Anne turns the ta­bles

Anne Hegerty was about to lose her home when she signed up for The Chase, Steve Kil­gal­lon writes.

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It’s a 60-minute quiz show, highly repet­i­tive, filmed over­seas, pre­sented by a mi­nor soap star and, by the time it reaches us, some two years old.

And yet ev­ery week, The Chase per­forms. When au­di­ence rat­ings com­pany Nielsen re­leases its top 20 most watched pro­grammes of the week, there it is. For the month be­fore this story was filed, it ranked 13th, 13th, 14th and 13th in those weekly lists.

This doesn’t re­motely sur­prise Anne Hegerty, one of the five ‘‘chasers’’, quiz nerds who each day hunt down a panel of four reg­u­lar pub-quizzing Joes and, al­most al­ways, de­prive them of any prize money while former Coro­na­tion St ac­tor Bradley Walsh watches on and guf­faws.

Nor does it sur­prise her that my 9-month-old twins are avid fans, The Chase usu­ally be­ing on in the back­ground at tea time (it’s the repet­i­tive mu­si­cal stings that hook them, I reckon). She’s been sent quite a lot of videos of ba­bies watch­ing en­rap­tured. Oh look, OK, and I’m a fan of the show, too.

In part, The Chase‘s ram­pant suc­cess prob­a­bly doesn’t shock Hegerty be­cause she’s al­ready seen the im­pact of the show on her own life. She was a ben­e­fi­ciary, on the brink of los­ing her home, when it turned her into the sort of celebrity who spends her hol­i­day sea­son do­ing panto.

She’s autis­tic, she says, and that makes it dif­fi­cult for her to multi-task. She was a free­lance proof reader, and pretty good at it, but not so good at do­ing all the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ad­min work. ‘‘I just sim­ply couldn’t keep it go­ing and the re­sult was I wasn’t pay­ing my bills, but I was try­ing not to go on ben­e­fits on the grounds that I just thought that was sort of giv­ing up. I wasn’t giv­ing up.’’

But she was at risk of los­ing her Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tion [a vol­un­tary so­cial hous­ing body] flat due to un­paid rent un­til one of their staff mem­bers vis­ited. ‘‘She was stepping over piles of un­opened mail and re­alised we had a prob­lem. She said ‘we will fix this, I will get some­one to help you’.’’

A so­cial worker called Jeff McKenzie – ‘‘He’s won­der­ful, I love him’’ – duly ar­rived, sorted out her bills, se­cured her a ben­e­fit called Dis­abil­ity Liv­ing Al­lowance and taught her to cope. Then she learned of a ‘‘high level quizzing cir­cuit’’ and joined the world of elite quizzers, pop­u­lated by Eg­gheads cast mem­bers and Master­mind con­tes­tants, just in time to

Si­lence, 8.30pm, Satur­day, Rialto

An­drew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Nee­son star in Martin Scors­ese’s 17th cen­tury-set drama about two Por­tuguese Je­suit priests who travel to Ja­pan in an at­tempt to lo­cate their men­tor. ‘‘Less showy than The Last Temp­ta­tion Of Christ, more grip­ping than Kun­dun, the third part of Scors­ese’s un­of­fi­cial ‘re­li­gious’ tril­ogy is beau­ti­fully made, stag­ger­ingly am­bi­tious and ut­terly com­pelling,’’ wrote Em­pire mag­a­zine’s Ian Freer.

Af­ter the Storm, 8.30pm, Mon­day, Rialto

A 2016 Ja­panese drama about a pri­vate de­tec­tive who, af­ter the death of his fa­ther, strug­gles to find child sup­port money and re­con­nect with his son and au­di­tion for the sec­ond sea­son of Chase.

She’s still on Dis­abil­ity Liv­ing Al­lowance – and very clear on ex­plain­ing what it ac­tu­ally is, clearly be­cause she’s had some stick for still claim­ing it de­spite her suc­cess (it’s not means-tested, and it is to as­sist peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to live every­day lives). Be­cause she is now some­thing of a celebrity, ‘‘it is dif­fi­cult to go down the street with­out be­ing recog­nised. It’s weird and in­ter­est­ing. There are times when you’re not ab­so­lutely crazy about it... but I hope I never take it for granted.’’

Hegerty’s in-show char­ac­ter – the ma­tronly Gov­erness – has trans­lated com­fort­ably to pan­tomime. She orig­i­nally imag­ined her as a cross be­tween Car­o­line Ah­erne’s com­edy grand­mother Mrs Mer­ton and Harry Pot­ter‘s Dolores Um­bridge – ‘‘a bit creepy’’.

‘‘But a friend of mine said ‘you won’t be able to sus­tain that’, so I went down more of the stan­dard scary route and, in re­cent years, at least one Amer­i­can viewer has com­pared me to Pro­fes­sor McGona­gle from the Harry Pot­ter films. So McGona­gle, not Um­bridge: I’ll take that.’’ It’s left her wear­ing ex­pen­sive, ‘‘but stu­pen­dously un­flat­ter­ing’’ retro school­marm out­fits she’s rather sick of.

Oth­er­wise, no com­plaints. ‘‘I’d love to think it can go on and on, and the head of ITV said to Bradley [Walsh] re­cently that he thinks it hasn’t hit its peak yet.’’

There are two rea­sons why the show works, she says: the for­mat, and Walsh. The ex-wife. ‘‘The film-mak­ing is so ex­quis­ite, and the act­ing so cal­i­brated, it sticks with you,’’ wrote The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter‘s Deb­o­rah Young. ‘‘It’s straight­for­ward, you can tune in any time, see what point we’ve got to and what must have hap­pened. And ev­ery­one loves Bradley. He’s so good. I can’t imag­ine we could have had any­one bet­ter.’’

Hegerty says Walsh’s ap­par­ent quizques­tion ig­no­rance is a front. ‘‘He’s a trained en­gi­neer, and there are no stupid en­gi­neers. The only stupid en­gi­neer is prob­a­bly dead by now. There are times when I am pretty sure he is more likely to know the an­swer than the con­tes­tant or me.’’

Walsh does ap­pear be the vi­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween the Bri­tish ver­sion and the vastly in­fe­rior Aus­tralian im­i­ta­tion, which also screens here and fea­tures Hegerty and fel­low Chaser Mark ‘‘The Beast’’ Lab­bett, but with a dif­fer­ent host (there’s also US, Ger­man and Rus­sian ver­sions).

When we talk, Hegerty is home in Manch­ester, north­ern Eng­land, and en­gaged in a Face­book mes­sen­ger con­ver­sa­tion with Lab­bett, in Syd­ney film­ing the Aus­tralian show. It’s mainly about sta­tis­tics: Lab­bett, a former maths teacher, main­tains an ex­ten­sive sta­tis­ti­cal his­tory of the Chasers’ re­spec­tive per­for­mances, right down to how many ‘‘push backs’’ they’ve sus­tained (where a con­tes­tant an­swers a ques­tion right that they’ve got wrong).

This leads us to the Celebrity Chase, which means a trade-off for the Chasers be­tween the dis­trac­tion of film­ing be­fore a stu­dio au­di­ence who mo­ments ear­lier have been psyched up by a warm-up man en­cour­ag­ing them to sing The Way to Amar­illo,

Find­ing Vi­vian Maier, 8.30pm, Tues­day, Maori TV

A 2013 doc­u­men­tary about a French nanny whose pre­vi­ously un­known cache of 100,000 pho­to­graphs earned her a post­hu­mous rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most ac­com­plished street pho­tog­ra­phers. ‘‘More con­nect-the-dots de­tec­tive thriller than tra­di­tional doc, John Maloof and Char­lie Siskel’s rev­e­la­tory rid­dle of a film un­masks a bril­liant pho­tog­ra­pher who hid in plain sight,’’ wrote En­ter­tain­ment Weekly‘s Chris Nashawatay.

Hock­ney, 8.30pm, Thurs­day, Rialto

This 2014 doc­u­men­tary sees the charis­matic Bri­tish artist take di­rec­tor Ran­dall Wright on an ex­clu­sive tour of his archives and into his stu­dio, where he still ver­sus the chance to chat to fa­mous peo­ple in the green room.

Here the usual rules are sub­verted and it ap­pears as if the celebs are lobbed up eas­ier ques­tions to fa­cil­i­tate the win­ning of prize money for char­ity. ‘‘We are pretty clear that there is a gen­eral de­sire for the celebrity teams to win,’’ Hegerty be­gins, then pauses. ‘‘Oh dear, I don’t know how to say this. Try to think how to be diplo­matic, have a swig of cof­fee [she does].’’

Ear­lier, she’d been telling me about how com­pet­i­tive they all are. Caf­feinere­vived, she says: ‘‘So I think the thing is the celebri­ties have got to be will­ing to come on, and no­body wants to look re­ally stupid. But I prom­ise we are play­ing to the best of our abil­i­ties.’’ I be­lieve her. ❚

The Chase, TVNZ1, week­days, 5pm.

paints seven days a week. It also looks back at David Hock­ney’s for­ma­tive years in the Bri­tish Pop Art scene and his ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing a gay man as the Aids cri­sis took hold, as well as his years work­ing in Cal­i­for­nia. ‘‘An ami­able, agree­able study,’’ wrote The Guardian‘s Peter Brad­shaw.

Episodes, 9.30pm, Thurs­day, SoHo

As the fifth and fi­nal sea­son of this crit­i­cally-ac­claimed com­edy opens, Matt’s (Matt Le Blanc) game show is a run­away hit, while Sean (Stephen Man­gan) and Bev­erly (Tam­sin Greig) have to en­dure watch­ing Sean’s loath­some ex-part­ner de­stroy their lat­est project. ‘‘As sneak­ily ruth­less as any­thing on tele­vi­sion,’’ wrote IndieWire‘s Ben Travers. – James Croot


Chase star Anne Hegerty: hates the cos­tume.

Anne Hegerty with The Chase host Bradley Walsh, front, and fel­low Chasers Mark Lab­bett, back and Shaun Wal­lace, right.

Liam Nee­son stars in Martin Scors­ese’s Si­lence.

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