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Thursday, 29 January 2015

ITV needs to get their act together.

Times were that ITV was the go to channel for unmissable entertainment and the prospect of BBC Two or Channel 5 overtaking it in the viewing figures was a laughable concept. Who's laughing now? Certainly not the fans of quality television anyway as we are forced to endure a quintet of truly diabolical shows that would embarrass even Challenge TV. And they still show a mullet sporting Pat Sharp hosting Fun House. At least that WAS fun.


Yes, I'm harping on about the various new commissions courtesy of ITV, a one time contender for top channel in the UK which is now regularly slumping behind the underdogs. In the last few months, they have attempted success with vehicles such as Celebrity Squares, Get Your Act Together (quite apt advice really. They should take heed of their own words), Keep It In The Family, Stars In Their Eyes and Planet's Got Talent.

I'll give these shows some credit: at least they're consistent. They're all fist chewingly awkward, they're all shockingly cringeworthy, they all seem like they have been written by a toddler who has had a crayon shoved up their nose and they have all bombed in the ratings. There's a lesson here, ITV. Viewers are not interested in slapstick, old school dross with Z list celebrities, painful sketches and patronising content. As BBC One's drama and light comedy offerings prove, we have something of more quality in mind. BBC One are consistently hitting the big numbers and they must be rubbing their hands with glee at the competition their shows are facing. 

ITV needs to stop trying to find the next Saturday Night Takeaway (which is carried by Ant and Dec, nothing else) and rehaul their entire schedules and priorities as disaster is looming.

The worst of it is, they already have some fantastic shows and formats that they aren't utilising enough. The Chase always performs well on a Saturday night and has a loyal fanbase. Catchphrase, Family Fortunes and even Take Me Out are very decent offerings and seal up the token light entertainment shows. Stop trying to replace them and just use them. 

On a slight tangent, ITV's biggest crime at the moment is their insufferable attempts to find a new show which will perform well at teatime when The Chase already does. Sometimes, viewers get a little sick of their schedule being 'refreshed' and just want to watch what has proven to perform well. 5pm now belongs to The Chase and until the viewing figures tell a different story to what they already do, this should remain in place. Nothing they have tried in the slot in the times they omit The Chase from the schedules has performed anywhere near as well; even The Chase repeats outscore Paul O Grady, Take On The Twisters and that vile Eamonn and Ruth short lived contest by often up to 2 million viewers. Wake up! And while you're at it, whack Tipping Point back to 4pm as it is proven to be a much better lead in to the evening shows.


Back to the dismal light entertainment newbies, Stars In Their Eyes has proven to be by far the worst of a bad bunch. It took me a while (almost an entire minute in fact) to decide whether the show was secretly genius or just an utter humiliation. No amounts of half hearted 'we're being satirical!' claims from ITV will change my mind on this: you don't satire awful television by merely showing awful television. 

Mixing Stars In Their Eyes and TV Burp, both fantastic shows in their own right, together was a recipe akin to mince and custard: messy, a bit sickening and leaves an awful taste in the mouth. I love Harry Hill and he most definitely has a place on prime time television but this monstrosity of a reboot which combines really bad karaoke with Harry Hill slapstick is the worst thing to happen to television since Anton du Beke presented 'The Wall'


Similarly, Bradley Walsh is by far the best television presenter out there but Keep It In The Family was a lukewarm effort that was a bit too chaotic to build a decent enough fanbase. There is the odd thrill of seeing people like Jedward plunged into a dark abyss (surely a deliberate commentary on their career) and the bit where Bradders chats to the nans is inspired (seriously, make an hour show with that and it's TV Gold) but the silliness and games in between proved another turn off. 

Get Your Act Together was much the same ilk and there's not much more I can say in case I start to get taxed on using the word 'embarrassing' 

I secretly rather liked Celebrity Squares but it was in a tough slot and the viewing figures prove it could do with some tweaking in time for the next series. If any of the recent shows are salvageable then I would, at a push, say it was this one.

Meanwhile, the BBC's schedules can do no wrong, with it's comedies such as Still Open All Hours and dramas like Call The Midwife utterly ruling the weekend ratings. The excellent performance of Pointless proves that quiz shows have a place in weekend schedules and the lineup is completed with relaxing Sunday night viewing such as Countryfile which regularly pulls in over six million viewers. 

ITV could learn a thing or two. And they haven't much time to do so.

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