto), and then 'Zimmerman' (ditto again). Neither side got this very obscure question: it is John Lennon's song 'God' and what he claims not to believe in, so 'Beatles' (crossed out) completes the set. For their final choice, the Islanders chose Water: 'Georgie', then 'David', and then 'Bertie'; they offered 'Lilibet', correct for two points, the sequence being family nicknames for the four most recent monarchs. Left with Horned Viper again, the Korfballers saw 'Buenos Aires (3)', then 'La Paz (4)', and then 'New York (5)'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: it is simply places that are 3, 4 and 5 hours behind UK time, so 'New Orleans (6)' would acceptably complete the set. At the end of the second round, the Islanders led 8-4.

On to the Walls. The Korfballers, having not scored since the first round, chose the Water wall. They spotted two links, and fairly quickly resolved them: 'Houston', 'Amarillo', 'Austin' and 'Corpus Christi' are places in Texas, while 'Exeter', 'Balliol', 'Regent's Park' and 'Merton' are, as any UC fan will know, Oxford colleges. (Regent's Park, of course, defeated A. Guttenplan's Emmanuel in the first round) They carefully looked over the remaining clues, and, on their final go, resolved it: 'Bike', 'Lion', 'Range' and 'Standard Time' can all follow 'Mountain', while 'Ash', 'Ripley', 'Dallas' and 'Lambert' are characters in Alien, both of which they got. A full house there, so ten points.

The Islanders thus needed a good result from the Lion wall to maintain the pace. They also spotted some links, and eventually isolated 'Bergamot', 'Seville', 'Navel' and 'Blood', which are types of orange. They then fairly quickly spotted and isolated 'Cadiz', 'Santander', 'Alicante' and 'Barcelona', which are Spanish ports. They tried to resolve what they had left, but, not recognising any links, ran out of tries. 'Lion's', 'Damascus', 'Dung' and 'Jaffa' are Jerusalem Wall gates, while '1977', 'Toaster', 'Valencia' and 'X Pro II' are filters on Instagram, neither of which they got. So four points there, which meant the Korfballers led 14-12 going into the final round.

So, the match, and the play-off teams, would be decided by Missing Vowels. 'Fictional nobility', such as 'COUNT DRACULA', went to the Korfballers 4-0. 'Words that rhyme with 'clues'' went to the Korfballers 3-0, with the Islanders getting one right but one wrong. 'More is worse', such as 'POINTS ON A DRIVING LICENSE', went to the Korfballers 3-1. 'Types of insurance' saw the Korfballers get the first one right, and the Islanders get timed out before they could answer the second. The Korfballers won 25-13.

A good match between two close teams who were pretty much level right until the end. Well done Korfballers, and best of luck in the next round! Unlucky Islanders, whose score means they are joint third with the Bardophiles and the Cousins. So, in this situation, the two who scored the most points in the first two rounds go through, so it's the Cousins, who scored 4 to the Bardophiles' 6 and the Islanders' 8, who miss out. Hard lines to them, but best of luck to the Islanders in their play-off.

Next week's match: the Bardophiles vs the Taverners in the first play-off. Presumably followed the week after by the Verbivores vs the Channel Islanders. So, now you know why I changed the names.

Incidentally, I may be away next week, so my review of next week's show will be the week after alongside that week's show.

Monday, 15 August 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 6: Emmanuel vs Nottingham

Evening all. A second early start tonight, but back to normal next week, so hope you haven't got too used to it. Many have complained about the Olympics flipping between channels every half hour or so, but at least it keeps the EastEnders moaners happy, so it's fine by me. Match of the Day got the same treatment yesterday and Saturday, although that may have been so that as many people as possible could see if Mr Lineker kept his promise! On with tonight's show.

Emmanuel College Cambridge was founded in 1584, and alumni include novelist Sebastian Faulks, Python star Graham Chapman and dirty old man Rory McGrath. The college, as you'll no doubt know, won the show in 2009-10 thanks to the buzzer brilliance of Alex Guttenplan, who, along with Gail T. the previous year, helped transform UC from niche quiz into must-see telly. This year's foursome, with a lot to live up to, were:
Tom Hill, from London, studying History
Leah Ward, from Oxfordshire, studying Maths
Captain: Bobby Seagull, from East Ham in London, studying Education specialising in Maths
Bruno Barton-Singer, from Wandsworth in London, studying Physics

Nottingham University was founded in the 1920s, becoming a university in 1948, and alumni include writer DH Lawrence and former MI6 head Sir John Sawyers. It has regularly sent teams throughout the BBC era; last year's team won a low scoring first round match before falling in the second round, as well as infuriating Twitter by mistaking Tony Adams for Martin Keown! This year's quartet were:
Joseph Meethan, from Plymouth, studying Viking Studies
Wester van Urk, from Culemborg in the Netherlands, studying Maths
Captain: Hugh Smith, from Brighton, studying International Social Policy
Isaac Cowan, from Ottawa, studying Medicine

Off we set again then, and an immediate slip-up from Emmanuel allowed Mr van Ukr to take the first starter for Nottingham, and two bonuses on Euro coins followed. (No Scotland-Finland confusion this time!) A second penalty reduced Emmanuel to (-10), and Nottingham gave a repeat performance to give them an early 50 point lead, though sadly a bonus set on Wernher von Braun made no mention of Tom Lehrer! Third time lucky, Emmanuel returned to 0 thanks to Mr Seagull, and they also took two bonuses. A second starter went to Mr Meethan, but no bonuses on aquarium fish went the Trentsiders' way. The first picture round, on purpose built capital cities, went to Nottingham, who swept the board, upping their lead to 75-20.

Mr Meethan lost five on the next starter after being beaten by a swerve, allowing Mr Seagull to take the points for Emmanuel, but just one bonus followed. Mr Barton-Singer then took a second starter in a row for the Cambridge side, and a somewhat complicated biochemistry bonus set nonetheless gave them two correct answers. Emmanuel then took a third starter in a row; two bonuses from a complex set on novelists' names (one of which they deliberated for ages on, earning applause when they got it right!) reduced the gap to just five. Mr Meethan increased the lead by taking the next starter, but just one bonus followed this time.

The music round, on operatic duets, went to Nottingham, who couldn't take any of the bonuses, but nonetheless still led 95-65. Emmanuel were now nipping their heels, though, as Mr Seagull took the next starter, and bonuses on Italian history gave us the comedy moment of the night as they indirectly suggested Berlusconi was around in 1861! A starter was dropped, before Miss Ward pulled Nottingham back to within five points, and a full house on the Song of Ice and Fire novel series (aka Game of Thrones) gave them the lead for the first time.

Mr Smith identified the late Sir Christopher Lee for the second picture starter; the bonuses, on film stills of him, gave them two correct answers and the lead back, 115-105. A very quick buzz from Mr Meethan doubled that lead, but just one bonus on European football stadiums followed. Mr Hill now took his first starter of the match, but Emmanuel got nothing from a complicated bonus set.

Mr Hill then took a second starter in a row, and a full bonus set on foreign words that have different meanings in English, gave them a 10-point lead. Mr Cowan took a punt on the next starter, but lost five, and allowed Mr Barton-Singer to take the points, and two literary bonuses. And when Mr Hill took the next starter, that was likely game over; Emmanuel took one bonus just to make sure. Mr Cowan did take the final starter of the game for Nottingham, but none of the bonuses went with it. At the gong, Emmanuel won 175-135.

A fine close match between two decent teams who both deserve to come back one way or another. Unlucky Nottingham, who just let it get away from them at the end, and whose score is right on the borderline for the play-offs; hopefully they'll get another go, but thanks for playing in the mean time. Well done to Emmanuel though; a fine first effort against decent opposition, despite the unsteady start, and very best of luck to them next time.

Mr Meethan was the night's best buzzer with four, while Messrs Hill, Seagull and Barton-Singer all got three for Emmanuel. On the bonuses, Emmanuel converted an OK 17 out of 30, while Nottingham managed 11 out of 26; both sides incurred two penalties and, yet again, all eight players got at least one starter right.

Next week's match: Balliol College Oxford vs Imperial College London

Only Connect saw it's final match of the first half of the first round tonight, and the play-off matches for the first half actually start next week. All will hopefully become clear when I do my usual review tomorrow night.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Fifteen to One 2.0: Series 6 Final

So, another grand final of Fifteen-to-One 2.0, the second hardest game show ever made, according to UKGS's poll last December.

It's been a low scoring series, with the highest score being Barbara Levy's 191, and the second highest the 152 of Gilly Rawlinson and Steve Clarke. George Scratcherd, UC alumnus, ran up a score of 161 before running out of lives and being ruled out.

Playing in this afternoon's final were: Ms Levy, Lawrence Cook (conqueror of Jim Gratrex), Mr Clarke, Philip Mayall, Ms Rawlinson, Brian Chesney (runner-up in last year's Brain of Britain, amongst other things), Ken Key, Gerry Keen-Haudin, Keith Hutchings, Michael Howarth, Rob Mansfield, Hugh Rowntree, Huw Pritchard (runner-up of OC Series 7 with the Celts), Tom Rowell and Mel Kinsey.

Like last series, only two players, Ms Rawlinson and Mr Rowntree, were knocked out in the first round, but only four progressed to the second round with their three lives intact.

During the second round, most of the attacks seemed to be centered upon Ms Levy, who Sandi, I think rightly, said the other saw as a threat. She was eventually knocked out in 10th place. Several others fell in quick succession, until eventually four players were left, Messrs Cook, Chesney, Key and Pritchard. Ken had control, and chose to target Lawrence, who he nominated twice in a row, and he got both wrong, sending him out 4th.

And so the final three were: Brian Chesney, Ken Key and Huw Pritchard.

The final, as usual, was forty questions all on the buzzer. Ken and Brian both lost a life early on on the same question (the rules having been changed for the final so that wrong answered questions are thrown open to the other players), but the early questions were spread fairly evenly.

Ken then got a second wrong, leaving him with just one life left rather early. Brian then got a second wrong and was too left with one life, leaving Huw the only one with all three. However, all three were soon level on points with 32 each. After this, though, Brian and Huw began to run away together, leaving Ken trailing.

With ten questions to go, Huw was ahead on 92, with Brian on 82 and Ken 62. Brian drew level and then took the lead. Huw drew level again, and it was now probably a two horse race. This was confirmed when Ken got a third wrong, and was knocked out third.

Brian was now ten in front, but Huw still had his three lives left to Brian's one, and there were just five left. The next two were dropped, neither man taking a needless risk. Huw then took the third-last, drawing level. Brian got the penultimate question, meaning it would all be decided on the final question. If Brian got it, he'd win; if Huw got it, he'd win by virtue of having more lives left. Brian got the buzzer first... and got it wrong.

Huw didn't need to answer, but he did anyway, and got it right just to make sure.

And so, after a grand final just about as close and exciting as the previous one, Huw Pritchard is the new champion and won the £40,000! Well done to him, and congrats to Brian and Key too for a great contest.

So that's it for Fifteen-to-One 2.0 for now, but two more series have been commissioned for next year, both fifty shows long if I understand correctly. I am seriously considering putting an application in for one of them, so watch this space.

I'll be back next week with my usual Quizzy Monday review. See you then.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Only Connect Series 12: Group A Round 1: Match 5: Shutterbugs vs Highgates

So, on to Only Connect. The task for tonight's teams: win, or failing that, lose with a score of 14 or more to guarantee a return in the play-offs. Playing last night were the Shutterbugs, Jasmine Leonard, Adam Ardron and captain Jenny Skene, and the Highgates, John Aldersey-Williams, Stephen Bowden and captain Tom Bannatyne.

Round 1. The Shutterbugs went first, and kicked the show off with Water: 'Icelandic: Bra Bra', then 'Danish: Rap Rap', then 'French: Coin Coin'; at this point they offered noises made by telephones in those languages. Not right. The final clue the Highgates saw was win Greek, so I can't really retype it here, but they correctly identified them as being what a duck makes in those languages for a bonus. For their own first question, the Highgates chose Twisted Flax: 'Cot', then 'Holland', then 'Chira', and finally 'Bonapart'. They identified that adding a letter to the end of the clues all gave the name of a French president (Coty, Hollande, Chirac, Bonaparte) The Shutterbugs chose Two Reeds next, and got the music set: we heard Word Up by Cameo, then Golden Earring's classic Radar Love, then a song by Jesus and Mary Chain, and finally Manic Monday by the Bangles. They offered 'jewelry' correctly for a point. The Highgates chose Lion next: 'Gilbert Chilvers (A Private Function)', then 'Brian Hope/Sister Euphemia (Nuns on the Run)', then 'Man with Rock (Jabberwocky)'; they offered 'roles played by Monty Python actors', which was correct for two points. The Shutterbugs chose Eye of Horus next: 'Penthouse (2016)', then 'Auto Trader (2013)', then 'The Dandy (2012)'; they offered 'magazines and the year they ceased publication', which was close enough, the correct answer being the year they went online only. Left with Horned Viper, the Highgates got the picture set, and saw comedian Rhys Darby, then actress Jennifer Ehle, then Angela Rippon, and finally Adrian Lester. They got it at the final one: their names are all homophones of citys in the UK. At the end of the first round, the Highgates led 5-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Shutterbugs kicked off the round with Horned Viper: 'Lead', then 'A copper', and then 'Palladium'. They didn't see it, their opponents did: a gym class completes the set. They are Pb, (a) PC, Pd and PE. Excellent question. For their own question, the Highgates chose Eye of Horus: 'RightsFlow', then 'YouTube', and then 'Google'. This time, they didn't get it, but the opposition did: 'Alphabet' completes the set, as each clue is the parent company of the previous one. For their own question, the Shutterbugs chose Lion: '5th: Johnson', then '3rd=: Underwood and Dallaglio'; they spotted the link to be the most capped rugby players, but their answer of '1st: Wilkinson' was wrong. The Highgates saw '2nd: Wilkinson', and offered '1st: Leonard' for a bonus. For their own question, the Highgates chose Twisted Flax, and got the picture set: we saw the author Dodie Smith, then Dodi Fayed, and then the crest of the Department of Defense. Neither team identified Smith or Fayed and thus didn't get it. The musical note 'Do' can complete the set that's pretty obvious when written out. For their final choice, the Shutterbugs chose Two Reeds: 'Outstanding Production', then 'Outstanding Motion Picture'; at this point they spotted it to be what the Best Picture Oscar was formerly called, but took the third clue of 'Best Motion Picture' before offering 'Best Picture' for two points. Left with Water, the Highgates saw 'Sant Francesc', then 'Vila d'Eivissa', and then 'Mahon'. They spotted it to be the capitals of the Balearic Islands in increasing order of size, and offered 'Palma' for two points. At the end of the second round, the Highgates led 9-6.

On to the Walls. The Highgates went first, and chose the Water wall. It was a tough wall. Very tough indeed. They spotted numerous links, but couldn't isolate any of the sets. They eventually ran out of time, and had to pick up bonus connection points. 'Frenchman's Creek', 'Jamaica Inn', 'The Birds' and 'The Scapegoat' are works by Daphne du Maurier, which they got, 'Eve', 'Rebecca', 'Bathsheba' and 'Tamar' are women in the Old Testament, which they didn't get, 'Otter', 'Exe', 'Torridge' and 'Dart' are rivers in Devon, they they did get, while 'Harbour', 'Cheque', 'Theatre' and 'Axe' are words spelt differently in the States, which they didn't. Just two points there.

The Shutterbugs thus had a real chance if they could make the most of the Lion wall. This wall was not much better though. They did, however, manage one set: 'Bottle', 'Nerve', 'Pluck' and 'Spunk' are words for courage. They couldn't untangle anything else, and thus had to also pick up bonus points. 'Dishwater', 'Ash', 'Platinum' and 'Strawberry' are shades of blonde, which they got, 'Crossing', 'Grit', 'Arizona' and 'Proxy' are Coen Brothers films, which they didn't get, while 'Atom-probe-field-ion', 'Dissecting', 'Simple' and 'Electron' are microscopes, which they also missed. So just three there, which gave the Highgates an 11-9 lead going into the final round.

So Missing Vowels would decide the game. 'Breeds of British sheep' went to the Shutterbugs 2-(-1), giving them the lead. 'Brand names for food with holes', such as 'CHEERIOS', went to the Shutterbugs 2-1. 'Times of day', such as 'TWENTY-FIVE TO FIVE', went to the Shutterbugs 2-0, and that was time. The Shutterbugs won 15-11.

A good match with both teams hampered by two very tough walls, the toughest I've seen in a while. Unlucky Highgates, whose score sadly isn't enough to bring them back, but well done anyway on a gallant effort. Well done Shutterbugs, and best of luck next time!

Next week's match: Korfballers vs Channel Islanders

Monday, 8 August 2016

University Challenge 2016-17: Round 1: Match 5: Oriel vs Manchester

Evening all. An early start today due to the Olympics being moved to BBC2 to allow EastEnders to be shown on BBC1. Thankfully, most of the Twittersphere made it on time. And well done to our old friend James Gratrex, who finished third in this afternoon's Fifteen-to-One 2.0; the final of that is on Thursday, and I will of course recap it at some point. On with tonight.

Oriel College Oxford is one of Oxford's oldest colleges, founded in 1326. Alumni include historian AJP Taylor, maths genius Rachel Riley and quiz legend David Stainer, who captained the Oriel side that finished second in UC in 98-99. They were runners-up again the following year, but their most recent performance before tonight, in 2003-04, was a heavy first round defeat. This year's foursome were:
Eoin Monaghan, from Banbridge in County Down, studying PPE
Alec Siantonas, from Cambridge, studying Philosophy
Captain: Nathan Helms, from Dallas, studying Philosophy
Tobias Thornes, from Worcestershire, studying Atmospheric Physics

Manchester University has been nicknamed by WW 'the Team Everyone Wants to Beat', due to its exceptional record on UC in the ten years from the merge with UMIST in 2004, winning four times (once by default after that disqualification, of course) and reaching at least the semis every other time. The bubble has deflated in the past two years though, with defeats in the second round two years ago, and the first last year. No doubt hoping to re-establish the formidable reputation were this year's quartet of:
Aaron Morrison-Griffiths, from Liverpool, studying Medicine
Jane Scanlon, from Reading, studying Linguistics
Captain: Joseph Bath, from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, studying Physics with Philosophy
Owen Michael, from Colwyn Bay, studying Maths

Off we set again then, and Mr Michael took the first starter of the night for Manchester, and two bonuses on women born in the 1870s. Mr Michael then lost five after misunderstanding the question; Oriel couldn't capitalise, but Mr Thornes promptly opened the Oxford side's account, and all three bonuses on Germanic tribes. Another misunderstanding saw Manchester miss another starter, and they then lost another five; Mr Monaghan (another Countdown alumnus, runner-up of the Autumn 2010 series) took the points, but just one bonus followed this time. The first picture round, on equations and their eponymous formulators, went to Manchester, who took one, which reduced their deficit to 40-25.

Mr Siantonas moved the Oxford side further ahead, and a bonus set of declarations of love in 19th century literature saw Paxo struggle to keep a straight face numerous times! Two were taken. Another penalty dropped Manchester further back, and allowed Mr Monaghan to take the points; the resultant bonuses on the 80s miners strike gave us the second best comedy moment of the night, with them suggesting a Mr D. Trump was involved! (I got Arthur Scargill and Sir Ian MacGregor) Mr Bath brought Manchester back into proceedings, and the old trick of saying the same thing to all three bonuses earned them five points on the final one!

The music starter saw Mr Siantonas give us the best comedy moment of the night by mistaking Bo Diddley for Cole Porter! ("COLE PORTER?!") The bonuses, on tracks written around the Bo Diddley beat, eventually went to Oriel, who dropped all three (though they were unlucky to offer Wham! instead of George Michael), but they still led 85-35. Mr Helms upped that lead by taking the next starter, and two bonuses took them into triple figures. A penalty then allowed Manchester to regain possession, and they took one bonus on opera. An unlucky penalty then cost Oriel another five and allowed Manchester a second starter in a row; a full bonus set on chemical elements cut the gap to just twenty going into the final round.

The second picture round, on paintings acquired by the Art Fund, went to Oriel, who took two, which increased the lead to 115-75. That gap increased when Mr Helms took the next starter, and again when they took two bonuses. Manchester would have to go for it were they to catch up now.

Mr Michael buzzed on the next starter, but no answer came, and the floor was immediately thrown over to Oriel; when Mr Monaghan took the points, that was game over. Just the one bonus followed, but it didn't really matter now. Manchester did take the next starter, but they didn't quite make it to triple figures, taking two bonuses. The next starter was asked, but the gong meant no-one got a chance to answer. Oriel won 150-95.

A decent match despite the low scores. Unlucky Manchester, who, for the third year in a row, were undone on the buzzer despite showing some promise when they did get in, but thanks for taking part anyway. Well done Oriel though, and best of luck in the next round!

Messrs Monaghan and Siantonas were joint best buzzers of the night with three starters each, while Messrs Bath and Michael were joint best for Manchester with three. On the bonuses, Oriel converted a decent 14 out of 27 (with two penalties), while Manchester managed an also decent 10 out of 18 (with three penalties), and, for the fourth time this series, all eight players got at least one starter right.

Next week's match: Emmanuel College Cambridge (returning for the first time since Guttenplan-mania) vs Nottingham

Only Connect was in it's usual time slot tonight, and it was another odd match with some very tough walls. More info tomorrow.