Posts Tagged ‘only connect’

Nothing really to add the clusterfuck that is the current state of British politics, other than to note that our primus inter mendaces has been at it again today:

And if I write about it any further, I suspect my blood pressure medications won’t suffice.

So, something more pleasant.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to live in Richmond. well, to be precise in Ham, but hardly anyone knows where that is, so I say Richmond-Upon-Thames and most people have a general idea where that is, to the south west of London.

I was over there last night and this morning, staying with friends; friends I see on a roughly weekly basis. It’s always an evening full of fun and laughter, and it’s a wonderful oasis from the world for a few hours. I don’t think even they realise how truly I value it.

Coming back this morning, I crossed Richmond Bridge, and I was reminded how lovely Richmond can be.

Pretty, isn’t it?

But yesterday evening, we had our usual catchups. Catchups with me (health, and some other stuff) and with them (health, life, one of their kids has just started Big School) and on life in general.

Yes, I’m afraid politics on both sides of the Atlantic was discussed but with surprisingly few swear words, obscenities and curses. Yes, I know. I must have been off my game.

But we also caught up on some telly.

As is well known, my not liking a show is almost guaranteed to mean that it’s a critically acclaimed series that most – if not all – of my friends will enjoy, and will praise to the skies.

But there are exceptions to the rule: shows I like that my friends like as well, so usually, we’ll catch up on the latest episodes; last night all three had episodes broadcast this week , so we caught up on them.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Oh, gods, how highly can I praise this show? I doubt anyone coming across it for the first time would think of it – as it was thought of in its very, very early days – as “The Daily Show But On A Sunday. John Oliver quickly established the show’s own identity and its own style of doing its thing. Hell, it’s Thing is completely different to The Daily Show, both under Jon Stewart and under Trevor Noah.

(I’ve warmed to Noah’s version of the show the past year, by the way. I’m not sure whether I’ve just become more accepting of it, or whether he’s toned down the things I didn’t like about the first couple of years, while upping the gag quality and content. Either way, my perception is that it’s sharper than it was, and cleverer than it was.)

But Last Week Tonight. Is clever in its own way, and the methodology John applies to his taking apart a story in a 20 minute segment, leading the audience on the story he’s telling is gloriously fun, rightly smug on occasions but utterly compelling.

And even though he knows you an csee where a set up is leading, at least half the time, you’ve missed an important aspect, and it’s not until it drops that you realise quite what you missed, and how important it is.

Have to say I miss the earlier seasons’ ‘and finally…’ moments. They were always fun and usually a much-needed relief from the ‘what the fuck?’ anger at some scandal or issue he’d raised.

Last night’s show… heh, last night’s.. Of course it was Sunday’s show, I just saw it last night. Sunday’s show’s main story was about the filibuster. And for once, it was faintly… I dunno. There was nothing new to me in the story. I mean, it was great, and funny, and showed the idiocy and the hypocrisy inherent in the tactic’s defenders, but I was once again – as I am occasionally – surprised that the audience seemed to find it new.

But then again, I’m never unsurprised at how little most people – on both sides of the Atlantic – know, and usually care, about how things happen, how they’re supposed to happen, and why things happen, in our respective institutions of government and politics.

OK, so after that, we watched…

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

Again, I wish I had the words to praise this show highly enough. Now this show is, it’s fair to say, a direct evolution in format of The Daily Show. Three segments, six or seven minutes each, with the host railing against this or that, but with sharp gags, and sharper delivery.

It’s not the format that makes Full Frontal so damn good, however. It’s the writing and especially the delivery of Samantha Bee. The anger, frustration, anger, upset, anger and especially the anger shines through on every segment, on every topic, in every glance, every word, every expression, every side-eye to the camera.

My grandmother had an expression: what’s on her lung is on her tongue.

My grandmother would like Sam Bee. Not that the anger is manufactured nor a conceit, not that the fury is an artifice. But the writing takes advantage of her upset, her fury and her boiling exasperation… and channels it into exactly the weapon appropriate for the subject matter: a rapier on this occasion and a bludgeon on that.

The writing is top notch, and Sam’s correspondents (another Daily Show holdover) are used to clever effect, complementing rather than supplementing Sam’s performance.

One notable thing though that I only rarely get from The Daily Show these days: I get the feeling that the correspondents, the host… they like each other. They’re not merely colleagues, they’re people who enjoy working with each other, enjoy each other’s work and enjoy each other’s company.

And that’s enormously pleasing to see. Congratulations to the writing teams, the correspondents and Sam Bee herself for a fantastic, angry show, that’s essential viewing.

After those shows, we finished off with the latest episode of…

Only Connect

There are few quiz shows I’ll watch for pleasure. Hardly any, in fact.

But Only Connect, of which I was an early watcher, almost instantly grabbed me and addicted me. Vitoria Coren Mitchell is a wonderful presenter/host and the questions not only make me think, I take great joy if I get one right, and experience disappointment if I get one wrong, and mild but definite upset if I get one wrong that I should have gotten right….

Sometimes the two teams will go into the final round in a tie or a point or two apart. Sometimes one team goes into that final round quite a bit ahead. Rarely, as in last night’s show, they’ll go into the final round ahead 26 – 6. Ouch.

But its a show that makes me think, and that’s what it shares with the other two shows, and why I enjoy watching all three with two of my closest friends on the planet.

(After they’d gone to bed, I watched the first couple of hours of the Democratic Debate. Hmm. Didn’t enjoy that as much, and I may write about why after the weekend..)
It’s Saturday tomorrow. If you’ve been paying attention, you know what that means. If not, then join me tomorrow for some Saturday silliness. Oh, and join me tomorrow if you know what’s coming up as well. That’d be nice.

One of my favourite guilty pleasures recently has come on a Monday evening on BBC FOUR, a quiz hosted by Victoria Coren, entitled Only Connect, in which, as the Wikipedia page has it,

In the series, teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues.

Here’s a small taster of it:

Now that only covers the first half of the show, and neither the “connecting wall” nor the “missing vowels” round (although the biggest puzzle about that final round is why it’s in the show; entertaining it is, but not really linked to “connections”).

I was delighted to discover the Only Connect app (click link to be taken to iTunes app store), but Only Connect is far from the first quiz on radio or Television to deal with connections.

For a start, there’s the wonderful television entitled Connections, more about soon, I promise. There’s a reason I’ll be talking about James Burke, but I’ll write more about that in a few days…

And then there’s Round Britain Quiz, where horribly convoluted questions are linked by something that might seem obscure but is, of course, immediately obvious once explained/realised.

On the BBC, in the UK, (and, I guess, probably on World Service and iPlayer as well) Round Britain Quiz has been running for several decades. As I say, it takes minor celebrities who represent various areas around the UK and gives them the most convoluted and contrived questions in order to get several answers, all linked by a theme.

Two examples follow here.

OK here’s one of them, one of the easier variety:

Three have vanished, one remains and three are gone, but still with us in a manner of speaking.

OK, I’ll pause while you think about that…


OK, got it?

The three that have “vanished” are The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Temple of Artemis and The Statue of Zeus.

The one that remains is The Great Pyramid at Giza.

The three that are gone but remain with us “in a manner of speaking” are…

  • The Tomb of King Mausolus at Halicarnassus, which gave us the word MAUSOLEUM
  • The Colossus of Rhodes, which gave us the word COLOSSUS, and
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria which gave us the word PHAROS, used to describe a lighthouse.

They are, of course, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Clever, huh?

Here’s another one that you probably won’t know, since it deals with UK politics, but it’s a better example of how tricky the questions can be and how every word in the question is important.

The first was a Scot who founded the party. The second was a Scot who split the party 31 years later. The third is a Scot noted for his prudence. Who are they and what’s the nominal connection that isn’t obvious, but is there all the same?

The three men are obvious, to anyone who knows their UK political history. It’s the “nominal connection that’s not obvious, but is there all the same” that’s the kicker.

The connection the question is looking for is that the men all have the same first name (nominal, remember), but didn’t use it in public life.

The party is the Labour Party.

(James) Keir Hardy (1856-1915) was one of those who formed the Labour Party.

31 years later, in August 1931, (James) Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) split the party, when he formed a coalition government that was chiefly supported by Conservatives and Liberals.

And (James) Gordon Brown, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, was, of course, noted for his obsession with “prudence”.

All of them had the first name James, and none of them used it in public life…

As with many such things, the listener sometimes thinks, “well, I could do that…”

So I did – I sent in a question ad it was used in the following series.

Here’s the question:

Why would the reduction of what we can see of the moon and what Eskimos wear be signalled large in Canterbury, and be reported in a humorous volume?

OK, so what’s the answer?

No idea? Oh, good. That’s the plan.

You want to know the answer?

Naah – think a bit… now think a bit more…

Ok then, since you insist:


  • the reduction of what we can see of the moon is wane, yes?
  • and that coat the Eskimos wear, that’s called a parka
  • now “signalled large”… well, a large sign could be a banner, couldn’t it?
  • and, of course, Canterbury, is in Kent.

Hmm: Wane, Parka, Banner, Kent.

Hmm even more: (Bruce) WAYNE, (Peter) PARKER, (Bruce) BANNER, and (Clark) KENT.

And by now, you’ll have realised the reason they’d have been in a humorous volume, or a COMIC BOOK.

I thangew.

More tomorrow.