Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas University Challenge 2015: Matches 1-5 (Sunday 20th - Thursday 24th)

OK all? Hope everyone is having a good Christmas. Someone on Twitter remarked that one of the good things about the festive period is UC being on daily! Indeed it has. So here is a rundown of the story of this year's Christmas UC so far. (NOTE: these reviews are based on memory, so may not be as completely accurate as my regular blogs)

Sunday 20th: U.C.L. vs Birmingham
U.C.L.: Vivienne Parry, Adam Rutherford, Lynne Truss, Tom Dyckhoff
Birmingham: Emma Darwin, Joanna Gosling, John Hammond, Pamela Relph

A nice steady match to begin the series. U.C.L. led from the off, and, while Birmingham managed to catch them a couple of times, couldn't overhaul them, and thus a better consistency gave U.C.L. the win 155-80. Highlights included a set of bonuses on easily misspelt words, none of which Birmingham got as the answers had to be spelt, and they misspelt all of them! As well as a bonus set on high profile casualties of May's election, and a music round on readings of Peter and the Wolf, including a Ms E. Everage!

Monday 21st: Oriel Oxford vs Trinity Cambridge
Oriel: John Nunn, Camilla Wright, Jon Bentley, Peter Harness
Trinity: Timothy Gowers, Zoe Heron, Faisal Islam, Bee Wilson

A good close match between two very evenly matched teams, both of whom seemed to take their time conferring on the bonuses. Highlight was a music round on popular dance tracks, which Mr Islam single handedly swept the board on, much to everyone's amusement! In the end, Trinity just scraped the win 140-135!

Tuesday 22nd: Manchester vs U.E.A.
Manchester: Lucy Porter, Jesse Armstrong, Christine Burns, Robert Rinder
U.E.A.: Andy Stanford-Clark, Erica Wagner, Caroline Flint, Tim Bentinck

The most one sided UC match in a long time. Manchester led from the off, with U.E.A.'s sole scoring in the first half of the show being a penalty! (They were on (-5) for so long, my Dad texted me saying he thought they'd end with it!) They eventually got a starter right about twenty minutes in, by which time Manchester were well out of sight. Manchester won 195-35, and will definitely be back for the semis next week.

Wednesday 23rd: Christ's Cambridge vs Essex
Christ's: Kieran West, Nina Gold, Natalie Haynes, James Reynolds
Essex: Richard Bartle, Rupert Maas, Dotun Adebayo, Nick Dear

This was a close match at first, with the sides pretty evenly matched for the first three quarters of play. Highlight was Mr Bartle's insistence that his wrong answer to the music starter was right, that went on so long Mr West had to buzz twice for Christ's! In the end, Essex won the match by taking the final three starters of the game, and emerged victorious 140-90.

Thursday 24th: Exeter vs Magdalen
Exeter: George Stiles, Hannah Kendall, Nick Baker, Barnaby Edwards
Magdalen: Robin Lane Fox, Heather Berlin, Louis Theroux, Matt Ridley

Best match of the week by miles. Both sides gave an excellent account of themselves, with all eight players getting at least one starter right, and the vast majority of bonuses being answered correctly too. It was close for the first half, then in the second, Magdalen ran away on the buzzer, and emerged on top 220-130. They'll definitely be back next week, Exeter are unlucky not to be; I suspect they'd have beaten some of the teams from earlier in the week.

So, at the end of the first week's play, Magdalen and Manchester are definitely through, and U.C.L. are borderline. We still have two first round matches next week before the semis. Hopefully they will make for just as good viewing as the first lot.

That, I imagine, is my final post on here this year, so all that remains is for me to wish yous all a Happy New Year, and I'll see you again in 2016!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Quarter-Final 3: Cluesmiths vs Railwaymen

OK, time to see if going straight from watching and recording stats for Christmas UC to writing up Only Connect is a good idea. I'm running the risk of ending up with a massive RSI here! Playing yesterday night were the Cluesmiths, Mick Hodgkin, Richard Heald and John Tozer, who defeated the Operational Researchers then lost to the Yorkers then beat the Mixologists, and the Railwaymen, David Smith, Bob Thompson and Sree Kanthamneni, who came straight through with wins over the Collectors and the Spaghetti Westerners.

Round 1. The Railwaymen went first, chose Two Reeds and instantly got the picture set: we saw a tree, then King Louie from the Jungle Book, then a drawing of the eye with an arrow pointing to some part of it, and finally a queue. Neither team got it: they are all words with four consecutive vowels, the tree being a sequoia and the part of the eye being the aqueous humour. The Cluesmiths began their match with Water, and got the music set: the only one of the three we heard that I knew was Bang Bang by Jessie J; recognising this, and knowing the second was Bang Bang by BA Robertson, offered that they were all called 'Bang Bang'. Good call for two points. The Railwaymen chose Eye of Horus next: 'Siemens (infrastructure)', then 'Volkswagen (savings scheme)', then 'Bertelsmann (propaganda)'; at this point, they offered that they are companies and the role they played in Nazi Germany. Correct, for two points. The Cluesmiths chose Horned Viper next: 'Sandra Bullock', then 'Nigel Farage', then 'Ernest Hemingway (twice in one day)', and finally 'Chelsey Burnett 'Sully' Sullenberger, III'. They correctly offered that they all survived plane crashes. (Farage famously crashed on the day of the 2010 election) The Railwaymen chose Lion next: 'ADN', then 'TVA', then 'SIDA' and finally 'OTAN'. They didn't quite get it, their opponents did: they are French acronyms that are anagrams of their English equivalents. Unlucky miss. Left with Twisted Flax for their own question, the Cluesmiths saw '1993 IAAF World Athletics Championships', then '2013 Africa Cup of Nations', then '2002 Ryder Cup', and finally '1994 Winter Olympics'. They didn't get it, the opposition did: they are the years when that tournament's cycle changed (the Winter Games used to be the same as the Summer, but it was changed in 1994). At the end of the first round, the Cluesmiths led 4-3.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Railwaymen went first again, and, again, kicked off with Two Reeds: 'MCMXCVI Germania', then 'MM Gallia', and then 'MMIV Graecia'; they got the wrong connection, and thus didn't get it. Nor did their opponents. It's the year and winners of the Euros changed into Roman and Latin, so 'MMVIII Hispania' completes the set. The Cluesmiths chose Lion next, and got the picture set: we saw Sir Sean Connery, then a young Daniel Radcliffe in the first(?) Potter film, and then David Beckham with an arrow pointing to his right foot. They offer anything, nor did their opponents. 'David Beckham's left foot' completes the set, it's Hugh Grant's prime ministerial speech from Love Actually. (Never seen it, don't intend too, especially after Will Self compared it to Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will!) The Railwaymen chose Twisted Flax next: 'Wireless interception', then 'Propaganda and 'press liason'', and then 'Overseas intelligence'; they offered 'Internal intelligence', which was acceptable. They are the responsibilities of MI8, MI7, MI6 and MI5. The Cluesmiths chose Horned Viper next: we saw 'UT' in the top left corner, then 'CO' in the top right corner. They offered 'NM' in the bottom right; not right. When passed over, that came next! Their opponents didn't get it. It's the 'Four Corners' states, so 'AZ' in the bottom left comes next. For their final choice, the Railwaymen chose Water: 'W (winter seawater)', then 'S (summer seawater)', and then 'T (tropical seawater); they didn't get it, their opponents did. 'F (freshwater) completes the set; it's the plimsoll line on the side of a ship going upwards. Left with Eye of Horus, the Cluesmiths saw for their own final question '4.40 p.m.', then '1.40 a.m.', and then '12.10 a.m.'; neither team knew it, and I'm not surprised. This was horrible: they are 1,000, 100, 10 and 1 minutes after midnight, so '12.01 a.m.' comes fourth. Too hard, even for the QFs! At the end of the second round, the teams were tied at 5-each.

On to the Walls then. The Cluesmiths went first, and chose the Lion wall to tackle. They quickly isolated 'Wertmuller', 'Coppola', 'Campion' and 'Bigelow', which are surnames of female film directors, and then 'Sunset', 'Hollywood', 'Ventura' and 'Wilshire', which are Los Angeles boulevards. They took their time looking over what was left, and soon worked it out: 'Umbrella', 'Geodesic', 'Gonbad' and 'Onion' are domes, while 'Allinson', 'Farriner', 'Poilane' and 'The Little Red Hen' are, not brands of bread, like they said, but bakers. So, just one mistake was good going considering how tough that was, so seven points.

The Railwaymen were left with the Water wall to try and assemble. They spotted some links, but had trouble working them out. Eventually, they isolated 'Gala', 'Twelfth', 'Bonfire' and 'Hen', which can all precede 'night'. They couldn't work anything else out in the allotted time, so were left to collect bonuses: 'Orlov', 'Churchill', 'Digby' and 'Tony' are animals in adverts, which they knew, 'Burns', 'Marx', 'Clarke' and 'Bender' are cigar smokers, which they didn't get, while 'Canal Street', 'Castro', 'Chelsea' and 'Darlinghurst' are gay 'villages', which they also didn't get. Just three points there, which meant the Cluesmiths led 12-8 going into the final round.

Still a closeable gap going into Missing Vowels. 'Things that can follow 'spare'' went to the Cluesmiths 2-1. 'Nicknames of French kings' went to the Cluesmiths 1-0, with the Railwaymen getting two right, but two wrong. 'They might use a needle' went to the Cluesmiths 2-0, and that was time. The Cluesmiths won the match 17-9.

Very tricky match, as you'd expect at this stage. Unlucky Railwaymen, but well played over the series. Well done Cluesmiths though, and very best of luck in the SFs!

Next week's match: a rematch between the Wayfarers and the Bookworms

I suspect I'll be reviewing next week's match in two week's time, as I'm going away next week. And, yes, I'll consider finishing Series 1 once this series is over. I'll be back sometime in the coming days with a mid-series summary of Christmas UC.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Quarter-Final 2: Yorkers vs Operational Researchers

Yes, Only Connect will still be providing us with our serious quiz fix over Christmas, while UC and Mastermind pause for the Celeb specials. A show next Monday, and one after that. That'll do us, I think. Playing the second QF were the Yorkers, Jack Johannes Alexander, Alasdair Middleton and Joe Crowther, who came straight through against the Polyglots and the Cluesmiths, and the Operational Researchers, Paul Allen, Clare Lynch and Alex Hill, who lost to the Cluesmiths but also defeated the Polyglots and also the Spaghetti Westerners.

Round 1. The Researchers kicked off the match with 'Horn-ed' Viper: 'Rebecca', then 'Cold', then 'Western', and finally 'Judean People's'. The final clue gave it to them: they can all precede 'Front'. The Yorkers began their match with Two Reeds, and got the music round: first was Maggie May by Rod Stewart, the second was Don't You Love Me by the Human League, and the other two I didn't recognise, but they were Miles Davies and Nine Inch Nails. Neither team spotted the link to be units of length until it was explained afterwards. The Researchers chose Lion next: 'Ludwig Wittgenstein', then 'ASF Gow', then 'Guy Liddell', and finally 'John Cairncross'. Again, neither team knew it. They were all accused of being the 'Fifth Man' in the Cambridge Spy ring; Mr Cairncross is widely considered most likely to have been him. The Yorkers chose Eye of Horus next: 'Record-breaker British marathon runner', then 'Geneticist and Curiosities captain', then 'Host of 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow', and finally 'Sex Pistols guitarist'. The third clue gave it to me, the final one gave it to them: they are all men called Steve Jones. (I quite liked 101 Ways, incidentally, but it worked best as a one-off series) The Researchers chose Water next: 'Three Countries: France & Germany', then 'New Europe: Bulgaria & Romania' then 'Ambassador: USA & Canada', and finally 'Oresund: Denmark & Sweden'. Again, the final clue gave it to them: they are bridges and the countries they connect. Left with Twisted Flax, and the picture set, the Yorkers saw actress Jane Seymour, then Michael Flatley, then Kate Bosworth, and finally Mabel the Blue Peter dog. Now, I did know about this thanks to Fifteen-to-One 2.0, but it wouldn't have occurred to me, nor did it to either team: they all have different coloured eyes. At the end of the first round, the Researchers led 2-1.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Researchers began the round with Eye of Horus: 'Here's Looking Ay You, BBC', then 'Scenes of London, ITV', and then 'Play School, BBC2'; they offered 'Countdown, Channel 4', which was correct. They are the first program to be shown on the four main channels in order they came on air. The Yorkers chose Lion next: '16mo', then '8vo', and then '4to'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. They are printers codes for paper sizes, so 'fo' would complete the set as a simple once folded piece of paper. The Researchers chose 'Horn-ed' Viper next, and got the picture set: we saw the Canadian province of Alberta, then a tree on a savanna, and then a pink Cadillac. They didn't get it, their opponents did; they offered a druid, which would suffice. The four items pictured begin AND end with A, B, C and D, the tree being a baobab. (Nicely timed to put this out the week after baobab featured prominently on the Apprentice!) For their own question, the Yorkers chose Water: 'Pison', then 'Gihon', and then 'Hiddekel, a.k.a. Tigris'; they offered 'Euphrates', which was correct, although they didn't know why. They are the rivers with their origin in Paradise according to the Bible, in the order they are mentioned. For their final choice, the Researchers chose Twisted Flax: 'Harding -> Coolidge', then 'Roosevelt -> Truman'; at this point, they offered 'Nixon -> Ford', which was correct for three points. They are US vice presidents who became president mid-term after their predecessor died/resigned, in order. Left with Two Reeds, the Yorkers saw 'John B', then 'Bertie A', and then 'Brian C'; the second and third clues gave away that it was Irish prime-ministers, or Taoisigh, and they successfully offered 'Enda K' for two points. At the end of the second round, the Researchers led 7-6.

On to the Walls then. The Yorkers went first, and chose to tackle the Water wall. Straight away, they isolated 'Bumblebee', 'Optimus Prime', 'Fixit' and 'Sideswipe', which are Autobots in Transformers. And immediately after that, they had a second group in the bag: 'Blow-out', 'Aquaplane', 'Rear-end' and 'Shunt' are types of car accident. They then spent some time looking over the remaining clues, and soon resolved the wall: 'Jumper', 'Probe', 'Busbar' and 'Coaxial pair' are electrical conductors, though the best they could offer was 'cables', thus dropping a connection point, while 'Rebrand', 'Grimlock', 'Okay' and 'Sidle' all end with the surnames of comedians. Just the one error meant they scored seven points.

The Researchers got to work on the Lion wall, and they too isolated a set straight away: 'Steuben', 'Swarovski', 'Tiffany' and 'Lalique' are makers of glasswear. They then hit a bit of a dead end, finding numerous possible links, but finding no more. Eventually, they isolated 'Vignole', 'Lida', 'Murano' and 'Crevan', which are Venetian islands. They tried to quickly resolve what was left, but ran out of lives, and thus had to pick up connection bonus points: 'Scimitar', 'Kitten', 'Rialto' and 'Bond Bug' are cars made by Reliant, which they didn't get, while 'Lucozade', 'Golden Gate Bridge', 'Basketball' and 'EasyCruiseOne' are all orange, which they did get. So five points meant, going into the final round, they trailed 13-12.

Once again, then, Missing Vowels would be the decider. 'Sportspeople who became politicians' was split 2-each. 'Transposed country names', such as 'ZEALAND NEW', was also split 2-each. 'Ballets that premiered in the 1910s' proved more tricky, with the Yorkers winning 2-0. 'British universities' only managed one clue, which went to the Yorkers. At the end of the match, the Yorkers won 20-16.

Another good half-hour of quizzing. Unlucky Researchers, but well played over the series. Well done Yorkers though, and best of luck in the semis!

Next week's match: the Cluesmiths vs the Railwaymen

Remember to stay tuned for Christmas UC, which begins on Sunday and runs over the festive fortnight. I'll give occasional reports on that over the coming weeks, and will try to keep on top of OC as well. And, yes, I'll say it again: someday, Series 1 will be sorted out.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 6: Where Does The Show Go Next?

So, the final part of this retrospective. Won't be long here; all we need to do is tidy up the events leading up to the show's tenth anniversary.

The show returned from its longest ever sabbatical with its tenth birthday special: Noel playing the show himself! Sarah Millican acted as host for this special edition. Noel ended up making a perfectly reasonable deal of £26,000 for his charity.

Returning to regular service, the show did a second run of Double Trouble specials, this time featuring Grandparents and Grandchildren. Nothing of real note happened, with the exception of Pat Francis and Steph Finn winning £100,000 from the box. (Though the fact they were present as guest box openers for Noel's game was a bit of a hint they'd have a good game!)

With the regular players back, things appeared to be flowing a bit smoother than they did prior to the summer, with the players generally faring better and winning better sums.

Then... the £250,000 was won again! Ann Crawford became the eighth player to win the Jackpot winner, turning down £64,000 on a 50p-£250,000 finish, and won the big money! And then... she said 'Deal' to Box 23! It became clear quickly that this was a slip of the tongue, so they allowed her to change her mind and reject it. It was a good thing they did, as she'd have lost the lot had she been forced to stick with it!

It did, however, spring a good run on the other wingers, culminating in one of the all time great games of Deal: Harry Harding winning £100,000 from the box.

That was the final game before the show's official tenth birthday on the 31st of October. Noel's game was repeated the day before to mark this.

The show has carried on since then; we've had another week of Double Trouble specials, for siblings this time, two £35,000 wins in a week, two more Power 5 wins (one of which was just today), and, overall, the long summer break seems to have revitalised the show, as the games have been generally better since it came back.

But how much longer can the show go on for?

Well, just under three years ago, I spoke to former LAM regular contributor Des Elmes about the show's prospects; he thought the show would carry on for about three more years, provided the show didn't start flogging a dead horse.

Well, here we are nearly three years later, and the show is still running, albeit on its last legs. The show does still have the capability to produce great television, as shown by Ann and Harry's games, and the various Power 5 wins we have had since.

But the novelty has long worn off; most people have either stopped watching the show, or, like myself, taken to reading the commentaries on the forum to follow the show instead, or both. And the tweaks to the format (Box 23 and the Offer Button) have also alienated a lot of the fanbase, who do not approve of the twists that can alter the game. Main objection being that a blue win can suddenly be all OK again if +£10,000 is in Box 23.

The show has definitely had a good run, as Weaver's Week predicted it would back in 2006. How much longer it will go on for is anyone's guess. Channel 4 do still seem to want it to carry on, even if it is in truncated form due to horse racing being on some weeks, resulting in some weeks with just three or four shows.

Rest assured, when the show does eventually come to the end of it's run, I will reprint what I have written in this retrospective series, and add on to it with what happens for the rest of the show's run, however much longer it is.

That's it for this retrospective series. I'll be back next week with Only Connect. If I understand correctly, the show is carrying on as usual over Christmas and into the New Year. I will keep on top of it as much as I can.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Quarter-Final 1: Scientists vs String Section

OK, now this may get a bit tricky, so just bear with me if I can't properly explain some of these hard questions. Playing the first knockout match were the Scientists, Innis Carson, Ian Volante and Lorraine Murtagh, who defeated the Builders and the Athenians, and the String Section, Tessa North, Richard Aubrey and Pete Sorel-Cameron, who beat the Headliners and the Wayfarers.

Round 1. The String Section went first and, as they always do, chose Two Reeds: 'Israel = student', then 'The Netherlands = monkey tail', then 'Italy = snail', and finally 'Norway = curly alpha'. They didn't get it, nor did their opponents. They are what that country uses instead of an '@'. The Scientists began their game with Twisted Flax: 'Copenhagen - Ellen Price', then 'New York - Charlotte Bartholdi', then 'Piccadilly Circus - Angelo Colarossi', and finally 'Rolls Royce - Eleanor Velasco Thornton'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: they were the models for famous statues relating to those locations. For their own question, the String Section chose Eye of Horus, and got the music set: I didn't recognise any of the pieces, except one from an advert. They, however, spotted that they were all sung by Oscar-winning actors (the one I recognised was Lee Marvin singing 'Wand'rin' Star'). The Scientists chose Lion next: 'Michael Elphick and Helen Mirren as children', then 'Ray Winstone as a borstal inmate', then 'Leo McKern as Rumpole', and finally 'Alison Steadman as Beverly'. Again, they didn't get it, nor did the opposition. They are all roles in the BBC's 'Play for Today'. The String Section chose Horned Viper next, and got the picture question: now, I can't really describe this one, but they were all paintings that were subject to controversial restorations. They knew this for a point. Left with Water, the Scientists saw 'Memoir: My Life', then 'Song: Your Life', then 'Film: September', and finally 'Novella: the Life of Ivan Denisovich'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: putting 'One Day in' in front of the latter gives the former. At the end of the first round, the String Section led 4-0.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The String Section kicked things off with Two Reeds again: 'DA02 Nuclear / non-nuclear weapons', then 'DA03 Ciphers and secure communications', and then 'DA04 Sensitive installations and home addresses'. Neither time got it: 'DA05 UK security and intelligence services'. The sequence is the Defence Advisory Notice System. The Scientists chose Eye of Horus next: '1 x 11 = 11', then '10 x 11 = 110', and then '11 x 11 = 1001'; they offered '100 x 11 = 1100', which was correct for two points. It is the three times table in binary. The String Section chose Lion next: 'Sculpture of lovers by Rodin', then '1966 surfing documentary', and then 'Song from Jeff Wayne musical'; they didn't get it, their opponents just about did, offering 'Always Winter'. The clues represent 'Eternal Spring', 'Endless Summer' and 'Forever Autumn'. For their own question, the Scientists chose 'Horn-ed' Viper, and got a music question: only song I recognised was Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams, which was third. They didn't get it, their opponents did: a song by Dinah Washington would suffice. The artists all share their names with the first four presidents of the USA going backwards (the first two artists being Madison Avenue and Jefferson Airplane). For their own final choice, the String Section chose Twisted Flax: 'Ephesus', then 'Galatia', and then 'Corinth (twice)'. Neither team got it: 'Rome' completes the set. They are the epistles written by Paul the Apostle in reverse order. Left with Water, the Scientists got the picture question; again, it was one I cannot really describe in detail, but the pictures presented Stettin, the Baltic and Trieste. Neither team offered 'the Adriatic', the link being Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech. At the end of the second round, the String Section led 5-3.

On to the Walls then. The Scientists went first, and chose to try the Water wall. After some unsuccessful gos, they isolated 'Victoria', 'Cairo', 'Juba' and 'Praia', which are African capital cities. A second group followed: 'Spiaggia', 'Strand', 'Plage' and 'Kahakai' are words for beaches. The final two groups followed: 'Surrender', 'Teddy Bear', 'King Creole' and 'Polk Salad Annie' are songs by Elvis, while 'Monrovia', 'Woody Guthrie', 'Hoover Dam' and 'Cristiano Ronaldo' are named after US presidents. Well resolved considering how tricky that was, so ten points.

The String Section were left with the Lion wall. After looking over the clues, they isolated 'Keynes', 'Lynn', 'Buzzard' and 'Walden', which are the second halves of towns in England. They soon had a second group sorted as well: 'Scarlet', 'Blue', 'Osprey' and 'Dragon' are Welsh rugby union teams. They worked out what the remaining links were, and tried quickly trying to solve them, eventually managing it on their final go: 'Hobby', 'Vulture', 'Kite' and 'Falcon' are birds of prey, while 'Modigliani', 'Friedman', 'Hayek' and 'Tobin' are Nobel prize winning economists. Another well resolved ten points meant they led 15-13 going into the final round.

Once again, then, Missing Vowels would decide the winners. 'Songs from Saturday Night Fever' was split 2-each. 'Names with the word 'Taylor' removed', such as 'TIM BROOKE', proved decisive, going to the String Section 4-(-2). 'Greek muses' was another 2-all split, and that was it. The String Section won 23-15.

Another good match in spite of some tricky questions. Unlucky Scientists, but well played over three matches. Well done String Section, though, and very best of luck in the SFs!

Next week's match: the Yorkers vs the Operational Researchers

I'll be back tomorrow to finish off my Deal retrospective.

Monday, 7 December 2015

University Challenge 2015-16: Round 2: Match 6: St George's vs Peterhouse

Evening all. Here we are with, what appears to be, the final regular UC before Christmas. The usual Christmas University Challenge series begins a week on Sunday, unless I'm mistaken, and a few hints as to the various celebs participating have begun to surface on Twitter over the past few weeks. On with tonight's show, and two teams with similar first round scores, but very different experiences.

St George's of London defeated the Institute of Cancer Research 190-70 in their first round match, but were never really challenged by their (pleasant) opponents, and only converted around half their bonuses. They'd probably need to do somewhat better on both fronts tonight. They were the same four as before:
Alex Costley-White, from London, studying Medicine
Charles Nicholas, from Lewes in East Sussex, studying Medicine
Captain: Tom Burns, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, studying Medicine
Lucy Studd, from London, studying Medicine

Peterhouse Cambridge won the first match of the series, beating Glasgow 185-155. And we all know what happened to their opponents afterwards. Similar bonus rate to their opponents tonight, but achieved against better Round 1 opposition, making them lukewarm favourites for tonight. They too were the same four as before:
Thomas Langley, from Newcastle, studying Chemistry
Oscar Powell, from York, studying Geological Sciences
Captain: Hannah Woods, from Manchester, studying History
Julian Sutcliffe, from Reading, studying History

Off we set again then, and Peterhouse got off the mark first, with Mr Sutcliffe doing the honours, and two bonuses on the work of Mr Joseph Paxton. A second starter went to the Cambridge side, and two bonuses accompanied it again. St George's kicked off the mark courtesy of Mr Burns (resists temptation to make Simpsons joke!), and they too took two bonuses. That sequence was broken in the next bonus set, when Peterhouse only managed one on acting technique. The first picture round, on civil engineering works of Mr Thomas Telford, went to Peterhouse; one bonus followed, giving them a lead of 70-20.

The Cambridge side's momentum continued, as they took another starter, though, again, just one bonus followed. But as long as they could keep beating their opponents to the buzzer, that didn't matter. Two bonuses accompanied their next starter, before a slip-up pegged them back five, though St George's failed to capitalise. Miss Woods restored her side's momentum with the next starter, and one bonus followed. And at this point, Paxo gave St George's the kiss of death by telling them there was still plenty of time left!

The music starter saw an unlucky miss for St George's, allowing Miss Woods to take her second consecutive starter; the bonuses, on non-anglophone songs that have made the UK Top 10, only gave Peterhouse five more points, but they still comfortably led 130-20. And they weren't finished yet: Mr Sutcliffe took the next starter, and Mr Powell gave us the comedy moment of the night by stating he hated biochemistry! (Paxo pulled him up on this after the gong!) St George's just couldn't gain any traction, with Peterhouse taking yet another starter and two bonuses.

The second picture round, on alleged communist sympathisers from the HJollywood Red Scare, saw St George's finally break back into the match; they took one of the bonuses, reducing the deficit to 160-35. Mr Costley-White gave the Londoners a second starter in a row, and two bonuses on 2001: A Space Odyssey. A third starter in a row went to St George's, and two bonuses on medieval Europe showed they weren't going to give in, though they had perhaps left it a bit too late.

The London side then took a fourth starter in a row, but just one bonus followed this time. And any hopes of a miraculous comeback were put to bed when Mr Langley took the next starter for Peterhouse, and two bonuses on politics followed. St George's took another starter, but no bonuses followed, and they then rather harshly lost five to one of those borderline interruptions. (Luckily, it came too late to have any impact on the match) Peterhouse took the final starter of the match, the first bonus, and that was it. At the gong, Peterhouse won 195-90.

An enjoyable match, even if it was somewhat one sided. Unlucky St George's, who were simply outplayed until the final phase, but nothing to be ashamed of there, so well done and thanks for playing. Well done Peterhouse though; a decent showing, though I feel they'll need to be more consistant with the bonuses next time. Best of luck to them for that next time!

Mr Sutcliffe was the best buzzer of the night, with four to his name, while Mr Costley-White was best of St George's with three. On the bonuses, St George's converted 7 out of 18, while Peterhouse managed 16 out of 34, and both sides incurred one penalty.

So, that's it for this year. No show next week due to an hour long Nigella special. We'll resume in the New Year, and have the Christmas series to keep us going in the mean time. That will start a week on Sunday, and I'll post sporadic updates on it over the break.

Only Connect is on next Monday; it was on tonight as well with the first knockout match, which I'll go over later in the week, as well as finishing my Deal retrospective.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Ten Years of Deal or No Deal: Part 5: The Classic Era is Officially Over

OK, time to carry on with this retrospective.

Well, it finally happened. After just under eight years, we finally saw a male win the jackpot. 18 year old Paddy Roberts won the Jackpot in early August 2013, thus bringing to an end the show's longest running storyline. So, how would the show cope with that?

Well, as I mentioned last time, the show was not in a terribly healthy state in the summer of 2013; the memories of Iris' cautious gameplay in late June were still hanging around, with the Banker making poor offers for the board, and most of the players being complacent enough to take them. And those who didn't, with the exception of Marlene and Paddy, crashed to a blue win, enforcing the cautious approach even further.

Indeed, like Marlene's game, Paddy's game had impact on this approach; almost all the players who witnessed his game cautiously backed out. We did eventually get a run of better games in early September, with 8 players in just over a fortnight getting the most out of their game (including four in a row). But this was covering up the fact that the show was struggling. Like last year, we seemed to be having an Autumn drought of Power 5 wins.

We could have had one if Mel Williams had dealt her fifth offer of £35,000, but she didn't, and crashed to just 50p. For once, (nearly) everyone was in agreement that she had bought it upon herself. But it was another low blue win the following week, that of Laura Dean, which set the standard for a while. She was not a gambler, but she felt obliged to turn down her ungenerous third offer of £16,500 (IIRC), which was a stick from the second offer, and crashed.

Seeing such a cautious player take an out of character gamble and crash horrified everyone, and the cautious vibe that appeared to have been lifting in the prior weeks came back with a vengeance. The weeks after Laura's game saw some of the most cautious deals of all time, including a record that will never be broken: Colin Harrison's selling of the £250,000 for just £5,000.

Even when Pat Morgan achieved a finish of £15,000 and £75,000, she cautiously bailed out with £33,333, denying us that long awaited Power 5 win. But, eventually, come early December, the run was broken by two £75,000 wins in just over a week: Nenad Raicevic dealt it on a 50p-£250,000 final two, and Gwyn Hughes won it from his box.

Still, 2013 had been by far the weakest year of the show's run. The format was beginning to run out of steam, so action was needed. And the action taken would change everyone's perspective of the show forever.

Come the first game of 2014, that of Joey Gilchrist, a brand new feature was added to the show: Box 23. After the final regular box had been opened, the player now had the chance to buy Box 23 with their winnings. Inside it was one of five options: DOUBLE (winnings are doubled), +£10,000 (an extra £10,000 is added to the winnings), MONEY BACK (nothing happens), HALF (winnings are halved), and NOTHING (winnings are wiped out altogether).

On the (not unreasonable) basis that it wouldn't have one of the bad ones in it on its first game, Mr Gilchrist bought the box for his £10,900 winnings. And got an extra £10,000 from the box.

But his game would prove to be the only time for months that someone would risk that much on Box 23. The following players, having not expected Box 23 to be there, had no idea how to handle it, and most ended up rejecting it. Only players who won blues would buy it, and most would not be rescued by +£10,000.

Then Tash Evans won just £5, but got the extra £10,000 from Box 23. And, from that point on, the trust of many viewers was lost forever. Now, a player could simply go all the way, win a very low blue, and suddenly get an extra £10,000 for no risk whatsoever. Deal would never be the same again.

Then, in late-early February, Roop Singh won £250,000! Like Tegen, no-one had seen it coming, especially as he didn't appear to be much of a risk taker. He was half tempted to buy Box 23, and try to become the show's first half-millionaire! But the possibility of losing the lot got to him, and he very sensibly kept the money. But if he had gone for it, he would've had £500,000!

Other good games included Annalynn Cook winning £75,000, Stephen Hosie becoming the first player ever to receive an offer higher than the highest remaining sum(!) (thanks to a twist), and Pat Crick's game, another that came from nowhere. She managed to pull off only the second LIVE play achieving of the £100,000-£250,000 finish! She dealt the resultant offer of £170,000 for the highest ever sum dealt!

We also had the first ever players to win HALF A PENNY! Dave Wart and Tendai Zitira both won 1p, bought Box 23 with it, and HALF was in it! Players who win an odd number of pence and get HALF from Box 23 get a HALF-PENNY certificate, which the Banker hates having to make, as it costs 10p to use the photocopier!

Nothing much else of note happened for a while. April saw only one memorable game, Earl Woods' well earned £65,000 win, though Sam Haste's £20,000 box win was good as well. Other than that, it was just player cautiously dealing modest sums, or winning blues and either getting £10,000 or not.

Even a long awaited Power 5 win, Rosie Head's £46,000 win, was overshadowed due to it being a poor offer on a £20,000-£100,000 final two. Then, something amazing happened: someone bought Box 23 with a red! Matt Chapman bought it for £8,900, but lost half of it. And then: it happened again! Peter Harding purchased it for £12,200, and got an extra £10,000. The latter stands alongside Rich and Scott from 2012 as one of the biggest base breaker games of all time.

Mercifully, around this time, the Banker's ungenerous offer trend that had been going on since last summer seemed to have lifted somewhat, with generally better offers for the board. Two Power 5 wins from generous offers in under a week seemed to show this, as did the fact that Stan Colling's £50,000 box win, which would have been received by open arms a couple of months prior, was met with a mixed response.

The traditional summer themed week did little to improve general discomfort, though, with +£10,000 being upped to +£20,000 for that week only further umimpressing purists. But better things were to come in August, with three Power 5 wins in a single week marking the show's best run for months, boosted further by two £15,000 box wins and a £20,000 box win the previous week boosting it more.

But this good run of games only made the show's traditional September slump even more disappointing than usual. High points of a dour September were a decent £7,000 win from future Big Brother 'star' Jack McDermott, and Grant McTaggart's £18,000 win, which was overshadowed by unsporting Banker behaviour.

Come October, though, another new feature was introduced: the Offer Button. Basically, the player gets to predict their first offer, and, if they are correct or within 10% of it, the offer button is active. They can press it whenever they want to receive an instant offer.

As good an idea as this was, much better than Box 23, it did little to improve the indifferent form: key moments of the early button era were Aaron Dell using it to win £32,000, and Carly Payne's game, which was notable not for what she did, but for the fact something went wrong and the final part of her game ended up showing twice and pushing the entire evening's schedule back fifteen minutes! (Something similar happened in late July, when a technical fault in Glasgow resulted in an edition of Deal being shown live at the Commonwealth games!)

But it wasn't all bad. Halloween bought one of the best games of all time, as Bill Richards won £80,000, thanks to a use of the Offer Button at 4-box with the Power 5 in play!

But after that, nothing of note happened for a while: we did see two Power 5 wins in just over a week, but 2014 petered out somewhat with a run of very ordinary games of little note, perked up somewhat at Christmas, with a run of specials where NOTHING in Box 23 was replaced by a piece of coal!

Going into 2015, the show's tenth year, most had accepted that the show had run its course, and were just going through the motions daily. Nothing of note in the early months of 2015, apart from Mandy O'Brian's £50,000 win, and John Cooper buying Box 23 for £15,000 (IIRC), and losing the lot!

We did, however, see a new idea for the show: couples playing Deal. We had seen something similar before, with twins playing the game as a single entity, but it was the first time the show had broken for a full, stand-alone week of couples playing the show. The idea would be repeated twice later in the year with grandparents and grandchildren and siblings playing the show, but that's for next time.

To be fair, the couples shows were about the only other thing worth talking about in the early months of 2015. Eventually, April picked things up somewhat with a good early run of games, which led up to the final week of the month, where we had two Power 5 wins in a row, coupled with a near miss with a £33,000 win.

A £40,000 win was the only real highlight of a dour May, alongside a purchase of Box 23 for £14,000! (Again, the extra £10,000 showed up). And the show ran slowly through June at a slow pace until, late on in the month, some intriguing news came up: the show was coming off the air for a while!

Yes, Channel 4 decided to put Fifteen-to-One 2.0 in the show's slot for the summer, giving the show a much needed rest. And, to be honest, it was needed: the show had been running non stop since August 2011, and even the most loyal of fans were beginning to tire. A break would give everyone a chance to refresh and rest up, giving the show a refreshed sense when it returned, in the run-up to the show's tenth anniversary in October.

And we'll get to that in the final part of this retrospective, next week!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Only Connect Series 11: Play-Off 4: Athenians vs Bookworms

OK, here we go with the final match of the OC group phase. Playing for the final place in the knockout phase were the Athenians, blog reader Jon Stitcher, Amber Marshall and Ben Holmes, who defeated the Road Trippers but lost to the Scientists, and the Bookworms, Katy Bateman, Dave Knapp and Tristram 'viking o'neill' Cole, who lost to the Wayfarers but defeated the Headliners.

Round 1. The Bookworms kicked the match off with Water: 'The Cradle Will Rock', then 'The Pilgrim's Progress', then 'The New Statesman' and finally 'The Mr. Men'. They didn't know it, but their opponents did: their names all correspond to their characteristics. For their own first question, the Athenians chose Twisted Flax, and got the picture set: we saw a helter skelter, then a cheese grater, then a walkie talkie and finally a gherkin. They offered 'nicknames of London buildings', which was correct for a point. The Bookworms chose Eye of Horus next: 'Uma Therman: Mother', then 'Steve Martin: Parent', then 'Ellar Coltrane: Boy', and finally 'Noel Clarke: Kidult'. They offered 'films with 'hood' on the end and the stars of them'; correct for a point. The Athenians chose Two Reeds next: 'Henry Hudson', then 'Ambrose Bierce', then 'Jimmy Hoffa'; at this point, they offered 'people who disappeared', and were correct for two points. The Bookworms chose Lion next: 'Chair of Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution', then 'Chancellor of City University London', then 'Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City', and finally 'First Lord of the Treasury'. They offered 'titles by which they are not usually known', which was correct for a point. (The First Lord of the Treasury is also the Prime Minister) Left with Horned Viper, the Athenians got the music question; only recognised the final track, which was Beyonce's 'Crazy in Love'. They guessed 'crazy', and were right for a point! So, at the end of the first round, the Athenians led 5-2.

Round 2, What Comes Fourth? The Bookworms kicked the round off with Two Reeds: '11 + 12 + 20 = 6', then '3 + 7 + 8 = 5', and then '4 + 5 + 9 = 4'. They didn't get it, their opponents did: '1 + 2 + 6 = 3' completes the set. They are the lowest three numbers that have the '=' amount of letters in their name, if that makes sense. For their own question, the Athenians chose Water: 'Punjabi', then 'Indo-Aryan', and then 'Indo-Iranian'; they offered 'Indo-European', and were correct for two points. They are the language family trees in order of size. The Bookworms chose Twistexd Flax next: '1954: Hungary', then '1974: The Netherlands', and then '1990: Argentina'; they offered '2014: Argentina', which were correct for a point. They are the teams that lost to Germany/West Germany when they won the World Cup. The Athenians chose Lion next: 'Zaireeka', then 'Sandinista!', and then 'Songs in the Key of Life'; they offered '19' by Adele, which was acceptable. They are albums with 4, 3, 2 and 1 disc(s). For their final choice, the Bookworms chose Eye of Horus: '4: Trianon (Hungary), then '3: Neuilly (Bulgaria), and then '2: Saint Germain (Austria)'; they offered '1: Versailles (Germany)', and were correct for two points. They are the WWI peace treaties in reverse order of signing, and the nations they were with. Left with Horned Viper again, the Athenians got the picture set, and saw three trees in their pictures, a birch, then an oak, and then a pine. They didn't get it, partly due to misidentifying the second picture, and nor did their opponents. They are the most common British trees, and the spruce completes the set. At the end of the second round, the Athenians led 10-6.

On to the Walls once again then. The Athenians went first, and chose the Lion wall. They quickly unraveled the first two sets: 'Taff', 'Dee', 'Wye' and 'Usk' are Welsh rivers, while 'Eye', 'Pop', 'Deed' and 'Level' are palindromes. They spent a great deal of time examining the remaining clues, and eventually had them resolved: 'Sea', 'Poppy', 'Shuttle' and 'Pea' can all precede 'cock', while 'Shag', 'Swift', 'Twite' and 'Jay' are British birds. A well worked out completed wall, so a full ten points.

The Bookworms were left with the Water wall. They too quickly got their first set: 'Boyle', 'Henry', 'Avogadro' and 'Gay-Lussac' are scientists who gave their names to gas laws in physics. After unsuccessfully playing with the other clues for a while, they worked out a second set: 'Dettori', 'Knuckles', 'Vaughan' and 'Avalon' are famous Frankies. The final groups soon followed suite: 'Shangri-La', 'Atlantis', 'Asgard' and 'Shambhala' are mythical places, while 'Compact', 'Eldorado', 'Triangle' and 'Crossroads' are defunct British soap operas. Another well resolved full wall, so ten points there as well, which meant the Athenians led 20-16 going into the final round.

So, once again in, what has been, a fine series of OC, Missing Vowels would decide the match. 'Black and white things' went to the Bookworms 4-(-1), giving them the lead. 'Song titles advanced by one season', such as 'SUMMERTIME FOR HITLER', went to the Bookworms 3-0. 'Sisters' went to the Athenians 2-(-1), and that was the end of the match. The Bookworms had, again, come from behind to sneak through 22-21!

Another fine half hour of quizzing, and a very close one too. Unlucky Athenians, but you've played very well and have been unjustly unlucky twice, so well done on a good run. Well done to the Bookworms though; another brave effort, and we'll see you again in the QFs!

Next week's match: the Scientists vs the String Section in the first knockout match.

And, yes, Series 1 will eventually be sorted. Maybe after this series is over. We'll see. I'll be back tomorrow to carry on my Deal retrospective.