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.