Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kings of Pain

BBC Three is the digital service that Mark Thompson most often finds himself having to defend. Its public service remit is not easy to see at the best of times.
Last night it devoted two hours to recalling The Most Annoying People Of 2007. You would have thought that even those with Serbian memories for slights would have considered an hour ample time to list the most prominent pests of the past year. But somebody at Three must have a very thin skin indeed.
Every time I flicked back we were being reminded of yet another minor reality TV face or unfortunately dressed actress by an over-styled and under-prepared talking head purporting to belong to an "entertainment journalist". After a while it was difficult to tell who was the complainer and who was the complained about. Which might as well have been the case anyway because most of the people doing the complaining had spent the year bringing us news of the very people they were claiming to find most tiresome.
No doubt they will have found 2007 instructive in this regard and will spend next year keeping us up to date with the careers of more worthwhile people.


  1. I didn’t watch that particular programme, but I’ve seen enough of those things now to know what it would have been like. These programmes are virtually unavoidable, especially at the weekends when anyone groovy is out on the lash and only those of us that are foolish enough to reproduce are trapped in our suburban semis.

    List-based clip shows are ubiquitous because they are cheap. You don’t need to hire anyone with any particular talent, a clutch of aspiring comedians will do. It doesn’t matter if anyone’s heard of them, or whether they’re funny, or anything like that. All that matters is hiring a quorum of conference-league standups for the smallest fee possible.

    List –based clip shows are also very long. Once airtime was seen as a precious commodity that was rationed out in small parcels to programme makers. Now it’s seen more as a vast looming embarrassment to be filled with something, anything, to prevent the ad breaks from rubbing up against each other.

    Is it because of the proliferation of digital channels? Or because our programme-makers used to be bright young men with first-class liberal arts degrees and now tend to be lazy venal clowns with media studies diplomas?

    The two great truisms about television were that (1) it was a fiercely competitive field to which only the very finest candidates could gain admission, and that (2) we did it better than the Americans.

    Neither of these beliefs are still true. British TV dominated by economics, rather than creativity which is why there are so many ‘real people’ on the box. They’re cheaper than professional performers. And American outfits like HBO are turning out the best telly available at the moment. Notwithstanding the end of the Sopranos and a weak second run for Heroes there’s still The Wire and a show that’s ostensibly a roman-a-clef about Saturday Night Live but on closer analysis looks like Smash Hits in the Hepworth/Ellen years called Studio 60.

  2. Anonymous11:21 am

    It's on twice today if anyone missed this latest PSB output

    Good celebs on "Strictly Come Dancing" though even wheeled in the Paxman Clan,so things are looking up....

  3. This is the laziest of television output (excepting reality shows that is). Why do the makers of these shows think we care who the most annoying people on tv are?

    I turn off people who annoy me so I don't have enough time to form an opinion of them. I have a full cable package and just lately I am almost restricted to watching UK TV Food as everything else pisses me off no end.

    I hate to sound like my Nan but things were better when I was a growing up.

  4. And don't they go on? Two, three parts of wittering on with comments from people whose opinions you'd back away from in the pub. I've noticed that a lot of these BBC Three clipshow commentators are now being used by BBC Breakfast, so you'll get comedian Rufus Hound (who he?) wheeled on to comment on the social issues of the day. Who cares?

  5. Anonymous6:49 pm

    BBC 2 Tribute night to Ken Dodd

    You see dodge tax and you get the licence fee pissed all over you

    BBC needs scrapping soon as ...

  6. Anonymous6:56 pm

    I don't understand how the BBC let the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures escape. If ever there was a series of programmes that fulfilled the Reithian ideal it is this annual event (which I still watch having first seen them about 35 years ago).
    Where are they now? On Channel 5. But don't be fooled into thinking C5 is turning into the new BBC2; later on tonight they have the first of a 3 part series "Most shocking celebrity moments...". Each part is 3 hours long!

  7. Anonymous1:07 pm

    BBC 2 Mr Keating
    90 mins of boring Evan Davis and a "badly edited" prog about Dragons' Den.

    Who cares about the rich Dragons ?
    This just sloppy Tv ...Cheap clips thrown together...

  8. Anonymous8:28 pm

    It annoys me when critics of the BBC lump all their digital channels together. In fact, BBC4 is as wonderful as BBC3 is awful.


    "It's creating a mindset that suggests you can get something for nothing and that it's easy to acquire status and fame...
    It should be one of the hardest things to do," said Albarn, who was speaking as guest editor of the Today programme.

    Maybe it's because I've just watched the final episode of "Extras", but I'm cringing with the irony of this comment. Albarn calls for the dismantling of celebrity culture, starting with getting rid of "X-Factor". Agreed, but can we follow that up with ending the practice of inviting celebrities to edit the Today programme?

  10. Anonymous11:43 am

    I think Damon Albarn is the only one of this year's guest editors who can be classified in any way as a "celebrity". Dame Stella Rimington, Professor Peter Hennessy and the next guest editor 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine Winner Sir Martin Evans don't fall into my classification of celebrity.

  11. Fair point, though I still dislike the whole concept.
    I want programmes to be edited by editors. I wouldn't want Stella Rimington singing on the Good the Bad and the Queen album.

    I'm very aware that I'm hurrumphing in the style of the archetypal Today listener! I just would have liked Albarn to acknowledge that it was his celebrity status that got him the Today gig in the first place.