Right of Reply: Seamus Cassidy defends Chris Evans and his Toothbrush
Thursday 24 February 1994
'I don't think Toothbrush is derivative - it's generic, it's a particular sort of show. The idea of a show where you set people up and where you have big prizes and a lot of audience excitement - of course that's not new, but it's what you do with that that matters. Those are fairly broad perameters and I think the team have done quite a few original things within them. It's easy to underestimate how rigorous you have to be to make a show like Toothbrush work, or how voracious its appetite for ideas is.
'Very little television is 100 per cent original. Something is innovative only once but can be inventive for years and years; look at The Generation Game. Cloning successful shows tends not to work, simply because the punters aren't that stupid. A lot of shows that fail in any genre, The Main Event or Happy Families for instance, have combined bits from one or two successful shows and the public have voted with their remote controls. There's a difference between being derivative and being fluent and articulate in the form.
'Television has become very retro and self-regarding. BBC 2 has turned archive into a chic scheduling accessory, and it's very smug and unchallenging. I'm very bored with mediocre ideas being dressed up as reinventing game shows, recapturing the spirit of . . . and so on.
'In fact, what they really mean is parodying the conventions of a particular genre. That can work: Sticky Moments parodied the game show and Terry and Julian parodied the sitcom, and both worked immensely well.
'But they're the exception, not the rule. It's rare that anyone comes up with something completely original, and Toothbrush stands out as having very clever, well worked-out ideas and a genuinely live atmosphere.
'Chris Evans has gone from The Big Breakfast, a completely original show that defines its own terms, into an area where the competition is very intense and the comparisons are with extremely successful performers, a world inhabited by the likes of Michael Barrymore, Noel Edmonds and Bruce Forsyth. Those are big players and he's good enough to be up there with them, but people shouldn't expect him to be just another one of those.'
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