Media: Time to give tradition a dose of Thursday night fever
If I Ruled The Airwaves: Malcolm Gerrie, Managing Director, Initial
Tuesday 25 August 1998
My schedule is designed for a Thursday night, and my first choice, in the "weekend starts here" slot, would be Ready Steady Go!. It happened as pop itself was going through its adolescence, reflected in all its pimply, acned glory on the screen - excepting Keith Fordyce, a very British character who presented in a suit and tie.
Fordyce was, if you like, a forerunner to Jools Holland on The Tube, a counterpoint to what was considered outrageous music. Kathy McGowan was also the role model for Paula (Yates). She added a dimension to television which, at the time, was pretty much unheard of, because most female presenters were very Oxbridge. Yet, here was this stunning brunette, part of the Chelsea set, who was allowed to interview the good, the great, the bad and the ugly.
Ready Steady Go! showcased new bands and, for the first time, put black music in all its glory on prime time. The fact that you could go from Dusty Springfield singing among the crowd straight to The Beatles and Otis Redding doing "Try A Little Tenderness" and finish with James Brown doing "This Is A Man's World" was extraordinary. It was the inspiration for The Tube - to create that kind of event in the studio and put two fingers up to critics who say that music never works on television.
I'd follow that with a "what the hell is that?" programme - Banana Splits. This was an inspired, mould-breaking series, dressed up as a children's show, but with much darker things going on. It featured four humans in furry suits who wore cool shades, a hyperactive Rainbow meets The Monkees; Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky were as daft as their names. But above and beyond all this wacky content was the theme tune - a brilliant piece of bubblegum banality.
Then, a surprise - something along the lines of BBC2's Small Objects Of Desire, which looked at the tampon, the cigar and Doc Martens. That could be updated for the late Nineties, and a few more radical objects chosen.
Then I'd have a new soap. It certainly wouldn't come from London - so much TV is London-biased - or be set in a street or a close; that image of working-class life is anachronistic. There must be something you could do that is not formulaic, just looks at real life and blows you apart with its shooting style. I'd have a soap set in a football club like Newcastle or Manchester United, and call it United.
My next choice is Callan, with Edward Woodward. I was a mad James Bond fan, but this was the antithesis of that world - the seedy underbelly of the British secret service, cheap, sordid and rather nasty, but you really had empathy for this character in the middle of it all. He wasn't a big man, not a John Wayne or a Connery - but there was a certain violence always simmering under the surface.
It reminds me of early Peckinpah or Tarantino - Callan would think nothing of just shooting a guy point blank in the head, which for the time was extraordinary. Even the opening title sequence was great: just a lightbulb swinging in a seedy flat with John Barry-type music, ending with a single gunshot exploding the bulb.
It was cheap - you could see the cardboard walls, and there was hardly any location footage - but the scripts were beautifully written and the acting superb.
My first post-watershed show is one I've made up, because it's a blend of programmes. I've called it TFI Evans. In Chris Evans British broadcasting has an extraordinary force and talent. He's not only an inspired presenter but also an instinctive producer. Everyone said he would only last five minutes, that he was another Simon Dee, but he's still there, and a more potent force than ever. As yet, though, I feel he hasn't really stretched his wings.
So the first thing I would do is commission Chris to come up with something new - just let him loose in an hour of prime time and make it live. I don't think it would be boring! It's important to give Chris his head, as I did when he hosted The Brits - and it paid off. You try and handcuff him at your peril.
At 11pm, I'd put on Ibiza Uncovered, which was first broadcast on Sky. I thought it was an inspired piece of programme-making, combining a lot of different elements - travel, music, leisure and sex.
It has spawned a host of (less impressive) imitators as well as a hit album. I just loved the posse of nurses, who notched up points every time one of them got laid, and the two lesbians trying to set up a bar called Monroe's. Classic stuff!
And to follow, as there are an estimated 2 million young people from this country who are heading to Ibiza in the summer months, I'd go live from one of the major clubs there, such as Manumission. Being the last programme, it could be open-ended. And I'd have Boy George host that - he's a great television personality, as well as one of the hottest DJs around. Working title: Thongs of Praise.
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