It was surprising anyone could have lost Rod. He was wearing a distinctive pair of trousers with a yellow, mauve and orange check. And indeed, five seconds after the panic, Rod comes into view on one of the monitors walking rapidly round Live's brightly decorated offices rehearsing his opening lines. These were about how this was to be a station without boring sofa chat; about how it was to be lively and live and alive and living. In short: Live TV.
"Sorry loves," says the man in the beard. "Rod's on camera three. Less than a minute to go. Remember everybody, lots of life, let's be lively, let's enjoy it."
Rod's trousers are a useful metaphor for Live TV (or, to give it its full title, l!vetv). According to Janet Street-Porter, managing director of the station and herself kitted out in a cheery scarlet suit for the morning of the launch, colour is what Live TV is all about. "I know it sounds corny," she says. "But the look is kind of modern. You know, kind of bright, fresh, youthful? And friendly, yeah, not sneery."
Colour and speed. The five seconds when Rod fell into a between-shot Bermuda Triangle would be like five minutes for any other channel: time to squeeze in at least two items. When LiveTV sprang, like an excited labrador puppy, into action yesterday at 9am precisely, the pace was exhausting. And that was just for the viewer. "Cue Rod and cue Donna and cue Rod and cue Donna," the man with the beard was yelling, rapidly organising cuts of shot between the two presenters like he was directing an outside broadcast at Wimbledon. In less than 10 minutes we were served up a news bulletin (headline: a survey reveals Britain's younger women are not getting enough sex, "bad luck girls"), a nappy-changing competition judged by Richard E Grant, the promise of a report from Imran Khan's speech to the Oxford Union plus a report about the shopping opportunities his new wife will be able to look forward to in Islamabad. This plus gossip, dozens of snapshots of celebrities caught outside film premieres telling us we must watch Live, and a constant reminder of what will be coming up next. Like an 0898 sex line, Live devotes more time preparing viewers for the arrival of an item than it does on the item itself: "We'll be" is its verbal principal verbal tick.
"We'll be out and about in London catching a celebrity off their guard," yells Rod, into camera three. "Like this."At which the screen was filled by a reporter galloping down a London street behind an un-cooperative Paula Yates. "Where you off to, Paula?"
"What's in your bag, Paula?"
"Not telling you." Kelvin McKenzie, managing director of Mirror TV, Live's parent, offered up a pithy description of Live: "Bosnia it ain't." A risky comparison since, on a budget of pounds 2,000 an hour (enough to keep a BBC costume drama in bacon sandwiches), precedent would suggest the station has about as much chance of working as a Lord Owen peace initiative. In fact the speed, the colour, the flash, the panache - all characteristic of Street Porter's output since the birth of yoof telly - are a cunning disguise. Live TV might look many things, but cheap and nasty are not two of them.
"The ethos will be witty, stylish, lots of fun," says Street-Porter. "Tune into Live and you'll never quite know what to expect." And, of course, it will be live. "We've got three outside broadcast trucks and we'll go everywhere. If it's live and it's working, we'll stick with it and we'll ditch the studio stuff. We'll be, like, taking people to all the parties they're not invited to. Starting tonight, with our own launch party. Tune in and see the staff get wasted, har har har."
L!vetv is available on most cable packages. Check with your local dealer.