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...