Richie richer

The experience may be rather similar but the programme is significantly different. It has had surgery by focus group, painful maybe, but somewhat kinder than oblivion.

T urn on ITV this Saturday night and you might experience deja vu. For everyone's favourite ex-Butlins red coat, Shane Richie, is inviting engaged couples to compete on air to win a wedding. Sound familiar? It is. Welcome back The Shane Richie Experience in a new guise - the revamped and renamed Love Me Do.

If you think you'll have a problem distinguishing between the two, be warned: the difference between naff and slightly less naff is greater than you might think. It's the difference between art and science - one was simply an idea, the other was the product of a focus group.

The "if at first you don't succeed..." school of programme-making isn't one you might associate with the cut-throat world of Nineties TV. But it is fast gaining currency as, increasingly, broadcasters must guarantee a return on their investments. And because viewers are less and less tolerant of mistakes.

"It's on the increase because of the amounts of money now involved," Shane Richie Experience/Love Me Do executive producer Jane Mcnaught explains. "When you're putting pounds 1m into a new series, you have to make sure you minimise the risk - and that means testing and tweaking, where necessary."

With The Shane Richie Experience, alarm bells started ringing early on. No sooner had the series launched than it provoked a critical drubbing - "tacky" and "tasteless" were among the more polite complaints. While the critics loathed it, however, it did attract a modest audience of 6.1 million. Trouble was, negative media coverage threatened to strangle it at birth.

At the end of the series, ITV researched the show and decided it was worth paying for surgery. So Granada commissioned "focus groups" - rounding up members of the public to quiz on every element over biscuits and coffee. Their responses dictated the evolution of the show into Love Me Do, Mcnaught says. The verdict? The chance to win an instant wedding was deemed tasteless. And viewers disliked anything that trivialised the perceived solemnity of the marriage ceremony. Richie, however, was well- liked - which was just as well as Granada had him on an expensive contract.

Audience research was critical in honing the show's re-positioning, says Mcnaught. Elements the focus groups disliked - such as the Elvis- lookalike choir - were ditched. "You want a format you know has at least a reasonable chance of success," she says, "because of the costs involved."

It was not always so. ITV has traditionally been driven by advertisers' demands for instant results. Its timidity was typified by the decision to discard the first series of Men Behaving Badly. The show was eagerly picked up and nurtured by BBC1 into a major ratings success.

The BBC has a better track record in honing shows before discarding them. One Foot in the Grave and Bread are just two series which performed poorly early on but which, after tweaks and schedule changes, became ratings stalwarts.

A problem all TV companies now face, however, is the decline of "safe" slots which once allowed them to nurture new programming, says Angela Harbutt, director of programme consultants Paradigm, which regularly conducts audience research for broadcasters.

"ITV used to have a relatively `safe' slot to launch drama on Monday nights - when BBC1 ran news followed by Panorama," she explains. Beneficiaries included Cracker and Soldier Soldier.

"But these are getting fewer. The BBC recently announced it was moving more popularist programming to 9.30pm - in order to close down the ITV drama test ground."

All broadcasters are now testing and tweaking far more shows, insiders claim. "Focus groups have become the norm. And many more one-offs and `specials' are being used to test viewer response before committing to a series," says one.

A fine line separates a critical patient from a lost cause. Deciding whether a programme is worth salvaging is where the commissioner's instincts come in, says Stuart Cosgrove, Channel 4's controller of arts and entertainment. Both The Girlie Show and Wanted were faulted in their first series, he admits, although claims each had enough that worked to deserve a second chance. Subsequent changes were directed by focus group research.

Cosgrove says Channel 4 is happy with the viewer response to the new versions. Whether Granada will find it has thrown the baby out with the bath water, however, will only become apparent in the coming weeksn

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Business Development Manager Content/Subscriptions

£50k + commission: Savvy Media Ltd: Great opportunity to work for a team that ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?