Sunday, 11 March 2012

Talk is cheap or is it?

In the coming weeks BBC Four is having a Chat show season looking at all aspects of the interview genre. For a long time the chat show was the king especially during the 60's, 70's and 80's with giants such as Frost and Parkinson fighting it out for supremacy as well other such as Russell Harty and Eamonn Andrews working the scene, in America Johnny Carson was the well trenched host of The Tonight Show with most of America going to bed with Johnny each weeknight. 

With Michael Parkinson's shows especially in the earlier years, he would mix up the guests he had on his show, on one side would be someone like Kenneth Williams holding court and on the other a union leader of the day talking about politics but this allowed for debate between the guests with Parkinson as the man in the middle.

The moments of all chatshows are burned into the brains of people such as Parkinson's meeting with Rod Hull and Emu plus Russell Harty's with Grace Jones. But also through conflict people are held to account, David Frost's meeting with Emil Savundra may have felt as 'Trial by Television' but it was this confrontation which lead to the Americans believing that Frost could cut it as tough, vigorous interviewer and lead to Richard Nixon underestimating Frost in their interview. Frost made it with that interview and his reputation for asking those questions that other dare not ask had been made.

Meanwhile by the early 80's, Michael Parkinson had been the BBC's top interviewer for nearly ten years and as such BBC executives wanted more from him. The then controller of BBC1, Bill Cotton had though about Parkinson being later in the evening and maybe stripping his programme across weeknights, but eventually the plan was limited and lead to the spare space  to filled by the creation of Question Time, it seemed like Parkinson was looking for a new challenge and that came in the shape of Breakfast television in joining fellow talkshow host David Frost as two of the faces on the fledgling TV-AM. But with his absence, a position was up for grabs to become the BBC's number one talkshow host.

At that time in 1982, Terry Wogan had been presenting the Radio Two breakfast show and also Blankety Blank as well when he was chosen to fill the space that Michael Parkinson had left by his leaving to go to TV-AM. As smoothly as he carried on that Saturday night spot, that when Michael Grade came back from America in 1984 with revamping BBC1's schedule, he had ideas of using Terry Wogan to help him with this.

Filled as such, all the 7pm slots on weeknights were to be filled in a familiar pattern. Terry Wogan's chatshow taking Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the new Eastenders taking Tuesday and Thursday. So the plan for Parkinson, had been used for Wogan but in a different timeslot and leading viewers nicely into the evenings viewing. It was so successful that it took seven years for BBC1 to have another revamp to freshen up its early evening schedule. Though Eldorado did for Wogan, it did for itself with a year of starting.

But eventually we have come full circle, much to people's chargrin that The One Show has finally made it happen that a talkshow appears every night at 7pm. It might no be everyone's cup of tea as such all other chatshows their have been, but it has given solidity to the BBC1 schedule as such, people know what is going to be on at that time each weeknight leading to ITV taking Emmerdale and stripping that five nights a week against it. Though as such with many things before it, it can seem a settled schedule but all of a sudden it can change. Within time, the number maybe up for The One Show, down the line like everything, it will be moved to Salford. Though a controller has their own ideas, so expect maybe BBC1 to try new things this Summer in the early evening, with gaps to fill between both sporting and other events, there will be a testing ground for new programmes and maybe a move towards less stripping but new ideas to refresh a channel.

Either way, talk can be cheap but when most shows are turning into chatshows, it can seem like a load of waffle. Hence, any show can have a chat element to it. But with so much chat about, will people run out of things to say?

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