Celebs dry up as telly chat goes over the top

More channels mean more talk about less, writes Vanessa Thorpe

Five years ago the chat show was pronounced dead by the television critics. But someone clearly forgot to tell the commissioning editors. Not only are the schedules still stuffed with guest-based shows, but a whole new batch is on the way.

When Channel 5 goes live in three weeks' time, comedian Jack Docherty will host a special launch edition of its flagship talk show on opening night. The Jack Docherty Show is to be closely based on David Letterman's US prototype and will go out every weekday night at 11pm. "Let the Chat Wars commence," cries Mr Docherty. He pledges to destroy Carol Smillie's cosy BBC show.

His closest rival could turn out to be a satellite signing: Sky One's Selina Scott, who last week launched her own topical show in exactly the same late- night slot.

Back on earth, Channel 5's weekend host, Mariella Frostrup, will soon be trying to monopolise Sunday-morning ratings with an arts chat show called Brunch. At the BBC, during the seasonal absence of its current heavyweight, Clive Anderson, and in the wake of the comedian Frank Skinner's first stab at the format, Auntie is hitting back with a new series of Mrs Merton's Bafta-nominated show.

But where will all their guests come from? Even if the shows' "bookers", whose job it is to secure celebrity appearances, keep tabs on literary launches and film premieres, home-grown celebrity offers slim pickings. According to Alan Marke, the independent producer who brought Jonathan Ross and The Last Resort to the screens in 1987, the result will be the increasing Americanisation of our output.

"These new shows are going to have to take anyone and everyone," he said. "It is all about filling up airtime and there is going to be a lot of it for a long time to come because it's cheap. There will be such competition for guests that it will become more and more like American programming."

Mr Marke and his company, Channel X, have just put together an anniversary compilation of the best of The Last Resort and, while he admits that he and Ross stole their format wholesale from Letterman, he disdains shows which are doing the same thing 10 years on.

"Chris Evan's TFI Friday is completely lifted from Letterman. I know all TV is derivative, but it is a bit bad that they are doing it now, when the real Letterman is on Sky Two anyway."

Vincent Beasley, who will produce Channel 5's new show, counters by saying he is "quite unashamed" about the Letterman influence. "There is a resurgence of the chat format now. The trouble is that most of the shows are not paying enough to get exclusivity, so the power is shifting to the agents."

ITV, he notes, can still afford to blaze away with its two big guns, Des O'Connor and Clive James. The secret of O'Connor's success in repeatedly drawing the big names is a combination of docility, wealth and flexibility. The show will often record interviews for the same show on different days.

"Des O'Connor's show sets the top level for payment because they have a lot of cash to splash about. Clive James has clout too, but it is still difficult for him to book Hollywood stars unless they appear on a satellite link," says Mr Beasley. Gimmicks seem to be the only inexpensive way of freshening up the format. The Saturday night gap on Channel 4, once occupied by Gaby Roslin, is now filled by stand-up comic Bob Mills with a show which exposes the behind-the-scenes battle for guests.

"We have had to revise the rules on our A,B and C guest lists now," admits Mills. "In the days of Parky and Russell Harty it was a buyers' market. It is now very much the sellers', or guests', market."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas