Grumpy Old Dek
ITV1’s primetime was dominated by the frankly quite nasty Fallen Angel which was one of those annoyingly jumbled timeline jobs featuring particularly unpleasant crimes. Fair play to you if you managed to get the end of it, many viewers had jumped ship way before the final episode was screened.
Then for the rest of the week ITV suddenly decided that UEFA Cup games - normally reserved for the dark outpost that is ITV4 – were good enough for the main channel. With the advent and expansion of the Champions League, this is a tournament that has become downgraded and second rate and I’m sure that viewing figures wouldn’t have been as good had the BBC been offering anything halfway decent on the other side. Do you know anyone that’s still watching Party Animals, let alone actually enjoying it? Dull, dull, dull.
The BBC has of course been completely swamped with Comic Relief branded shows of varying degrees of crapness. Perhaps in a couple of years when this all comes round again, they could threaten us with a fortnight’s scheduling like we’ve just had unless we donate. They might make more money that way.
At the forefront of all this lousy telly has been Comic Relief Does Fame Academy and there’s absolutely no doubt that this year’s intake of vaguely famous people and has-beens were badly in need of singing lessons.
The weird thing about this year’s offering was that the views of Richard Park seemed to be absolute tosh because he insisted on praising vocal efforts that made Edith out of ’Allo ‘Allo sound good while taking hugely unjustified pot-shots at Tricia Penrose – the one ‘celeb’ out of the whole bunch that could actually sing.
Despite the best efforts of Carrie and David, this tone deaf mob never seemed to improve and at the end of the day even Tricia seemed to buckle under the weight of unjustified criticism and gave the odd dodgy performance. Quite how the tortuous voice of Angelica stayed in so long remains a complete mystery. I can only presume that a large proportion of the voting public were watching the show with the sound turned off. Either that or votes have been miscounted. No, surely not.
As for Ray Stubbs – a man who talked his way through almost every song – I just can’t understand why he looks so sinister when he performs. Let’s hope the Match of the Day lads give him loads of stick over this.
It wasn’t all bad news I suppose. Barry out of EastEnders karaoked his way through bringing back memories of Suggs and Night Fever while Colin Murray totally destroyed his Radio One credibility by choosing songs so middle of the road that even Saga FM may have baulked at some of them.
I just hope that the “journey” the fragile TPT seems to have been on doesn’t give producers Endemol any ideas but I truly fear that Celebrity Rehab is just a heartbeat away.
Tara was pretty much atrocious on almost every song she attempted, the exception being These Boots are Made for Walking which I’ll admit had a certain entertainment value, at least the first couple of times. By the time she did it yet again in the final even that was starting to grate.
The BBC realised ages ago that the show proper had run its course; I think it’s time to say the same about the celeb version.
Fire the lot of them
While Lame Academy was quite bad, it was nowhere as tacky as Comic Relief Does The Apprentice, a show with a cast of celebs so annoying that the most likeable by some way was Danny Baker. It ‘s hard to be more damning about them than that.
Events on the men’s team were dominated by the incredibly overbearing Alistair Campbell and Piers Morgan who, for some reason, behaved in an even more obnoxious fashion than we’d come to expect from him. Poor Rupert Everett came under a barrage of abuse from Morgan who merely wanted to use the actor’s contacts and set about bullying him in a most unpleasant fashion.
Everett complained he didn’t like the cameras and departed but I wonder if he would have done had Piers at least treated him with a modicum of respect. Ross Kemp largely kept his head down to such an extent that he might as well have gone home as well.
There was an annoying bit of nonsense when former The Apprentice winner Tim Campbell was parachuted in to replace the departed thespian and they used his well honed business acumen to get him to refill the stapler, a simple enough task that seemed to be beyond both Piers and Alistair who continued to behave like a pair of rutting stags.
At least the men were trying to make money by actually attempting the task set to them, i.e. to run a successful fun fair. The women’s team lead by Karren Brady seemed quite happy to virtually ignore what they were supposed to be doing and merely ring up their rich friends for hand outs. This may have been effective in bagging large amounts of cash for charity but doesn’t make for particularly riveting television.
The only moment of anything nearing entertainment in the whole piece was when the gruesome twosome of Morgan and Campbell attempted to kidnap Trinny’s chef. As the plucky design guru attempted to retrieve her minion by scribbling all over Alistair’s back, there was near excitement when she nearly took out Piers eye with a pen.
She eventually retrieved her chef and the crocodile tears followed freely.
We had to wait until the next night to see Piers fired by Sir Alan but the whole exercise did little for the reputations of anyone involved.
The whole thing finally wrapped with the big telethon on Friday night. As two years ago, the Peter Kay pop video completely stole the show, a glorious version of 500 Miles featuring Little Britain’s Andy and Brian Potter. This was a showstopper if ever there was one.
Much of the rest of the evening was a bit of damp squib with the Wife Swap spoof on The Vicar of Dibley falling particularly flat while the Mr. Bean segment didn’t augur well for the forthcoming movie.
Those who attended the Little Britain live tour would have found their sketches rather familiar, and TV Burp turned out to be merely recycled clips from the series proper. Whoever thought up Top Gear of the Pops should be taken out and shot.
I suppose there was good news if you’re a big Catherine Tate fan but frankly I found it all a bit like hard work, the Deal or No Deal sketch with Nan being way too long. As for Prime Minister Tony Blair taking part in a puerile comedy sketch when so many of our lads are at war, that really rankled with me. I am bovvered.
Out of date
The first series of Castaway was more docu-soap than reality television but at least it could lay a certain amount of claim to being some form of social experiment. Contestants gave up a year of their lives to live on a remote Scottish island and a genuine community of sorts did actually form.
The new version has clearly been thrown together by fans of Big Brother and Lost. Contestants seem to have been picked deliberately so that they’ll get on each other nerves rather than come together to form an effective group. They’ve only got to do three months on what looks like a very pleasant holiday resort. Where this loses out against Big Brother is that the contestants forget the camera very quickly. This is being shot on hand held cameras so everything we see happens when all the participants are very much aware that they’re being filmed.
Despite the bizarre mix of people, not many of the Castaways are that memorable and if you only watch the Sunday show, it could actually be a challenge even to remember their names from week to week. If you intend to get into this, you really need to watch the nightly updates on BBC Three. I find it odd that they haven't found a spot in the late BBC One schedule for these.
The one member of the group to truly stand out is self-styled social misfit Jonathan who seems to delight in attempting to cause friction and is by all accounts a bit whiffy due to his refusal to wash. The problem here is that I appear to be finding him far more annoying than his fellow castaways.
Another major drawback about the show is presenter Danny Wallace. Those of you expecting it to be the ex-Southampton and Manchester United striker were no doubt disappointed to discover than it wasn’t him, but that bloke who looks like the love child of Alan Whicker and Sue Perkins but lacks the wit and charm of either.
Hamstrung by history
It’s a bit of a shame for ITV at the moment. They are sort of hamstrung by the rich history that they oh so recently celebrated. The problem is that most of us have fond memories of the ITV of the past, memories constantly jogged as many of their memorable shows continue to play out across a multitude of channels. The problem is simple, many if us don’t believe that ITV is a good as it used to be and attempting to get back those former glories is likely to be about as successful as trying to turn back the tide.
The mass audiences of yesteryear will never be back. It will take a major event to get hordes of people watching the same show at the same time and that will certainly never happen in drama or entertainment again, no matter how good the content because there will always be countless opportunities to catch the event.
The only time massive audiences will gather at the screen at the same time will be a major, possibly catastrophic news event - and even then we’ll watching it on different channels - or from a major national sporting victory. I think it would take England to reach football’s World Cup final to break any audience records in the modern era and that’s more likely to be on the BBC than ITV.
With regional identities buried and the output of the channel looking increasingly flimsy, it’s difficult to imagine what a successful ITV of the future will look like but sceptics will say that it may be not dissimilar to the Channel 4 of today.
Channel 4 says that it is likely to stop commissioning its list shows. Many of these shows have been produced by ITV production houses, so it wouldn’t be a massive stretch for ITV to attempt to take over the reins and put their own stamp on them.
There used to be a distinct feel about what was an ITV show. Actually there didn’t, there used to be a distinct feel to what was a Granada show, or a Yorkshire show, or one from LWT or Thames. Carlton’s often brought in productions never really had a house style and that lack of a sense of branding has continued as ITV has consolidated. The soulless ITV Productions endcap often rounds off soulless shows and the drama productions that feel as if they have some heart to them are more often than not those from indie producers.
Perhaps that’s the answer as ITV tries to find its niche in an increasing crowded and competitive market place. Perhaps true innovation will only come from those outside the behemoth and not those inside, looking over their shoulders wondering whether they’ll be next to be axed or downsized.
The much maligned Bad Girls and Footballers Wives may have been shamelessly downmarket and not to everyone’s taste but at least they found an audience. In their wake it remains to be seen just what the channel can do to shore up ratings and ad revenue, directly undermined by the terms of the merger. They produce Jimmy McGovern’s The Street for the BBC but running quality dramas such as that on their own channel isn’t likely to pull crowds decent enough to square with Contracts Rights Renewal, which is depressing advertising income and they’ve surely got to get away from a never ending line of shows featuring either melancholy detectives or a sobbing Julie Graham.
The ITV we grew up with is gone, never to return. While ITV as a company is likely to be around for a good while yet, whether ITV as a brand can survive as the turbulent media revolution starts to claim casualties is very much open to debate.
The big names that flocked to take part in Eurovision – Making Your Mind Up were eliminated before the final sing off leaving us with Cyndi – a French woman you’ve probably never heard of – facing a final showdown with Scooch – a band so cheesy that if you have heard of them, you’ll probably wish you hadn’t.
It seems that hosts Terry Wogan and Fearne Cotton were being fed the name of winning act into their earpieces and shouted out the name of the winner together. Problem was Old Tel shouted Cyndi’s name while his shiny-chested cohort announced Scooch as the victors. That would be funny enough at the best of times but given the current controversy over phone voting it was absolutely hilarious.
Scooch turned out to be the actual winners with a performance so camp that John Inman’s probably turning in his grave. Terry looked uncomfortable at the mishap; Cotton as if she didn’t gave a damn.
The whole show had been a bit of a fiasco anyway. Whose bright idea was it to have Mel Giedroyc commenting on the songs when she’d only recently shown the nation that she’s about as musical as a dead sheep?
Multitude of Riches
Not content with making better drama than us these days, the Americans seem quite happy to pinch some of our best performers to do it.
Taking then plaudits from the critics stateside this week were Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard in The Riches, a well made drama about a family of grifters in which Driver, as the emaciated, drug addicted, parole breaking mother is particularly impressive.
I’ve no idea if or when this will be available on British shores, but I really hope it’s soon.
I’ve found the whole phone vote fiasco thing very funny but when Blue Peter starts swindling little kids then things really have got out of hand. Even the on air apology from the current crop of presenters seemed pious to me.