Nov 07

Rockists Night In: Set The Fire To The Third Knob

Do You See + FT/15 comments • 844 views

Methinks the lady doth protest too much

Those of you not yet middle-aged, criticise BBC Three while you still can! Really though, the channel’s future seems as safe as their schedules and as a result I don’t think Bennett needs to act quite so irate in her defensive stance. But then as a (not middle-aged) critic of BBC Three in general for some time now I would say that.

So how does the reality match up to Bennett’s insistence that the channel provides a ‘high quality mixed-genre schedule of innovative UK content featuring new UK talent’ to that all-important 16-34 yr olds audience? Tonight we have:

7pm: The Most Annoying TV Moments…We Hate To Love
– Yes, a whole hour dedicated to BAD TELEVISION because they noticed enough people selected Channel 4, Five and Sky’s previous versions of the same premise. Guilty Pleasures culture at it’s worst? I’m sympathetic to the ‘hate to love’ concept to some extent though. The only real problem here is the tired parade of talking heads reading scripted observations all too obvious. ‘Screen Wipe’ for dummies? Brooker’s show itself is hardly highbrow given his penchant for puerile clowning and surely has the same 16-34 reach. Then again it’s much more personalised and focussed whereas the advantage of The Most Annoying… would be that it can draw material from less distinctive personalities (er, at least I THINK that could be a good thing…). But unlike Screen Wipe or TV Burp I’m not convinced this approach is necessary and it seems a mediocre-at-best starter to the evening’s main events.

8pm: Spendaholics
– Is it cynical to entice compulsive splurgers to get into financial shape by offering them TV exposure? On the plus side this show features people not already famous who genuinely need to change their personal-life damaging attitudes and behaviours being given a great opportunity and the support to do just that. The problem is that it’s a formula that can be attached to a plethora of subjects including physical health/diet, sex/romance, phobias and so on. In each case the concept is reasonable enough but because all of these shows actually exist and effectively operate in the same way you’re left with that mediocre feeling once again. Alvin Hall, will you accept the charges?

8.30pm: Eastenders: Max And Stacey
– If you’re a fan of this show (as I used to be until around ten years ago) then this is exactly the sort of thing BBC Three can be good for (in theory) as it makes some sense to produce supporting shows like this to accompany the main event. Except…well, how much of it is just reshown clips? And how much of it is somebody explaining what we just saw in those reshown clips? And is it really worth devoting extra time to combing Soap Opera storylines for valuable insight into human behaviour on screen and the parallels to be drawn in real life? Especially considering that Eastenders itself no longer commanding the same huge audiences it once did (how Corrie still manages to pull them in I don’t know though). And again, a whole HOUR devoted to this!

9.30pm: Celebrity Scissorhands
A tantalising title dashed by the dismal reality. I’m sure we’d all love to see Tamara Beckwith dressed up like a Tim Burton daydream but instead it’s just a group of people, some of whom you may even have heard of (SOME of whom may even deserve a little fame!*) cutting some hair. Somebody somewhere enjoyed The Salon enough to deem it worthy of rehashing here. Still in it’s defence, they’re keeping early 80s synthmantic Goliath Steve Strange around because they know how much he means to that all-important 16-34 yr old bracket. All in all it might as well be Celebrity Beekeeping but, as ever, if they could just get better slebs (not necessarily bigger names even, part of the point of these shows is to break those on the periphery to a marginally wider audience I suppose) to participate it would be quite tolerable, maybe even mildly enjoyable and worthwhile. My these hour long shows really fly by…is it that time already?

*Dammit, Brandon Block is an ARTIST, OK?

10.30pm: Actually that’s your lot for tonight’s ‘high quality mixed-genre schedule of innovative UK content featuring new UK talent (e.g. Brandon Block)’ because from hereon it’s an Eastenders omnibus followed by repeats of all of the programmes shown earlier in the evening, some of them with a few added swear words. Budgets constrain of course but are they saying you’re not supposed to watch the same channel for more than three hours of an evening? Would doing so demonstrate you as some kind of shut-in lunatic? Or would that just be if a 00’s digital channel such as this was your choice.

I may be being a bit unfair though as Thursday nights do seem quite sparse compared to other evenings in the BBC Three week. Just my luck! It’s as if they all know the 16-34 yr olds are either out tonight or would rather play Halo 3 with maybe a break to watch Peter Serafinowicz (whaddya mean you don’t think he’s funny? they quite clearly and rather loudly say he is so he must be etc.), who would perhaps be appearing on Three except he was already just about famous enough (although the Mighty Boosh have to make do with their new series premiering on Three still) to bypass the treacherous ritual. In ‘something they should’ve done from the get go’ news though BBC Three HAVE finally got an original music show going. It’s called Sound and it would probably be better than Snub TV if British music was really worth talking about at the moment. I’m looking forward more to the new series of Later With Jools Holland (perhaps I am mentally middle-aged after all) which at least has been consistent and reasonably diverse with it’s international range.

A question critics will continue to ask is whether 2 and a half to 4 hours of ‘original’ programming a night is worth bothering with. On tonight’s evidence the outlook seems bad enough to make me think ‘oh for Wogan’s sake just start running adverts on your lesser channels (maybe not CBeebies)’. Bennett’s talk of ’embracing the larger mission’ rings hollow because what’s the point just to end with an evening of mediocrity such as this? Whatever, just don’t close down BBC Four first.


  1. 1
    Tom on 1 Nov 2007 #

    My luddite impression of BBC3 is that it was all hott new raw sketch shows about edgy hipster sex. I did not know it was basically just channel 5 on an even smaller budger.

  2. 2
    Alan on 1 Nov 2007 #

    i think that i agree with her though. i have very little interest in BBC3 yet i am a bit tired of it being used as a bbc whipping boy/girl, and the more vocal/spluttering are usually telegraph reader sorts. You get exactly the same thing about BBC4 from Metro/Lite readers, and so on.

    It’s the inability of one audience to comprehend the existence of another compounded with “BUT IT’S PUBLIC SERVICE WHICH MEANS ME”, and it is annoying.

    I can also see that with what’s been going on at the beeb, with a LOT of people calling for this or that, but mostly beeb3, to be scrapped, that this sort of ‘hitting out’ is just what’s needed to put a stop to the chatter. and it doesn’t seem overstated, even if the reports of that particular panel portray it as such.

  3. 3
    Tom on 1 Nov 2007 #

    Well it’s the old (pre-Banister) Radio 1 argument isn’t it – if the offering is roughly identical to the commercial alternative why should it be classed as public service? I’m quite happy to believe that BBC3 IS different to commercial TV mind you.

  4. 4
    Alan on 1 Nov 2007 #

    my trouble is i don’t know what “high quality” or “innovative” would mean for that audience, but my feeling is that it does compare well to 5 on those scores.

  5. 5
    Steve Mannion on 1 Nov 2007 #

    “You get exactly the same thing about BBC4 from Metro/Lite readers, and so on.”

    Really? I don’t have the same reaction to BBC Four even though they have a lot of programmes I don’t want to watch too. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing but I think I’d actually prefer it if the two channels merged to become a 24 hour channel. I realise this may make no sense at all to the demographers (in their suits and ties) but I don’t think this segregation of audiences is at all satisfying.

    My gripe is not what BBC Three do but just how they do it. Being a whipping boy is a consequence of insisting on trying to carve out their brand in the way they have I think, and their own judgements about what’s appropriate for which audiences at which times.

  6. 6
    Pete on 1 Nov 2007 #

    Its all about the multiplexes innit. BBC3 and BBC4 occupy CBBC and CBeebies bandwidth (even if they don’t share a channel number) so you couldn’t make ’em 24 hours without getting rid of the very successful public service kids channels.

    The big problem is in mission. BBC3 and BBC4 both have a clear mission. BBC1 (light ent FOR ALL) but BBC2’s remit seems muddied. BBC3’s yoof agenda is actively damaged by BBC1’s forays into those areas and a geographical bent which sweepingly equates 14-34 = thick northerners.

    BBC3 needs sport, music, film shows – it needs its own version of The Word really.Original programming has tended to equal shock docs and too much half-baked comedy. But there are gems in there (Its Adam & Shelley was great, Drop Dead Gorgeous surprisingly moving). But what’s a nascent poorly funded channel to do?

  7. 7

    “100 best/worst moments” is what television has evolved as a popular history of itself — the fact that we’re as a bundle of semi-generations inclined to feel squirmy at our own past is a fascinating datum, sort of the opposite of kneejerkish “oh the good old days”?: “the past was just rubbish wasn’t it?”

    obviously there’s a kpunkish hell-in-a-handbasket interpretation — i think i prefer my “seven ages of pop man” model, where the drive to move to the next stage of cultural grasp manifests as an unease with the idea of yrself in the previous stage; and the move to recognise the flaws AND the values of “7 ages” as an “ideological structure” necessaily entails becoming less defensive by yrself-and-yr-tastes-when 13

  8. 8
    Marcello Carlin on 2 Nov 2007 #

    The trouble where TV is concerned is that most people seem to have moved directly from mewling and puking to second childishness and hence even merer oblivion (see e.g. last two nights of Britz, viz. 35 years ago that would have been dealt with in 30 minutes in schools programming but now we expect five hours of bullet points pretending to be dialogue, i.e. “HOW MUCH LONGER MUST WE EXPECT OUR BONNIE MUSLIM YOUTHS TO BE UNJUSTLY BEATEN BY WELL-KNOWN EXTREME RIGHT STIRRERS THE 4NP?” “OH STOP BEING A POSSIBLY OVER-EMOTIONAL, POTENTIALLY HIGHLY IMPRESSIONABLE AND ERGO RIPE FOR PERSUASION BY DARK HIDEOUS FORCES TEENAGER!”).

  9. 9

    genre strands that would have been straight-forwardly “adult intelligent” 30 years ago — news, current affairs and drama — have definitely been highly damaged by the current shape of television (they are wrecked basically by the fear of folk switching channels); what’s interesting to me is the degree to which non-standard genre-strands have picked up (or failed to pick up) the slack — watching ramsey’s kitchen nightmares on mon i wz struck by the subtle argument abt shtick and grandstanding going on, where the very gay owner of a failing brighton restaurant was INSISTING on his right to individuality and calling gordon out for “merely playing at being gordon”

    of course the owner lost — all his decor was binned, his beloved meaningless restaurant name etc — but there was a strange underlying battle about conformism vs individualism vs what a service-provider thinks he is meant to be doing

    i know these progs are controllongly and probably misleadingly edited but even so there is high-level implicit material here that i don’t think you could have found to explore and discuss even ten years ago

    ramsey drives me mental bcz he is such a wonky mix of bad show-offy material — [insert tired swears here] — and craftsmanlike knowing what he’s talking about

    is a restaurant’s financial success objective proof the food and service are good? or of our fear of difference? or what is it?

  10. 10
    Marcello Carlin on 2 Nov 2007 #

    There certainly isn’t a parallel with the arts, i.e. whereas old books, films &c. can be revealed as criminally neglected masterpieces decades or (in the older, slower days) centuries hence, no one tends to return to a recipe or a meal originally prepared in, say, 1971 and say that this is a hitherto buried classic. The only option is the easy one which ties in with the above ambiguous self-denial/self-confirmation of past passions, viz. Jamie and his Retrosalad Yeah.

    It’s interesting that the Charlie Brookers of their world instantly sneered at the Heston Blumenthal series on BBC2 which is astonishing stuff in the same way as they would retrocheerlead YAY SUPERTRAMP but cough ahem ahem pretentious at, say, Anthony Braxton (and HB’s colour schematics look EXTREMELY SIMILAR to AB’s music flow recipes as diagrams).

  11. 11

    what we need is chef-celebrity nightmare kitchenswap!

    where eg heston turns up at a restaurant delia has been “saving” and applies HIS rules and mind!

    chef think is very much trapped in the present — one of the things ramsey often rails against is “datedness” — viz when a potentially good kitchen is fighting for its place via the fads of 15 years back; his advice is a mixture of potentially conservative common sense (“use local produce” — yes it is cheaper but the macro-effect will be for eating out never to be a taste of otherwhere) and hard-to-parse current-faddism (today’s “trends” are invisble to him as trends) (or at least he doesn’t give the game away)

    one of the things i actually rather like abt this series is that professional craftsmanship is treated as a THING NOT TO BE FVCKED WITH — this is an attitude very much counter to who-moved-my-cheese management-speak, where mid or low level expertise is considered a useless impediment, an OBSTACLE TO BE SWEPT AWAY

    (obviously my “passion” (©g.ramsey) here is related to the way management has dealt with magazine i work at lo these past five years)

  12. 12
    Steve on 2 Nov 2007 #

    “ramsey drives me mental bcz he is such a wonky mix of bad show-offy material — [insert tired swears here] — and craftsmanlike knowing what he’s talking about”

    this is why he is good! i enjoy the other evening cooks shows too for the expertise minus obnoxiousness tho, with the exception of Lawson whose is just too much of a gushing ham. i think Rick Stein is getting camper also…

    “there is high-level implicit material here that i don’t think you could have found to explore and discuss even ten years ago”

    certainly seems that way and i guess Ramsay can take credit for this, via Joliver at least.

  13. 13

    yes he “drives me mental” in the sense rhat i never miss the show or the repeats! and i am eagerly watching hells kitchen usa also — i had no interest much in the celebrity version

    i reread anthony bourdain’s kitchen confiential abt a week ago and it has a whole section on extreme in-kitchen profanity as a bonding-thing (that if you can’t take it, it’s a sign* you can’t actually take the stress and pressure of life-as-a-cook in general, and shd just quit)

    this slightly made me re-view how ramsay behaves — ie i am preapred to accept that this is a picture of “real kitchen behaviour”, but i still think he really obviously amps up the cusswords bcz it’s “what the punters want”, and you notice that almost no one gets their licks in back

    *plainly the maths doesn’t add up here: you are unable to hack the stress of cooklife PLUS
    aggressive macho badinage therefore you are unable to hack the stress of cooklife alone er no, it was the badinage that i couldn’t take, cooklife i enjoyed

    but hazing=teamwork-under-pressure is a fair argument to make absent any sign of alternative versions arising, i guess

    “you’re just too nice” is quite a common crit of the owners and/or head chefs — ie don’t want to hurt feelings so fail to provide direction

  14. 14
    Steve on 2 Nov 2007 #

    But re the profanity thing, I can’t imagine Oliver or Blumenthal doing that. How do they keep their staff on their toes?

    Maybe it’s a bit like football managers. You know Fergie can b0llock his players into line and drive them to succeed in addition. Wenger presumably has quite a different approach and yet almost the same level of success.

  15. 15
    DV on 2 Nov 2007 #

    I was finding this article very confusing, but then I realised you were not talking about BBC Radio 3 but about a television channel.

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