What Merry Hell Is This?

  • 12/16/2008 11:34:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

Well, there hasn't been a new low for television in, what, six months? Or if you read The Mail or The Express, about three days. But anyway, earlier on today we took a wander through the Sky EPG to see if it's worth resubscribing after six months away. The main content on the Family Package channels was the usual fare of The Simpsons, Open All Hours, Keeping Up Appearances, Robin's Nest, Road Wars, The Vicar Of Dibley, Roulette Nation and the like, so we decided against it, but not before stumbling over channel 885 (yes, we went that far up trying to find something interesting). On there, we found something quite interesting. Though not necessarily in a good way.

Taking up most of the afternoon on WatchmeTV.TV - a channel in the wastelands of the 'Specialist' section of the EPG* - is a four (FOUR!) hour show called Santavision. That's it just up there.

(*'TV Guide' > "0 More..." > "7 Specialist". It's third from bottom of that list, just before Psychic TV and the OceanFinance channel, neither of which we are making up. No, genuinely.)

What happens on Santavision? Well, here's what we think has happened. One of the companies behind the highly dubious "How Many 0's In This Picture PHONE OR TEXT NOW £2.50 PER CALL" "quiz" "channels" has realised the bottom has completely fallen out of that market, possibly since The Real Hustle on BBC Three ran a special episode showing everyone how to set up your own dubious "quiz" "channel" on Sky. In a big panicky mess, the people behind the channel have had a great big brainstorming session with their entire team of media creatives.

After three hours of lame suggestions ("Erm, what number am I thinking of? Text in your guess, and win fifty quid!" "Guess my postcode and win a Blu-Ray player!" "Eighty-six cups and a ball - text in now!"), a meek voice belonging to someone at the back of the room who hadn't spoken for half an hour and was desperate to seem part of things whimpered out the words "Santa's Grotto, but on the telly?".

You have all disappointed Santa. I kicked a reindeer when I heard of what you've done.

"You dolt! How are we supposed to cash in on that? You berk-brained buffoon!" shreaked the alpha-est of males in Meeting Room 2A.

"Pfft... I don't know. Get parents to text in the names of their children, and we'll read them out on air?"

At this point, Tom "Tommy" Tomlinson, CEO of QuizgasmUK.tv and HotAuntiesLive18PlusOnly.eu looked at his watch, glanced over to the pair of baliffs furiously ringing the doorbell through the frosted glass, sighed and whispered "look, it's probably an idea to stop talking for a bit now. That's the best we're going to get, I say we run with it. Now, the back door is locked and bolted, yeah? Anyway, you ring round the presenters on our books, and see who won't mind doing it."

"But, we'll still need that killer USP."

"OH FOR CHRIST'S SA... [reverts to a whisper] Yeah, the kids go on either a 'nice' or 'naughty' list. Now, does anyone know Enormous Ken's mobile number?"

This is what we're speculating could have, yet quite certainly didn't, happen. We'd better cover our backs, as this'll probably turn up on the first page of Google hits for Santavision UK.

There'll be no Wii Music for the above children this year.

Yes, that's right. Santavision UK. A fairly disinterested presenter, dressed as Santa Claus, asks for parents to text in the names of their children, putting them either on a list of "good" or "naughty" sprogs. In a way, it's genius. Little Timmy won't clean his room? Have Father Christmas tell the viewers in every Sky household throughout the UK and Ireland just what a little bastard he is. That'll get the little shit picking up his Lego set in no time. Best of all, you can even pay to expose Little Timmy's reluctance to eat sprouts over the web! It costs just £3 of your child benefit to give your unruly offspring nightmares from now until the 25th? Barg!

The way it's presented is shambolic, even by the standard of Sky channels in the EPG stratosphere. For no reason at all, Santa will stop talking, leaving the channel with dead air for twenty or thirty seconds at a time. It doesn't seem to be the case that he's expecting adverts to be running when he does this, as every ad break is preceded by him saying how "Santa needs a little break now, boys and girls. This means there's at least a 30% chance of people happening across the programme for the first time, only to be welcomed by a mute Mr Claus staring unblinkingly at the viewer, all the while forlornly wishing he'd taken his mum's advice and took that short-term deal on Gems.tv instead.

Note how "Santa" is so heavily bearded, the tots hopefully won't realise when a different actor starts his shift.

Why stop there, though? If this proves to be as much of a ethically-objectionable hit as "quiz" "channels", ITV are sure to leap onto the wagon. Overnight's could be committed to having Brian Off Of Big Brother reading out a list of viewers' personal nemeses. "And with the clock coming up to 3am, let's have a look at the list of your nominated unrepentent girlfriend gropers! Gary from Sheffield, you really shouldn't ought to have done that, you fucker... [chuckles] that's from Pete and Michelle!"

While it might not take late-night ITV back to the halcyon days of Bea Smith, Alain Delon and James Whale When He Was Good, it's certainly better than repeats of Loose Women. Or, at the very least, have the Loose Women reading out the shitlist, with their audience making noises appropriate for each misdeed. At the end of each week, the scoundrel that elicited the most outraged reaction could be brought on to answer three simple questions, express some cursory remorse, and possibly walk away with a Freeview+ PVR. Job done.

How come it's only £1.50 by text, but £3 on the web?

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