The television chat show is re-invented - warts and all

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The latest incarnation of the chat-show format was announced by Channel 4 yesterday. The new programme will combine the traditional ingredients of a celebrity presenter and star guests, with fly-on-the-wall footage of the backstage production team.

The new show comes as a replacement for the axed Gaby Roslin talk show, which got into difficulties after its presenter refused to plug the films and books of celebrities.

And The Show, hosted by the bear-like stand-up comedian Bob Mills, will also take Gaby Roslin's old prime-time slot - 10.30 on Saturday nights.

Devised by executive producer Jeff Pope, who sold the idea to Channel 4 after gatecrashing a lunch with one of its commissioning editors, the programme shows the staff trying to put the show together as well as the broadcast interviews.

Pope came up with the idea after working on Richard Littlejohn Live and Uncut and The Late Jonathan Ross.

"It was while doing it that I realised that a talk-show office is one of the greatest soap operas there is," he said.

"The traditional chat show is pretty much dead in the water. People have got more sophisticated and this show offers something different."

The show's presenter agreed. "I think the traditional chat show lost its way in that people have moved on from the Michael Parkinson style of show in which famous people just come on and chat for a certain length of time," he said.

The idea is that The Show's team will provide the entertainment just as much as the star guests. The pilot shows Pope tearing his hair out as the programme overruns, Mills plotting behind his back about what to wear and one guest, a teacher who sang a song, asking that any record companies which ring up as a result be given her home number.

Nothing will be sacrosanct judging by the pilot, which did Pope and Mills no favours. The host was filmed picking his nose and scratching his armpits, and Pope was shown cursing furiously as he raced to reception because no one had bothered to meet a star guest.

At one point he told the cameraman to stop filming but he refused.

Channel 4 are adamant the show will pull no punches; all the staff took the job in the knowledge that no prisoners would be taken.

Expect to see a lot of 25-year-old researcher, Rosie Lachetti. "She's very young and very free and very single," Pope explained. "We were waiting on an answer for our request to interview Terry Venables and her phone rang and she sounded really pleased. So the cameras zoomed in and she wrote on a post-it note: 'Go away. This is the bloke I picked up last night'."

The hour-long programme, starting on 1 February, will alternate between studio interviews and backstage footage - a formula that could repeat the success of other warts-and-all documentaries such as The House, a recent series about the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London.

Both Pope and Mills, who resemble a Laurel and Hardy double-act because of their respective weights, acknowledge they may not be flattering themselves.

"I look terrible backstage," said Mills.

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