Caught in a von Trapp
The “gamble” here is that the lead in the multi-million pound production of The Sound Of Music is to be picked by the public. Some may think that’s a risk worth taking given the acres of free publicity the revived musical is getting on what is supposed to be a non-commercial network.
The show itself was something of a truncated version of the early weeks of X-Factor, meaning that when the audition shows pop up on ITV’s show, the BBC will already be into the public vote stage. Knowing what works in that sort of format, why change it? The style of editing, the mood music in the background and the style of voiceover all felt comfortably familiar while Graham Norton was very supportive of the hopefuls in a Kate Thornton sort of a way.
The stars of X-Factor are of course the judges whereas the panel here seems more like they are there to get the job done rather than provide us viewers with the arch comments we’ve come to expect from this type of show.
The editing focused too sharply on a couple of the hopefuls, nervous but highly likeable Bryony and wacky but highly likeable Kirsty. Now from a reality TV point of view, both of these contenders were the stuff telly producers are looking for. Does that necessarily mean they can carry a West End show? Some of the best performers in the history of entertainment have been complete divas with fantastic on stage presence but truly appalling personalities away from the limelight.
It may well be that the best person to play Maria could come across as being completely horrible on a reality show. There’s no guarantee at all that whoever wins this will be a good Maria. I’d imagine that ticket sales will still be brisk though.
While Graham Norton does a fair job as host, this sort of show really isn’t playing to his strengths and it seems a pity that his comedic talents are being squandered during his time at the BBC. I still don’t see why they can’t use him as a Friday chat host while Jonathan Ross is on holiday.
Having sat through two hours of soap on Monday followed by an hour of Big Brother and a half hour of Love Bucket, I found myself pondering whether being a TV diarist is such a hot gig after all. Actually normally it’s not too bad but this was just a particularly bad evening, with the soaps lacklustre and the reality shows stalling somewhat. It took Big Brother’s Big Brain late that evening to really grab my attention.
Since the big house collapse, Emmerdale has largely dropped the comedic for the tragic and it’s tough stuff watching people weeping at gravesides when you’re trying to tuck into your Chow Mein takeaway. It’s the fact that it’s Bob - so often the light relief in this show - who is bearing the full brunt of the tragedy that makes it so unremittingly morose. Even the usually reliable knockabout team chez Dingle is smitten by tragedy at the moment. I’m actually finding all this misery slightly more watchable than the usual farcical stuff they offer up but then I’m not your average Emmerdale fan. I might be tempted back though if that can get the balance back again and I’m not tempted to shout ”behind you” every time Eric Pollard looms into view.
Coronation Street has been in my crosshairs for a while now but times they are a-changing down Weatherfield way. I’m not sure that young Sophie Webster is quite ready to shoulder the burden of carrying the narrative but I suppose that tale of her misusing her barmy mother’s mobile phone will at least have got a few people off to sleep. I still can’t see the point of inflicting us with two episodes on the Monday, a device which would have been best saved to use when a particularly dramatic storyline was underway. Craig Harris dossing down in his old house scarcely qualifies as that and if that the Sarah/Jason saga really has the nation hooked, I’ve barely heard mention of it at the watercooler.
So the highlight of the night was Ruby behaving like a total banana brain in EastEnders to such an extent that I couldn’t help thinking that the hooded figure that knocked her unconscious was doing us all a favour. The set-up smacked of another whodunit, the problem being that it’s difficult to care though obviously Walford’s most useless ne’er do well Juley turned out to be the dastardly one, despite suspicion being cast on the wonderfully dodgy Owen.
Over on Love Bucket – and just what have the people of Fiji done to deserve this lot dumped on them? – Paul Danan, who came across a total plank last year, was surpassing himself by being even more irritating than he managed in the previous run while Lady Victoria was a bit desperate by breaking back in the camp.
Producers showed a bit of desperation themselves by adding Dennis Rodman to the mix. The problem they’ve got here is that more people are likely to be reading about this show in the tabloids than can be bothered to actually tune in.
After the pasting I handed out to Rob Brydon’s Annually Retentive a couple of weeks back, I thought it was only fair to give it another go. Sadly there was a feeling of déjà vu as the behind the scenes material only varied slightly from the opener. There was a lot of focus on guest Russell Brand, but the ribbing of him was less than mirthful and he wasn’t actually given the chance to shine. Meanwhile Marcus Brigstocke’s material was dubious to say the very least while Jane Moore seems totally out of her depth here.
Far more shameful is the way the talents of Dave Gorman are being squandered. If only this sort of budget had been used to provide a decent vehicle for his abilities rather than on this one note, one gag effort from Brydon than we’d probably all be laughing a whole lot more.
Brydon’s big mate Steve Coogan’s Saxondale continues to have some wonderful moments but it getting to much like hard work sitting through the rest of the show to get to them. That said, I’m hoping that there were will be a second, hopefully more polished series before too long because the leading character is a wonderful comic creation.
It has also been a reminder of just how good Morwenna Banks is. Let’s hope that she returns to our screens before too long. In the meantime, a couple of best of shows from Absolutely would be most welcome.
Babies and bathwater
Many of ITV’s greatest shows had to grow from small audiences. I really feel that their lack of bankable shows presently could well be because too many shows have strangled at birth following disappointing rating performances, whipped from the schedules before they’ve had a chance to generate any word of month. It seems this short sighted policy is continuing with Phillip Schofield’s It’s Now or Never being axed after one screening, all the stranger since it was only a two episode run in the first place.
The usual reaction of schedulers to a pulled show is to throw on a repeat of It’ll be Alright on the Night without even blinking about the irony in the title of the replacement show.
Problem is that Denis Norden is finally hanging up his clipboard now, so pretty soon they won’t have him to all back on.
Audiences will continue to diminish as all of us will have to have multichannel telly in the next few years and if ITV schedulers are going to panic over every show that fails to meet expectations on first screening, if they are never going to risk letting a show build slowly, then a future with not more than repeat screenings of David Jason shows surely beckons.