TV Heck

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Steve Williams
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TV Heck

Post by Steve Williams »

In the thread on programmes about TV in the archive section, there's discussion of TV Hell which rather remarkably is now over twenty years old. As I say in the thread, some of the stuff shown as part of that - Churchill's People, Triangle, all that - seemed to have come from another world at the time, technically incompetent as well as poorly executed. But in 1992 none of those programmes were as long ago as TV Hell is now.

I wonder, if they were to do a TV Hell II now, what shows since the original night would be included? It's easy to say "Everything Simon Cowell does hur hur hur", but of course regardless of your views of the merits of those programmes, they're clearly hugely successful and also extremely professional and well-made. Certainly not to be filed alongside your Minipops and that. What you really need is a complete disaster that doesn't work technically, artistically or commericially, which is perhaps hard to find these days as shows are often competently made but just plain dull. Certainly not much you can make a funny documentary about, like Triangle was. I suppose you could go with...

* Touch The Truck - This is what happens if you try too hard to get noticed, a show that's just a complete mess that can't even be watched with a sense of irony. No matter how much you dress it up you can't argue it wasn't just a rubbish idea for a TV show, execute rubbishly.

* The Gaby Roslin Show - This was a complete disaster, everyone slagged it off and Gaby was a laughing stock. The problem was that it was live and Gaby was simply a hopeless chat show host, completely out of her depth. It was tragic to watch, you simply couldn't bear to watch it because you were so worried for Gaby. There was a notorious moment where Cybill Shepherd told a joke about oral sex that everyone in the audience laughed it, but Gaby didn't get it, much to everyone's embarrassment. It was amazing it got on the screen.

* Red Alert - If you were doing TV Hell now, this would be a great show to plunder for clips because there were so many cock-ups it was unbelievable. This was the big Chris Evans-produced BBC1 Saturday night show that replaced Noel's House Party and was supposed to run for years but it way too over-complicated and the first show was an absolute shamnbles, all the games went wrong and Lulu and Terry Alderton, the hosts, were terrible, given Lulu hadn't presented live TV for about 25 years beforehand and Terry hadn't presented any at all so they constantly missed their cues and forgot their lines. They also got Sid Waddell to do the lottery and he messed it up completely (and later he said he simply couldn't see the balls). It was unbelievably bad and after five shows it was completely revamped to become a completely different pre-recorded show than axed. But the first show was just amazingly bad.

As I say, it's hard these days to find a bad show that's just amazingly, amusingly bad, not just dull and boring. I guess you'd also include Ortis Deley's notorious presentation of the World Atheltics Championships. Any more for any more?

Duncan
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Re: TV Heck

Post by Duncan »

How about...

Dont Scare The Hare - a prop in search of a show?

A Year In Provence - what could go wrong with a John Thaw fronted show?

Johnny and Denise saturday night show - cant remember the exact title, but it seemed almost deliberately bad - two personable presenters who worked so well together on the Big Breakfast, yet here - flat and dull

Upstairs Downstairs revival - nothing truly "bad" but the back pedaling was plain to see in the half-hearted press release from Ben Stephenson when he announced series two - compare that to the press releases and smug tone of self congratulation when the revival was announced. Hamstrung by the overbearing sense of PC "inclusiveness" and with dreadfully bland actors, the producers seemed to think that all they had to do was turn up and the viewers would embrace it. Downton Abbey showed them what the public really wanted. A crying shame as the revival could have been terrific.

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Jezza
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Re: TV Heck

Post by Jezza »

Eldorado is a prime candidate!

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Ross
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Re: TV Heck

Post by Ross »

I'd nominate the BBC's coverage of the Queen's Jubilee, especially the Thames flotilla. It was the "Live into '85" of 2012; stunningly incompetent.

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gran not nan
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Re: TV Heck

Post by gran not nan »

Naked Jungle.

Clive
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Re: TV Heck

Post by Clive »

Ross wrote:I'd nominate the BBC's coverage of the Queen's Jubilee, especially the Thames flotilla. It was the "Live into '85" of 2012; stunningly incompetent.
I never saw this, but I heard the fallout. Even my parents who are normally immune to criticising such things were still ranting about it at Christmas.

I know we shouldn't be talking about Simon Cowell type formats, but I really thought that "Splash!" though obviously popular at the moment, is one of those 'What were they thinking?' formats which will be laughed about in a future version of TV Hell. There is a sense of barrel scraping whilst putting so much gold and tinsel around the end product that they hope no-one will notice.

A modern version of TV Hell would surely feature some of the extreme house makeover shows that were all the rage a couple of years ago, especially when they always needed to inject some competition element into the proceedings.

There are acres of TV Hell around just now, but just as the original in 1992 demonstrated, TV Hell can only be determined far removed in time from the original.

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John Williams
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Post by John Williams »

I'm pretty sure that earlier in the same evening that TV Hell aired there was an episode of Eldorado (predominantly featuring the terrible brothers that ran the beach bar) that was absolutely bloody awful. I was with a group of friends waiting for TV Hell, and we just treated Eldorado as an honorary member of the TV Hell club even though it hadn't started yet.

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Simon36
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Post by Simon36 »

Now there would be acres of stuff from things like Live TV and Most haunted I suppose. And plenty of dire sitcoms like The House That Jack Built, that Jasper Carrot/ Myera Syall one and so on.

Not sure any of it would make as entertaining telly as the TV hell suggestions though. Modern failures are just dull.

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Post by Mike S »

As you say, there's no real modern equivalent of the 'innocently crap' stuff that was featured on TV Hell - eg, all those Triangle interiors with the curtains drawn.

It's actually quite hard to find 'bad' (rather than just bland) TV these days - poke into the darkest recesses of the digital landscape and it's still difficult to find stuff that's badly made in any technical sense. Not bad enough to be funny, anyway. But then I still argue that this is true of the 90s/00s generally - a completely unparodyable era.

There's such a sheen of knowingness and irony about 21st century TV that it's pretty much a win-win situation for anyone making it. If anyone did something like Mainly For Men today, it would be so tongue-in-cheek that it would be virtually sneer-proof.

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Post by Mark »

What about, "Celebrity Wrestling", and that Channel Five, celeb chat show thing at teatimes, the one where the ratings kept on sliding and the presenters kept on leaving..!
"A cup of Tea....Tea...Tea"

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Mickey
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Post by Mickey »

Whilst it's a fair point to say that there's no really bad TV these days, there's still some astonishing incompetence. The new "Dallas" - which I really enjoy - is very well made and very slick, just as you'd expect in 2013, but every single scene featuring the view from their office windows is eye-bogglingly awful. It's clearly not a real view, which is understandable, but I've seen CSO in 1970s productions that was more convincing. Every so often they have a scene in a car with a backdrop that is similarly, shockingly bad. Think "Z-Cars", with their bouncy backdrops for the car scenes. More realistic than "Dallas".

And it's not just "Dallas". Last year there was a very glossy, very expensive drama called "Ringer". The car and window scenes were similarly bad in those. I suspect they're CGI'ed, but if this is the future, I'm very dubious! The programmes themselves are fine, but their windows definitely belong in TV Hell.

Ian Dickerson
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Re: TV Heck

Post by Ian Dickerson »

On the subject of bad CGI...have you seen the stuff in Castle where he allegedly goes abroad? Or rather so very obviously doesn't? It's unfortunately a real laugh out loud moment in what is usually a high quality show.

I know it's all down to budget but it amazes me that we can come up with the technology to make a Shetland pony dance convincingly (in the latest 3 advert) but can't make it look convincingly as if an actor is in another country.

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John Williams
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Re: TV Heck

Post by John Williams »

There was a similar thing in series 3 of Damages when one of the protagonists took a trip to Antigua. The Antiguan setting was represented by the character wearing a white hat, generally sitting on a shockingly unconvincing veranda with occasional glimpses of an unconvincing sunny outdoors. It was like watching Duty Free only with more belly laughs.

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Ross
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Post by Ross »

In general, I'd say bad TV is the result of one of two (not always mutually exclusive) things:

1. Incompetence. Bad scripting, bad acting, lousy production values, wobbly walls, boom shadows etc...

2. Contempt for the audience.

I'd argue that the former was pretty rare these days, while the latter is far more prevalent, but I suppose it's hard to make an amusing clip show out of it.

I'd say that as a piece of television, any Red Nose Day would qualify for TV Hell, but this thing is treated with reverence to a ridiculous degree. Slag it off and people think you're laughing at dying African kids.

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Post by Mike S »

Shows aren't really 'allowed' to be bad these days, I guess: if a sitcom gag failed to get a laugh and it wasn't fixed in the edit, the producer wouldn't last long in their job. There's a basic quality-threshold of slickness/production values to which even shopping channels are expected to adhere.

Plus, the 'irony' card can always be played. There's no point sneering at Masterchef or whatever, because the makers can always say 'The joke's on you because our tongue's in our cheek'. Which isn't something the cast of Churchill's People could really claim.

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Re: TV Heck

Post by RobinCarmody »

It isn't really news that programmes of the recent past no longer look prehistoric in the way they did in 1992; all that shows is that the 1980s were a revolutionary period in British culture and society, television very much not excepted, in a way the two subsequent completed decades have not been.

TV Hell itself, though, still had some of the old values to it; there was a genuine contempt for bad television, not "isn't it great in a disgusting sort of way". Not sneering at the masses by any means - that ironically would become more common in the last 15 years, dressed up as becoming less so - but wanting the masses to be given something better, a real anger that much of British culture had short-changed the people. And I think that is why you couldn't have a TV Hell now; the criteria of the programme were still, implicitly, that Some Things Are Better Than Other Things, and the embrace of commercialism and the market economy by former New Leftists who had recognised that it was the best way to render something close to their old revolutionary aims - the defining change in British society in the last 20 years - has rendered that impossible. TV Hell made value judgements; the whole point of popular culture commenting on itself today is that it doesn't.

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Post by GarethR »

Duncan wrote:How about...

Dont Scare The Hare - a prop in search of a show?
Yes, definitely, but...
A Year In Provence - what could go wrong with a John Thaw fronted show?
I don't think this one can count, because there's no obvious reason why it failed. It was beautifully produced and full of very good actors, it just somehow didn't gel with the audience. It would be impossible to find a clip that would illustrate, briefly and concisely, what was wrong with it, and that's what TV Hell-type shows need - bad dialogue, terrible acting, cheap props, that sort of thing.

An alternative approach might be to look at something like ITV's Holiday Showdown. Perfectly competently produced, nothing you could isolate in a clip to demonstrate why it tanked, but it utterly failed to deliver on its promise because the families usually *didn't* end up hating each other. It was commissioned and marketed on the promise of entertaining conflict between mismatched personalities that, by and large, failed to materialise in the quantities required.

Plenty of just-plain-terrible ITV sitcoms too - The Duck Patrol, Pay and Display, Days Like These. Actually, Days Like These would be perfect TV Hell fodder, because of the whole back story of how it came to be made, with David Liddiment spending the entire year's comedy budget on a pioneering co-production with Carsey-Werner that turned out to be quite startlingly unfunny.

Sticking with Liddiment, his disastrous decision to put football into ITV Saturday primetime would be an interesting case study. You can pretty much pinpoint that event as the moment that the ratings tide turned for ITV, handing Saturday nights back to the BBC for the first time in a great many years.

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Post by Mike S »

Tracey Thorn said this in a interview recently, in reference to the (unimaginable now) earnestness of things like Red Wedge:

"It would be fascinating to do a study of when irony took over completely, because I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm sure someone clever could analyse culture and politics and music and define the moment when irony stopped being an option and became the default option. I think it's really problematic that everything is now seen through an ironic tinge; it just makes it very difficult for people within the arts to be entirely sincere about things without looking like they just haven't thought it through properly. The problem with irony is it assumes the position of being the end result, from having looked at it from both sides and having a very sophisticated take on everything, so the danger of eschewing irony is you look as though you just haven't thought hard enough about it, and are just being a bit simplistic."

(Emphasis mine.)

I think she's on to something there.

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Post by ian b »

Recently? The sheer contempt for the audience that the SURVIVORS remake had for it's audience, (billions dead, but seemingly all quietly indoors at home, etc) - and PRIMEVAL which very quickly showed it's no good having a gimmick if you only have the one idea in which to use it.

But this far into the thread and BONEKICKERS is only now bring mentioned...?

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Post by GarethR »

ian b wrote:Recently? The sheer contempt for the audience that the SURVIVORS remake had for it's audience, (billions dead, but seemingly all quietly indoors at home, etc)
Not fair, because that wasn't a product of any contempt for the audience. Budgets only go so far, you can't always afford to strew corpses all over your exteriors, and only a small percentage of the audience will actively pick up on that sort of thing anyway. Look at something like the 1981 Day of the Triffids - the scenes of eerily silent and deserted streets are very atmospheric, but everybody was blind, not dead, so why the eerie silence? Was everybody just being quietly (and cheaply) blind indoors?

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Post by Simon36 »

Mike S wrote:Tracey Thorn said this in a interview recently, in reference to the (unimaginable now) earnestness of things like Red Wedge:

"It would be fascinating to do a study of when irony took over completely, because I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm sure someone clever could analyse culture and politics and music and define the moment when irony stopped being an option and became the default option. I think it's really problematic that everything is now seen through an ironic tinge; it just makes it very difficult for people within the arts to be entirely sincere about things without looking like they just haven't thought it through properly. The problem with irony is it assumes the position of being the end result, from having looked at it from both sides and having a very sophisticated take on everything, so the danger of eschewing irony is you look as though you just haven't thought hard enough about it, and are just being a bit simplistic."

(Emphasis mine.)

I think she's on to something there.
That is brilliant. And I'm not being at all ironic.

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Post by Simon Coward »

GarethR wrote:
ian b wrote:Recently? The sheer contempt for the audience that the SURVIVORS remake had for it's audience, (billions dead, but seemingly all quietly indoors at home, etc)
Not fair, because that wasn't a product of any contempt for the audience. Budgets only go so far, you can't always afford to strew corpses all over your exteriors, and only a small percentage of the audience will actively pick up on that sort of thing anyway. Look at something like the 1981 Day of the Triffids - the scenes of eerily silent and deserted streets are very atmospheric, but everybody was blind, not dead, so why the eerie silence? Was everybody just being quietly (and cheaply) blind indoors?
But if budgets don't stretch, the thing to do is something different to which they will stretch, not do something badly. If you think you can get away with doing something badly - either because you think it doesn't matter or because you think no-one will notice - what is that if it isn't contempt for the audience? Unless it's just simple incompetence?
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Post by Ross »

Mike S wrote:Tracey Thorn said this...

I think she's on to something there.
Yep, spot on.

I remember meeting a student of Film Studies at Chichester university around 2001. He was a real "scene-ster" - called Adrian although he insisted on 'Adey' - with everything delivered in world-weary tones as if his subjective opinions were objective fact that barely needed saying.

At one point he said, "Of course (Ingmar) Bergman's films are just so camp."

It was this attitude in action. I disagreed and said so, but found it hard to articulate a counter-argument. It's virtually impossible to argue that sincerity might be someone's true motive without sounding hopelessly naive.

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Richard A
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Re: TV Heck

Post by Richard A »

As a science fiction fan, I found The Deep and Outcasts utterly disappointing, not least because their respective failures have done little for the cause of contemplative sci-fi (as opposed to entertainment sci-fi like Who) at the BBC.

Both series were wrong on so many levels, notably poor characterisation, yawning plotholes and unconvincing technological background. I'm particularly irate about Outcasts because it was a premise with so many possibilities. Instead we had a series, the sole purpose of the overall story arc of which seemed to be to get a second series commissioned (i.e. the build up to the arrival of the ship at the end of the last episode). In addition, the weirdness of a supposedly more advanced human culture which displayed primitive and malevolent prejudices against the clones and the 'reveal' about two thirds of the way through the series, by way of a CGI aerial view that Carpathia was actually a pretty massive community, thereby to some extent invalidating the parochial nature of the storyline were just two of the many frustrating aspects of this televisual mess.

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David Boothroyd
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Post by David Boothroyd »

'Beat the Crusher' (Sky One, 1999) - nastiness as entertainment, terrible hosting, pointless show. Not recommissioned.

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Re: TV Heck

Post by ian b »

GarethR wrote:Not fair...
Very fair, and the badly depicted apocalypse was the one least of that series problems.

PARADOX was another, mildly entertaining, modern stinker - "We've identified the manhole..."

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Simon36
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Post by Simon36 »

The 100 Greatest TV Moments From Hell back in the list show mad noughties was a funny one as some of the clips could have easily been in the 100 Greatest Moments. Is a live disaster or a drunken guest a great moment or a hellish one. The show did contain quite a few recent efforts though such as Private Dicks I seem to recall.

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Post by Juswuh »

How about ITV Play? The infamous rawlpulgs-and-balaclava contest must have been preserved somewhere.

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Re: TV Heck

Post by Mike S »

Ross wrote:
Mike S wrote:Tracey Thorn said this...

I think she's on to something there.
Yep, spot on.

I remember meeting a student of Film Studies at Chichester university around 2001. He was a real "scene-ster" - called Adrian although he insisted on 'Adey' - with everything delivered in world-weary tones as if his subjective opinions were objective fact that barely needed saying.

At one point he said, "Of course (Ingmar) Bergman's films are just so camp."

It was this attitude in action. I disagreed and said so, but found it hard to articulate a counter-argument. It's virtually impossible to argue that sincerity might be someone's true motive without sounding hopelessly naive.
The same thing's happened with politics, where 'escaping the sixth-form common room' is seen as a rite of passage towards mature, life's-not-black-and-white enlightenment (ie, becoming a moderate). You're not allowed to conclude 'Actually, the sixth-formers were right in the first place.'

A lot of old TV was parodyable precisely because it was 'sincerely' made, but there's no point scoffing at shows like The Apprentice or The X Factor or whatever because the irony is already built-in. It would be impossible to do a spoof of those shows and make it look genuinely disdainful and contemptuous in the spirit of Hey Wow or The Two Ninnies - no matter what you wrote, it would automatically look somehow affectionate and good-humoured. These shows are effectively sneer-proof, because even if you complain about them you're still sort of Playing The Game.

I was watching End Of Part One recently, and thinking how impossible it would be to do a 2013 equivalent. Gags like:

'I'm here to see Nicholas Parsons.'
'Nicholas who?'
'Yes, that's him.'

just wouldn't really work if you made them about, say, Alexander Armstrong. Because Alexander Armstrong's 'crapness' is sort of intentionally woven into The Alexander Armstrong Character. You'd have to chip away at at least two layers of irony before you could take the piss out of him in the same way.

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Re: TV Heck

Post by Mike S »

By the way, can anyone answer me this: why don't you get bad acting on TV any more?

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