Monday, 31 December 2007

Predictions for Twenty-Oh-Eight

It's that awkward time on New Year's Eve between getting up and starting to drink, so in order to fill time in- er, discuss the future with my marvellous blogspotteers, here are some random predictions for the year ahead.

Look at the lists of 'new' shows coming up this year and you can't help but stifle a yawn. None of them seem actually new at all, just bits of one format shoehorned into another one. I foresee this continuing onwards, mainly due to the poor commissioning editors, under massive pressure from above for 'new', a huge onus from the finance people to get ratings, and desperately pitched any old combination of tat from the producers.

There have got to be some charges somewhere against the people who stole millions of pounds from viewers entering competitions. Just giving the money back to people who bother to go through a tortuous process to find out if they're owed anything - well, that's not on. (I do know the channels are giving the rest of the money to charity - but, and it's a huge but, not every show ever has been investigated)

Can you imagine, say, if the Richard and Judy telephone line company had hijacked a security van and nicked the same amount of money - giving it back ain't good enough. It's theft, pure and simple, and someone needs to pay.

I watch South Park on my iPod Touch in the gym, exercising on a crosstrainer. It's the only way to make my flitty brain do something as boring as that for 22 minutes. I can manage 10 minutes or so listening to music, so it's increasing my exercise levels hugely. It costs me £1.89 to download each ep from iTunes, but the gym costs £100 a month so, in proportion it's not too bad. My only worry is that no-one is putting much else I want to see on UK iTunes so once the little Southparkians are used up, I'll have to go onto, er, other such sites to get content to watch. Public domain, obviously. Ahem.

Anyhow, this can only continue, and telly ratings will, on an average show, fall yet again. But...

I think ratings for flagship shows, like the soaps and Doctor Who and the like will stay the same or actually rise (like they did this Christmas), and ratings for cheap, exploitative crud with stupid titles (see almost every entry in this blog) will continue to do well (due to more people going digital as well as more people actually choosing to watch Fat Pet Autopsy Live!)

It's the middle that'll be affected the most, those nice shows that do OK, well-produced, well-made and reasonably budgeted. There's no place for them any more. This is happening in every market, not just TV. Supermarkets: Waitrose, M&S at the top end; Asda, Tesco, Morrisons at the cheap end, only Sainsbury's inbetween. The BMW 3 series sells more than the Ford Mondeo. And clothes either seem to be designer posh £100-a-shirt or Tesco cheap £2 T-shirts. TV will be the same.


New controller but not much change there I think, just the occasional tweak and more repeats as the not-as-massive-an-increase-as-they-asked-for-not-really-a-cut licence fee settlement kicks in.

Can they run Top Gear all year round - as they probably can't, I'd think Two will end up with more BBC Four content on it. So it'll look like it did ten years ago but at a lower budget. Sigh.

BBC Three
They need a breakout hit, something to justify the £95m spent per annum. Some nichey comedy like Gavin and Stacey and Mighty Boosh really hit the target audience but is it enough?

BBC Four
The series of biopic dramas they've announced are perfect for the channel - mixed with their great factual stuff, it'll still be one of my first calls of an evening. Can they please sort out weekends though? It's shit then.

ITV1,2,3,4,5,6,7 etc.
Er, um, mmm. Well. So they're doing this trendy comedy show about a soap opera being made - then showing the soap itself on ITV2? Full marks for trying but even if it works it's a one-shot proposition. I applaud ITV's efforts at not just being the Corrie-Heartbeart-This Morning big brand, big bland network, but someone, somewhere will have to decide what ITV1 is actually for. It's simply not clear at the moment.

C4, E4, More4
So they got in the papers by "scrapping" Celeb BB. Er, no, they haven't. They've reformatted it and stuck it on E4 only. With a launch show on C4 anyway. At least C4 is being blunt about wondering what it's there for, saying they'll need money to do public service stuff. Good on 'em. Who decides what's public service programming and what isn't, and where the money comes from are the presently unanswerable questions. More IT Crowd is my one personal request. Yay them!

Sky One is the only channel outside of the above ones with a reasonable budget and commissioning ambition, yet it seems to have got stuck into making specials, one-off dramas, documentaries with Grant Mitchell in 'em, and gameshows with Noel Edmonds. They then spend the rest on (admittedly great) acquisitions. It's probably the wisest course of action - all acquisitions would look weak; all commissions would be incredibly risky... but, still, I hope Sky manages to get a show that really catches on, like their Uncovered... series did in the Nineties.

Oh, and has someone run the numbers about replacing Sky One with an on-demand Simpsons channel? It'd probably rate higher.

I single Dave out as it's a great name and has done well. It's still the same shows as UKTVG2 but with a new brand, a big campaign, a Freeview slot and better scheduling. They said they're going to spend some money on original programming, and I hope they do.

Everything else
Even as the number of channels go up, my viewing patterns at least stay either the same or concentrated on even fewer stations. I don't watch Living since they got rid of Will and Grace, my guily pleasure with the papers on a weekend afternoon. I watch Dave for BBC repeats. One night I even watched a QI on BBC Two, then next week's edition on BBC Four, then an old one on Dave. How's that for modernity?

I love documentaries but can never find anything I want to watch on the Discovery or UKTV channels. I really like good classy US sitcoms but apart from the odd ep of Frasier Paramount's channels leave me cold. I watch Cheaters on RealityTV but that's just my inner sickness manifesting itself. I've even currently got the movie channels for nowt (Sky try it every so often; I cancel instantly when the free offer ends) and I can't see a film I want to see on them.

The research says this isn't just me being grumpy, it's almost everyone. My only addition to what I watch is CurrentTV for the odd snippet of earnestness and whatever channel it is that shows Letterman now.

So I think consolidation of channels, again with the middle squeezed out, is likely.

OK, I'm off. It's now just about acceptable to start drinking as it's (a) dark; (b) cold; and (c) the last night before normality returns. Happy New Year to you out there in Blogland, and I leave you with a random fact to entertain party guests tonight. Gerbils are illegal in California.


Thursday, 27 December 2007

Xmas TV

OK, so it's not technically over but here's my view on the telly supplied to us over the festering period.

A commendation of the My Family Christmas special - it was shit but as no worse than a standard episode, a mean feat when the running length is doubled, spoiling the evident perfection in the half-hour running time. The easy winner here is To The Manor Born: Look, Some Of Them Are Still Alive!

I s'pose I was only a wee babychild when the original series aired, but I had fond if not overly hilarious memories of it. But this was genuinely car-crashily awful. Even the premise doesn't work, a fact that didn't seem to matter in the 70's (a decade taste DID obviously pass by). Let's go through the 'sit' in the 'com' again - Audrey, the awful, pretentious, inconsiderate, ugly and pompous lady of the manor is made homeless by Richard the charmless, rich, flashy wideboy... and then they fall in love!

Hmmm. Both main characters are hateful - not a good start. To be fair, I think in the original there was Brabinger, the 154 year-old drunky butler, and "Mrs Poo" (oh what an appropriate name), Richard's 132 year-old Czech mother, who was nice if batty. They're both long dead - cue graveyard scene with Richard talking to his mother's gravestone, asking for some guidance and then - wait for it! - his phone rings!!!1!!1! Fucking hell, that's desperate.

Add in a storyline that was predictable within two minutes of starting (surprise 25th anniversary party for the couple, him secretly managing a company that's put all their local farmer friends out of business, her leaving him) alongside oddly old-fashioned gags about immigrants and 'raves', with side stories that didn't go anywhere (Audrey's soppy friend fancying one of them out of Armstrong and Miller who was 'far too young' for her - ie not 60+ like everyone else - but went nowhere; some "immigrant workers from Czechosolvakia - a country that doesn't exist any more - learning English badly)... well, it was a mess.

And all resolved happily in one of the most rushed and pat endings I've ever seen, which even included a cute puppy.

Manor... proves you should never bring back old shows*

Slim pickings this year - I laughed at two things. Harry Hill, as always, and Catherine Tate. The latter was the same old same old, but it's still got actual setups and gags in it. And George Michael. And Kathy Burke. And she killed off 'am I bovvered' Lauren, for no particular reason - well, apart from the fact Ms Tait ain't no youngster and she was looking even more like Dick Emery dressed up as a teenager.

David Starkey's Monarchy for being genuinely interesting, and having the controversial conclusion that Prince Charles will save the Windsors.

Not Morecambe and Wise for once (UK Old managed to spoil the best Xmas shows ever by putting talking heads on telling us how good they were, alongside dull home movies and a stupid 'ooh what's the best sketch ever?' format that was pointless). No, for me it was More4's repeats of all of Father Ted. Utter bliss, even if I've seen it a gabillion times.

Doctor Who. OK, so it was cheesy, a mix of The Poisedon Adventure and Titanic. In space. With Kylie. But, still, a joy from start to finish, from the remixed title tune to the trailer for the next series coming up.

Small quibbles - err, the background music and scoring was even more over-the-top than before, far too intrusive for an oldster like me. And Brave Kylie, bless, looked like Catherine Tait as Lauren in a minature form - a forty year-old woman in a waitress costume pretending to be young and wanting to see the universe.

But these are mere details. You know when you're watching Doctor Who you're watching a set of professionals at the top of their game. Exec producers, writers, producers, directors, actors, special effects which are finally up there with the best telly has ever done, it all gels to be more than the sum of its parts. Even the what-are-they-doing-THAT-for? addition of Catherine Tait won't spoil it**. I hope.

So I haven't mentioned the Extras special 'cos it ain't been on yet, and I am kinda looking forward to it, but I can't help but feel Mr Gervais is, like Tony Blair and myspace, a bit 2005.

OK, footnotes - I hope you paid attention:-

*OK, this is wrong - two shows came back better than before. Who, of course, and Top Gear (a joke show watched by almost no-one and boring even to petrolheads like me). They did that solely because they were brought back and reinvented by people utterly obsessed with getting them right - Russell T Davies on the former, and Andy Wilman and Jeremy Clarkson for the latter.

**The thinking is, according to people who pretend to know these things, that Ms Tait is popular with da teens and da yoots, and this'll fill the gap in the audience for Doctor Who as it's loved by kids and adults but, like everything on telly, a bit meh for dem pesky hooded youths.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Xmas meanderings

Telly and Christmas. They go together like Morecombe and Wise, Dempsey and Makepeace or Pinky and Perky. Repeats of Eric and Ern at lunchtime, Noel Edmonds making old ladies cry by flying in long-lost relatives, the absurdity of anyone over thirty watching Top of the Pops (to cries of "what the hell is that?" when a modern beat combo pops up).

A "family film" in the afternoon, game shows with tinsel stuck to the sets (even though they were recorded in August), extra-long eps of 'Enders and Corrie when a long-planned storyline comes to fruition (ie something actually happens), 'specials' of comedy shows that are the same as usual but ten minutes longer, and five-minute news bulletins.

There are three highlights this Xmas for me:-

Do I need say more? The Titanic - in space! Kylie - as a waitress! David - Tennant! Champion.

I have a real soft spot for Harry Hill, and it's so good to see this always funny show finally getting reasonable ratings to match the critical success. Well done ITV! (not a sentence I type often)

No idea if this exists but I hope they've made one.

As you can tell, I was struggling for highlight #3. Maybe it's the grumpy old blurke in me but I don't like them fancying things up and moving things around at Christmas. I like long news bulletins, short soaps, Newsnight at 10:30 and that. I'll end up seeing blimmin' 'Enders at some point as it'll be on at 8.57pm. And there's no need for that.

From a worky point of view, it was always odd when we had to do Christmas specials. We genuinely recorded a gameshow in August for TX during the festive time - halfway through the ninth day of a gruelling two week shoot (5-6 eps a day), the set was covered in tinsel and out came the Santa costume. Three eps later the tinsel came off and the presenter was wishing everyone "Happy 1994"

I once had to edit on New Years' Eve, finishing at 10:30pm at Sky's barren HQ in Osterley (it's posh now but wasn't then, mainly Portacabins and huts). All my mates had gone away for NY, so I drove home on my ownsome somewhat downhearted. The show I'd just cut together was poo as well...

There is a typical Christmas-episode-happy-ending though. I thought, awww fuck it, dumped the car in central London and went and jumped up and down with thousands of strangers in Trafalgar Square as the new year dawned. I even bumped into someone I used to work with on my way back to the car and ended up partying most of the night, sleeping on the floor of someone else's incredible penthouse flat.

And the seasonal cheer continued when I saw my car (a) hadn't been clamped; (b) wasn't ticketed; and (c) had HAPPY NEW YEAR written in shaving foam on the bonnet. Well, the last one wasn't too cheery as the foam had damaged the paintwork and the words wouldn't come off properly. But the car was a £100 rusty orange Fiat and I used to have to hit the starter motor with a hammer to get it going.

Friday, 14 December 2007

WIFMs and 4Ps

I'll explain the title at the end but I thought I'd write about one of the stupidest meetings I've ever had in the media.

There is quite a competition for the accolade, believe me. There was the one where I asked the interweb company why the walls were covered in astroturf. "Ve arrr an incubator zo ze grass helps grow du bizzznesses" was the reply. They were Swedish by the way. You may have guessed that.

In another I addressed the two senior financial controller ladies of the company I was working for as "dolly dealers". Well, I was pitching away at a major satellite broadcaster and they were uncovering parts of a schedule for the channel I was selling - all on a giant multicoloured polystyrene grid we'd had made for a fortune - and I got carried away Brucie-stylee. And I was pitching to an American who had no idea what Play Your Cards Right was. He did laugh, though, but probably at me calling fat women 'dollies'.

But, no, the worst meeting was at Channel 4 around four years ago. They'd asked for theme nights - you know the sort, Top 100 Sitcoms, TV's Bestest Pets Ever and The 1,250 Most Annoying Clips of Kate Thornton.

We'd come up with a cracker. Swearing Night, a full evening of foul-mouthed shows. There were comedy links, alongside a documentary on the history of the C-word, that really sweary film with Ray Winston in it at the end, the ep of Sex In The City where they say the C-word a lot, Viz's Profanisaurus as a cartoon and other naughty delights. Our lovely programme treatment had pictures of Trevor McDonald with a speech bubble and the word 'arse biscuits' in it. For that alone I think we got a meeting.

I saw the Head Of Lists, Themes and That Kind of Thing. He was very nice, even introducing me to random other commissioning editors after the meeting. He was probably trying to palm me off on them, or desperately needed a pee, but he wanted us to do some work on the idea and come back, so it wasn't a bad meeting at all.

The next one was, with the Assistant Deputy Head of Clip Shows And So On. She flicked through the now-expanded treatment and then mused for a while. I'd brought along my tame producer to keep me company, and bless him, he'd even changed out of his normal garb (stained Charlton top, stonewash jeans, baseball hat and David Attenborough-style jacket). OK, all he'd done was put a black sweatshirt on instead of the footy shirt but it was something.

Dep. Head looked at the treatment, I blethered something about each page, then she put it on her desk and thought for a moment. I'd been taught at a sales conference to look for the SUN moment - SHUT UP NOW, where you say no more as that puts the buyer under pressure. Or something.

Alas this wasn't that kind of moment. The woman looked at me and my sidekick and said the following:-

"There won't be that much swearing in this, will there?"

It takes a lot to render me speechless, but this did. My producer was staring mouth agape. I'm sure I was only silent for five seconds but it seemed like aeons. I think I said something about, well, no, the swearing will not be constant to start with and--

I can't remember much else. We left and went to the pub and sat staring at each other in wonderment. No, of course there won't be much swearing in a full night of programmes named Swearing Night. No fucking way.

BBC Three did a similar night miles after we'd pitched it. No sign of Sir Trevor and his arse biscuits though.


Oh, and WIFM means 'What's In It For Me?' and is apparently what people you're selling to need to know before they'll buy anything. And 4Ps is PPPP, Pitch PowerPoint Presentation, something I'm glad to say I've never done as even I am not that much of a twunt.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Yet more telly shows I don't watch

Everyone is going kerrrr-azy over Cranford, the latest ooh-look-at-the-money-spent-on-horseys-crinolines-and-Dames costume drama on BBC One.

I'm not.

I managed to sit through a bit of it and it looked lovely, replete with fantastic actors, superb production values, nice lines and not one but two Dames of the British Empire giving it large and that.

But my phobia of hats put me off ( , a bit further down the post )

As soon as a gentleman actor puts a top hat on, it's game over for me. He may as well put a giant sign on his head saying "THIS IS ALL PRETEND".

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

What goes around...

Remember my diatribe about how horrid people who work in tv are?

( )

Hilariously, I got a call from the MD of a company I met ages ago. They've won the work I was pitching for at the end of the piece above, the producer wearing wellies etc. etc.

And they want to outsource it.

To me.


If I wasn't a Richard Dawkins type, I'd be praising Jebus right now.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

TV I don't like: Part 2: "Self Improvement"

What is it with tv's obsession with bossy ladies turning up and telling people what to do? There's a new one on about arranged marriages now, a show so bizarre I don't know where to start. I can just imagine the pitch meeting:-

Tasteful if quite small office, plants and nice pictures and a few awards (no BAFTAS, more TV Quick's Best Daytime Show 1992 in quality). A posh lady with a £300 hair-do adjusts her £500 glasses and looks at the similarly-dressed posh lady pitching to her opposite.

(picking at her £5000 bracelet)

Hmm, I think I'll have to pass on Fat Pet Gym, sounds a little too similar to Get Your Pets Fit Not Fat! on Five. Anything else Jocasta?

(deperately flicking through notes and not finding anything)

Well, you know arranged marriages?

(doubtful, glancing at her £3000 watch)


I thought wouldn't it be, y'know, fun to try and arrange marriages for everyone! Not just... er... well... um... Asian or ethnic people, but whi- I mean caucasian people who have no tradition of arranged marriage.

(looking at her £100 manicured nails)


We'll focus on it being fun and light, none of that coercing women to marry men they haven't met or don't like, just light and fun?

Not sure about the ethics here...

Think of it as Supernanny for women instead of kids! Or What Not To Wear but with love not frocks! Or that one about dogs but with husbands instead of dogs!

(liking the comparisons)

Brilliant! And with an Asian host and everything! Multi-cultural but mainstream. Fun and light. Let's do it!


Sigh. I'm just bored of all these shows where some well-groomed lady with a £500 haircut in a £2000 pantsuit turns up and sneers at someone's food/house/kid/dog/clothes/fat arse, and then twenty-three minutes later their food/house/kid/dog/clothes/arse is transformed through the sheer power of the well-groomed lady.

The worst one had to be How Clean Is Your House? Like lots of this genre of shows, it starts off being quite interesting. Lots of info on different ways to do something. Quirky presenters. Comedy voiceover. Nice resolve at the end.
But then after a few eps, you can almost hear the producers screaming for something more interesting. We don't just want dirty people, we've had them, we want really hideously horribly filthy people. Look, this one's never ever cleaned their toilet - yay! There is rat shit in their baby food... brill! This one poos in a bag and puts it in the microwave... fab!

So the nice simple show about telling messy people how to clean up becomes a let's-laugh-at-the-borderline-mentally-disabled, full of shots of maggots, mank and monkeyshit, all to a puntastic voiceover and hilarious comedy music. It became something unwatchable at 8pm with your tea.

How Clean...? got so bad, I swear you could tell the presenters had been told to go easy on some of the filthmongers as they were either simple or mental. The dirty people, not Kim'n'Aggie.

So when I see newer shows like How To Look Good Naked I just can't be bothered. How many times can Gok Wan 'transform' normal-looking women into normal-looking women in heels and makeup who feel slightly better about themselves?

And as for arranged marriages - well, you're better off with Cilla Black in 'er wedding 'at on a Blind Date Wedding Special.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

What I don't watch part 1: Soaps

I've talked a lot in this blog about tv I love, like, loathe and l..l.. er, sorry the alliteration can end there as it's hard to find an L-word that fits tv that I feel nothing about. As Lisa Simpson would say, meh.

I feel meh about soaps. I simply do not watch any of them. They seem to consist entirely of ugly people in nasty houses shouting at each other. In close-up. Apart from Hollyoaks - replace 'ugly' with 'shiny, young, plastic'. And Neighbours / Home and Away - 'ugly' becomes Australian.

I love visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Liverpool. We eat, drink and have a fab old time. But my lovely, lovely sis-in-law will switch on C4 at 6.30pm for Hollyoaks. And then over to ITV1 for Emmerdale. Next it's Corrie and/or Eastenders, followed by Holby some days, The Bill others and those extra Corries they shove on to get extra viewers for 9pm shows on ITV1.

She's not unusual in doing this - the soaps get much bigger audience shares than other shows, usually 40% plus for the big two of Corrie and 'Enders. But that night of viewing... no, sorry, that daily pattern of viewing is something I can't get my head around.

It's not as if the soaps are badly made - they're expertly-crafted pieces of television, satisfying big, mainstream audiences day in, day out. The sheer volume of drama being produced is astonishing, and unlike the olden days it all looks quite nice and proper. The first ep of Brookside was on the other week as part of C4's anniversary celebrations, and boy did it look crap. One scene, with a fixed camera, lasted ten minutes. You couldn't see or hear anyone at the back of shot, and everything was badly-lit and/or beige. The pace was funereal but the writing crackled and there was a wit and an edge that made it totally unique at the time.

Soap acting is an art, they say. Hmmm. I'd say it's more a case of people playing a part similar to their own character. When they're doing it twelve hours a day six days a week, with no rehearsal and reams of lines, proper "what's my motivation in this scene?" acting isn't practical. The exceptions are the older character actors I suppose - Dot Cotton is frightfully well-spoken in real life. Or maybe her real-life voice is an act and the Dot one is real. I dunno.

People witter on that Dickens would be writing on a soap if he lived now, but I don't think so. I know from soap-writing friends it's a minefield working within the huge story and character arcs, the massive structures and strictures of soapdom, to create something good. Not to mention the "oh no you can't have Ian Beale in this episode, he's doing panto"-type availability of the sprawling cast.

But.. but.. but..

I've said all that and then I have to say the only time I see any of these shows is when visiting family. It's not 'cos I'm posh or snobbish or too busy with my faaaaaaaabulous meeeja life - I wish - it's because I simply couldn't give a monkey's arsecheek what happens to anyone in a soap.

Try and read a potted history of Ian Beale. It's hilarious. How many times has he gone mad/got married/divorced/gone bust/been held hostage? That's just stupid. And then there are the actors moving around from one to the other. I just think my Tivo has hopped channel halfway through a scene. "Didn't he die of Aids?", I said, pointing at Mark Fowler off of 'Enders (and Grange Hill) who was now in The Bill. Or was it Emmerdale? He was, of course, the second Mark Fowler. The original one died of drugs I think. In real life. Or Grange Hill? I dunno.

The only soap I've ever seen much of was Eastenders, which I watched when it first started. I remember the Den and Angie Xmas Miserathon that I watched alongside 30 million other Brits, and the occasional Dot/Ethel two-hander... if little else. It does these things occasionally now, but the pressure for ratings means it's not that often. And, to be frank, would you want to see any two of the younger muppet actors for 28 minutes straight. No thank you. I'd pay them to go away and not sit in the corner of my flat shouting at each other.

Dont get me wrong - I feel no superiority over anyone who chooses to watch the shouting-in-close-up shows. Hey, I watch things other people think are crap ( But at least the crap I kill my braincells with isn't on for five hours a day. Every day.*


*It is you know - Doctors, Neighbours, Home and Away, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale every day, Corrie, 'Enders, The Bill, Holby City, Casualty some days. Omnibuses. Repeats on other channels (The 'Enders rerun at 10pm is usually BBC Three's highest-rated show). New episodes of Hollyoaks and Home and Away on E4 or Five Life straight after the main channel ones.

Friday, 23 November 2007

More Best Telly Ever...

I was catching up with my Tivo last night - well, we haven't been speaking much recently, I've been too busy, Tivo's been doing what Tivo does best, and all in all I haven't sat down and had a good night in with the poor thing for aaaages.

And I say that, unbeknownst to me, Tivo had done A Very Good Thing. Recorded every episode of series one of Queer As Folk which Channel 4 repeated recently to celebrate their 25th anniversary. As a lovely treat for Tivo, me and lots of others - ta C4. As a tactical ploy - err, well, it kinda shows up the drama they make now, doesn't it?

QAF was vibrant, full of life and fun, dirty as f**k and packed with characters who simply hadn't been seen on telly before. From Vince, the ordinary-looking gay guy who works in a shop and loves Doctor Who, to far-too-out-and-proud-at-his-age Nathan, this series kicked the teeth in of stereotypes of gay people on TV.

As a gayster myself, I obviously was going to love this. From that electric first few minutes where you see thirtysomething shagabout Stuart chat up and then properly, totally and explicitly shag young Nathan, this was jaw-droppingly dangerous drama. And it simply got better and better, from Vince's somewhat eccentric mum to the lesbians, minor characters that were simultaneously believable yet extreme, and the whole hedonistic world of Canal Street at that time made QAF unmissable.

An often overlooked part of any good show is music and QAF was oozing with the insistent dance music that was so current in the gay scene then. And still is now, he says, shaking his head like an old man and preferring a bit of Blur. But it was perfect for the show and, yet again, wasn't something I'd ever heard in a drama series before.

Now it was a product of the times, and, yes, QAF is a bit dated in some ways, but it still stands up as a fantastic piece of television. We can thank The Man Who Can Do No Wrong (well, apart from Casanova, I didn't like that much) Mr Russell T Davies, Saviour of Doctor Who And All-Round Telly Genius. It's such a personal piece and all the better for it.

OK, so Russell was a top writer but would C4 nowadays take the risk they did on him back then? They still take a punt on comedy and entertainment but not really with their drama... apart from a few right-on one-offs like Britz (yawn). Maybe it's because British drama rarely produces people like Davies - talented, clever, funny people who can write believable, interesting, funny scripts about anything from the second coming of Jesus through Daleks and Cybermen to gay blokes in Manchester.

When Lovely Vince dumped his bf and went dancing on a stage with Stuart surrounded by drugged-up gaysters, I had to give Mr Davies a special toast - he'd even ended the series in a way I'd never seen before. OK, so Vince's bf was dull and controlling, but - hell - he was cute and nice, and Stuart was such a bastard who'd never really care for anyone but himself, and... and... well, surely, the sign of a top telly treat, even now I feel strongly for these characters.

And the great news is that Mr RTD is going to do a new gay series.

A big gay hooray to that :)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Titles part 23,281

I couldn't pass up this title without mentioning it...,,2213848,00.html

Surely this is the apex of stupid programme titles. With the BBC Trust turning their ever-so-public-service noses up at F*ck Me, I'm A Wassock and the like, the days of Grab-Em-With-A-Brash-Title programme names are surely coming to an end.

Or maybe not:

A show aimed at "helping" single mothers named after a term of abuse for them. The term was made popular by the used-to-be-trendy-it's-not-still-going-is-it? gossip website Popbitch I believe. Was it used for Kerry Katona... no, hold on, that was Chipshop. The series then moves on to groups of prostitutes then paedophiles, Whore House and Kiddyfiddler Caravan. Or maybe I made that up.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Those who work in tv

It's become fashionable to say that people who work in tv are hard done by. A mainly freelance job, people milling around from programme to programme, with no job security, no career path or bugger-all benefits; long hours, tight deadlines, even tighter budgets. And on top of that now they're are being accused of - gasp! - fiddling with reality to make their shows better.

Woe is me, what is to be done, this can't go on, ah tell yeeh Cap'tn, the engines cannae tekk it etc. etc.

My considered, carefully thought out (and not at all just typed in here with no thought or idea where I'm going with it - perish the thought) view is: what a load of arse.

I base this on a recent "ideas 'meeting" with a tv production company. I don't really go to many of these places, and am lucky that most of the people I work day-to-day with are (a) normal; (b) older than the average tv worker age (twelve); and (c) were picked by me in the first place.

I'd saved this company's arse a few weeks' beforehand, stepping in to help out at short notice when they were let down. They were full of promises about guaranteed series' work and good money and jelly and ice cream and- well, anyway, they were really grateful and the work we did for them went down a treat with their customer. So well this new meeting was being held to brief me on the next step on the road to a commission.

Then I found out they'd asked someone else to pitch for the work too. Hmmm.

So there I was, sitting next to a boy/man wearing wellies "because it just seemed like that kinda day". In my view "that kinda day" would've meant six inches of water and/or mud outside, not the dry and unseasonally warm morning in autumn but there you go. He was the boss. Sitting on my other side was a "creative director" who just doodled on a pad the whole time, just drawing the show's title over and over again. I met an "online content" producer who typed on a laptop the whole time. He was online so he was content.

I came up with some ideas, trying not to think that (a) I was too old for this; (b) why do people wear jeans that only come halfway up their arses; and (c) even ironic mullets look stupid on the top of people's heads.

The assembled throng of telly's top talent seemed to think my ideas were good. Very good. So damn good they sent me the same ideas in a "briefing document" about what they wanted for their show a few days later. Fair enough, you may say, but they also sent this document to another company that was pitching for the work. A company run by people with amusing hair and Russell Brand trousers.

Guess who got the gig?

The funny thing is that even though I've got a right to be a bit miffed by all this, and we could do with the work, it's actually A Very Good Thing we didn't get it. As you may be able to tell, I don't think that company and myself are, er, creatively compatible. I also pitched some work I've reversioned into something much, much better, something potentially vastly more lucrative.

And the minute I sat down at the table for the first meeting I knew nothing would come of it. It didn't affect anything I did or said - I've been in far too many lost cause pitch meetings for that - but I just knew. And so it came to pass. Next time I'll trust my judgement more.

Oh, and the not-at-all-tacked-on point I started to make is that tv is full of people you really wouldn't want to sit next to.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The tellyblogosphere

The media interslice has had an odd time recently, specifically one blog about tv. A post with the link on it - and a mention of this here blog too - by a rather fine person of my acquaintance:-

(By the way Joanne, I am Batman. Or, rather, The Batman. You know who my Boy Wonder is too*)

Anyhoo, that TV Controller thing went on way too long. It was funny, well written and very cutting in places... but also a bit too bitter and shouty too. The allegations of bullying or anti-Semitism aren't that well founded. I understand why the charges were made but it is a bit rich of Senior Media Luvvies to complain about bullying when tv is a place replete with humungous egos (bullies), bigger-than-life personalities (drunk bullies) and highly-pressurised management (drugged-up bullies).

I just found the TV Controller blog puzzling. Mentioning real people with their real names and real jobs... then referring to the 'fictional' controller and The Youth Channel and Corporation One... hmmm. Then there are the made-up names for real people - Fifi, Perry et al - I just wonder why it wasn't either all real or all fictionalised.

OK, OK, hypocrisy alert - yes, I am self-aware enough to know I do kinda the same thing sometimes - but I've tried to be fairly consistent in naming people from my past as descriptions of who they are, and talking about current events as the outsider I am.

Luckily the guy falsely named as the author of said blog is too popular and well-liked for anyone to think he'd have written something as carping and inconsistent. He's also far too busy and clever to spend hours a day blogging.

What's that noise I can hear? It's either that hypocrisy alarm ringing again or the Batphone. Must dash...


*I mean the little fat man down where you live, as the thought of him in a red-and-canary-yellow Robin costume is just too funny for words...

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

My Worstest Show on TV

OK, so I did my favourite show a few posts back, what's the one I hate the most?

I have to say it's BBC London News (or BBC LDN News as it was until someone realised no-one, repeat no-one, in London ever refers to the city as 'LDN' and the affectation was Very Stupid Indeed).

Now if you watch American local tv news, it tends to be done very well. OK, so the presenters all have superb teeth, hair full of product and sit ever-so-slightly too close to each other... but the news is a big rating thing over there, usually cut-throat competition between local channels, and is therefore well-produced, presented and full of wham-bam action. Indeed it's often called Action News. Or ActionNewsChannel7, from the KXYZNewsCenter with AccueForecast(TM) WeatherView. Now that sounds more exciting than taking the vowels out of our capital city's name, doesn't it?

BBC London News isn't exciting. Ever. It comes from a hilariously dull studio, a chair next to a red box with the programme name on it and a sheet of plastic blurring out the (probably sound asleep) journos behind it.

The journalistic content makes me scream at the telly. It's polictically correct to the point of absurdity, often leading on stories like the other night, some nice old lady in Hackney talking to gangs about not stabbing each other. Is that the most important thing to happen in the capital city of this nation? Really? My old boss Legendary Tabloid Editor used to say... well, say unrepeatable things about how crap the journalism was in British local tv, no ambition, laziness, dreadful priorities, liberal hand-wringing nicey-nicey... sure you get the gist. "This is THE most exciting and vibrant city in the whole fucking WORLD and that namby-pamby crap is supposed to be the news here? FUCK. OFF. Then come back and fuck off some more."

He dismissed the traditional view - that the national news filch all the big London stories anyway so the local boys have nothing to report - by paging through the Evening Standard and reading out snippets (in typical Gotcha! tabloidese) of things that sounded like great stories.

Mr Boss was also a born'n'bred Londonder and said that people in Brockley loved to hear of crime in, say, Canning Town, as London was such a mix of huge rivalries between the areas. I pointed out London was now populated more by people from all over the UK and the world, not the city itself, so the rivalries would eventually die out, and I was amazed when he agreed with me. I say agreed - "good point, boy... badly made, appallingly presented, but fair play, good point", he said, as he toddled off in search of someone else to monster.

Anyway, back to BBC London NoActionNews. Dull items, badly chosen, produced and edited... all hindered by horrible music, that Border-TV-from-the-70's style set and presenters who are barely adequate (one guy, Kurt Barley, is almost comedically Alan Partridge-ly bad) - even the fairly anemic London Tonight on ITV is better, even if it always seems to me that Alistair Stewart is looking down the dress of his usually much younger co-presenter lady.

But even worse than the 6:30 half-hour London news is the five-minuter after the ten o'clock news. They can't even be arsed to change anything, it's almost always the same non-news cut up smaller.


Monday, 22 October 2007

What does an Executive Producer actually do...?

With the nastiness over phone lines rumbling on, even infecting TV's Top TwoSome (TM) Ant'n'Dec (try calling them Dec'n'Ant for a while, it's really... well, weird), I've been asked by PWDWIT (People Who Don't Work In Telly) what an executive producer is there for.

It all comes from the fact Dec'n'Ant (told you) were credited as Exec Producers on Saturday Night Phone Line Stealaway and then said they had no idea producers were picking people to sit on the Biggy Jiggy Piggy from a list not from those who'd rung in at a premium rate. Some of the names in the previous sentence may not be accurate - hell, I love telly and think Dec'n'Ant are the best in the business, but I haven't seen that show much - but the facts are true.

Clicky linky:,,2193949,00.html

Then Michael Grade said that their exec producer credits were 'vanity titles', sort of protecting them from the 'nasty producers stealing money from C2DEs' stories but also sort of denigrating (a) the title; and (b) Dec'n'Ant. So my mates who are PWDWIT asked me what an exec producer does, as that's my usual credit on the shows I make.

Err, um, well, it depends, was my answer. I've worked on shows where the exec prod has sat in two meetings, went to one shoot and occasionally sent a one-line email saying "good show". I've also been on programmes where the exec producer has basically been what the Americans would call a showrunner. (Hmmm... much better title, must use that in future...) They hire everyone, work on every aspect of the show, attend loads of meetings and every shoot/broadcast, watch everything, offer comments, liase with celebs and presenters and the like.

Two shows I'm exec'ing at the moment give me very different roles. On both I won the commission, budgeted and scheduled it, hired the staff and helped shape the direction of the series. I also run the finances of both shows - hey, it's my company and we're only little, and we benefit from a commissioning editor / exec producer from the broadcaster who is very proactive. However, one series is run creatively by the series producer, the other I have a much more hands-on role on.

The complications are increased when you work for a big company and execs are assigned internally to, basically, pay their wages. They do nothing really. So my answer is, um, er... well, let me try and sum up the producer credits on a show in a flip and non-too-accurate way:-

The difference between Assos and Assis (as no-one in tv calls them) is so complex it’d take a full book to explain. They’re basically middle management – the producer tells them what to do, they tell the rest of the staff to do it. Often the prettiest people on staff – hell, they didn’t get promoted from researchers for just doing a good job…

Most have never met any of the staff on the show never mind watched it. They’re on the credits solely so the indie can charge money to pay their vast salaries and even vaster expenses. If pushed to offer a comment, they’ll ask for the font to be changed on the logo. Ugly as sin.


The boss. Either pretty as a picture pie or as ugly as a box of warts, depending on where they've just come from or where they're going to.

The boss if there's no series producer, but often a just-promoted person who's on a crappy salary, working as yet another layer of management if there is one.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

My Bestest Show

In the midst of all this doom and gloom about the BBC, let me totally ignore the big burning issue and explain why a rubbish clip show is The Best Non-Repeated Show On Telly. Note the caveat there - they're re-running Queer as Folk to celebrate C4's birthday and it's the exception to my tv rule of all old stuff being rubbish. It isn't that old, I know, but it still sings with more funny lines, interesting characters and deft scripting than all the new drama on tv.

As usual, distracted in the first paragraph. Anyway, back to my favourite show. It's on E! (love the ejaculation mark there), and - oddly - isn't repeated at all. Now E! broadcasts everything 500 times so that's weird. Probably copyright restrictions on the clips. And it's got the so-not-prime-it's-funny Saturday 10.30pm slot.

It's called The Soup and is basically a bunch of clips of American tv having the piss taken out of them by a smart-assed comedian-cum-presenter called Joel McHale. It came out of a show called Talk Soup, presented by Greg Kinnear initially, which had the easy-to-write-down-but-so-hard-to-do-well idea of showing clips of kerrrr-azy US talk shows and laughing at them.

I used to wonder how they managed to get such great clips but the answer was obvious - they'd plug the next episode of Springer by a caption saying "Tomorrow on Springer: Dwarf Lesbians Fight Back!" or whatever. Genius.

Anyway, The Soup is one of those shows that rewards regular viewers with in-jokes, making it somewhat better than a mish-mash of clips. It's sarcastic and ironic too, not something E! is known for, and Mr McHale's merciless ribbing of E! top dog Ryan Seacrest* is something beautiful to watch. This takes place in the segment where Joel takes the piss out of E!'s shows called "Let's Take Some E!", all pounding dance music and that. Not the world's wittiest joke, but, hey, it always makes me smile.

If you like laughing at celebrities and crap telly, this is the show for you. Here's a link to a very po-faced Wikipedia entry about it.

*Ryan Seacrest: a name designed by computer, surely? It can't be real. A bit like Ryan himself. Mind you, who'd have thought the British commander of forces in Iraq wasn't a fictional character. Sir Jock Stirrup. He sounds like he's a minor character in The Dambusters...

Friday, 12 October 2007

Charlie Brooker II

Having watched this week's Screenwipe, I humbly bow to the genuis of Mr Brooker. His episode about tv news was a marvellous piece of telly, not just for news anoraks like me but for less-than-obsessed-normal-people (like my partner).

Perfect. Especially all those old title sequences. And getting Adam Curtis, out of BBC Two conspiracy-cum-scare-o-matic docs like Power of Nightmares to do a piece was especially cool.

I should've emailed Mr B that bit from Sky News about stone-skipping world records coming after man being stoned and drowning, shouldn't I?

Ah well.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Charlie Brooker

If you watch BBC Four (hey, I can hope the readers of this stuff are intellectual, refined and have nothing to do of an evening) you'll have seen Mr Charlie Brooker pop up in the idents. Over and over again. Every. Single. Time.

It seems the Beeb, after several series of Screenwipe sneaking out, have decided it's A Right Good Thing and are pushing it like ITV2 are hyping that prozzie thing with ickle Billie Piper innit. Note to self: Charlie Brooker is BBC Four's Billie Piper... discuss.

Anyhow, I enjoy Mr Brooker's feverish rantings in the press and on the telly, and always enjoy a tv show about tv. I've even been known to tune into Wogan's Points Of View on purpose. Sad eh?

This time... well, much as I chortled, I felt a bit, er, bad and that. His comparison of the credits of shows being like the pause you have after finishing a book was funny (especially the clown popping up with a "READ THIS!" sign, brandishing Harry Potter) but not particularly valid. A book takes more than half an hour to read... and does anyone need a nice pause to contemplate what they've just seen when it's Look, I'm Out Of Doctor Who And Am A Hooer As Well! on ITV2 or Bloody Hell, Anthea, Look At The Fleas In My Pants! on BBC Three?

And then he did a thing about marketing where he assaulted some twit who'd said a line of marketing spiel. Hmmm. And then he screamed and shouted and swore a lot - something there's not enough of on tv, unless it's in my house where the shouting usually comes from me - but something there was too much of in this show.

I loved the ripping apart of Street Doctors, that was very funny ("Doctor, it's my anus, go on, look at my anus in the street") as was the far-too-true bit about how tv careers work, but apart from Richard Herring's surreal take on Big Cook, Little Cook (so easy to mistype a word in that title) there was no, er, affection for anything. Charlie can do affection - read his pieces on video games or that really brilliant US cop drama that no-one watches, the one who's name escapes me but everyone is crooked and on crack and that.

Focusing on your strengths is one thing, and boy can Charlie rant in a funny, apt and bile-driven way, but relentless shouting and bleeping of swearwords just gets repetitive after a while. The same way as the utter blandish niceness of Lorraine Kelly makes you want to wipe poo on her frock after half an hour. Or is that just me?

My totally pointess advice to far-more-successful-at-writing-about-telly-than-me Mr Brooker would be light and shade, love. I'd laugh a lot more at those ridiculous ads you take the piss out of so brilliantly if you showed something you liked as well, no matter what it is.

Still, I'll watch every week - well, BBC Four bills each episode as new so my Tivo records it twice a day, so I can't miss it. It's a news special next week. I hope they've got all the theme tunes on from over the years. *PUTS ANORAK ON*

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Worst Trailer In History

I offer this with no comment. If anyone has a recording of this, please YouTube it and let me know. When I heard it, I nearly fell off the crosstrainer in the gym. That's a piece of equipment, not a person...

The place: Sky News Live at Five
The newsreader: Jeremy Thompson
The time: between 5.30 and 6.45pm I think, Monday 1 October (just after the chat with Jeff Randall anyway)

"...and more on that story about a sixteen year-old boy, drowned in a flooded chalk pit after being pelted with stones..."

"...and coming up... how the world stone-skimming record was broken!"


Err, didn't anyone think these two stories, one a tragic stone-and-water related death, one a ho-ho-ho chucklesome story about stones-and-water, might not be put right next to each other?


Monday, 1 October 2007

"Don't phone, it's just for fun!"

Ah, the olden days of breakfast tv, The Big Breakfast in particular... it's funny, GMTV should have abided by the Brekkie's old slogan that titles this blogpart. Then they wouldn't be fined £2m.

Today's MediaGuardian (,,2180589,00.html) has a big story about how ITV's breakfast franchise is in a bit of bother. The scary fact was that 40% of their profits came from premium rate phoneline competitions. That's just odd. I haven't watched GMTV that much - hey, I'm not a middle-aged mum so it's not aimed at me - but when I did there were endless competitions with stupid "what's the name of this programme?"-style questions.

Surely someone somewhere thought that relying so heavily on £2-a-minute phonelines was dodgy? Mind you, even the combined brains of the brightest financial minds in the world in the City of London didn't foresee Northern Rock going boom-bang-a-bang...

The question that interests me is what is breakfast telly for nowadays? I worked for the company that made The Big Brekkie and used to love the show in the Chris Evans heyday (and like it quite a lot when Danny Baker was on it - briefly... and like it mostly when Johnny Vaughan and Liza Tarbuck did it, especially when they dressed up as eggs, that was cool, but not when Mr V and Ms Van Outen came back the second time - you should never go back...)

Anyway, the main reason the Brekkie died was nothing to do with the state of the show, which might not have been utterly unmissable but was fairly watchable. Ah, apart from the short-lived incarnation in a nightclub-style set. The death knell was sounded by the competition from Five and BBC2. Their kids' shows basically took the kids and young mums away, leaving only 'da yoot' audience - but nowadays they are Facebook- or Myspace-ing, listening to Chris Moyles or getting down to MTV Base+1. Or, usually, all three.

Not watching a chunky Northern actress lady dressed up like an egg.

So breakfast telly is much more disparate and spilt up than it used to be, just like primetime telly - but from a smaller base so it's more critical to revenues. It's sad to think that in five years' time we may have news on the Beeb and repeats/acquired stuff on all the other terrestrials.

Oh, and apologies for not updating for a wee while. I've been busy but not that busy. I've watched telly and suchlike. I've simply had nothing much to say about it. Even Anthea Turner telling manky chavs to tidy their kitchens otherwise the rats will poo everywhere just elicited a slight 'tsch' from me. Not sure why...

Friday, 21 September 2007


Hello. I've been off in Spanish Spain for a week or so hence the lack of blogitude. Sadly I was having far too good a time to watch much Spanish tv. Here are three tapas-sized factettes about what I did watch:-

  • The 'noticias', the news, usually has thumping bassy music all the way through, like off of Radio 1;
  • Spanish current affairs and discussion shows are mainly presented by forty- and fifty-something women, something you never see here;
  • German MTV, always piped into hotels for some reason, has ten-minute breaks full of the same mobile ringtone ads on a loop. Literally one full minute long ad, then another, then the first one again. Times five. And, by the way, why is it just MTV for our German friends? UK viewers get CNN and, in the poncey hotel I was in, CNBC. News and that, not pulpy pop. Hmmm...

OK, so to the title of this blethering. A friend of mine is a big fan of Deadwood, the cowboy thing with him off of Lovejoy and lots of horseys, wooden houses, dirt, swearing and stuff.

I tried to watch this once and failed dismally. I thought it was my general dislike of costume drama - ie I managed five minutes of Vanity Fair or that one with D'Arcy in it. But, no, it's not.

I can't watch anything where the majority of the cast wear hats. It just really puts me off. "Look, he's got a top hat on!" I keep thinking. They may as well be speaking Spanish, I can't listen to anything anyone says when they've got, say, a bonnet on their head. The theme tune to Bonanza goes through my mind on a loop when Lovejoy was saying the c-word a lot, not "ooh, what a daring piece of drama" or anything. "Dang-deda-lang deda-lang deda-lang BON-ANNN-ZAAA!". Over and over again.

That's why all them fillums with pixies and goblins make me snooze immediately - hats. Also because they're overlong snoozefests full of people with fake noses stuck on too. And Orlando Bloom, who looks like Shirley Temple to me. Typing that last sentence makes me feel very old by the way. Sigh.

Hats. Keep 'em off the telly.

(OK, it's just been pointed out that lots of the South Park characters wear hats and I like that. But it's a cartoon. They're not real hats on real heads. They're just drawn on.)

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

BBCs Three and Four...

Better people than me have been wondering whether the BBC should continue funding BBC's Three and Four.,,2165608,00.html

My view? Hmmm. It's not straightforward. Some people criticise BBC Three's ratings for being dominated by repeats of EastEnders and Little Britain. Er, that's not BBC Three's fault. It's the viewers' fault. They could've tuned in for Ouch, My Bum Smells Of Poo! or Excuse Me, You've Got Mould Growing On Your Ears! but, no, they watch a re-run of the tedium in Albert Square instead.

I won't go on about stupid titles again... well, maybe once - Help, I Smell Of Fish! being this week's corker.

"They cost so much money!" is another complaint. Yeah, well, BBC Choice, the forerunner to BBC Three, had a tiny budget and as a result had no viewers. BBC Four struggles on their budget too, and it was interesting watching a repeat of a 1997 series about the history of gay rights on that channel last week (not sure why BBC Four's Big Gay Week was a month after C4...). The Wall To Wall-produced show was obviously so much better funded than similar docs nowadays, properly researched and filmed, no PDs with Digicams I bet.


"Put the money into news instead, that's more important than Oy Missus, Your Puffin Is Showing!". Er, yes, news is important, but BBC News is well-funded already. You can tell it costs more than Sky News - but not so much more. Notice it's all the not-exactly-poor famous news faces complaining. It reminds me of the scene in top film Broadcast News where celeb anchor Jack Nicholson is in the news office when budget cuts are announced. He commiserates with everyone and as he's leaving someone jauntily says "well, if you gave up a bit of your multi-million dollar salary we'd be OK". The look he gives them is perfect.

"Put all the good stuff on BBC Two". Well, they kinda do that anyway. And whereas I do agree BBC Two has lost a little purpose recently, and needs a rethink, simply transferring more Proms and some subtitled movies from BBC Four isn't going to do it.

My own not-too-snappy view is that channels, in the main, are dead or dying. Yes, there'll still be a core of people who switch on ITV1 or BBC One and sit there for a full evening. I don't know who these people are but they apparently exist. The hideous trailer-and-recap fever that infects all channels proves it.

Look at a six year-old kid flick through the EPG - they don't care about Nick Jnr, CBBC, Cartoon Net or CBBC Two, they just wanna watch Spongebob. Does anyone apart from schedulers and animation nerds obsessed with the little Plastercine logo blobs care whether Torchwood is on BBC Two or Three? I don't, I just want to see the fairies attack Cardiff again.

Sadly, the "programme-is-all" mentality leads to Whoops, I Tumbledried The Cat Again!-type titles. But the main fact about BBC's Three and Four is that the BBC are simply making more stuff. The extra £150m they spend on these channels is justified if the stuff they make is good. And it's wasted if the stuff they make is crap. That's the debate to be having.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Watching Me Watching You Watching Me...

Watching your own shows go out is a very important thing to do. Obviously, not so easy if you work in live tv, but otherwise I encourage everyone who works in telly to tune in when their shows are broadcast.

When I worked on shows that went out at 6:00 or 6:30 that was easypeasy. Working day over - hey, it's the meeeeja, we do 10 'til 6 - sit down and watch the show on air. But there was usually an issue. The Boss.

Bless my first telly boss, I got to call her Aunty after a bit (but not to her face), she looked after me and gave me all the opportunities I could ever dream of. The justification for the first aspect was that she specialised in hiring newbies to telly and to That Big London, so she had to look after us otherwise we'd bugger off in the middle of something important, leaving her high and dry.

The justification for all the opportunities, I like to think, was that she really wanted us all to learn a lot, get further and progress as tv employees. Not that we'd do everything dead cheap 'cos we were young and enthusiastic.

Anyhow, watching the shows being broadcast with the boss there was always a rollercoaster ride. On one daily series, each night was a different show. I made the comedy one, and as the boss had no sense of humour it was always a nightmare to watch with her. Especially as the show was made on the extreme cheap with bad sets and with scripts bursting full of innuendo that passed by her Antipodean sensibilities.

So just me and her watching a show was a dreadful experience, as she'd crumple her face up, bury her face in her hands, and snort derisively at the (rare) proper gags. But watching the show go out, alongside 15 other staff who all loved it and thought it was "Rentaghost for the 90s" (and that was praise?) had a different effect. As everyone laughed at the knob gags she'd look round smiling and join in. When people guffawed at the innudendo from the lady out of Gladiators in a rubber dress, she'd howl.

And at the credits rolled, she'd think I was a genius. After one especially good episode, she promoted me AND said she wanted me to produce the company's flagship new show for terrestrial telly.

But one of the problems with watching shows was she'd call me in to sit and watch the ones my contemporaries produced. This was usually OK - the shows were well-made in the main and the weeny budget wasn't quite as apparent as on my show - but the weekly live show was a different kettle of fish. The first presenter was a cheesy DJ, and he was fine if, er, cheesy.

The second presenter is now a telly exec and a great guy, but the odd format and convoluted scripts meant he was hamstrung. The boss hated the show, and - in her everything-is-shit-or-brilliant way, blamed the presenter. She tried to make him look cool, in a leather jacket and trendy trousers, and told him to relax. He just appeared to be drunk. She actually rang the control room up and asked if he WAS drunk, at the commercial break, as me and my writery mate sat in her office horrified. He wasn't, he was trying to be "laid back and cool", as instructed.

Oh well.

Now I make shows that go out at 7.20am, and I do force myself up out of bed to watch 'em. It's a lot easier than when I made little inserts that went out from 12.30am to 4.30am at night, inbetween hour-long shows. I only caught a full night once. It ruined how I thought our lovely comedy things worked. They did on a tape of twelve minutes, but nothing can carry a story over four hours of other stuff.

Friday, 31 August 2007

This is the news. Happy now? UPDATE

Well, I don't think it's anything to do with me but things are changing in the news. Remember my previous post:-

And then this happened yesterday...,,2158344,00.html

Next this...,,2159344,00.html

So it looks like time's up for faked news footage of people asking empty chairs questions and nodding or frowning at non-existent answers.

Yay The News.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

August blues

Sorry for the lack of updates here but I've been covering for about 4,237 holidaying staff and haven't had two minutes to rub together. Or something.

Also it's the Edinburgh TV Festival, and I thought it'd make a change to keep my head down and not say anything about tv at all. Someone has to offset all the hot air being blown around in Sconny Botland.

I've had some wild old times up there at the festival, but as they were mixed in with 9am sessions about daytime formats or ratings trends, my memories aren't all of puking on the shoes of the then controller of ITV or seeing a famous newsreader drunkenly sit in a bowl of hummus. The £2K+ price of getting there, staying there, getting into the sessions and all that is a wee bit steep, even if I did see have the joy of seeing the finance controller of a major indie almost get his face punched in when he asked for a receipt for two pints of lager in a rough pub on the wrong side of town.

Still, what was said sounds reasonably promising for The Future Of Telly And That. C4 concentrating on public service stuff (TICK), working with small indies (EXTRA 100 TICKS), and 'dropping' Celeb Big Bro (TICKTICK) - although they've said they're "resting" it from C4, and redoing the format for E4, not cancelling it altogether for a year, something that's not being reported much.

Five spending more on UK commissions can't be a bad thing, the BBC wondering how to save lots of money (here's an idea - trim News 24 to cost just twice as much as Sky News instead of gabillions of times as much. TICK!) and lots of serious-faced execs saying how tv needs to get the viewers' trust back.

Here are three random ideas:-


Like those American ads that have fast legal voiceovers... "new Flemgone, proven to get rid of flem for good. Side-effects-include-flem-sweating-vomiting-and-death". Press your red button to get captions or commentary on a show, so if a cutaway was filmed after on The X Factor (CROSS!), a voice goes "Simon-Cowell-made-that-face-for-another-act" in a dead quick voice. "Dermot-O-Leary-isn't-really-in-Birmingham-he's-been-keyed-on"... "Louis-Walsh-wasn't-fired-it-was-all-a-publicity-stunt"..."That-tall-man-won't-be-back-to-choreograph-the-live-shows-as-he-has-REALLY-been-fired"... and all that*


No more crushing the credits, endlessly selling us the next show. No trailers repeated on a loop, especially on digital channels where it's the same ones every break. I know it works but STOP IT NOW. No ramping up the volume for the commercials - it's actually against the rules but all the digital channels do it. So STOP IT NOW. As with "And there'll be more Coronation Street in half an hour". No, there shouldn't be. There's plenty on already. STOP IT NOW.

No more overrunning by two minutes here and there so when you switch over you've missed the start of something - or, worse, your PVR or video has missed the end. It's not big or clever and might get you an extra 0.1% of viewers for the next show as they can't be arsed catching up if they've missed the beginning of something else, but IT ANNOYS THE HELL OUT OF THE OTHER 99.9%. Just be more honest, straightforward and less salesly, preachy and Blair-y. The King of Spin has gone, learn the lesson. STOP IT NOW.


You pay peanuts, you get high salt and fat content... er, or is it monkeys? Anyway, budgets for most shows haven't moved for years and costs have gone up. So there are fewer, cheaper people making them. And the incredible, astonishing, totally unexpected result is that the shows on air aren't quite as good as they used to be. *GASP*. Due to inexperience, deadlines, lack of training and lots of other things that aren't interesting enough to make headlines. So pay more per show or just make fewer eps of Antique Car Boot Auction Sale Challenge! for the same price.

Um, I meant to log on and say "oops, am busy, back soon" and look at that; I've just invented a way to make telly trustworthy again. Sweet.

*By the way, The X Factor is on top form right now, unmissable telly. Not much I can add to the fab reviews apart from it's simply a well-produced, well-funded, well-thought out show with oodles of talent on and off camera. I was at the gym on Sunday and the six people on the cross trainers next to me were watching the repeat on their tv screens. They howled with laughter at the bad ones and looked dead emotional at the soldier not going to Iraq again 'cos he got through.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

"That was the news. Happy now?"

I'll tell you where the title line came from in a few paragraphs' time, but I was prompted to write after seeing this yesterday:-,,2147715,00.html

You know what my immediate thought was? Aw, pity. I want MORE gimmicks. I LOVE gimmicks. I don't like fakery and nodding shots, as mentioned before, but what's the harm in having lots of whoosh noises and slamming sound effects (thanks Sky News and the BREAKING bit!), or making the poor newcasters walk alongside a big green wall pretending they're pointing at things (that's it, ITV News, get 'em perambulating!) or randomly standing or sitting depending on... er, um.. well, something I assume (big shout out to the BBC News lot!)

It's all a lot more exciting than a man at a desk with a still behind him, now isn't it? But has it gone too far? Hmmm.

The title line was from The Day Today, Chris Morris's seminal news spoof. See some bits:-

TDT was at the cutting edge of graphics (I mean, that title sequence, isn't it so cool) and was incredibly over-the-top at the time - when it was on the news was just a man with a still behind him. But now it seems, if anything, quite tame. In The Simpsons movie, Kent Brockman is reporting a story and says "It's so important we've made a title sequence. With music!".

This actually happens now. Sky had a particularly winsome one for the first few weeks of the Maddy McCann story, with plinky-plonky piano music and a montage of images popping up before the latest instalment of... well, of nothing as nothing has really happened since the fateful day. Obviously the 24-hour news channels need to say something about the biggest story, they can't just say, "oh well there's been no news, now the sport", but still...

As you can probably tell my Newsgeek side loves all this presentational guff, yet my Newsprude side wants it straight. The former usually wins with me. I'm the man who had Nationwide's theme music on his mobile, followed with the shortlived replacement for that show, 60 Minutes (nothing like the American one). And if I'm up at half-past midnight I usually tune into CBS News on Sky to see their spin on things...

Sad eh?

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Summer lull...

TV goes quiet in the summer. As in the business and the stuff on the air as well.

Always doubt any new series that starts in the summer.

It's simple and logical that you basically show the rubbish- sorry, more challenging material... during the summer. People are on holiday. The nights are lighter so the viewers aren't sitting in front of the telly, they're.. er, well, you know, doing the garden, singing songs around the piano or BBQing £2 chickens.

And, obviously, all the senior telly people are away so they can burn off their shi- um, more challenging material.. whilst they're not around.

In the States, it used to be even simpler. They didn make or screen any new shows in the summer. US tv commissioned 26 weeks' worth of episodes of everything and simply re-run them all over the summer. Even the 'news magazines' like 60 Minutes.

(Note 26 weeks' worth is actually 22 episodes normally, as there are 8 weeks where they either have stunt scheduling for their 'sweeps' months where ratings are checked, or they have award ceremonies or sports events to fit in, or it's Christmas where totally unlike the UK they just bung on repeats as the advertisers ain't bothered 'cos the shops are shut)

Anyhow, now us Brits have spoilt it for them. We introduced them to cheap reality tv and summer in the US is festooned with all kinds of reality crap. It simply rates a wee bit more than repeats of drama, and can cost less. Big Brother is a very different show in the US (no audience voting for a start) but a regular summer event now. America's Got Talent is a huge hit, as well as our very own Supernanny and Wife Swap. There are two 'sing the lyrics' shows which have done well, and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (coming to us via Sky One) which is a proper big hit - pitting brainy kids against dumb adults, a winning format if ever I saw one.

Back to Britain now, and the schedules have been full of typical summer fair. Speaking of fairs (hoho), did anyone see that Great British Village Fair thing that was on BBC One? It was made last summer, a full year old when it hit the screens. Does that imply it wasn't the bestest quality ever, or that it was carefully scheduled to fit with summer weather.

As the Geordie off of Big Brother says - "you decide...", especially when the weather when they filmed the series was hot and sunny and the weather this year was, er, somewhat damper.