Episode 01: The PROPER CELEBRITY Special

Well this was exciting and no mistake. I had learned a few lessons from recording the pilot and listened to your feedback, and even took some on board. I hope you enjoy this episode, I continue to be interested in your thoughts.

Once again the questions have been supplied by our good friends at QuizQuizQuiz.com.

Here is Episode 01: The PROPER CELEBRITY Special. It is about 26 minutes long. Link Correct January 2014.

And here are the show notes for those who find this sort of thing interesting – you’re advised to listen to the show first as there are spoilers here:

  • I’ve known both Ian (from messageboards and suchlike) and Tom (long time Friend of the Bar) for ages, although this is the first time I’ve talked to them for real. Ian said he was interested in doing an episode and as someone Off The Telly I felt I needed another Off The Telly celeb to do it. And Tom agreed! So yay them.
  • I’ve subconciously nicked the episode titling convention (of referring to every episode as a special) from Tom Scott and pals’ Technical Difficulties podcast.
  • The first thing you will notice compared to the pilot is that the sound quality is much better. I had a few days before done the inaugural episode of Fifty 50 and decided to try out recording on Audacity AND MP3 Skype recorder to see what would transpire. What transpired was good, so no you didn’t get the awkward edits this time round. It was just a case of syncing everything up and editing them together.
  • However, for some reason apparently Skype frequently dropped out my end. I could hear them, and they could hear each other, but apparently they couldn’t hear me quite a lot. Could this be a router thing? I’m on Virgin 60mb so I don’t think it’s my speed. This happened last time too. Let me know if you have any ideas.
  • You’ll be pleased to note that Ian didn’t die from his 26 mile walk, and did indeed make his target so yay him. And no, for those who listened all the way to the end of the show, I didn’t just donate a pound. Publically I’m happy to be a bastard, privately a little bit less so. A little bit.
  • I don’t think the opening line was provocative enough.
  • I think I just about get away with the dangerous temporal joke at the beginning. Which is just as well, because I just about fail to deliver many of my other gags very well throughout, I think I stuff up the big You Bet! gag at the end significantly. These things always play out so differently in your head when you write them, don’t they? Imagine how good this show could be with a competant host. And producer.
  • I do try and avoid being trite – you’ve got to be first or you’ve got to subvert otherwise you don’t bring anything to the table. But I could not avoid going for a cheap laugh with the Wimpy reference. Sorry.
  • I’m putting “err”ing down to filling whilst trying to do three things at once. Yes.
  • You’ll note that the “I don’t make the rules/you do make the rules” catchphrase has gone. I think it’s an excellent catchphrase, the trouble is there is nowhere to put it where it comes off as natural. I had considered comedy punishments for losing, “eternal damnation,” that sort of thing but decided that it would sound rubbish. So for the moment it’s gone.
  • However “no, it’s the other one” caught on quite quickly.
  • The beds! Yes. About a week before I was just going to put Paul Koulak’s Fort Boyard Council music over the third round and I was going to leave it at that. And then I read something about creating simple beds on iPad Garageband which I downloaded ages ago so had a play around. Basically I’m all about synthesizers and percussion. Happily Smart Bass: Exoplanet and Smart Drums go well together and make pretty decent (if very simple) gameshow beds.
  • I think I might swap the round two and three bed around for next time though, as I think the round two one is more tense. Let me know what you think. Bed two originally had a very quick drum going in the background, but I felt it drowned everything else out too much.
  • The quiz worked really well. Jack at QuizQuizQuiz had the suggestion of making the questions a little bit harder this time round, and also the suggestion that two broad categories, two slightly less broad categories and one narrow one would be a good way to go. He knows his stuff. It’s interesting that despite the harder questions, the scores were actually a bit higher than the pilot.
  • Here is the spreadsheet with the questions on so you can compare OFFICIAL difficulty: The Line Up 2
  • Really pleased it went to the wire, although perhaps should have reiterated the scores more towards the end.
  • It turns out that the question of The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night Time turned up on Tom’s high-altitude trivia training camp he did on the afternoon of the record. I still can’t believe he had never heard of The Raccoons. But that’s part of the fun isn’t it? The idea that you could give away a ton of points on an easy question you don’t realise is easy. I had listened to all of the Technical Difficulties podcasts previously and it hadn’t twigged that the tennis net question had come up on his show. Not sure there’s much that can be done about that, you can remove luck as far as possible but you can’t remove it completely (and still be fun).
  • There was some discussion afterwards as to what the result would have been if Ian had swapped all the round one and round two questions around. In fact, it would have led to a tied game at 18 points each. I am happy this didn’t happen because the tiebreak I had planned was lousy.
  • The next one is hopefully at the end of October. It will contain references to Halloween and Guy Fawkes. Probably. Does anyone have any other questions?

17 thoughts on “Episode 01: The PROPER CELEBRITY Special

  1. David B

    I would quibble a little with the Bamm Bamm question since he’s actually adopted (as is Popeye’s Swee’Pea, funnily enough).

    I thought this was a very good episode indeed. The improved sound and more challenging subject mix and were all too be welcomed. The game’s worked well 2-for-2 now so that’s not a bad batting average.

    But.. is it me or is there a slight flaw in the ointment in that, technically, the first question of the final is worth less than all the questions from Round 2? I guess the point is that you don’t know which subjects are going to be weak points until you get to Round 3, but I thought I’d make the, er, point.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Yep, deliberately built in, partly for natural progression and game balance (otherwise I think we have to go 3-7, and I don’t like that, it would mean 5, 10 and 25 points going) and partly exactly for potential strategy if you think about your stack of questions more carefully.

      The scoring has got to be absolutely simple, there’s no visual aid. There were three or four different methods considered, this one was by far the most elegant.

  2. Andy "Kesh" Sullivan

    Another good episode. A nice mix of questions, some I knew, a few I didn’t (particularly the Sleazy Tories category). This is shaping up to be a nice quiz

  3. Pingback: Fifty 50 episode 02 | Fifty 50

  4. Chris M. Dickson

    As discussed on Twitter, I enjoyed it. Thank you for putting in the time and effort to make it and share it with us. There’s nothing wrong with the format; it’s exactly as all right as you think it is.

    However, I get the impression that you’d like some more constructive criticism than that. Perhaps the most negative thing that you can draw is that people so far haven’t really been willing to talk about it, or haven’t had much to say.

    It’s difficult to criticise any activities like this; we all know they’re fan efforts and money-losing ventures. The instant rejoinder to any negative criticism is “So where’s your podcast, then?” or similar. It’s very easy to be negative about shows that have made it to TV because we all know that someone somewhere is making money out of their existence, and making money for mediocre product is thoroughly annoying all round. This is just for fun. Your competition is not The Exit List or Breakaway, it’s Accumulate!, it’s every other show in the Amateur Adventure Hour, maybe it’s 31 Questions.

    The game in the show works, but it’s very orthodox, considering the audience and tastes of most of the Bar inhabitants, and very slight. It’s not, say, The Mole and it doesn’t try to be. However, there’s no reason why amateur productions can’t have interesting games to them, even if there are restrictions in the practicalities.

    I’d say that the game here is only about as interesting as that of – say – Perfection or Eggheads. At one level, that’s OK – and, hey, they got commissioned. At another level, who loves either of those? Why settle for OK, or for anything less than love? I’m not even sure I completely buy the “oh, it’s only a podcast, so you can’t have visuals and you can’t assume people are following it properly, so you’ve got to keep it simple” argument. (*)

    Perhaps that’s not a fair comparison. I don’t think the game is more interesting than that of Accumulate! and barely more interesting than that of 31 Questions. This is OK, as both of these shows succeed on their own merits, mostly to do with the atmosphere and humour around the game. For all I am lukewarm about the game inside The Line Up, I do think you are rapidly developing an atmosphere for it, and I think the show works well (or, at least, on par with either of those, and that ain’t half bad) in its own context because of its atmosphere. The Line Up will succeed or fail not so much on the strength of the game but on the strength of the atmosphere. So far, genuinely pretty good, but there’s where there’s more scope for you to work on, writing more gags, interacting even more with the contestants, letting more fun emerge. (Victoria Coren freestyles between questions on Only Connect this season much more than she did in earlier seasons, and the show is even better as a result.)

    I really like your comment above that “you’ve got to be first or you’ve got to subvert otherwise you don’t bring anything to the table”. Your niche, as far as I can tell, seems to be subverting existing game show tropes. Brilliant – or, at worst, that’ll play well with this audience. I thought the You Bet! gag was tremendous, though I thought the payoff line was going to be “a prize of 156… pence”, and the Gift Aid gag made it even better. Similarly, Fighting Talk did a fantastic five-second knowing reference to a well-loved show of the 1980s this Saturday. That might be a good route for you to go down, and I can’t see you not doing so at least subconsciously.

    The questions are definitely a cut above the average in terms of interest; the variety in category breadth is a welcome shade, and thank you for confirming that they were deliberately harder rather than just me getting thicker! If they got any harder than that then I might start to enjoy the show a little less.

    The production values are definitely neater and definitely good enough already, which is an impressive degree of improvement between just two episodes. Not sure about the sound effects, though; the doorbell for a correct answer seems a bit… not sure what the term is – saturated, perhaps? Overdriven? I don’t know if you dub them over in post or play them live; if the latter, possibly a shade quieter.

    The main problem I have with the game is round two. If we didn’t know and like the person making the show, we’d be saying things like “Stephen Leahy’s calling from twenty years ago and he wants his round two back”. There is sound internal logic behind the decision to double the value, at least; each contestant has selected what they consider to be harder questions in each category, and nobody objects to harder questions being worth more points. Nevertheless, in terms of entertainment value, it’s sufficiently similar to round one that it starts to drag a bit.

    The whole format does seem to cling rather tightly to the orthodox view of the three-act play. Intro, gameplay, outro – and even the gameplay is overtly tripartite. If you’re wedded to the hand management mechanic (and I think you are, otherwise there isn’t a show) then perhaps there could be something a bit more imaginative done with round two within the overall context. For instance, is there other best practice that could be borrowed from other existing hand management card games?

    My suggestion for round two – and this is hardly delving down the spectrum from familiarity to obscurity – would be at least nominally to speed-round it up. Five questions, but a one minute time limit for questions and answers for all five. (Hardly a top speed sort of speed round!) Yep, it’s using the slow-quick-slow time signature of, say, Four Square – and if you were to use Four Square’s maze music, or any of the other great game show sixty-second countdowns that there have been over the years, so much the better. (I always liked the US Double Dare obstacle course countdown music, for instance.) This then gives round two questions two elements of Special Difficulty which might justify valuing each question at twice the price. It also gives some variety from the non-stop ping-pong between contestants.

    It’s also worth considering the subtext of the show. You’ve themed it around the Bother’s Bar pub quiz – but, in the past, you’ve often expressed a desire for real life pub quizzes to feature more overtly game-show-natured devices. Would it not be the niftiest thing if a real life pub quiz were to feature a speed round? If so, why not feature it in your own podcast pub quiz?

    We can take the analogy a step further. You’ve also said in the past that you’ve always wanted a pub quiz that also featured game show devices such as endgames or bonus rounds. Now you effectively have an endgame here – at least inasmuch as, say, Schlag Den Raab is or WWTBAM? was effectively a token contestant-selection main game followed by a prize-selection endgame. Your endgame is very Schlag Den Raab, but that’s no bad thing; it works well, everybody likes it, it’s just not the most original thing in the world.

    Accordingly, I think you should consider sticking a bonus round at the end of the show for whoever wins. There doesn’t have to be a prize, in just the same way that there doesn’t have to be a prize already and the show works perfectly well without. If it’s a fun bonus round, it’ll add to the entertainment value of the show.

    Now as to what that bonus round should be… well, you could do a different one every week, if you like, either faithfully or subverted. However, I think we both know which one you want and that secretly you want to “be” Paolo Bonolis. When you love the Avanti endgame so much, when you’re joyously paying tribute to one of your favourite shows already with your own format, why not pay tribute to another as well? Sure, there are pragmatic difficulties – e.g. if you can’t see the contestants face-to-face, you can’t see they aren’t writing answers down (get around that by using video chat for this round only if you’re Skype-ing as it is) and this would require extra questions, albeit potentially relatively easy ones that you could write yourself. Go on, you know you want to…

    OK, tha’s’all I got. I hope it doesn’t come across as being a slating; there’s an awful lot that you do well already, and frankly we all like you and your work so much that we would listen to your podcast version of The All-New Star-Studded $25,000 Reading The Telephone Directory. You know I only go into this degree of detail for shows that I think are worth it.

    (*) So where’s my podcast, then – my big-concept, high-profile podcast? Believe it when you hear it, but here’s my idea: “Adventure Call, the podcast”. We all know that there aren’t enough fantasy game fans to make the Adventure Call sketches on Limmy’s Show! a real call-and-lose show, and probably for the best. However, there probably are enough potential players to make a podcast out of it – and one with uncompromisingly opaque logic, a level of impenetrable complexity that needs a particular sort of viewpoint to be considered at all fair and a higher deaths-to-victories ratio than even, say, Knightmare.

    1. Chris M. Dickson

      Damn, 1600 words and I forgot to make a “You *do* make the rules” gag in the end. Please insert one in the appropriate place.

    2. Brig Bother Post author

      or haven’t had much to say.

      Or haven’t downloaded it in massive amounts, is probably closer to the actual truth. But by the way proper thanks for criticising it, it is appreciated. I’ve always said “the audience doesn’t care about the whys and wherefores, they only care about the end result” and now here I am amusingly defending it.

      I’d say that the game here is only about as interesting as that of – say – Perfection or Eggheads. At one level, that’s OK – and, hey, they got commissioned. At another level, who loves either of those?

      Loads of people – that’s why they get recommissioned, but not us. But I do take your point, in fact after recording the pilot I came up with the tagline “so prosaic even 12 Yard won’t touch it,” but in a lot of ways I stand by the format. I think it’s as entertaining as the people who play it and gives a little bit of scope and insight into people, moreso than a straight Q and A would. The whole thing came out of wondering if there’s a show to be made out of a simple idea no-one had apparently done before. You and other people can tell me that.

      It is interesting how my sensibilities are becoming more old school at the moment. I do not know why this is. Maybe because I think there’s a gap in the market for that sort of thing.

      I do think you are rapidly developing an atmosphere for it, and I think the show works well

      Thanks very much. I do think it’s important to have a feel and a sense of place for a show. I think that is a thing that people like.

      No, the biggest handicap I think the show has at the moment is *me*. I have a face for radio and a voice for silent film. They say you should play to your talents, unfortunately mine is reading things very fast and getting stuff across as economically as possible. In my head I know exactly how the gags should be delivered, I listen to it back and think “oh GOD.” In time hopefully I’ll loosen up – I’m not a natural performer but once you’ve done it a few times I’d hope you stop being nervous and can concentrate your energy in the places it needs to go. Ideally we’d have all have been in an actual pub for an hour before recording and I’d be up to speed.

      I don’t think there’s any need to be too subversive just yet – I do actually want an audience – and you’ve got to establish your thing first. Look out for the inevitable big band special in the future.

      The correct answer ding is a bike bell. I will turn it down next time. Actually the time up aircraft carrier buzzer is a bit loud as well.

      I think round two as it stands is necessary. Right now I have rounds worth 5, 10 and 15 points in natural difficulty and tension progression. I think it is basically as elegant and perfect as you are going to get for this format.

      I take your point about a change of texture for round two, but for technological reasons a speed round is a bad idea – I really have to slow down to read the questions out and speeding up again + Skype is only going to lead to tears – contestants were already commenting to me that I was dropping out (including hilariously but well editedly, when I gave out the answer to the Michael Atherton question), I don’t really want to be making time based judgement decisions. Maybe there could be some mileage in letting one person have all their questions first and then the other person, but I don’t like the idea of someone twiddling their thumbs for too long. As it currently stands you’re never more than about 30 seconds away from some interaction in some form.

      I’d bloody love to have the Avanti end-game, but see speed round complaints passim and double them. You hear the bits where it sounds like I’m mumbling something fast? Imagine four minutes of it. Other end games? I’m wary of the idea of something being tacked on. It’s got to *feel* right. Besides, the suggestion is the show should be shorter rather than longer.

      I think you will like Do A Thing And Win Some Points if it ever happens – currently it’s an unwritten paper format that’s somewhere uncomfortably between The Krypton Factor and Shooting Stars but played for real. The problem is I don’t think it’s a radio show, its going to require cameras and an audience. So we’ll see. The endgame is “DON’T Do A Thing And Win Some Prizes”.

      Edit: I can’t believe I missed out the comment “I can understand it’s a bit like discovering Chatsworth are making a new TV show, then discovering it’s Wine Hunt.” which had been in my head all afternoon. Oh well.

      1. Alex

        I think you will like Do A Thing And Win Some Points if it ever happens – currently it’s an unwritten paper format that’s somewhere uncomfortably between The Krypton Factor and Shooting Stars but played for real.

        Based on the description, Commission x[Graham’s Number].

    3. David B

      Y’see, I’m going to disagree here. Something deliberately targeted as a podcast/radio show is a very different proposition from a TV show. It’s a lot harder for the listener to know where they are in the structure when there are no visual cues. Things like The News Quiz or Round Britain Quiz might have quite complex conversations but the actual structure is very simple indeed – usually four questions to either side.

      You have to assume that quite a lot of people listening via audio will be doing something else at the same time. When I listened the first time, I didn’t quite get the structure of the thing, although I wasn’t sitting alone in a dark room trying to decode it. With the new beds for each section, it’s now quite easy to tell what’s where.

      While the essential flavour of this might be vanilla, it’s still a game that no-one else is doing and I’d rather have a regular dose of this monthly than wacky one-offs that take 6 months to prepare.

      1. Gizensha

        Agreed – With this sort of thing, especially in audio, I think elegance is key. Simple scoring, simple structure, easy to understand game play (Which, without visuals, any more interesting hand management thing would, I suspect, be problematic. Although with visuals a sort of ‘drafting questions to use against the opponent/take on oneself’ might be amusing… But the mechanics of that would need to be fairly simple to follow even with visuals.) – As such a radio quiz is always going to live or die by the questions and the atmosphere, the former is good for this, and while the latter has room for improvement it’s definitely along the right lines and suspect will get there by the end of the first season.

        There just isn’t many ways you can do Stand Out Set Piece for round 3 of 4 as both Only Connect and Accumulate! do on radio.

      2. Weaver

        I agree with David, the fair comparison is with other radio programmes.

        Why do I like some of the radio quizzes and contests, and really dislike others? For Counterpoint and Brain of Britain, it’s to play along, pit my brain against some of the others, and learn something. For Round Britain Quiz, it’s both to play along (and get the tremendous pleasure of beating the panel on Broadcasting’s Toughest Quiz) and to appreciate the clues that Tom Sutcliffe gives. Fighting Talk is entertaining to hear, but I can’t play along, and don’t have the time or inclination to tune in often enough to appreciate all the in-jokes. The Third Degree is listenable, but not memorable.

        The News Quiz fails because it’s not as funny as The Now Show, and isn’t a topical quiz. I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue hasn’t worked in many years, because it’s become too staid and tied down in its own history (for which I squarely blame the producer). The Unbelievable Truth misses through being too staccato. Just a Minute and It’s Your Round stand and fall purely on the quality of the panelists and what they bring to the show.

        The Line Up fits in somewhere around here. It works because it has a simple game, and it has an ambience. I’m not convinced that the back-story to the thirty questions works, but it’s gone in a flash.

        I don’t agree that round two needs a little something more, precisely because podcasts aren’t designed to be heard with full attention. I heard this month’s episode while walking to the supermarket, and the structure is simultaneously undemanding and intriguing. There’s one round to introduce the subjects, one round to ask harder questions and allow the contenders to get under each others’ skin, and one round to put that into action.

        Four rounds would be too long; writing six subjects but only asking five in each round might be an interesting tactical idea, and leaves something for a tiebreak, but does run up Brig’s bills. As it stands, the end could be a bit anti-climactic, especially if it’s clear who’s won two or three questions before the end. A bonus round idea: the losing contender writes (and submits for checking) a question on one of the topics, and asks it of the winner.

        If I’m being hyper-critical, the programme’s coming across as a bit blokey at the moment – three men asking questions of each other, on relatively male subjects. I’m sure it’ll be addressed in the normal scheme of things; the show is just about short enough to get away without a female voice.

        From a technical point of view, I agree that the bells are a bit loud. The tone for an error is good; perhaps some sort of synth construction for a correct answer? I don’t know if it’s technically possible for Brig (or a hired announcer) to pre-record the questions and play in the correct file at the right point; that might help the programme to flow a little better by allowing the presenter to concentrate on the presenting.

        These are details. The overall summary: yes.

        1. Brig Bother Post author

          It’s interesting you mention the blokeyness aspect, it is something I’ve noticed and I’ll be trying to get more female involvement in upcoming episodes.

      3. Chris M. Dickson

        See, this is again orthodox thinking. In commercial terms, I’m sure that you and the rest of the world have demonstrated that it’s the way things work. However, for a fan-made podcast, it doesn’t have to be that way.

        I would go further and say that if people agree that the commercial way is the only worthwhile target to approach, it becomes more important that there are fan productions pushing the boundaries, else the boundaries won’t get pushed at all. I cheer on the amateurs more than ever; the word amateur comes from the Latin verb amare, to love – the amateur is someone who does things for love. (Sure, commercial success and fan critical success are not necessarily exclusive of each other, but in situations where they happened to be, I know which one I’d go for.)

        The baseline for what’s possible in an audio-only show must surely be at least as complex as what has been attained in audio-only shows so far. Fighting Talk has developed its own brand of emergent gameplay and mystique. X Marks The Spot had some seriously sophisticated gameplay going on. Sure, in format terms, it was arguably simpler and clearer to follow than even The Line Up (there’s one team, they’re always playing, they solve a clue, then they solve another clue, then they solve another clue, then they solve another clue, then some magic happens with X marking a spot, then they solve another clue, the end) but the complexity of the material and its puzzles has to explain the show’s success in its own context.

        I’m now going to set up a straw man here that you haven’t raised, but I think it’s related and relevant: more and more people even watching TV are watching while they operate a second (and possibly subsequent) screen. Does this mean that TV game shows going forwards have to ascribe a similar lack of attention to their viewer as the lack of attention that is assumed for audio game shows?

        Answering my own question, it doesn’t have to mean that for all game shows, but it may mean that for more and more commercial shows. If there are TV game shows which don’t have to make similar assumptions about an inattentive audience, there’s no reason why there can’t be audio game shows which don’t have to make a similar assumption, and these are the ones I’m interested in, and these are the ones which stand half a chance in the UKGS.com polls, even if they don’t stand a chance anywhere else.

        (The other aspect of that is that some TV game shows gain from this second screen aspect. Can audio game shows do a similar thing? Just because it hasn’t happened yet, what’s stopping it from happening?)

        Oh, and y’think I can produce anything as quickly as six months? 😉

        1. David B

          XMTS had a production team of around 10 people. For a one man outfit, The Line Up is doing very well.

          If you can do better, we’re all ears…

        2. Gizensha

          TV shows can get around the ‘people doing it while doing something else’ aspect by having a visual display, either incorporated into the set or on the screen – Even as simple as a score display, meaning that it’s easier to multitask and follow more complicated games. Radio shows don’t have that luxury.

  5. Gizensha

    Minor criticism (And, when I say minor, I mean ‘nitpicking on the level of the sort of things that get discussed on Doctor Who forums’ – It’s theoretically possible for someone to enter the final round without being able to win, potentially destroying any sort of tension for it. With stuff like Only Connect and The Krypton Factor, it was always theoretically possible for a comeback due to the final round being quick fire. If someone gets every question right in the first two rounds, and the opponent gets none, the opponent is playing for a tie, and that’s only available if the opponent flubs the next five questions, making it possible for a tension-less final round.

    (As I say; minor to the point of atom picking, yet alone nit-picking. This situation is simply not going to happen and as such rectifying it would be more trouble than it’s worth (Plus would probably make the overall format worse. In the same way that Accumulate! was never going to have a pointless final round even though 85 […Yeah. Because someone was really going to get a 10 layer tower. Or 15 points on the sequence question, for that matter.] points were available in the first three and only 55 in the final and as such it was only a theoretical problem rather than a real one))


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