I’ve said before that I think Harry Hill’s TV Burp is just about the only thing worth watching on ITV these days. Do you watch it? Only wondering, you see, because it seems that the advertising agencies of the nation can’t think anyone does. Over the weekend the ad-break for TV Burp consisted entirely of promotions for other ITV programmes; plenty of Dancing On Ice and Jane Austen, even Elton John’s Birthday Party FFS, but nothing about soap powder or even tea bags. I find it bizarre; when even the lamest programme at any hour on Ftn seems able to fill its breaks with proper adverts I can’t figure out why the best programme on the most popular commercial channel can’t pay its way. Whether it is down to ITV, the advertising agencies, or the lumpen skulls of the great British public I cannot tell.
Presumably Harry Hill has hitherto been subsidised by other areas of ITV’s programming, such as the profits from ITV Play; in which case I think I have found the only reason to lament the station’s demise following the recent scandals over faked phone-ins on TV. If the removal of the channel does coincide with TV Burp’s demise then I may have to rethink my attitude to crap like The Mint.
It is a strange business this whole palaver over the phone-in competitions. I don’t actually see much of a problem with the ITV Play / Quiz Call type of phone-in; calling in for such shows seems such a transparent waste of money that with perhaps a tweak or two I don’t see why they can’t continue to offer a service to those people with more money than sense who really should know better but apparently don’t. On the other hand the Richard & Judy / Saturday Kitchen type incidents, where people were asked to phone in for quizzes they had no chance of winning, is a different matter altogether; words fail, although a word called “fraud” will probably do.
The Blue Peter incident, I think, is especially telling. In that instance, when faced with a technical fault on the competition’s phone lines, the producer continued to allow calls to be accepted and charged for and roped in a child who was on a studio visit to pretend to phone in and so “win” the prize, maintaining the appearance of a genuine phone-in. Astonishing behaviour indeed; you or I, if put in the producer’s shoes, would no doubt just apologise for the fault and cancel the phone-in. That the real life TV producers didn’t do this, and that they seemingly didn’t consider there to be anything wrong and/or illegal in taking the action they took, I think shows how so much of television is artifice in the first place; that producers and programme makers so routinely twist and bend the dull truth into a convenient and palatable reality that it didn’t occur to them that they were overstepping the line on this occasion.
But I think the real shocker here is that this is not the first of Blue Peter’s deceptions. On a news story last week it was revealed that in the ‘sixties the original pet dog Petra died after a few days and was secretly replaced with another puppy without informing the viewers. This came as a body blow to me. I remember that when Petra (or should that be the replacement Petra) died Blue Peter informed viewers that they could send off for a free colour photograph of the dog, and for some reason my parents insisted I write in. Eventually we received our photo, only it was in black and white, not colour, and with a note attached apologising and explaining that they had run out of colour prints. Run out? How odd it seems in this day and age; when digital photos can be printed on demand it sounds a poor excuse to say you just “ran out” of colour photos. But even at the time; what happened to the original colour negative? Did someone stand on it? Did they just print a load off and chuck the negative in the bin? Surely they could have gone down to SupaSnaps and got a few more printed off, even in the ‘seventies? But apparently not.
Anyway, I can now clearly see that the upshot of the whole tawdry affair is that I ended up with a substandard photo of an impostor I didn’t even care for in the first place. I liked Shep.