Like all good documentaries C4’s Sunday night offering My Big Fat Gypsy Fortune began with a question: “What are the rules of gypsy money-making and why are they being kept secret?”
Sadly, like all bad documentary makers C4 then spent the next hour failing to answer that question.
Mainly because they spent most of the time failing to even ASK it.
It’s no wonder I snapped halfway through and yelled: “Look, just ask them to show us their latest tax return or stop wasting my time!”
I should have known better, of course. C4’s gypsy pals have spent the past six years dodging any on-camera discussion about how they procure their money or how much they spend on their lavish weddings, so why would they start coughing now?
It was just a ruse to cover up the fact that C4 was merely regurgitating gypsy tales we’ve heard a hundred times.
The closest we got to any kind of revelation was that one charges a tenner for three bags of compost.
Plus, C4 failed to even mention that one of their own stars Jimmy Carr famously took what you might call a traveller’s view when it came to tax matters.
He travelled to Jersey.
Backat the farewell series of BBC1’s The Voice, Holly Willoughby opened the latest show with this teaser: “What forced Jessie J to breaking point?”
Dunno, Holly. Had she spotted someone who was getting more screen time than her?
Later Jessie proudly boasted: “That’s why we’re doing this show. To find people who are brand new.”
Good job you are, Jess. Otherwise Kym Mazelle, Kavana, Cleo Higgins from Cleopatra and Danny Foster from Hear’say would never get a look-in, eh?
Oldies are goodies
It’s difficult to talk about those two bikini-clad grannies from ITV’s surprisingly amusing OAP prank show Off Their Rockers without mentioning Wayne Rooney. But I’ll do my best.
So far this show has had more hits than misses, which is all you can really ask from the tired hidden camera routine.
It may be relentlessly childish, but it has already done more than any number of piano-backed montages from Ricky Gervais to convince me old people can still be vibrant and valuable.
Not sure about that title though. Surely they should have called it Watch Out, Biddies About instead?
Booze a silly boy
Much hilarity at Celebrity Juice as Joey Essex got Adam and Eve mixed up with Richard and Judy.
No, no, no, Joey.
Adam removed forbidden fruit from the tree in his garden.
Richard removed fermented fruit from the booze aisle in his local Tesco.
Corrie pair should pack their bags
Most sensible idea of the year so far at Corrie? Carl’s suggestion to Stella last night: “Why don’t we just pack our bags and go?”
On balance, it’s probably for the best, Carl. And on the plus side, I reckon there’d be around nine million people only too happy to chip in for the airline tickets. So long as they were one-way.
ITV’s fitting tribute to Thatcher’s legacy
BBC1 is devoting its entire morning schedule to Mrs Thatcher’s funeral tomorrow.
Meanwhile, ITV is sticking with The Jeremy Kyle Show and Loose Women. Could there be a finer tribute toher legacy?
PS – Re the BBC’s coverage. Fearne Cotton is definitely still on maternity leave, right?
Genuine advice for Peter Andre. Stop worrying about whether your new girlfriend Emily looks taller than you, Pete.
You should worry more about the fact that she looks young enough to be your daughter.
At C4’s The Intern, Hilary Devey declared: “By putting people under pressure you find out very quickly how good they really are.”
Which reminds me Hilary, any idea why episode one’s ratings of 1.3m for The Intern bombed to 750k for episode two?
Over at Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup Of Tea Victoria had this question: “What’s the skill in plucking tea?”
Dunno, Victoria. Making sure the water is plucking boiling?
According to the experts at C4’s woeful parenting show Bedtime Live it’s important to keep a so-called “transitional object” close at hand. There’s only one transitional object I require when this programme comes on.
The remote control.
On Match Of The Day 2, host Colin Murray asked Paolo Di Canio if he could have his expensive designer suit.
A simple enough request, but wouldn’t that make Colin a dedicated follower of fascism?
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Celebrity-led documentaries such as Paul Merton in China (Channel 5) and structured reality shows such as The Only Way is Essex (ITV) garner headlines and gongs but, despite this, traditional factual programmes are also performing well and broadcasters want more.
Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television, points to primetime broadcasts such as the prison documentary Strangeways, which reached 6.35 million viewers last year, and this April’s edition of Fraud Squad, which grabbed 4.9 million viewers. These are strong numbers for factual programming and Fincham likes them because they also represent good value for ITV.
“An audience of 5 million people watching a documentary made for £250,000 per hour is a more efficient way of buying an audience than spending three quarters of a million on a drama,” says Fincham. “We guard our budgets carefully, so we are investing in factual, not saving in factual.”
ITV factual budgets are up in 2012 and with good reason. “We’re making factual programming because we want to, rather than just filling in quotas handed down by regulators,” says Fincham.
And it’s not just ITV that has re-committed to factual; hits such as Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (reaching 9.71 million viewers in November 2011) are also helping Channel 4′s chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, keep factual shows at the top of her agenda. “Factual has benefitted enormously from the funding redirected post-Big Brother,” she says. “Our plan is to continue to invest heavily in this area in all its guises.”
Jeff Ford, director of programmes at Channel 5, says ratings for documentaries are healthy – for example, Caribbean Cops regularly reaches audiences of more than 2 million – but just as important is how factual shows are helping his channel to become more distinctive with viewers. “We have an identity now for documentaries and they’re important because they’ve helped change people’s perception of us.”
Ford also doesn’t want to be seen as “second to market” with structured reality shows; instead he’d much prefer to attract audiences with fast-turnaround docs that emerge from news stories such as the death of Whitney Houston or the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster. “If we were going to do structured reality shows then we should have done it two years ago,” he says. “We look at stories that people are talking about in the street and show documentaries about them, either co-productions or fully-funded.”
Documentary makers are also using new techniques to keep the traditional factual genre fresh. The success of Channel 4′s One Born Every Minute was at least partly due to its revolutionary, fixed multi-camera rigs for fly-on-the-wall style coverage of a maternity hospital. Viewers for the 12-episode series topped at 4.9 million.
However, Simon Dickson, creative director at Dragonfly, which produced the hospital documentary, says simply finding more places to put rig cameras is not the answer to greater factual audiences. “Our industry is now looking more at user-generated content to tell major stories like the Costa Concordia boat disaster. One minute the man in the street is using a basic high street video camera to shoot a home video and the next minute that footage is part of history.”
Meanwhile, heavier competition for factual ratings is also coming from documentary-only channels such as Discovery and National Geographic. Hamish Mykura, National Geographic’s London-based executive vice president and head of international content, is leading the channel’s biggest ever budget commitment through the UK for internationally commissioned shows. Mycura, who joined National Geographic from Channel 4 in March 2012, will commission up to 100 hours of new programming this year. “We want significant series that will lift our audience share and budgets for those programmes will compete with Channel 4 and the BBC.”
Factual programming’s commercial future is best summed up by Fincham’s recent decision to return the latest version of Michael Apted’s classic Up series to ITV last month. The series, which has been following the same group of children into adulthood for nearly 50 years, was originally made by Granada for ITV but the last three series have been screened on the BBC.
“Previously, ITV said ‘we don’t want this, it’s no longer what ITV is about’. But I wouldn’t let it go to the BBC at gunpoint,” says Fincham. “It’s one of the proudest things ITV has ever done.”
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17:00 EST, 17 March 2012
17:01 EST, 17 March 2012
Big news at Big Fat Gypsy Weddings as the film crew chanced across what they must have thought was the TV equivalent of a Dallas oil strike.
And you can just imagine the conversation as they relayed their discovery to Channel 4:
‘Hello boss, are you sitting down? We’ve finally found one. Camp as you like. Footage of him snogging another bloke in public, the lot. And…’
‘Yes. Go on, and?’
‘And he looks a little bit like Wayne Rooney before the hair transplant.”
‘Faaaaantastic!!! Send me the footage now.”
As with much of this series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, Mikey the gay traveller didn’t really deliver on his early promise
Honestly, I bet they were high-fiving so much back at C4 HQ their striped scarves almost fell off.
Sadly though, as with much of this series of BFGW, Mikey the gay traveller didn’t really deliver on his early promise.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure he was actually gay. His brilliantly withering assessment of his sister’s outfit pretty much confirmed that.
It’s just that his story turned out to be not that dramatic.
In fact, given the lack of evidence to the contrary, the shorthand version would appear to read: came out, dad not happy, all fine now.
And he didn’t once dress up like Daffyd from Little Britain. From which we must deduce the crew didn’t think of the idea in time. Or offer him enough cash.
A depressing state of affairs for Channel 4, of course. Because as well as significantly reducing their chances of causing another online storm, Mikey’s normalness and general indifference also sucked much of the helium out of the show’s overblown episode title, ‘Reputation Is Everything’.
At its peak this show pulled in over eight million viewers – now it’s struggling to hit five million
Not that I had much faith in that claim in the first place. Let’s fact it, if reputation was even anything to these travelling families they would have evicted the TV crews from their sites the day after the first episode was broadcast.
Still, you have to admire the editorial tenacity. Because despite Mikey’s story falling rather flat, they still tried to drum up some interest in the tales of brides-to-be Roseanne and Priscilla.
And I think ‘tales’ is the right word. Because I really don’t believe these two ladies were as scandalised as the producers would have us believe.
Either that or their supposedly estranged families got over the shame in double-quick time once they realised there was a TV appearance in the offing.
Whatever the truth, in purely commercial terms I guess you can’t really blame Channel 4 for wishing to embellish these tales as lavishly as Thelma Madine pimps her dresses.
But if the latest viewing figures are anything to go by the trick is finally beginning to wear thin.
At its peak this show pulled in over eight million viewers – now it’s struggling to hit five million.
Still good figures for Channel 4, but a downward trend is a downward trend.
Which is why, when the narrator wondered what the future might hold for the travellers, there could only be one considered response:
One more series. And a Christmas special if they’re lucky.
*Incidentally, if you were worried by Thelma’s absence from this episode, rest easy. I can confirm she was on Monday’s This Morning showing off her latest designs, which drew this reaction from Phillip Schofield: ‘Wow. Is there anything Thelma can’t do?’
Dunno, Pip. But my best guess would be tax returns.
Polite request. Can the spin
merchants please stop telling us BBC1’s new talent show The Voice is all
about ‘the pure, natural voice’?
Especially as the Beeb has seen fit to award a reported £500,000 judging role to will.i.am.
A man who loves pure, natural voices
so much he regularly sticks them through an electronic effects machine
before they appear on his records.
You’ve got some hard acts to follow, Cheryl
In the week it was announced Cheryl Cole has been offered her own chat show it was perhaps timely of BBC4 to show its brilliant documentary Frost On Interviews.
Not least because David Frost elicited this early tip from Michael Parkinson on how to treat your guests: ‘You can’t hammer them on the head with a six-inch nail.’
Frost On Interviews was a wonderful piece of television. Sadly it was only an hour long
I mean, if we consider Cheryl’s previous experience of face-to-face encounters in enclosed spaces that’s probably the best advice she’ll ever get.
This was a wonderful piece of television though, and it was great to see Jeremy Paxman, Brian Walden, Clive Anderson and Ruby Wax at their peaks.
Sadly it was only an hour long. So I’m assuming that’s why Frost had no room to include the work of Sharon Osbourne, Antony Cotton, Davina McCall, Charlotte Church and Lily Allen.
The most shocking footage David Frost found was of a slurring Melvyn Bragg interviewing Francis Bacon after they’d done a mammoth pub crawl
In fact, the most shocking footage he found was of a slurring Melvyn Bragg interviewing Francis Bacon after they’d done a mammoth pub crawl (so that’s where Alan Carr got the Chatty Man idea from?).
My favourite clip, though, featured a feisty Andrew Neil interviewing David Cameron shortly after he became Tory leader.
It was staggering to see how much thinner Cameron’s physique was back then.
But not quite as mystifying as it was to see how much thinner Neil’s hair was.
Given the way ITV has shunted his chat show into a graveyard slot next Saturday to make way for Britain’s Got Talent’s early return, Jonathan Ross could be forgiven for feeling a tad unloved. But don’t you go listening to those little voices, Wossy. I’m sure Peter Fincham still sees you as a valuable part of his ITV family. Right, Finch?
BBC Breakfast presenter Susanna Reid says she wishes there wasn’t so much attention focused on her cleavage.
Come on, Susanna. I respect you as a broadcaster and as a woman.
But that’s a bit like Patisserie Valerie suddenly putting a sign up in their window saying ‘Oi, stop looking at our cakes!’
BBC Breakfast presenter Susanna Reid says she wishes there wasn’t so much attention focused on her cleavage
I appreciated C4 trying to make Mary’s Bottom Line appear glamorous with all that footage of lingerie models. But was Mary Portas really expecting me to be excited, in prime time, by her search for a lace-maker in Nottingham?
Her bid to set up an entirely British knicker-making business may be very laudable (if you don’t mind a whiff of protectionism). It’s just that watching people sewing g-strings in a Manchester factory turned out to be, well, bobbins.
Even Corrie throws in the odd murder at Underworld every now and then.
I appreciated C4 trying to make Mary’s Bottom Line appear glamorous with all that footage of lingerie models
Genuine question for the scientists at BBC2’s Orbit. Are you sure about that statistic that said our days are getting longer by 23 microseconds a year? Because whenever I watch an episode of Upstairs Downstairs I swear it seems like much more than that.
Ahead of this year’s series of Big Brother In Suits – sorry, The Apprentice – Lord Sir Alan of Sugarshire has revealed his solution to the economic ills facing our great country: ‘We need to dispel the fast-buck culture among youngsters.’
Yeah, Al. And offering a £250,000 prize in a ten-week reality show is just the way to do it. You show ’em.
Cowell’s in a spin again
The Gambling Commission’s investigation into game shows has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. (For the record, I’m having fifty quid on the cat).
Yet Simon Cowell has somehow persuaded ITV to bring back the disastrous Red Or Black?
Worse still, he is dropping the one element that made it remotely exciting – the all-or-nothing roulette endgame.
So the only thing that will be spinning now is Cowell’s PR machine.
PS. Re Iain Duncan Smith asking Cowell to invite unemployed youngsters to work for his company for nothing.
He already does, Iain. They just have to win The X Factor first.
A winning formula
I presume the footage of Georgie Thompson in leather was a signing-on bonus
I know some motor racing fans are still angry at the BBC for allowing Sky to snatch the F1 rights.
But if the previews Sky has been running are anything to go by it might prove pretty hard to claim you aren’t getting what you’re paying for this season.
I’m not saying nobody does it better. But it would appear nobody does it louder.
PS. I presume the footage of Georgie Thompson in leather was a signing-on bonus.
insulting two minutes of TV I’ve seen this year? The ‘coming up’
trailer at the end of episode one of ITV1’s new Thursday night
chick-drama-by-numbers, Love Life. I mean, even a lobotomised goldfish could work out what’s going to happen next.
happy to report My Phone Sex Secrets, C4’s documentary about women who
operate adult chat lines, wasn’t half as grubby as I’d first feared.
I’m guessing C4’s technical wizards had used some post-production
effects to disguise the voices of the various gentlemen callers.
Otherwise Frank Bruno has way too much time to kill these days. And a huge phone bill.
Sorry, Chris. This. Show. Is. Doomed!
Nudge Chris Moyles in front of a camera in a TV studio and it rarely ends well. And to his ever-lengthening string of flops I think we can safely add Sky Living’s The Love Machine
As he approaches middle-age and the inevitable end of his days at the hip and thrusting Radio 1, Chris Moyles remains a total conundrum.
Seat him behind a microphone in a radio studio and surround him with enough people to laugh at his jokes and he’s a ratings record-breaker.
But nudge him in front of a camera in a
TV studio and it rarely ends well. And to his ever-lengthening string
of flops I think we can safely add Sky Living’s The Love Machine, which
should have been unplugged long before Moyles set a new personal low on
That was the moment he turned to the studio audience and yelled: ‘This. Show. Is. Brilliant!’
I don’t know who he was trying to convince more. Himself, or the poor trapped souls in the stalls.
Either way he looked doomed to failure.
Quote me on that
‘I would never take revenge on anybody.’
Loose Women’s Carol McGiffin discussing karma. Good news for her hairdresser