26 Aug

According to Sky News, the BBC, the papers and half of twitter, Channel 4 have announced at long last that Big Brother, the “social experiment”-cum-gallery-of-imbeciles that keeps on going, is to end next year with series 11, and a celebrity version in January or whenever it’s usually on. No, I’m not kidding haters, here’s your proof from their own website (though the next story down was “Microsoft remove black man from photo” which is probably more interesting/funny than this pish).

I’m sure most of us have good reasons for wanting to see the back of Big Brother – after all the viewing figures over the last few series show that viewers have been deserting the program quicker than Usain Bolt dashing to the toilet after a curry. For some, the format has gone stale. Back in the first series, no-one knew exactly what to expect from it, and a 24 hour live stream of people incarcerated in what was essentially a happy prison seemed an appealing alternative to the mainstream light entertainment programs; yet come series 10, we know the program so well we can take a guess as to the make up of contestants for the next series (my guess: approximately 25% transgendered, 31% moody and sullen, 5% wacky, 43% sexually charged, 10% suicidal, 25% light-hearted, 50% self promotion, and the all important 100% skull-crushingly tedious).

And Channel 4 agree. According to head of programming Julian Bellamy talking to Sky News, Channel 4 needs to be “championing the new”, and that “[C4] are going to put their money where their mouth is and find the next generation of brilliant new ideas”. Channel 4 News have helpfully suggested a long running comedy-drama take it’s place, and God only knows they’re overdue a bit of genius such as Spaced (watch free in the UK kids), but given that BB currently has a show every night, not to mention spin-offs past and present such as Little Brother and Big Mouth, you’re looking at a lot of airspace to fill in a years time.

Bearing in mind Channel 4’s history of being innovative and, let’s face it, commissioning the sort of stuff that no-one else would, I thought I’d throw my oar in and offer a few ideas for some prime-time gold:

First of all, I give you Frank Sidebottom’s Fantastic Facebook Fight. Hosted by the eponymous 80’s legend, and possibly sponsored by the eponymous social networking site, it literally does what it says on it’s alliterative tin. Frank Sidebottom and Little Frank (with a referee cardboard body) officiate over punch ups that started on Facebook. Think Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle, except with a man with a papier mache head, and a casio keyboard, goading 20 somethings who drove 300-fucking-miles to gatecrash a 14 year olds birthday party into beating the living daylights out of a random audience member. It’d be awesome.

Secondly, C4 haven’t been lucky enough to get a decent (prime time) quiz show thrown their way in some time (Deal or No Deal at the weekends excepted) – so take this quizual seed in your ear and let it grow upside your head: Timmy Tombola. Starring a robot loosely based on Timmy Mallett from the 80s but for legal reasons baring no likeness whatsoever, and utilising the red button, contestants at home and in the studio face off against each other in an attempt to win anything from a tin of Spaghetti Hoops to £500 sterlings, simply by throwing a ring at a peg, either physically or virtually. In a twist on the traditional quiz shows, the winners will be given a chance to swap their winnings for a chance at the super hoop, the prize being the right to stay alive, and return next week (possibly at gun-point) to challenge a new set of idiots.

As a government owned corporation, Channel 4 mustn’t forget their public service remit. This is why, should they wish to promote to prime time a nature programme, I offer them this: Frog or Toad? Set in a studio twice the size of Wem-ber-leee stadium, a panel of experts explain to us at home exactly what the difference is between the two, and how best to avoid them in the wild. Every week, they will look at a different amphibian, and then nail it to the wall underneath one of two giant posters, one saying “R.I.P. Frog” and the other “Bad Luck Toad”. At the end of the series, what will by then be considered “installations” will be put on eBay with no reserve.

Or how about something proper well different? Something which defies categorisation? Channel 4, I give you… Teletext Live! Now, I will be the first to admit that I have basically nicked the idea off of BBC2 in the early mornings, where they show you a selection of CEEFAX pages, accompanied by lounge music, presumably to taunt people like me who don’t have Ceefax. However, only a tit would think such a thing could work come 9 o’clock on a Friday evening, so there would need to be changes. Obviously, the liftmuzak would need to go, and replaced with contempory hits from the Arctic Monkeys and the Pulp. Furthermore, rather than feature news stories on repeat loop, why not look at some of the more fun features of teletext, like Planet Sound, or Turner the Worm, or Bamboozle to name but three. Finally, and this is where the BBC messed up and Channel 4 could make a real killing here, how about instead of having words on the screen, they have people? Actors, presenters, whatever you want to call them. Because staring at words hurts, man. It really does.

OK, so those ideas by my own standards are fairly lame, but it does show one thing; good ideas are hard to come by, and maybe, just maybe, that’s why Big Brother’s been on telly for so long – nothing better has come along.

As a post-script, whilst I’m fairly sure none of the above will ever be commissioned, stranger things have happened, so if you’re a telly commissioner drunk or stupid enough to talk. As it happens, as I was typing the quiz show, I actually genuinely came up with a blinder of a quiz show format which I’ll need to develop a bit more, and I’ll shove that up here at a later date.


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