Monday, 12 May 2008

More bad shows I've worked on

Thinking further about this over the weekend - whilst trying to come up with new ideas that aren't bad - I was reminded of some other corkers that I've had the misfortune to work on. Here goes...

A show named after an Abba song. Not a great start, you'd think, and you'd be right. The idea was it was a problem-page type show but (CUE ROLL OF DRUMS) it was told from three different points of view.

So wife accuses husband of shagging the neighbour - you'd see the wife's story (he's out late... mysterious texts... woman answering his phone!), the husband's story (he's working late... neighbour coming on to him...) and the neighbour's story (husband coming on to her... she resists...) One of them was true but which one? Intriguing eh? OK, OK, maybe not, but C4 at the time thought so and stumped up some dosh for development and a pilot.

I was assigned to the head of development to work on the show. Nothing seemed organised, and Mr Head would just sing the theme toon at me when I asked about anything. I got more and more concerned over the weeks as we were supposed to be shooting something in a fortnight and didn't have a script.

It then turned out he'd got a new job and left over one weekend. Oh.

So muggins here had to write a script. And writing a complex script from three different viewpoints that can't contradict each other proved a little too much for me. And for the other two writers who had a go. It was just about possible to write something that could logically work but it was dull to watch. And anything interesting and dramatic would give the game away.

We sat and told C4 this, and they had the good grace to let us keep the money we'd already spent on developing something unusable.

I won't go into details on this show, but it was a monthly gameshow co-produced by a German broadcaster designed entirely to get a million quid grant from the EU. Er, I mean, to 'foster co-operation across the Eurozone via the medium of televisual entertainment'. The show was an awful cross between Treasure Hunt, Jeux Sans Frontieres and Eurovision. It was a stinking mishmash but was entirely paid for by the tax payers of Luxembourg. Or something.

Picture the scene: a big multinational broadcaster's ad department comes to my little company and says they want us to make 26 short episodes of a cartoon publicising a new fast-food product for an even more multinational food company. We were short of work and, hey, these guys were funky and trendy and had lots of other things they wanted us to do. Cool.

Errr, no it wasn't. Advertising is even more twuntastic than tv. We sat in massive meetings to decide the name of the pet dog. The main characters were tweaked until they were duller than ditchwater. I believe three different 'brand executives' had 'input' into the colour of one character's top.

Our silly little comedy stories had to be cut right back to show the characters taking this food product (absolutely inedible, by the way, and in packaging that made it look like toilet cleaner) out of the freezer, microwaving it, then eating it. Yum! The little inserts were supposed to run weekly, and were keyed around events like movie openings, holidays etc. Oh no. The product was delayed on the shelves so they all fell by the wayside.

And then the 'brand guardian' went on holiday for three weeks so nothing could be approved. And then the product, which was just a trial launch in several regional UK markets (despite being shown on national TV) was taken off the shelves.

Still, they paid us. Nine months' late. And much less than we were expecting. The moral of the story? Never believe anyone in advertising, I s'pose, not particularly original or unexpected, but there you go.

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