Only Connect: Exclusive interview with question setter Jack Waley-Cohen

Many of my extensive, shuddering fanbase will have an inkling or two that I have a mild fascination with trivia and, therefore, quiz shows. This evening sees the welcome return of BBC4 hit Only Connect, in its snug new home on BBC2.

With 9 series under its belt already, the show is moving to a new home where it can be discovered by a whole host of new Victoriaviewers, eager to be bamboozled by its notorious difficulty. For those of you who have yet to come across it, Only Connect is a show in which teams participate in a trivia contest and work together to combine a set of seemingly unrelated clues together to come up with what is often an obscure, but always intelligent, link.

As series ten gets underway under the expert eye of presenter of Victoria Coren (incidentally one of my favourite guest panellists from Have I Got News For You) on BBC 2 at 8:30pm, I got the chance to chat to one of the senior question setters of the show, Jack Waley-Cohen. Jack, who takes quizzing all over the country with the successful QuizQuizQuiz company, has penned many of the brain-taxing conundrums on Only Connect since Series 9, and tells me how a fiendishly difficult and/or intriguing set of clues are developed from the birth of simple ideas.    Continue reading

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The Chase Celebrity Special: Cock shots, beavers and Beasts

305980-the-chase-3008Saturday nights have felt bare without it. A nation has waited with bated breath. Star studded, tense and with so much at stake, an ITV titan roared back onto our screens this weekend. No, not The X Factor (is that some kind of algebra contest?) but a brand new spanking series of The Celebrity Chase.

As PauseLiveAction interviewee Mark Labbett swaggered across the stage, complete with a brand new dickie bow tie to make him look even more the part of a hammy Bond villain, four personalities from the world of celebrity were on hand in an attempt to dethrone him – which is, physically and mentally, no easy feat.

This week saw former This Morning host and novelist Fern Britton, cricket champ Matthew Hoggard, lingerie entrepreneur Michelle Mone OBE and Bob The Builder himself (although we preferred him in Waterloo Road), Neil Morrissey team up.

The biggest challenge of the evening came for the ever-entertaining presenter, Bradley Walsh, renowned as he is for corpsing at questions. The Chase question setters have a whale of a time trying to catch him out and made a brazen attempt to knock him off guard by asking which game involved a cock shot and a beaver. Now, had there not been options, I would have been shouting all sorts at my television which would have given a dark insight into my private life, but thankfully it became obvious that the answer was backgammon. (One of the options was Twister… although what a game of Twister that would be). Bradley held on so well. That is until The Beast opted for the answer, ‘Ker-Plunk.’   Continue reading

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Doctor Who (8.2): Of shrinks and shrinking

dw into the dalekI wonder if Steven Moffat hates the Daleks as much as the Doctor does by now? They’re expected to make an appearance at least once a series, but finding new ways to present the psychopathic pepperpots must be something of a challenge.

Into the Dalek does find a new way to look at the old enemy – albeit one that combines elements of several previous stories, most notably the best Dalek story (in modern Who at least) – Robert Shearman’s stunning s1 episode Dalek and s6’s Let’s Kill Hitler.

It also questions, not for the first time, the Doctor’s morality. We’ve been here many times (for example, Davros goading Ten in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End about how he turns his companions into soldiers and the numerous bodies he’s left in his wake), and we didn’t learn anything new in this outing. (I suspect we’re heading for a similar reckoning with the mysterious Missy further down the line though, so I’m not complaining. Yet.)

[Spoilers below the line...] Continue reading

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Holby City: What a strange girl you are

mo jonny jac holby(Series 16, ep.46)  Percutaneous fetal balloon valvuloplasty. It’s easy to say (the “balloon” bit is easy to say, anyhoo), but very, very tricky to do. Indeed, it’s so risky and rarely performed that Jac Naylor described it as “groundbreaking” to Selfie, and that was enough for him to give it the thumbs-up. Jonny Mac wouldn’t have given it the thumbs-up if he’d been CEO, because he thought it was way too risky and was just about Jac showing off. He should know by now that Jac does, indeed, enjoy showing off her surgical skills – but only when she’s reasonably confident of a good outcome for the patient.

jonny mo holbyThe unborn patient in this case was the result of a one night stand, and Jonny had plenty of advice for the baby’s father. In fact he came over quite misty-eyed when talking about Emma, and is still describing her as being strong because she takes after her mother. He hasn’t given up hope of a friendly co-parenting set-up for Emma, but to Jac it’s apparently off the table. “I can’t do this, ever,” she told him, twice. Is it because she’s afeared that if she becomes a “proper” parent she’ll go all Sahira Shah and have to make cupcakes and hide the faces of child patients in case they make her cry?   Continue reading

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Doctor Who (8.1): “I’m not flirting!”

Doctor-Who-Series-8-Peter-Capaldi-600x337(As always, don’t read on if you don’t want spoilers)

No disrespect to Peter Capaldi (we will get to his superbness in a moment) but in order to discuss the first proper appearance of the Twelfth Doctor, I’d like to briefly revisit the first proper appearance of the the Tenth.

Not because both wander round in their nightwear, or because the villain falls through London skies to his death in both debuts either.

“Don’t you think she looks tired?”

With six words the Doctor brought down Prime Minister Harriet Jones. And now I can’t help but think Steven Moffat’s scripts are looking tired too. And wonder if the brilliance of the new Doctor is going to increasingly show this up.

Introducing a new Doctor is a challenge and having the companion struggle to cope with the change is entirely reasonable way to deal with it, but Clara is still too annoying and not interesting enough for me to care that she doesn’t like the new man. He is, after all, Peter fucking Capaldi. Never less than mesmerising and with the bonus that he’s allowed to be properly Scottish. I just want to tell her to get a grip.

There were too many moments in Deep Breath when I knew where the gags and/or the story was going and, while Matt Smith’s brief appearance was a lovely, it was one of the few genuine surprises.

Enough of my grumbles though, let us focus on the good stuff.

  • Peter Capaldi.
  • Peter Capaldi
  • And did I mention Peter Capaldi? What a class act that man is. Imagine if he was your first – Your Doctor. It’s almost enough to make me wish I were seven years old again. I know that this Doctor is going to break my heart a hundred times over. It’s cracked already – by his pain when Clara says, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry … but I don’t think I know who you are anymore.”
  • “I’m not flirting!” He might have been talking to the dinosaur, but we all know it’s a mission statement for Twelve and it’s long overdue.
  • The idea that he’s picked this face because he’s seen it before, and that it’s a message to himself is a neat one – as long as we actually find out what the message is. What exactly did Lobus Caecilius teach the Doctor in Pompeii? (I’m assuming he doesn’t know about John Frobisher…)
  • I guess there’s meta humour in cannibalising your own plots to produce a new story about clockwork robots scavenging flesh to make repairs.
  • Strax discovering Clara likes “muscular young men doing sport. Is that sport? It could be sport” All that Sherlock fan art and slash fiction must have made an impact on Steven Moffat. Speaking of which, do we know if Insp Gregson is a Lestrade-based meta joke? I do hope so.

I’ll be back for more, of course. Drawn by the charisma of Capaldi and in the constant hope that they’ll find a way to make me care about Clara. And with the difficult Doctor’s debut episode out of the way, things can only get better…

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Holby City: Brand Naylor

jac holby(Series 16, ep.45)  You only have to look at Elliot Hope and you want to give him a cuddle. He always seems a bit sad, a bit lost, a bit too nice for the world. Just in case this isn’t obvious enough, he has an adorable sidekick of a dog called Gary (#RIP Samson) which he brings to work to cheer up the geriatric ward in his spare moments when he’s not saving lives on Darwin. Or in lifts.

You couldn’t hurt a lovely man like that unless you were Jac Naylor and Selfie had offered you the career leap you’d always wanted. Even so, Jac wasn’t comfortable with sticking the knife between the shoulder blades of her former mentor. It even made her cry to tell him that she was now the face of the Herzig project, which had been his ever since he concocted the Herzig 1 out of twigs and pine cones in the wet lab. “It shouldn’t have been you who took this from me,” Elliot said, in a scene of Shakespearean tragedy proportions (Elliot was part King Lear, part Julius Caesar and Jac was part Cordelia and part Lady Macbeth). Technically it was the odious Selfie who took it from him (“Guy wants consistency… brand”), but of course Selfie was keeping such a low profile that he’s probably face down under a filing cabinet in the basement.   Continue reading

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Holby City: The best man (or woman) for the job

fletch holby(Series 16, ep.44) Honestly, the way staff are wandering willy-nilly between Holby City and Casualty these days, you might be forgiven for thinking it was the same hospital.

Following Connie Beauchamp’s recent-ish manifestation on Casualty, this week it was the turn of staff nurse Adrian “Adrian” Fletcher (or “Fletch”) to don the attractive dark blue scrubs of The Big Hospital Upstairs. He took to life on AAU very readily – he’d even heard of Albie’s, though no one from Casualty has ever gone there. Ric Griffin wasn’t that pleased to see him – Ric and Tess Bateman go back a long way, apparently, so obviously Ric wasn’t that impressed by the married man who messed Our Tess around. Ric has apparently forgotten the old saying about “two to tango” and that Fletch only recently saved the life of the blessed Tess, but still… At least by the end of the episode Fletch had won the admiration of Ric via the medium of some nifty work with a Sengstaken tube. Even Dr Smug was impressed by that one.

Harder to impress was Colette, who only had to clap eyes on Fletch and she would go all snarly. It turned out that she’d once turned down the opportunity to become Mrs Adrian “Adrian” Fletcher, presumably before he got married to the one he was married to when he was being a married man dallying with Tess. Who knew?   Continue reading

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