Thursday, 22 May 2014

Only Connect: Series 9: Elimination Matches Review

OK guys, we've now seen both elimination matches in this series of Only Connect, and two teams have been sent home. And neither are teams you would've expected would be among the first two to fall.

Match 5: Relatives vs Exhibitionists
The Relatives, Hamish and Davina Galloway and Davina's son Nick Latham, lost a low scoring first match to the Europhiles, while the Exhibitionists, Keith Andrew, Tim Westcott and Eric Kilby, were more comprehensively beaten by the Heath Family due to some unlucky near misses. In their joint match, the Exhibitionists, again, struggled in the earlier rounds, though they did fare better than before. The Relatives maintained a slender advantage going into the Walls, both of which contained an anagram set! It was the Missing Vowels when the Relatives moved away somewhat, winning by a score of 21-15.

Match 6: Erstwhile Athletes vs Software Engineers
The Erstwhile Athletes, Daniel 'Quiz Addict' Fullard and Chris and Brendan Curtis, lost a good close first match to the Record Collectors, while the Software Engineers were soundly beaten by the Welsh Learners. The sides were pretty evenly matched in the earlier rounds, with the Software Engineers staying narrowly ahead for the most part. The Walls proved key, the Engineers got a full ten, while the Athletes missed one connection and only made seven. This gave the Engineers a bit more leeway in the final round, and that, coupled with a slightly better showing in that final round, saw them win 24-19.

And so, we have our first two casualties of the series. Very bad luck to both the Exhibitionists and the Athletes, neither of whom deserve to lose both their matches, and both played very well considering. Well done to the Relatives and Engineers though, and best of luck to both in their next matches!

I'll be back in two weeks' time with summaries of the two qualification matches.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Only Connect: Series 9: First Round Review

OK guys, I've put off talking about Only Connect here long enough. I've decided to review this series round by round, thus meaning I can still cover the show, which I do want to do, without having to go into great detail.

It's been a good first round, setting the scene for some good matches in the next stages.

Match 1: Heath Family vs Exhibitionists
We began back on the 14th with the Heaths, Kip, Alan and Heather Heath, taking on the Exhibitionists, Keith Andrew, Tim Westcott and Eric Kilby. Despite having more quiz pedigree (Mr Westcott has been on WWTBAM, and his colleagues are prolific too, I gather), the Exhibitionists struggled in the early rounds, tending to miss answers narrowly and unluckily, allowing the Heaths to build up a strong lead. Despite a rally to respectability late on, the Exhibitionists had too much ground to cover, and the Heaths won 22-14.

Match 2: Europhiles vs Relatives
Next up, on Easter Monday, we had the Europhiles, Douglas Thomson, Mark Seager and Khuram Rashid, and the Relatives, Hamish Galloway, his wife Davina and her son Nick Latham. This was a much closer match than the first, though it was a low scoring one. The walls, in particular, were especially difficult. It came down to a shoot out in the final round, and the Europhiles narrowly emerged on top 17-14.

Match 3: Welsh Learners vs Software Engineers
Moving on to Week 3, and we saw the Welsh Learners, Margaret Gabica and Stuart and Chris Hern, and the Software Engineers, Stephen Mcintosh, Chris Howlett and Anne Harrison. This was the only real case in the first round of one team obviously eclipsing another, as the Learners took a strong lead in the second round, and the Engineers just couldn't catch up from there on in. Again, they managed a late run to a fair score, but the Learners won the match 30-14.

Match 4: Erstwhile Athletes vs Record Collectors
And finally, last night, we had the Erstwhile Athletes, Daniel 'Quiz Addict' Fullard and Chris and Brendan Curtis, and the Record Collectors, Adam Barr, Rachael 'Cherryade' Neiman and Richard Gilbert. This was the best match of the round, and I'm not just saying that due to the presence of Dan and Rach (who, coincidentally, also appeared together on Brain of Britain late last year). The Collectors had the better of the first two rounds and the Walls, with Rach using a seperate braille wall, and though the Athletes managed a gallant fightback late on, they couldn't quite get there; the Collectors won 24-19.

A good first round overall; some fine quizzing shown by all sides, and the scene is set for some great matches in the next stages. I will be summarising the two elimination matches in two weeks' time.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Fifteen-to-One 2014

Alright all? Sorry I haven't been very active as of late; not much to talk about now that UC is on its sabbatical. I will talk about Only Connect next week once the first round is over, and will post stage-by-stage reviews every two weeks thereafter. I hope.

In the mean time, lets turn to something new. Well, newish. Some of you may have noticed the hit quiz Fifteen-to-One has recently been revived. The revival stemmed from a one-off celeb special done for Channel 4's '80s night last September, hosted by Adam (C.) Hills, and won by Jo Brand. It was well enough received that a twenty show run was commissioned, with Sandi Toksvig as host, and had been airing the past few weeks.

Overall, the basic format hasn't changed very much from the original run with Will GS. Two questions each in the first round, and at least one correct answer to stay in the game. The second round of nominating whittles the remaining players down to three, and then a straight question or nominate play-off in the final. That's the same.

However, because the show has to fill an hour long slot, twice as long as the original series, it needs to be padded out. Therefore, we get two extra breaks, one midway through the first round, and one after it. The latter was done before during the original run for the two celeb editions in the early nineties, and the Champion of Champions special a few years later. These ad breaks made the first round take a great deal longer than before, but after that, the pace picks up, and it's a fairly straight forward run through the rest.

Also, we need to have some banter, don't we? Sandi T. chats to a couple of players before each round starts, and, more often than not, will give a small factoid on each answer. The latter is something Will GS did occasionally from what I've been able to find of the original run, but, of course, banter was a no-no in those days. Just question-answer-question-answer and so on. That's why the original run went on as long as it did, allegedly.

One banter related change I do like is Sandi's sending off of eliminated players with 'lights out', a phrase introduced by Adam H. in the celeb special. It's a bit nicer, in my opinion, to give players a proper send-off rather than just moving swiftly on, even if it slows down the pace somewhat. I suppose the pace of the original was such that there wasn't really time to do that.

The series itself: overall, it was good fun to watch. I usually only watched the first two rounds before switching over to Pointless, so as to make who made the final a better surprise. Others prefer to watch the show on catch-up.

Over the nineteen heats, we saw some notable names from other shows, a good few of whom made the final. Among those who didn't were UC alumni James Wilson (Bath 2008-09, who has also been on Only Connect) and Ewan MacAulay from last year's Christ Church team, OC alumni including Roger Johnson, Beth Webster and Howard Pizzey, and others prolific quizzers like Diane Hallagan and Chris Quinn.

Among the prolifics who made the final were: Mark Grant and David Stainer of 'Crossworders' fame, Iwan Thomas (2011 Brain of Britain and second place in Only Connect), Gary Grant (2012 Mastermind and Dave Clark's Only Connect teammate), David Good (1999 UC champion with the OU, and also a previous Fifteen-to-One champion), and LAM's own Rachael 'Cherryade' Neiman and Nic Mortimer.

Also competing were Ian Gretton, Martin Pampel, Steve Cooke, Dave McBryan, Nick Summerfield, Brian Durand, Phil Ryder and Margaret Collins.

Five were eliminated in the first round: Messrs Gretton, Pampel, Mortimer and Durand, and unfortunate, Rach as well. Hard luck Rach, but you did very well in your heat, and getting to the final is a very good achievement.

A titanic struggle then ensued between the remaining ten in the second round, eventually leaving a final three of Dave McBryan, Iwan Thomas and David Stainer. And, like in the original series, the final round was forty questions straight on the buzzer, rather than question or nominate.

Iwan was the first to go, losing his final life with fifteen questions left. The two Davids fought it out for a further thirteen before David Stainer too ran out of lives, and bowed out in second place. And so, it was the least prolific of the three, Dave McBryan, who won the series! Not only that, he did so without losing a single life in the final!

Very well done to Mr McBryan indeed! He goes away with £40,000, rather than the original trophy prize. Mind you, all nineteen heat winners won a trophy for doing so. In the original series, all you got for winning a heat was an invite to come back in the next series!

Overall, the new series of Fifteen-to-One worked pretty well, despite the padding and the unfortunate time slot. It was well worth watching; we saw some great quizzing throughout. If they decide to do another series, let's hope they can improve on it.