Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Same Old.. Same Old.. - What the BBC does in 2014

With comes the autumn and the end of year, for all apart what has happened in criminal cases there has been the invention of a new game of BBC bashing. But it is not what you think at all, there have seemed to be more providence then usual this year of the BBC getting it wrong. As viewer complaints rack up over some things which are right to be complained about, we come to the other end of the scale and in particular two incidents.

The commencement of the broadcast of Jamaica Inn, saw a record number of complaints that the actors were mumbling, thinking although this may have been important to the script did not stop viewers thinking they have got complete power to let the BBC know and the social media community bare arms to show their displeasure with the easy situation of journalists just sitting search social networks to take comments and turn them into a newsworthy event. By this the power held by viewers nowadays has never been greater then it ever has been, shows can be stopped by a sustained campaign or just one small piece of footage not shown in the right place can make an ordinary person into public enemy number one.

Significantly this happened with 'Alaskagate' in the Great British Bake Off, even people who don't even watch the programme knew about what had happened with the subsequent events which surrounded it, the theories about what a person had done or not done were flailing around social media such to the level where Sue Perkins decided to have her say on Twitter to say everything was above board with this event. Though it was the BBC who bore the brunt of this effect, with people thinking something like that can be changed instantly. 

But as the saying goes "With great power comes great responsibility" and on both sides this is the case, the BBC will broadcast thing which are seemingly right and the public will have their say on them. It is when the lines become blurred on simple matters, that is when things can go wrong on either side. Opinion will always be there, but when to give it on matter is a case to learn. The simple things can seem quite plain, but for every small voice comes a wave, responsibility is key to match viewers with broadcasters. Now broadcasters ask viewers what they want, where as they used to give it to them. From entertaining has now turned into a constant need to inform, too much information can confuse somewhat. In a typical Monday to Friday schedule on BBC 1 for instance, generally there are only about three or four programmes per week which actually entertain and the most of the time is informing the viewer. The Reithan model has been written large, but is it right still to be doing this?

ITV for all its commercial needs has seen a shift to more entertaining programmes in the past year, to prove popular and populist. With Peter Fincham at the helm, it is not surprising at all to see this. As not a person who came through an independent production company, he has shown his touch to know how the public want to be entertained and thus they are slowly gaining on BBC 1 and starting to pass them. For all the complaints that ITV has gone downmarket, hasn't it always been the combination of both? In the early 1970's On The Buses sat next to Upstairs Downstairs, but isn't that the case with ITV's current entertainment output and Downton Abbey.

BBC 1 will not be able to do this and compete until something is changed and the move from promoting people from the factual department goes away. With factual people comes an obsession with information, but BBC 1 does not need this as it is a 'General Entertainment' channel just like ITV is, but with the wonder-kin Danny Cohen overseeing all the BBC's television output much like Mark Thompson did, it restricts themselves from doing anything at all and forms a reliance on the same programmes. They maybe pleased with the Great British Bake Off right now, but when it has peaked and it will. Where do they go from there? It says it all that one of BBC 1's most popular shows came from BBC 2 and is produced independently. Where as in-house production has stalled, no wonder Tony Hall just wants the BBC to be another production house.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Right Royal let down or Its A Muck-up... - A look at The Grand Knockout Tournament

Having now seen 'The Royal Knockout Tournament' for myself, well since it had appeared on television. With everything that surrounds Stuart Hall's links with it, one question to come out of it is, why? The initial idea put onto paper seems a good one, get the royals and some celebrities to play some wacky games all for charity. Then again how can this fail at all, though perhaps maybe on how it can succeed at all. Apart from Mr Hall, the line up seems like a who's who of mid to late 80's celebrities from both sides of the Atlantic. The likes of Chicago Bears players rubbing shoulders with Gary Lineker, Geoff Capes on centurion guard duty, Les Dawson trying to be some sort of foil where Eddie Waring once stood.

Though itself, the actual games could be transferred into any era. But yet, it seems to be trying to hard. With Rowan Atkinson in full on Blackadder mode, with a seeming disinterested face that he's been dragged along to Alton Towers for an afternoon's 'fun'. Fun by proxy, it seems. Seemingly where seeing giant costumes and people falling in the water, maybe conceived as fun. However the reality is something different, expecting lots to wet faces, actually some of the celebrities are quite able. The site of Toyah Wicox shinning along a wet spinning log, is some what surreal and surprising when she is rather good at it. Actually, it is hardly surprising that Christopher Reeve, then at the peak of full fitness can be as adept as the character he plays on screen. Then again, the site of him flying off and smiling at the camera as he does so, maybe have been too much even for some of our star studded stars themselves.

Clearly with the programme trying to appeal to more global audience, with Meatloaf turning up to rub shoulders with Mel Smith, knowing about Mel's Meatloaf parody can seem slightly surreal. Coming with this is that all the events are sponsored from the likes of McDonalds through to Asda putting their names to games, when maybe time spent on thinking up new product ranges might be a bit more profitable then getting involved with this. But then again the whole thing does have a whiff of Fine Fare about it, cheap and cheerful. Knowing with the afterwards, with questions being thrown at Prince Edward or lack of them it seems for all its efforts that it doesn't even have a proper feel of something special. Its more akin to a wet Wednesday trudging around a half completed theme park then actually something most people would be proud to have taken part in. Though not surprising that most of the celebrities would not have put it on their showreel at all. 

For all its efforts in trying too hard, this is the final nail in the coffin for Its A Knockout as a format. Yes, there was that Channel 5 revival with Keith Chegwin and the woman who now does 'Homes Under The Hammer'. Its is the death knell for a format that with S. Hall taken out of it, did quite well for itself. Though laughter maybe a tonic, its not laughing along with it. By the year of its broadcast in 1987, the public are laughing at it. Something from a bygone age dragged out once again to fill a gap, yet as such it does say more about why it was dragged out. An idea thought up by a Prince, filled in by the BBC and finished with a side order of fries.

The connotations are now there, allowing for something to be viewed as ironic. But for all the irony, I can't see Charlie Brooker dressing up as a foam rubber giant for our entertainment. Perhaps celebrities are above that now, with an easy choice of learning how to twirl a hoola-hoop or ballroom dancing. Celebrity had become sofa based, just like the people who were watching this. For all a level of smart intelligence, comes a need to make a fool of one's self. It its self-evident in The Grand Knockout Tournament, but yet without it would not have been half as much fun pulling it apart. Cruel but purposeful, of which it can be said on reflection that it does say a lot about 1987 itself.