Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Long time since the last time I spleened my vent on telly and apologies, oh several of you interbloggeteers.

I heard that thanks to the volcanic ash "chaos" telly giant RDF had to hire a fishing boat to retrieve twenty executives from the Mipcom TV festival in Cannes. I immediately pitched the format "How Sunk Is My Boat?" to every broadcaster, a reality format where the rabid execs are denied basic rights like Blackberry access and the repeated use of the word 'I', waiting to see which goes mad first and jumps overboard. Will it be Head of International Formats, or Head of Formats (International)?!?!? A must-miss series!!!

Err.. where was I?

Oh yes, well family was visiting and they had a look around the office where my company is currently housed. Best quote from sister-in-law: "God it's all so complicated - watching your shows... I just thought it'd be simple". My lightning sharp retort: "No, it's not the shows that are simple, it's me!". Much hilarity then ensued.

One of the things they asked is about 'the executives', the mysterious people in the clouds who decide on whether we've done Proper Good or Pooey Bad. It's a common question - my role is usually as an exec producer, as I hire Proper Good people to make the show and they tell me to bugger off when I'm being Pooey Bad. As the MD of the company I obviously spend a lot of time doing the money side, contracts, thinking up ideas, trying to win commissions, managing the day-to-day stuff and that, so the current production is usually something I try and add to when I can and leave well alone when running nicely.

It's interesting that in UK tv we tend to go up to exec producer and then kinda stop. OK, there are heads of this department and that one in big hundreds-strong indies, and the BBC has a byzantine structure all of its own, but the biggest credit you ever see on a show is exec producer. It's the top of the tree.

And what is up there, in the clouds above the mere series, senior, associate, assistant and line producers down below...?

In some bigger indies, in the olden days, the execs basically were charged to a show a few days a week for three reasons. Firstly, they'd helped think it up. Secondly, they were big mates - or business associates - with the onscreen talent. Or thirdly, they had a big fat wage and had to be paid somehow.

Sometimes they'd do some work on the show, sometimes they hardly ever even watched it - all entirely random to most observers but dependent on their personality, workload or basic brass neck in doing bugger all and being paid £150K per annum for it. Don't get me wrong, some were stunningly bright and could solve what seemed like an impossible problem with a seemingly off-the-cuff remark. Others were better off confined to quarters as they either had no social skills and scared the shite out of the staff, or were the total opposite and would sit and chat away all day to everyone and nothing would get done at all.

(One fearsome exec once barked to a Very Famous Bloke Out of EastEnders who'd come in randomly to see me with a programme idea: "You auditioned for (INSERT NAME OF BIGGEST SHOW WE MADE HERE), didn't you? You were the shittest presenter we've ever tried. And that's fuckin' saying something. HA!" and wandered off chuckling. Mr EastEnders sat open-mouthed. Luckily my co-producer - a very posh, well-spoken lady - said "what a c*nt" under her breath and we all howled)

In smaller indies, people were put down as execs because they owned a bit of the company. What a combination - completely lacking in any creative skills (apart from cooking the books) and yet being present and throwing ideas in all the time. One genuinely suggested that we replaced the person playing the giant God-like head that appeared in our successful show with Stephen Hawking. That is, a dismembered head of a talking, emoting person was replaced by a man who can't move any of his features on his face. The only thing on screen was a non-moving face. I said we could cut out a photo and use that and got frowned at.

In US companies people down on our credits as execs are all SVPs - senior vice presidents. Senior and vice must cancel each other out, surely? But if you just said president people would think you were Obama, I s'pose. That's why the big bosses are CEOs.

Anyway, my own interpretation of being an exec is to try and make the people who work on the show feel happy. A bit royal visity sometimes ("what you doing today then, hmm?") but it jollies things along. And, let's be honest, there are much worse jobs in the world than jollying things along.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Development hell part ii

OK, so thinking more about development stuff, as I posted yesterday, here are my completely-random-but-I'll-find-some-logic-in-'em list of how to think up a tv show. And I'll try to do one as a go - but a puposely rubbish one so you, dear reader, can't run off and make it.

As Location (x3) proves, title is crucial. [An aside: notice how it's just Relocation, Relocation not x3. Hmm. Discuss] A catchy title is everything or - more importantly nowadays - one that does as it says on the tin. The Boy With Two Heads, for example. Was Hitler Gay? (Answer: no, but it took 52 minutes to get there).

So let's think up a title. How Big Is My Pan? Now the pan could be a toilet or a cooking implement, the show about kitchen inspectors, or eating too much, or giant speed-eating competitions or something. We don't care at this stage.

No use thinking of a great factual series called The World's Dirtiest Perversions if the channel is looking for a 7pm slot. Or, equally, Sell My Shit From The Loft For Some Spurious Reason wouldn't work at 8pm - it's more a daytime show (which already exists, obviously)

Channel is important too - Oops, My Fake Boobs Have Exploded! isn't really a BBC One show (although until recently BBC Three might've been the place). Equally ITV1 won't commission A History Of Bathmats, unless it was presented by Sir David Jason.

I think How Big Is My Pan? (or HBIMP in tellyterms) is a crossover show, daytime or early peak, 3pm/7pm BBC Two / morning BBC One, daytime ITV 1, not C4, 8pm C5, any time on all the various satellite channels.

Presenters are key to any show - although interestingly in daytime they're more interchangeable. Look at the various people who've presented Bargain Hunt, or the 152 property shows. Or, indeed, This Morning [another aside: they're spreading This Morning to seven days a week, with hour-long shows at noon on Sat and Sun... er, a show called This MORNING (clue) on in the afternoon: well done ITV!!!!)

Finding a new factual presenter is the holy grail to a show like HBIMP? There was some bloke in the Guardian at the weekend who presents a series on eating loads of food in the States. We'll get him, or 'a British equivalent' (ie we'll go round the eating competitions - they do exist - and find someone who can be vaguely articulate as they stuff twelve Big Macs down their neck) But we'll need a non-speed eater too, a pair of presenters. Let's say Steve Jones. He's pretty and competent, looks nice, can read an autocue, has worked live, has lovely teeth, appeals to mums and teen girls, blokes and that, nice hair... note how appearance matters here, specially if the other guy is fat and/or lardy.

Until we know what we've got to spend, we can't decide on the format. No use having HBIMP? in a huge studio like The X Factor if we're on £25K an episode daytime money.

Finally, format - content - the actual show. You need a structure, building to a climax at the end. If the show is an hour, the lots of recaps, as viewers apparently forget what they're watching and enjoy the same 'highlight' being show 4 times before we get to it at the end. Ahem.

HBIMP? is a studio-based gameshow where people compete to cook vast amounts of food for the ENTIRE studio audience, so it shows the difference between making catering quantity portions to normal dinners. Why anyone would care about that, I have no clue, a format issue you could rightly point out... er... well, the audience are entirely owners of restaurants so they'd want to know. And us as viewers all go to restaurants, yeah?

Hmm. Either that's actually a good format (and God knows, we need another foodie format on telly ahem) or it's even shitter than I originally envisaged.

Obviously I've done this order to illustrate just why shows on telly might not have the best thought-out format. Some people - good ones - work out a format first then make it fit the first 4 points above. It might involve some shoehorning in, but if you've a strong format idea in the first place it's a help.

Not to point any fingers but some formats are just shite on a stick. I mean, did no-one at the BBC ever really acknowledge that Bargain Hunt has the slight format flaw that people are buying at retail prices and selling at wholesale ones? Hence them hardly ever making money. You could argue it destroys the format - I wouldn't, as it just destroys the PRETEND climax. Like those people on Cash In The Attic, they don't need the money for that long-awaited holiday, they really don't, we know it. Or Time Team - "we've three days to excavate an entire site"... why is it just three days? If it's proper interesting real history, they should be able to get longer. Or turn up earlier.

If you can write a show with a REAL climax, then you're better than most, I have to say. Even Grand Designs fails when the house isn't finished at the end - after all that we don't see the final result. It's like a porn movie where they are at it for 53 minutes then stop and have a chat about how incredible their climaxes would've been if they'd kept going.

Now, where's Steve Jones' number? I can see the HBIMP? logo now, a giant pan.... obviously...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Thinking up ideas for the television

Working in development is either the bestest telly job in the world or the worstest - and I should know, as at various points of my career I've thought both.

My first few months as a 'development producer' were some of the best of my telly career. I got to watch telly as research. Then I had time to write up almost anything that came into my head. And I went to meetings with my three bosses where we talked about what each channel or com.ed. wanted, and I designed ideas around them. Or we went to pitch ideas and the com.ed. would steer us in a different direction, and I got to do that.

I think the main reason I liked it was that I found it much easier than actually producing a real show. Everything was fictional, from the big-name presenter we assigned (probably not available), the set (it'd be tiny in real life) or location (nah, in a studio mate, on that budget), the contestants involved if it was a gameshow (pretend, usually named after my mates for ease of remembering who was who) to the staff who'd make it (allegedly).

There was also the fact I'd got twenty-nine years of watching telly under my belt, and an entire three years of making it, and therefore I was full to bursting of new, original, unique ideas.

Well, that's what I thought.

Fast-forward a year, through coming up with hundreds of ideas across almost every genre. And a few commissions here and there - pilots, one-offs, even short series, so not a total flop. I got a dab hand at writing a treatment, organising the information in a way that caught the eye of a com.ed. and told them all they needed to know in as few words as possible

And I cut out pictures from magazines to make the docs look pretty (before the interweb you see). Nice fonts. Careful layout. Glossy copying.

I enjoyed the pitch meetings more than I'd ever expect, realising the com.eds were mere mortals like me - and, for the first time, thinking I could work for a broadcaster too.

Being in with proper writers to talk about a drama. Or meeting legendary figures from TV like William G Stewart, to plan one of the first reality gameshows. Making a pilot with Leslie Ash and a sheep giving birth. Writing a sitcom script.

It was a lot of fun.

But it was also... well, I feel silly complaining, but it was relentless. When you're writing yet another daytime gameshow, or reformatting a factual entertainment show around two of the trendiest presenters of the moment, or trying to work out what new spin to put on pets (I had to do that five times - I believe one segment was called Pet Shop Toys... sigh)

Eventually anyone simply runs out of steam, a mixture of "nah, that isn't original, I wrote something like that a month ago", or overloading with too much research TV and accidentally copying something, or one too many times sitting saying "this is a new spin on the dating show" to be told "oh, we've just commissioned a dating show" - it gets incredibly wearing.

And anything and everything can be a TV show - well it seems that way, from an article in the Daily Mail to a throwaway title idea on a scrap of paper.

I think I reached my nadir when I was writing a show about shopping for someone. It had been specifically requested anyway. I wrote a thing called Shopping Central, a vacuous bland show in a different shopping mall each week, with a 'compare 3p a tin Lidl baked beans to £5 a tin Harrods ones' and... urgh, the rest has faded from my memory.

I was pasting John Leslie's head over a magazine pic of a man standing in front of a shopping mall, as - yes - he was our chosen big name presenter (ahem) when it occurred to me that sitting with a stick of Pritt, scalpel and John Leslie's dismembered head wasn't quite what I expected when being promoted to 'Head of Development' for a reasonably sized indie.

That's when I applied for the job on the mad cable station where all the ideas had to be twisted and weirdo, not proper and normal, got it and just about saved my sanity.

Nowadays I concentrate on other areas of telly but I still can turn out a shiny-floor Saturday night game show in a couple of hours, or a daytime relationship thing in an afternoon. I even quite enjoy it now, as it's not the be-all and end-all of my life.

As for the quality of the ideas on telly, well.. they somehow seem more derivative than ever. How many ripoffs of Come Dine With Me is it possible to produce? Harry Hill has fun with the four or five he's covered so far (most of them on ITV channels). We're in dire need of a revolution in ideas, that hopefully the death of the property show will unleash. I think the last new set of interesting formats sprang from Faking It and Wife Swap (Secret Millionaire being the latest here, or Undercover Boss in the US).

Me, I'm happy with Antiques Roadshow, The Soup, Glee and Archer. More on the latter soon...

Friday, 12 February 2010

Worst pitch meetings ever

OK, just a quick post after laughingly talking through The Past with an old mate... I've been to some terrible pitch meetings, through no fault of my own usually (but not always). Here's the worst.

This meeting was for interweb cartoons, raising money for a new business angle making cartoons online. And it was way back in 1999, the height of the first internet bubble. Some background: we'd done what seemed like hundreds of these meetings and were very bored with them, as everyone talked a good game but no money or commitment ever came out of the hours of presenting (and Powerpoint, and spreadsheets and forecasts and business plans etc etc)

All these people wanted were stupid huge growth forecasts but always, ALWAYS in different areas we simply had no way of getting into. And almsot everyone we pitched to was a twunt - in Shoreditch, in lofts, stupid haircuts and silly shoes.

So this meeting was the third of the day, at some Swedish 'incubator' company who started off new businesses. We'd had a few pints and decided to play a game to relieve the boredom, of trying to insert phrases into our various (well polished) speeches. I had to say 'owning the growth staircase'. My mate had to say 'sit dot com'. Our business blokey had to say 'brussel sprout'. And the senior guy who was helping us do all this had to say something even odder, like 'Heberekie's Puppoon' (a Japanese game on the PC Engine, Obscure Word Fans)

Needless to say we were quite drunk. The winner got his drinks bought all night afterwards.

We went into this triple height warehouse thing, and met three very nice Scandinavian men and sat in a semi-glazed cube in the centre of an open plan office. On two of the walls, the ceiling and the floor, there was bright green astroturf. We sat around the amusingly sixties-retro table and one of the nice men said, in his lilting Swedish accent, "you can see we're an incubator?". We went 'huh?'. He said "look, our walls are covered in grass, they're green, we're incubating you, yes?".

This was apparently a joke.

We went "huh?" again.

My mate simply yelled "BRUSSEL SPROUT".

They looked confused.

A couple of our team started to argue it wasn't fair just to shout out the words, they had to be integrated.

The Swedes looked on.

I said to stop talking now, we need to get onto the business of owning the growth staircase in internet animation. Or cyboons, as we'd called them, CYBer cartOONS.

They liked CYBOONS. But all these idiots did, so that wasn't a surprise.

They then said the internet wasn't what they were focused on right now.

We said 'huh?' again. My senior guy said "why are we here then?"

And then the smallest little Swede said they wanted to know our mobile phone strategy.

We said nothing.

Remember, it's 1999. Phones had little monochrome screens. That one out of the Matrix was just out, which had that nasty WAP internet slow access stuff, but it was pathetic and useless. Even now, cartoons on mobiles aren't exactly mainstream, but back then it was plain odd to think about it.

I started to waffle about, well, technology has to develop a little, that once colour screens came in we'd look at it, and-

Then I simply gave up. Our senior guy said we didn't have a mobile strategy really, we wanted money to make cartoons for the internet, and if they weren't interested we could go to our next meeting at Hebereckie's Puppoon dot com.

And off we went to the pub. I seem to remember buying the booze all night.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Comedy schmomedy

So this weekend I had a quiet time and watched the telly a lot. Had a busy week and just fancied chilling out.

So, in no order apart from how it plops into my brain:-

Why do they show two eps of Top Gear at 9am ... then the SAME two eps at 2pm? Why not four different ones? What with Dave ja vu I seemed to be getting Anne Robinson driving the Reasonably Priced Car all Sunday. (PS: they all looked fifteen years' younger in those eps, even though it was only five years ago. Hammond looked like his kid son or something)

Living has a +2 channel now, so I could watch the same (not that good) Xmas Will and Grace three times in three hours. Parapa-pa-pom.

Oh, and it was v rainy and the dish was giving up, with picture pixellising, sound going and things freezing. All this is par for the course - apart from the fact ladies in bikinis were sort-of visible as the picture froze and broke up, as if a naughty porno show was breaking in, pirate TV stylee. Very odd. By the nighttime I'd lost 50% of the channels - and all the major/good ones - so I think our block dish is boogered.

On Sky+ I watched 6 eps of 30 Rock and loved every minute of it. Made me think again about how dense a US sitcom is compared to a UK one. Well, it didn't, I was too busy laughing, I thought about it after trying to describe what happened in the ep to someone else and it taking around a third of the actual running time of the show. Try it with a British sitcom and it normally can be efficiently done in 2 mins.

Anyway, each ep had some priceless moments. In one we saw the world as Tracey, Jack and Kenneth see it. Tracey saw everyone as him. Jack saw pricetags on everything (including $7 on Kenneth). And Kenneth say everyone else as a proper actual muppet, mainly singing songs. Bestest visual gag ever.

Liz realised her gorgeous doctor BF (the one off of Mad Men) was "living in a bubble" as he was so gorgeous he never had to try to do anything properly. Just perfect all the way through.

Jack and Liz saying it was the fiftieth episode, what a great time they'd had over the past three years, all the funny things that happened... then pausing... still waiting... thinking... and then the scene continued. Not funny written down but it was so obviously a lead-in for a montage of clips ... and then they didn't show any clips.

This exchange from Liz and Jack, after Jack throws everyone out from his 50th birthday party as he realises he'll never be happy enough to vomit again (not explaining that, see the ep)

(awkwardly, approaching Jack)
Oh, sorry Jack, do you want... er.. to hug or something?

(draining whiskey)
God no Lemon, this isn't the Italian Parliament.

Liz acting in a 1980s ad for a chatline, all shoulderpads, too much lipstick (on her teeth too) and making 'sexy' faces. So funny it makes Jack vomit a bit...

Comedy. GENIUS. Gold.

I channel-hopped and there was the esteemed QT presenter hanging on a rope in front of an old picture. Surely there's no need for that? Isn't he 85 or something?

Surreal, wonderful, warm and stupid all at once, perfect British telly. As Paul Daniels - who came out of a plastic sheep's stomach of course - said incredulously, "You ARE watching ITV1"... no-one would've guessed from this show, I guarantee it.


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Video games on telly

[RE-EDIT as posted a bit incomplete]

So as you know I've made about a gabillion shows about video games, all for 10p an episode...

[ACTUAL FACTUAL MOMENT: researcher: 67 eps over 2 games series; producer 58 eps, 3 series - total 125 eps... not including developing an entire channel full of shows about games, some of which even existed]

... and I met up with a guy I used to work with back in 1994, on one of these series...

[ACT FACT: he was a researcher and played a newsreader in the show, and got genuine lessons in reading the news off of Crimewatch's Sue Cook. Didn't help him any as I made him not wear trousers for the series, the "hilarious" moment always being when he stood up from a desk and we saw his hairy knees]

... and he said why isn't there a good TV show about video games on now. It's something I've talked about before on here but not for a bit. And I've pondered it a little and here are my thoughts.

TV Bigwigs say that video games are best played not talked about, that it's not a subject for telly, more for the interweb... that the TV audience in general isn't interested in 'em.

Twunty bollocks.

If Top Gear can work about an even more obscure subject, why can't we have a telly show about video games on at, say, 8pm on a weeknight on BBC Three/Two/C4?

[ACTUAL FACTUAL: I have pitched and sold several shows about games for this kind of slot, and know of many more that were piloted and never hit air - like mine]

The answer is suprisingly simple. Top Gear has Clarkson and his producer Willman, and their alliance and passion made the show what it is now. A great TV show - if not quite as unmissable as it once was, in my humble view.

Video games has never had someone like Clarkson. [PAUSE WHILST THERE'S A KERFUFFLE AMONGST SOME READERS] No, I mean it. Dominik Diamond was great on Gamesmaster, but blatantly not a games head in the way Clarkson is a petrol head. Dave Perry or Alex Verrey off of Games World, Aleks (now Dr) Krotoski off of Bits (and her nice if not particularly informative series on the interweb just started this week), Violet Berlin... none of them were really quite the unique talent that Clarkson is. And love him or hate him, he is great on camera.

[ACTUAL FACTUAL: There are many top producers who worked in video games TV back then like Andy Willman off of Top Gear, most of which have left telly now. I wouldn't dare put myself forward as being as good as him, oh no, but ... er ... well ... yes]

Now there is someone. Charlie Brooker. His Gameswipe show was fantastic, and he's superb on camera. And he bloody well knows about games. Imagine a Top Gear-style show presented by him and a couple of others, it'd be champion.

[ACTUAL FACTUAL - is this annoying yet? - series 1 of Top Gear had that used car bloke on it, not James May. Watch repeats of early series and it was even more Clarkson's vehicle - hoho - and the other two weren't that good or important. They've grown, just as any half-decent presenters would on a great well-produced format]

Maybe we revive the idea of a Gamesmaster-type figure - how about gadget guru and all-round techno fan Lord Stephen of Fry as a cartoon 3D head? Maybe not...

It could be popular - Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car becomes Star Playing A Really Old Game (or something)... group tests of similar games... classics... news... I've even got some proper original ideas to cover games differently and make it look as vibrant and exciting as Top Gear but still not just be a 'Top Games'-style spinoff.

Sadly, it probably ain't gonna happen. TV still thinks games = nerds / sad / interactive not sit-and-watch / ratings death. Mr Brooker has his own special bit of Endemol and (I think) is exclusive to them so they'd have to make the show, not me. Hence not posting the Brilliant Ideas here.

[ACTUAL FACTUAL - bollocks, will write it up anyway. Wish me luck]

Monday, 18 January 2010

Olden but golden

Happy New Year - sorry it's been a looooong time since I posted, but... er... um... well... no excuse really. I'd like to say I've been Bookfacing or Teetering but I haven't really.

Anyhow, I was watching the Magic channel on Sky - by Magic, I don't mean a channel full of David Blaine suspended by his eyelashes above a pit of ravenous leopards, I mean Magic FM: The Easy Listening Radio Station: The TV Version of Aforementioned Thing*

I know this makes me officially An Old Man but as I was off with a bad back, was grumpy, cold and dying for a cup of tea, then it does make me an old man.

So Magic:TELRS:TTVOA was on and inbetween Curtis Stigers and Living in a Box there was 'One of Us is Lying', an Abba 'choon from the era where every song was about the various couples' marital angsts. And it took me back to a tv show I once worked on (yes, we're finally at the tv bit)

It was when I was a development producer, if not quite the head honcho supremo I eventually came. The guy who ran development came up with the idea, and a jolly fine one it was too, original and quirky. And it also had the benefit of selling to C4 instantly, who commissioned some pilot filming and a script. They even stumped up to shoot the pilot on film not tape, which in those pre-digital days meant a lot of money. I went to the shoot and there were dolly grips, camera cranes, best boys and lots of other things that my five years in telly had never exposed me to before.

The show was called 'One of Us is Lying', of course, and it built on a couple of other series my company had made. One was a teen problem page re-enactment series for the BBC, which did OK ratings-wise but wasn't that popular inside the Beeb for being a bit downmarket. They'd show teen issues (mainly sex) then have a discussion with Proper Adults after. The re-enactments were filmed on the cheap so it wasn't exactly dripping with production values. This show itself had come from a show from the dawn of C4 where stories were re-enacted with the simple question: True or False, which started off as a segment of ground-breaking Network 7 and was then spun off to a full series. I believe CBBC runs/ran a show called False or True which was very similar. Hey ho.

Anyhow, this show told an adult personal dilemma from three different points of view. So, say, Charlie and his girlfriend Magenta are having problems as Magenta has been having an affair with Sebastian but Charlie doesn't know until he walks in on them. You'd see it from Charlie's shocked, offended point-of-view. Then you'd see Magenta's opinion - Charlie's been neglecting her, nasty to her, Sebastian came on to her etc. And finally Sebastian's point of view - Charlie's told him he wants to dump Magenta but is worried she'll go off the deep end, Sebastian has always fancied her etc**

And only one of the stories is true, you have to work out which one. Like a whodunnit but without a dead body or a wise old lady asking pertinent questions.

So there it is, all shot on lovely film by a director who is now a Very Big Movie Person... well, I think, the filming day I went to was ferociously hot and I had been roped in to play an extra in the background so I was more concerned about not sweating in the wrong way or standing on the wires. So I didn't chat to the director at all as he was on the crane thing.

The pilot was just one of the stories as C4 had stumped up for a third of an ep. The other points of view were done as a voiceover on top of some stills, dulcet tones provided by Mr Development Head in his posh-but-camp teasing style.

C4 loved it and said let's get some storylines and budget a series. Yays all round.


Well, there were a few issues. Issue number one was that Mr Development Head left the company literally days after the pilot was delivered. It was a very acrimonious split involving legal disputes over %ages of shows that had been developed during his tenure and lots of other things I overheard in the corridors but wasn't officially supposed to know.

I was then made New Development Head, which I was delighted at... until issue two came along. I realised I'd get no more money (so was therefore a third of the price of my predecessor) and that the company's last commission was ending soon and boy did we need another one ASAP. Oh, and that our major client (not C4) was mightily pissed off as the boss had refused to make another series of the only hit show we produced as the money "was shit".

My first task was to rewrite 'Lying' to remove any story or wording done by Previous Development Head, something I was ethically unhappy with but was told in no uncertain terms I had to do.

Then I had to write some episodes.

Which is where issue three bit me on the arse. It's actually almost impossible to write a threeway story that can appear to be true from three different angles, yet isn't... well, try it. The one with Charlie, Magenta and Sebastian doesn't really work.

I took a week of working almost all hours to come up with a few stories but they weren't that good, so I went to see my boss and said I simply couldn't do it, feeling like a flop on my first assignment. She was uncharacteristically cheerful. "Ha!", she shouted, and sprinted out of her office down to the other side of the open-plan floor, to where her partner sat. It was always an odd sight, this six-foot high woman in heels and weirdo meeeeja clothes loping along like a cartoon character.

They returned slowly, her partner being more, er, ample and short. I often thought they looked like the number 10 when walking together.

They came in, shut the door and said they'd spent months trying to think up some stories themselves and failed, and they thought the only reason Mr Development Head had quit was because he'd sold an unmakeable show. Whether that was the case or not, I subsequently found out that the omens were hideous - C4 had backed away from a series when legal action was threatened by Mr Development Head, the director had quit before the final edit in a strop over something, the bills came in and the pilot was over budget by a factor of two... it was hideous.

But, luckily, a stupid idea for a prime time show I'd written six months before had just been green-lit by the BBC, so none of this seemed to matter. It was huge and ambitious and fantastic, and as it was my idea they didn't have to pay me a %age or go to court so they jumped with joy.

I was delighted too - I'd writ a show for the mainstream telly like! - slightly less delighted at their revelling in me not getting any money or 'owt.

I then spent six long months piloting various parts of the show, watching all the good ideas drift away, the slot change, the format alter beyond all recognition.

The show debuted in a shitty slot with a good-if-inappropriate presenter, seemingly tiny budget and did OK-ish. I watched that from afar as I left before it hit air.

So the moral is... um... er... mmm... well, don't write a show you can't actually make. It's suprisingly easy - I almost did a few times but just about pulled it off in the end.


* Just thought, it's hard to refer to TV channels of radio stations... do people think you've been staring at a DAB box if you say 'I was watching Magic'. An actual MAGIC channel would probably do quite well. From Paul Daniels to Derren Brown via Ali Bongo. Izzy whizzy let's get busy!

** The names of the characters in this pretend story are related to one of the tv shows mentioned within this blog. Can you guess which one? Ooh look, I'm being all interactive. Press your red button now!