Speaking of immensely popular television programmes which I’ve somehow managed to evade (which I think I was quite recently) I see that Big Brother is coming to an end. This will, apparently, leave a large space in Channel 4’s schedules and no doubt they will be on the lookout for something to plug the hole (or, I suppose, more accurately, breach the dam) in their revenue stream. An idea occurs to me.
Someone who made a very early pitch to a TV company for a reality-based format was John Betjeman.
Mary Adams, a producer at the BBC, had written to JB –
“I don’t know whether you have seen the televsion screen, or whether its problems interest you, but I should very much like you to come up to Alexandra Palace and discuss with us the possibilities of the new medium.”
JB replied (in July 1937) –
“I was interested by television. But I feel, as I expect everyone you see feels and tells you, that these initial stages are a little boring [and not just the initial stages either – ed.]. The value of television seems to me to be its possibility of outside work … when it can actually drive down the Great Worst Road [presumably the Great North Road – ed.] picking up the noises, and then catch the silence of a cathedral close, it will awaken people to the repulsiveness of their surroundings.”
Just running this up the flagpole to see who salutes, but I’m seeing, in each week’s episode, a half hour’s real time footage of an arterial road, followed by a half hour of a cathedral close. The winner to be decided by a phone-in vote. The competition will proceed on a knock-out basis, culminating in a Grand Final, between – say – the North Circular and Salisbury Cathedral Close. Imagine the tabloid hysteria this might generate!
To be branded – “Arterial Road v. Cathedral Close – you decide!”
I have Endemol on speed-dial, even as I type.