Monday, 18 February 2008

Reasons To Be Cheerful. I! T! V!

We've got around to watching some telly. Telly that isn't Sky Sports News, Lost or repeats of The Sopranos.

Of course, you'd expect that to be the absolute minimum requirement of a website dedicated to television, preferably with added "writing about some of it". Well, it does mean we've got something almost worth writing about. Will the usual thing happen, and all the entertaining and throught provoking thoughts about the gogglebox going on in our noggin get caught up in our in-built 'talent filter', and be reduced to cheap personal attacks on Marcus Brigstocke by the time they reach our typing fingers? We shall see, as we attempt to fly in the face of public opinion and come up with several reasons why ITV1 is actually pretty good at the moment.

Reason One: TV Burp.

Well, that's a given. Next.

Reason Two: Thank God You're Here

After having serious reservations about this, we've lazily let the entire series build up on our Sky+ box, ready to fall foul of the dreaded 'yellow button' purge when we're going out on the same night we want to record a film on Channel Four HD. With a bit of spare time on Saturday morning we started watching it and to our slight surprise, it was pretty good. It took a couple of episodes to get going, and to find who the contestants worth asking back are - a shame Fern Britton wasn't asked back, she was a relevation in the first episode, but when it got going, it made for a nicely diverting hour. Even Paul Merton showed signs of remembering how to be any bloody good toward the end of the run.

One gripe, a couple of the choices for contestants left a lot to be desired. As mentioned, Fern did a really good job (although, as someone who has presented countless hours of live television throughout her career, maybe that's not so much of a surprise), as did Rufus Hound, but Jennie "That Ginger Woman Off Of Corrie" McAlpine was easily the worst contestant of the series, clearly being out of her depth in an unscripted environment (because she's an actress used to working from a script. Do you see, People Who Choose Who To Put In Television Programmes?). All the more annoying when you consider Adam Buxton was due to be in her episode (even being billed on ITVs website as such), only to be bumped to make way for Marcus Brigstocke at the last minute. [CLUNK] That'll be the sound of our talent filter kicking in, there. Similarly, Jessica Hynes was billed as appearing in the last episode (indeed, she still is), only to be replaced by Steve "You Know, The One Who Doesn't Usually Say Much In The Orange Cinema Ads" Furst. It would be been nice to see a couple more of the regulars from the Aussie version of the show making an appearance, too. Britain's television screens have been devoid of the majesty of Shaun Micallef for way too long (as long as ITV4 or someone don't pick up Newstopia, as it wasn't very good).

Minor quibbles aside, the performances in the second half of the series made it increasingly enjoyable, and if it's brought back for a longer run we're sure it'll be a welcome addition to our series link pile. As the viewing figures seemed to have recovered from an initial dip to increase after episode three, hopefully that'll happen.

So, erm, travel back in time six weeks and watch it. People really should send us advance copies of stuff.

Reason Three: Dexter.

Tentative hurrahs echoed around BrokenTV's house on discovering this news - our favourite American drama series of the year is to be broadcast on ITV1, from Wednesday the 27th of February. Hurrahs because it's a fantastic show that really does deserve to be seen by a proper audience, not just people with Sky. The hurrahs were tentative because we're not sure ITV1 at 10.35pm (which is ITV-scheduler speak for 10.43pm, for some reason) is where the show is going to pick up a large audience. We're really struggling to remember the last US import to make it big on The Light Channel. Sabrina The Teenage Witch?

This will probably mean FX will hold off showing season two of Dexter (which is where the writers really up their game) until the run of the first has finished on ITV1, which is bad news for people who'd enjoyed the first on Sky's best kept secret (and who don't indulge in illegal pirate downloading of television shows). But then, if the decision to try and bring the show (along with a dash of much-needed credibility) to ITV's weekday schedules is a successful one, then it'll be worth it.

Our cynical instinct tells us that within six weeks, the Friday night repeats on ITV4 will be become the only broadcasts of the show as it's shoved off the ITV1 schedules to make say for a signed repeat of The Royal Today (effectively making Dexter the new Millennium for the new millennium... anyone? No?). But of course, we've been wrong before, and we're quite sure we will be again [glances over at shiny and expensive HD-DVD player].

To be honest, the real reason we're hoping ITV1 can turn it around is so they'll get an excuse to come up with publicity photos like this one again:

Dating from 1990, and showing improved ratings figures for Central, if you were wondering.

Our cursory Monday lunchtime glance of Mediaguardian would be a much brighter experience with more pictures like the above. Sadly, they won't get to feature Jeremy Beadle, but come on. Huge photos of Harry Hill and Felicity Kendall larging it in front of a huge graphic trumpeting a 1.4% year-on-year rise during pre-watershed hours for the 25-49 demographic? What's not to like?

4 .:

Anonymous said...

You are right about Jennie McAlpine being the worst person on Thank God... in fact the professional actors in general have shown themselves to be the worst in the show, whereas it seems to be the stand up comedians who are usually the best on it. It does seem weird though that ITV currently has two of the funniest shows on TV at the moment!

Mark X said...

The whole "getting actors in" element of the show really did smack of a producer insisting "Mmm... very good, but can we get a few more Faces Of ITV onto there somehow?"

Hopefully, the fact it was pretty well received should see it come back with time to build an audience, as they allowed TV Burp to do. Lets hope ITV don't mess up again, and give up on it.

Thought for the nanosecond: did ITV ever get around to broadcasting the second series of Shane? It had been recorded, and even plugged during one of the ITV50 celebration shows, but we don't think it has ever seen the light of day.

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