Sunday, 25 March 2018

Saturday Night's Alright?

A Casualty of Saturday nights?
It was as if empires had fallen and life, as we know it, was over. There has been much hand-wringing over the past week as numerous journos feasted over the demise of ITV light entertainment juggernaut, Saturday Night Takeaway. Although we soon discovered that the entire enterprise was on a one-week hiatus whilst the team adjusted themselves to being down a presenter. On the show goes but less so, the prospect of Declan Donnelly mugging away to camera alone will no doubt see a ratings increase next week.

Saturday night telly, we were told, had died. It has ceased to exist. The real issue here though is that the whole premise of 'sit down Saturday' had withered decades ago. TV critics attempted to hark back to glorious days of yore. Days that featured the likes of 3-2-1 or Noel's House Party. Seriously? Saturday night TV has been in the doldrums for as long as most people can remember. Indeed, you have to well into middle age (box ticked there then . . .) to recall a time when the BBC, even more than ITV, got it right.

Yes, we drift back to the 1970s when the BBC were happy to kick off the evening with imperial phase Doctor Who (Tom Baker dashing through an up-and-under garage door painted silver), the Generation Game ("so what are the scores on the door Isla?"), the Two Ronnies (middle aged men in frocks) and a pot-boiler drama series such as Juliet Bravo or the more earthy American series, Cagney & Lacey (a couple of women shouting in a filthy toilet).
Scores on the doors . . .

The whole edifice of Saturday night telly crumbled with the passing of such shows and their gradual replacement with joyless offerings such as the numerous National Lottery quiz shows, the ascent of Mr Blobby or ITV's early evening filler You Bet! I was fortunate enough (hmm . . .) to be a contestant on the latter.  A lovely evening was had with the likes of Sally James and Melvyn Hayes, yet I'd not seen the show before and never tuned in again. I didn't even see the episode I featured in until some time later. I couldn't be bothered. That was the way with Saturday telly from the 1990s onwards.The Beeb realised that they could kill an hour with the soapy goings on in Casualty. Three decades of Charlie Fairhead taring into the middle distance. They couldn't be bothered either.

All Bets are off
ITV countered the BBC's lack of effort with endless casting shows. They have dominated the schedule for the best part of twenty years, whether it be Pop Idol, X Factor or the unloved The Voice. If not them, then a plethora of vehicles for Ant and Dec which is where it's all gone wrong for ITV. Too many eggs in one basket? Too much trust in the enduring popularity of a double act? With Ant now likely to be sidelined for some time, the commercial channel has a chance to maybe rethink some of their stately old shows. ITV is unlikely to ditch Britain's Got Talent or I'm a Celebrity  though and time will tell if a change of presenters will help or hinder ratings.

Will the BBC take advantage of ITV's misfortune? It's unlikely. The much-touted revamp of the Generation Game has been cut to just two episodes and there's probably not a lot to shout about until the clocks go back and the familiar staples of Doctor Who and Strictly return. ITV's schedulers are not doubt plotting as we speak.

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