Friday, 11 January 2008

Moving Wallpaper / Echo Beach

Yes I sat and watched ITV1's new flagship comedy/soap/sitcom/drama thing last night. My main interest, to be frank, was in the adverts. They actually showed a one for Cheese Strings.. or is it Cheezstringz? I've never seen such a product advertised on primetime telly. For a show aimed at an upmarket audience, it was an odd thing to see.

And my view? Well, as a tv producer I enjoyed Moving Wallpaper. But I always enjoy shows set in telly, it ticks a box on my anorak list of things wot I like. I even put up with Studio 60 far longer than any normal human being with working eyes and ears should.

To be frank, the comedy one wasn't as funny as it could've been. And - although this is a minor thing - utterly unrealistic in every single way. Ben Miller seemed to think a Nasty Cynical TV Producer is the same as any soap bastard but just talks with his mouth more closed than is natural. Maybe he's pretending to have Botoxed his cheeks but it just came across like he was mumbling a lot.

I think the major flaw is that other tv-shows-about-tv-shows have programme clips in them - the sublime Larry Sanders, the up-it's-own-ass Studio 60, 30 Rock, even back to Mary Tyler-Moore and Murphy Brown. The mixture of behind-the-camera and in-front is where a lot of the comedy can come from, the alomst immediate juxtaposition of the two forms can be dead funny.

Apart from a lame gag involving an extra getting a line 'cos she blew the producer, none of the actors in Echo Beach turned up in Moving Wallpaper. You then end up waiting 45 minutes for a reference to a wet room to turn up in front of the camera when it was obviously a punchline... well, it's not ideal for comedy timing purposes.

Others have pointed out a soap audience isn't going to watch a post-ironic sitcom about making it, and that's undoubtedly true (he confidentially asserts before seeing the ratings) But, post-ironically, my dislike of soaps mean I don't watch them and therefore I quite enjoyed Echo Beach as the no-doubt cliched acting, hilariously literal music, familiar faces from other shows (look, it's that dead one from Corrie! Ooh, isn't that Mrs McClusky from Grange Hill!)... all this is new to me. Like ads for string made of cheese.

In my humble opinion, one of the reasons this concept took so long to get on air was that it's fundamentally flawed. It somehow worked better when they said they'd show the soap on ITV2 after the comedy on ITV1 - not sure why a change of channel makes it right but it kinda does. I s'pose the soap cost too much money or something (lots of helicopter shots, no volume savings like a daily soap).

A sitcom set around people making a soap should be ideal. The people-who-don't-like-each-other-trapped-together thing is there, big characters etc. etc. - it works. But maybe Acorn Antiques total cheesiness made the actual producers (not the fictional ones... sigh, this gets confusing) plummet upmarket and try to be sophisticated. Hmm. I've got friends who've worked on soaps and they've told me plenty of great stories, like the lead actress in a, er, hospital soap who can't ever remember the word 'hospital' and screws up every line with it in.

I'll give it another go - hell, it's the first episode(s) - but my season pass is more than likely to be deleted soon.

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