The One Show

Monday, August 28, 2006 by

Here we are again, inspecting the turf of post-teatime telly and kicking up the dust for traces of good play.

For a long time BBC1 has needed a programme like The One Show to anchor its sprawling, incoherent early evening schedules. But that’s precisely the problem. A programme like The One Show would be perfect. A programme that is The One Show, well, that’s another matter entirely.

Admittedly it would help if the series didn’t seek to define itself by way of a promise it then fails to deliver. At the top of tonight’s show co-host Nadia Sawalha assured us we were about to see “all sorts of stories about people like you”. In reality we got nothing of the sort, and instead sat through, in turn, footage of the elite helicopter lifeguard service at work off the south coast; former cricketer Phil Tufnell challenging us to guess his location and win a prize; BBC news presenter Bill Turnbull embarking on an experimental course of power sleeping; Kate Humble seeing if she had the guts to pick up a red-eyed devil crab; and a chat with Honor Blackman.

As fine as most of these features were – and make no mistake, Tufnell aside, they were all avowedly entertaining items – none of them could, by any stretch, said to be stories about “people like you”. Sure, it makes sense, especially treading on such hallowed ground as after-dinner doing-the-pots TV, to march forward behind a mission statement that sounds snappy and rolls off even the most unsubtle of tongues, but it doesn’t make sense to have that motto so disingenuous as to prove, on this occasion, to be totally false. It didn’t feel fraudulent so much as, well, a bit silly. And if there’s one thing that even the involvement of our fellow co-host Adrian Chiles can’t excuse, it’s silliness.

Other editions have witnessed ordinary folk telling ordinary tales, but never to the exclusion of a celebrity escapade or two, and always seemingly included in spite of rather than because of the point of the format. If this uneasy marriage of the everyday and the extraordinary were better resolved, you sense The One Show might be able to relax a bit more, kick off its shoes, let its guard down and – as is human nature for us all at the end of the working day – stop existing on other people’s terms.

And if it had a pair of hosts that were equally capable and convincing, that existence would become all the more affable and, it has to be said, a fair sight more dignified.

In tonight’s show Adrian’s louche turns of phrase and avuncular charm sat horribly alongside Nadia’s non-strategic giggles and a proclivity for ill-timed shouting. Poorly disguised moments of bristling and bridling surfaced all too often. After yet another loaded comment slipped effortlessly from Adrian’s mouth, you couldn’t help but start to wonder what kind of relationship the pair had off camera, if indeed they had any relationship at all.

Matters came to a head in a tart exchange over the business of introducing a challengingly-titled expert. “Nadia has been practicing his name all afternoon,” chided Adrian. “Don’t you just love him?” Nadia cackled through gritted teeth.

Casting against type or marrying diametrically opposing personalities behind a desk or on a couch might pay dividends purely as a novelty late night on a Friday on Channel 4, but only ever proffers embarrassment any other time of the day – and that’s embarrassment on everyone’s part, both the viewer and the performer. Does nobody remember the icy wastes that swirled around David Frost and Anna Ford on the TV-am sofa, or, more recently, the artless union of Terry Wogan and Gaby Roslin on five?

“As usual, we begin with an apology,” cracked Adrian after the programme’s devoutly and depressingly non-memorable title sequence (no theme tune, no graphics, no pictures of our hosts, nothing). 50% of The One Show is coated in self-deprecation; the other half, sadly, sports the garb of a party guest who never knows when to shut up. Adrian supplies the former, as is to be expected, and indeed to be welcomed. But because of the latter, his platitudes fall like bricks upon the wasteground of the studio floor, thudding despondently amidst the screeching of his co-host’s inappropriate retorts.

Geography is also a problem. At least Nationwide, whose name this programme never invokes, perhaps unwisely (it’s rather childish pretending such an illustrious forebear never existed), lived up to its name and covered stories from the four corners of the United Kingdom. Yet on each occasion this reviewer has seen The One Show, including tonight, the items have hailed exclusively from south of a line running between The Wash and The Severn.

Quite probably this isn’t always the case, but for such a pointedly out-and-about, “down your way”-esque proposition, to not even have one item from the north – the north of anywhere – in every edition seems utterly incongruous.

All of these problems could be fixed. All of the niggles and absurdities and wrinkles self-evident in The One Show could be removed, and you’d hope there would be people in the BBC who’d be inclined to do so. After all, the basic premise of the series is sound and one half of its presenting team is perfect.

Why, then, is it hard to fight the feeling that such action won’t come to pass and this four-week pilot will only presage more of the same when, and if, the series returns to our screens? For much the same reason, in truth, that the programme arrived on air in the state that it has, replete with inbuilt flaws, pre-packaged miscasting and a whole slew of mixed messages.

Half right isn’t all right and never should be. Yet you can’t help concluding the same logic that inspired the hiring of Nadia Sawalha in the first place is precisely the same logic that will dictate, come the moment the format is deemed worthy of a refresh before relaunch, it is her rather than Adrian Chiles who will be kept on.


Comments are closed.