Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Back from t'other side of the world

OK so I didn't get to post anything about Foreignland tv from the other side of the globe. Three simple reasons:-
  • I didn't take my laptop as my slavish desire to travel hand-baggage-only trumps my wanting-to-interwebulate needs;
  • I did have net access on hotel machines in their business centres but spent that time checking work emails. Sadly;
  • My sunning/drinking/sunning-whilst-drinking time was paramount.

But I have to admit South African telly did have some genuinely odd moments.

The main soap (or "soapie" in the delightful way they refer to these things over there) seemed to be set in a coffee shop. The cast - seeming to stretch to around six people in any one episode even if there were twenty on the titles - were all fine soap actors. That is they can remember vast tracts of rubbish, spew it out without laughing or bumping into each other and hold the look of shock/upset/anger for the requisite five seconds at the end of every scene.

The plot was interminable, about someone nicking money from the till. I saw several episodes from this daily show over two weeks (it was on in between afternoon sunning and evening drinking times, I'm not that sad) but nothing happened in that plot in ten episodes. Hell, they discussed it at great length. And discussed who to discuss it with. But nothing actually happened.

So far, so Neighbours.

Except I must admit a huge admiration for this show, something I've never had for the Ramsay folk thing. Because the six cast members switched between languages at will. English in one scene, then Xhosa in another, then the occasional burst of Afrikaans. Subtitles popped up occasionally but not all the time. So these people had memorised pages of vacuous shite in three languages. Bless.

Otherwise the tv there was of a fairly standard abroad-like quality. Lots of 'empowerment' shows with people saying how they'd learned to read and got a job. Bad half-hour infomercials about car insurance. Cheapo sets. Hilariously bad graphics. Imports all over the place.

I must mention the one person who livened up every evening, the newscaster on SABC2's Afrikaans news service (or 'nuus', their cunningly disguised word). He was obviously a hundred years old, but disguised this masterfully with what must've been an inch of white powerdy makeup so he looked like Michael J. Fox's ghost. Without the twitches.

But the SABC2 makeup lady, obviously taken on after Barbera Cartland popped her clogs, didn't stop there. Mr Nuus's cheeks were wonderfully rouged up, two lovely red circles on his oh-so-pale face. And he wore one of the worst wigs I've ever seen - a full head job as well - in a fetching shade of gingery puce. It even seemed to be at a jaunty angle.


Monday, 9 April 2007

I'll be back after this break...

Just a quick post today, on a Bank Hol and everything, to say I'm off on my hols for two weeks so this place might not be updated much. For five days I'll definitely not be posting anything, as I'm going to a place with no interwebs, mobile receptions or even electricity I think.

But on the other 9 days I'm in cities with all those things and so might be tempted into posting something about how awful tv is in the foreignlands. Three hour variety shows with topless ladies, fat balding presenters in primary-coloured tuxes and incomprehensible games. Versions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? with the same music and set but a fat balding presenter in a black tux instead of Mr Tarrant, but the million is only worth around a grand. Badly-dubbed seventies American cop shows. CNN Interntational, the home of exotically-named and accented newsreaders - oh, and Richard Quest, the shouting English oddball, usually screeching away from a hot air balloon in some look-the-tourist-board-in-this-wee-country-has-paid-for-this-holiday-jolly-I-mean-big-proper-thing type show.

I'm lucky enough to have wangled a BA business class flight for my twelve hours and so am looking forward to the only time I really can sit through an entire proper movie. Strapped in, wine being topped up constantly, almost edible food turning up at regular intervals, flying to All Abroad And That is when I catch up with the fabulous world of film. Although everything's aimed at brain-dead twenty-year old Americans, obviously, and Borat is considered a work of subtlety and sarcasm. Ahem.

Off to pack my transparent unguent bag...

non-tv secret: hand baggage only is the only way to go

... and will post as and when I can, tvsecreteers...

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

The Worst Rejection Letter Ever

OK, so here's my worst rejection ever. It came to a programme format called The Greedy Bastard Show. The idea was to try and encourage people to do really bad things for money, to see how low they would go.

(Note to self: when following last time's tv secret rename the programme The How Low Would You Go Show. Better title. Rhymes and that. Hmmm.)

So this show was an hour-long late-night gameshow. The contestants would have no idea what was going to happen, and be known only by nicknames. Fatty, Skinny, Four-Eyes, Ugly, Dogface etc. The first round would be Piss Wins Prizes, where portaloos are wheeled on and the person who pisses the least is eliminated.

We'd then have a series of animals to be, er, humanely destroyed, starting with an ant (for a fiver) and then ending on a cute ickle doggie. Would you put a dog down for a hundred grand? If the contestant, like any normal person (but unlike most people who want to be on tv) was appalled, we'd say the poor ickle doggie was dying. In pain. The owner was going to do it anyway. Press the button to end Rover's life. Go on.

There were other games, from ringing up your partner and pretending to be HIV+ to smashing up badly-needed NHS equipment to win a Fiesta. The last round involved choosing between helping something you really believed in, like a charity or cause, and winning hard cash.

Before you lynch me, the whole thing was a spoof. Only the contestants and studio audience thought it was real. No doggie would die. Girlfriend knew boyfriend was reading a script. The NHS equipment wasn't real. We'd only reveal this after the last episode finished with what looked like someone dying and the show falling off air.

Cool eh? Well, sort of. Post-modern and ironic we thought, as did the boss of the achingly-trendy and edgy company I was working for. I'd never managed to impress him much - too square and sensible for his addled eyes - but this show made him howl with joy.

So I sent it in. To, er, the BBC. To a bigwig there I'd met once about a sitcom. He'd been very nice and seemed to like the comedy idea... well, until the mad idiot who was funding the pilot pissed everyone off and the sitcom fell to bits around me. That's another story.

He sent me back a letter saying that he thought the show wasn't post-modern or ironic, just awful and a new low for television. The idea about abortion made him physically sick. I won't type it in here as it was really, really, REALLY bad.

He ended by saying if British television ever screened anything this exploitative he'd leave the country, and that it was customary to wish people success elsewhere with a programme that was being rejected, but he wasn't going to do that here.

I was scared. Terrified. A really big important man hated me and thought I was a sicko. So I hid the letter and told my boss we hadn't heard anything. And buried The Greedy Bastard Show away.

Ironically, if not post-modernly, the BBC bigwig then left the country. And British tv began to screen shows where shouting Welshman set fire to their penises, and minor celebrities ate testicles for laughs. And, apparently, a radio station somewhere did Piss Wins Prizes.


Monday, 2 April 2007

Titles (ii)..

Exciting news - two emails have flooded into TelevisionSecret's HQ. OK, both from the same person (hello "Bazza") and one was correcting a typo, but, hey, I was thrilled to get any feedback to my bletherings.

I have to say, "Baz" - if I can call you that; I kinda feel I know you somehow - that you're not actually correct in your assumption I whipped the title of Propertunities from a certain .co.uk Spanish villa seller I'd never heard of. Their website says (c) 2001 onwards so let's assume that's when they started. I've no idea mind you but I can assure you, dear readerines, that my interest in Spanish property is zero. And I haven't gone to the bother of actually researching anything properly either. Oh no. You've probably worked out already.

Yes, I am a shyster and have been known to, er, take inspiration from everywhere. But, Mr B, you underestimated the longevity of my career of making up daytime shit for the tellybox. My first one-liner for Propertunities was written in late 1996, when C5 was just starting to commission stuff. (I was at their tenth anniversary party last week and would impart any scurrilous gossip but I didn't really notice much. Trisha's quite short. Er, Matthew Wright's not that short. I drank lots of shorts. End of story)

My boss snorted coffee out of her nose at my pitch - the same rubbish there's-not-really-a-show-just-a-title stuff I mentioned last time - and said "NEXT!". She went for the daytime magazine show idea I'd had, even though it was very poor. It had to run from 1pm to 3pm and I'd called it "1to3" (sigh). She hated the title but it was the biggest commission financially ("you can tell they're the fifth channel 'cos they expect you to make their crap for a fifth of the price!" she screamed)

It didn't get commissioned. Gloria Hunniford did instead. Bless.

tv secret: old tv ideas never die - just dust 'em off and sell 'em again a wee while later

Just make sure it's someone else in charge when you re-submit "Britain's Ugliest Babies: LIVE!". Which, with the average life expectancy of a commissioning editor, means waiting all of, oooh, six weeks max.

Next time I'll spill on The Worst Programme Rejection Letter I Ever Got, something I hid from my boss as it scared me senseless. The big TV cheese I'd sent an idea to even threatened that if any other channel in the UK screened my show he'd leave the country. And soon after he was off.