Safeguarding the future of television

Safeguarding the future of television


If you've resorted to watching internet cartoons about talking eggs for your entertainment (hint: you have) you will no doubt agree that television has become stale. In a selfless attempt to replenish the once-great font of entertainment that is British TV, I have spent the last few years emailing the BBC and Channel 4 on a daily basis with groundbreaking new show ideas. Curiously, replies became increasingly hostile and eventually tailed off completely after the first few weeks. Fear not, I don't let that stop me. Ungrateful as they may be, I know they're listening very closely, probably all huddled around a computer feverishly refreshing their inbox for the next nugget of programming wisdom I deign to send their way.

You want proof? In early August of this year I suggested that the Channel 4 news needed spicing up, and just a couple of weeks later - bam! - hurricane Katrina puts not only black people, but poor black people all over the news. Exotic! Back in April 2004 I pointed out to the BBC that there aren't nearly enough annoying comedians presenting dancing related shows on digital-only channels, a month later - what's this? - Justin Lee Collins gets the gig fronting BBC3's companion show to Strictly Come Dancing.

That's right: they're listening. I have clout. I have influence.

Alas, despite my best efforts, these small victories are but tiny splashes in an endless sea of TV dreck. My work is still to be done, and I will not rest until we can once again be proud of British TV. Here I present a brief taster of a few of the shows I will be pitching to TV stations in the coming weeks.

The 100 Best Numbers with Carol Vorderman

Who doesn't love top-100 shows? If we didn't have 3rd rate comedians and magazine columnists giving us one-liners about apparently randomly-ordered items how on earth would we know what to say to our friends about those same items the next day? This top-100 is different though, numbers are too sensitive a matter to allow the Claudia Winklemans of this world to have any say whatsoever. This show is all Vorderman - one joyful advert-ridden hour of numbers chosen by Vorderman, introduced by Vorderman, and wittily commented upon by Vorderman. In this territory we are safe with Vorderman - she understands numbers. Incidentally, she also understands letters, home improvement, gardening, and The Vicar of Dibley, if I remember correctly.

Highlight: Vorderman recounts a thrilling anecdote about the time the number 17 (chart position: 81) got her into an awkward situation at a laundrette.

Carol Vorderman: Skillfully distracting you from her inappropriate attire with the made-up word "Datubo".

News LOL

In this future cult smash hit, the topical panel show meets the internet and the result is a whole lot of LOL (it stands for "laughing on-line") for everyone. The show consists of an unedited feed of a chat room full of students making jokes about the news, with an extended mix of the Channel 4 news theme music playing in the background, regularly interspersed with senseless, rapturous applause. Various well-known MPs will frequently be accused of being "up to their old tricks" and largely baseless judgements will be made regarding their suitability for their given governmental post.

Highlight: Extract from Series 1, episode 1:

<Bawbag> guys lol:
<Stavvo> lol!
<Bop> haha lol
<Bawbag> ya i no :)

100 most arbitrarily chosen items with Jimmy Carr

Professionally up-tight comedy technician Jimmy Carr introduces a list of 100 random items chosen for no particular reason, arranged in order of irrelevance. Contributions will come from the standard selection of comedy and media featherweights, but the talking heads will be encouraged to talk about their own randomly selected subjects, chosen with no regard for the specific item in question. For example, while supposedly commenting on "ghosts" (chart position: 3), The Sun's Victoria Newton will launch into a poorly judged rant about the professional table tennis circuit, at some point employing the phrase "What's all that about?" in a futile attempt to get viewers on her side. Later in the programme, Simon Amstell will attempt to highlight the unusual nature of the current BMW product line by suggesting that Christopher Bangle may have been "on drugs" during crucial parts of the design process. Carr's role will be largely limited to making a needlessly cruel joke about Jordan as a segue into a commercial break.

Highlight: Carr compares the blindness of David Blunkett (Chart position: 29) to that of Jordan's son, and we all laugh and laugh because Jordan is a dim woman with amusingly large fake breasts.

Jimmy Carr: Proudly demonstrating his ability to sit in a chair without holding on.
This is just one of a variety of traits he shares with normal humans.

Untitled Situation Comedy

This is the work-in-progress sitcom that is set to be to entertainment what punches are to bruises. Some of the details are still to be decided, but the soon-to-be-award-winning key to this groundbreaking series will be - and do try to keep an open mind here - a socially awkward man who finds himself in reasonably normal social situations but turns each one into a disasters because he lacks fundamental life skills like the ability to identify misunderstandings! I imagine your feeble mind, numbed by years of 'normal' sitcoms, is struggling to cope with this bold new comedy paradigm, so I'll ease you in with an example storyline.

One day, our lovably inept hero goes to a supermarket to buy some bread. At the checkout he pays for the bread with a £10 note, and receives his change in the form of a £5 note and some coins. When the cashier gives him this change, however, they first put the note into the protagonist's hand, and then proceed to put the coins on top of it, meaning that our hero has to awkwardly take the note from under the coins to put it in his wallet, a task made all the more awkward by the bread occupying his other hand. While the average, unentertaining, person would deal with this as quickly and easily, our hero elaborately fails to cope, physically and mentally, resulting the money and/or bread being dropped on the floor, with explosive comic effect. The rest of the episode consists of the protagonist retelling the experience to his friends and colleagues, all of whom don't see the big deal, further underlining the inherent comedy of the hero's inability to cope.

Did I just blow your mind? You better get used to it, because I've got a million more where that little gem came from!

Highlight: Extract from Series 1, episode 1, work in progress.

Hero: I was at the bank today and it was empty but they made me walk around those queue ropes to get to the counter!
Wife: Oh.
Hero: What's up with that?
Wife: I imagine it's just company policy.
Hero: I don't understand that policy at all!!
Wife: Haha! You're so silly!
[audience applauds]

100 Greatest films in which Bob Hoskins plays a plumber

Admittedly, this show has been languishing in the preliminary stages of the design process for some time, but I'll keep at it because the universal appeal and endless entertainment of any Hoskins-related project is widely regarded as the only sure thing in television. So far I've got Brazil and Super Mario Bros., and frankly I'm having trouble deciding on the running order. On the one hand, Brazil is a critically acclaimed genre-defying classic of modern cinema, but on the other hand Super Mario Bros. is the most awesomely bizarre experience you can have without resorting to lethal amounts of solvent abuse.

Needless to say, this marathon of indispensable cinema nostalgia would ideally be presented by none other than Bob Hoskins. Failing that, Jimmy Carr is on standby. Preliminary guest contributers include Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Dennis Hopper and, for no clear reason. Russel Brand, that unbearable former-smackhead comedian you hate so much.

Highlight: [Regarding Brazil] Russel Brand: That was such a weird film, man, what was up with that? Was Terry Gilliam on drugs or what? I was.

Bob Hoskins: I am not familiar with the type of thing I am seeing.

I guess now you're wondering why I'd give out these ideas for free on the internet, instead of getting Fox and HBO to compete for them in brutally profitable bidding wars. The truth is, I live for television - I don't want the money, all I care about is that we get back to making some good quality TV. Besides, there's plenty more where those came from, and I make more than enough money at my day job harvesting the organs of homeless children.

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