It is with no small amount of ambivalence that I write this, my final TV Today post. I’m not leaving The Stage — heaven forfend — but over the next few days we’ll be moving the editorial sections of the site (news, features and blogs/columns) to a new, unified platform that will allow us to run a wider range of exclusive online content. We’ll have an expanded range of regular columnists - some names familiar to The Stage, and several new ones.
Part of the restructure means that TV Today as an entity will go. In its place, our experienced broadcast reporter Matt Hemley (who you can also hear every Sunday during Elaine Paige’s Radio 2 show) will be writing about TV and radio in his own regular column, while I will be writing about how the arts is changing with the onset of new technologies.
It’s been a great six and a half years, and a period full of change. Looking back to our earliest posts, Channel 4 was announcing that it was going to trial live streaming of its channels over the internet; the BBC was gearing up to cast the lead role in a musical for the first time; and shows such as Glee and Accused were but a glint in some commissioner’s evil eye. In the intervening years, it’s on occasion been weird to write about people or interview them and end up keeping in touch. I’ve made some great friends within the TV industry and look forward to continuing those well beyond TV Today’s lifetime.
I’ve been looking back through over 1,000 posts I’ve written - plus all the others written by Mark Wright, Matt Hemley, Liz Thomas and various guest contributors - and it’s hard to pick some favourites. But here is a quick selection of some of the posts I most enjoyed putting together, in no particular order:
Lessons from The Street: We had a bargain, and we forgot
Jimmy McGovern’s series ended as Granada (now ITV Studios) seemed to be fading from its once-unbeatable position as creator of great TV drama.
Ten things we learnt from The X Factor
From back in the days when ITV’s pop show auditions were in front of just a panel and not a baying crowd, ten lessons that any auditionee would do well to heed.
When Torchwood moved to BBC1 for a stripped-across-the-week five part story called Children of Earth, it proved to be the making of the show. Unfortunately, that was undone with an ill-advised move to America, but in the run up to CofE, all the great stuff I got from the round-table press interviews, along with some coverage of the show’s accompanying BBC Radio 4 dramas, gave the blog its highest traffic ever.
Midsomer Murders: Is all-white right?
After producer Brian True-May made some ill-advised comments about casting only white actors in Midsomer Murders, I gave my opinions as a resident of the region where True-May lives and which is the inspiration for the series.
Good coverage? Not Today, thank you
Graham Linehan and I haven’t always seen eye to eye: he took me to task on Twitter and his own blog when I suggested that I wouldn’t mourn the studio sitcom if it were ever to disappear - and quite right too, for my argument was rubbish.
But his bizarre treatment at the hands of BBC Radio 4’s breakfast programme, when being interviewed about his stage adaptation of The Ladykillers, deserved a mention. That show really needs to improve its arts coverage: over a year on from that episode, little has changed.
Baker Boys: the Welsh drama that deserves national attention
Loved series 1 of this recession-based comic drama. Series 2 less so - but both would have made for watchable telly all over the UK.
Superstar: Could we start again, please?
I can’t let the occasion pass by without referencing TV casting shows again. I’ve always tried to treat them for what they are - a balance of great value light entertainment and an (often wasted) opportunity to expose a wider audience to commercial theatre. I’ve grown ever more impatient with those critics whose complaints in this regard have hardly changed since How Do You Should a Problem Like Maria? was first announced. But even my patience was tried with ITV’s Superstar. Though, having seen the arena show, the commercial broadcaster’s trampling over the casting show format was nothing compared to the missteps involved in staging Jesus Christ Superstar in arenas. My heart broke last week, as one of my favourite musicals misfired on so many levels…
But back to TV. This is what I think went wrong with ITV’s attempt at casting through telly.
70 years of BBC TV: The view from here
And it’s appropriate to end with a link to a celebration of a beginning. As public service television in the UK became a septuagenarian, we accessed The Stage archive to reprint the paper’s report from the switching on of the Alexandra Palace transmitter. Those paragraph breaks (or the lack of them) are reproduced exactly from the original.
So that’s it. Do keep reading - there’ll be much more content online on www.thestage.co.uk in the coming weeks and months, and we really hope you’ll enjoy it. Keep an eye out for Matt’s TV and radio column on Thursdays, my ethnology column on Fridays, and more content, across more sectors of the industry, every weekday.