BBC drafts in amateurs as it runs out of ideas

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The Independent Online
THE BBC has drafted in a team of amateur TV addicts to help it overcome a "crisis of ideas" over what to broadcast on Saturday nights.

In an unusual development, its new head of light entertainment, David Young, said yesterday: "There is a crisis in light entertainment television because of a lack of ideas. The same formulae and reliance on stars has been going on too long." The BBC is now planning an overhaul, inviting in writers and producers from other parts of its empire.

Executives have recognised that they have been unable to successfully replace Noel's House Party. Now - in a bizarre twist - the BBC is employing five young TV "addicts" with no experience of the business to help it overcome its paucity of ideas.

Three months ago the corporation advertised for people obsessed with television who had "ideas, ideas, ideas", but no experience in light entertainment. Over 4,000 people applied for the five posts. They were asked to come up with ideas for Noel's House Party and an episode of TFI Friday to whittle down the applicants to 60 interviewees, including one aged just 16. The five enthusiasts, all under 24, start work next month.

The initiative was the idea of Mr Young, who said yesterday: "They are there to come up with ideas every day that can be put into operation by experienced producers. We now want all our light entertainment shows to be idea-led. And you don't need 20 years' experience in television to have a good idea."

The newcomers will be given briefs about which slots the controllers of BBC1 and BBC2 wish to see filled. They will also help on the development of existing projects.

Flushed with the success of the new Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer game show, Families At War, the BBC wants to throw off the old-fashioned variety feel of Saturdays and come up with innovative formats. "We want to use the new Vic and Bob programme to show comedy writers or people from late- night shows," said Mr Young. "I know it has not previously been the cool end of television, but by September next year you should see a completely different schedule."

New formats already being worked on include a show using friends as teams and a "stunt" action game show.

Noel Edmonds' production company Unique is also working on a new vehicle for the former DJ, whom the BBC hopes can still be a ratings winner given a better show to work on.

Other BBC announcements at Montreux include a new show, My Hero, starring Ardal O'Hanlon, who played the slow-witted Father Dougal in Channel 4's Father Ted. Theshow will cover the domestic life of a superhero who lives in Northolt, Middlesex. The writers of Father Ted, Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews, have written Hippies, a sitcom set in an underground magazine in the Sixties, for the BBC.

Paul Whitehouse, more famous for his sketch show, The Fast Show, has written a sitcom called Happiness, about a 40-year old man whofalls in love with his best friend's wife. Jack Davenport, who played Miles in This Life, stars in Coupling, a new relationship comedy.

t The BBC is trying to sell the Teletubbies to the Chinese. In an attempt to improve the frosty relationship with China, the head of the BBC's commercial arm BBC Worldwide, Rupert Gavin, arrives in Peking today. China has objected in the past to BBC news coverage of the country.

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