C5: 6pm – 6am

5 News leads, as it had done earlier, with Mohammed Al-Fayed being ordered to pay the widow of Tiny Rowland reparations for the theft of a deposit box.

Andrea Catherwood represents the shape of news on C5: she cuts a dash in the Kirsty Young mould, but appears ultimately characterless and a little less than authoritative; references to “Tony” Rowland do little to improve her stature. Ever present is the 5 News music during the story rundowns, an insistent shuffle in the background (as it is throughout all of the bulletins today). Catherwood signs off at the first commercial break advising us they will return shortly with “your news on 5 News …” Although this is all a little too Newsbeat, one must commend them for trying to a target an audience that are normally resistant to this sort of programming. The much talked about abolition of the news desk is therefore quite important in signifying that5 News has a different take on current affairs. Ultimately that take is a rather inconsequential one, but it is different. This is probably the most credible “news alternative” you’ll find on the telly today.

After the break, with the main business of reporting out of the way, we’re rather into Nationwideterritory. Aside from a repeat of Peter York’s Pulling Power piece, we’re also presented with an addition to “our offbeat series in what makes eccentric Britain” – Murphy and Buster, two dogs that “play” pool. Or “pool playing pooches” as 5 News puts it (alliteration taking the place of wit). At least C5 is unashamed in its populist approach. Finally the day is summarised by Catherwood in terms of “good” and “bad” so for example deemed “good” is a pig called Pru who pulled its owner Dee Jones out of a bog, whilst deemed bad is a naked man who delayed traffic in Texas.

At 6.30pm it’s today’s new episode of Family Affairs. Our second exposure adds little to the first, beyond some coy fun with a character’s hidden homosexual past – “Adam’s not bent [as in crooked] is he?” asks Adam’s prospective mother-in-law.

Another news bulletin (still Andrea Catherwood) precedes The Pepsi Chart. This is the first programme today that isn’t shown daily, perhaps marking the transition into primetime. This is an undistinguished chart rundown presided over by Neil “Doctor” Fox who is more than a little embarrassing, like someone’s dad trying to be down with the kids. He delivers his linking material in a searing tone that attempts to evoke the impression that The Pepsi Chart is crucial stuff. It’s not. During the break and at the end credits we are cajoled to check out their website, but despite this immediacy The Pepsi Chart never feels like a happening in the way that Top of the Pops still (occasionally) does.

World of Wildlife is narrated by the evergreen Janet Ellis and Michael McClain. This is a half hour documentary, apparently utilising footage originated out with the channel itself. Certainly each individual segment has disparate styles and approaches. C5 have repackaged the whole lot and added voice-overs, occasional graphics and Did You Know’s separating the different films. Today’s edition features a “sexy” topic: “our theme this week is poison” and we are treated to footage of a black widow versus a black scorpion, and a spitting cobra. All in all it is a tidy product, diverting and informative if not overtly academic.

Back to the newsroom again (still Andrea Catherwood) and then The Big Stage. Hosted by Bradley Walsh this LWT production feels like something from the 1980s. Basically this is an old-style variety show (“ladies and gentlemen, mums and dads, boys and girls”) featuring some old-style material. Ventriloquist Paul Zeroin makes a playing with dolls equals being a “fairy” gag. One wonders how C5 reconciles this with their “modern and mainstream” ethos? Well, mainstream perhaps. Mostafa the Wazyr is an old-style incomprehensible “foreigner” who could be found propping up The Paul Daniels Magic Show 15 or so years ago with his bizarre balancing act. Walsh presents us with “Brad’s Break” (cue the sound FX “SMASH!”) where he gives TV exposure to a new act: tonight, Indian comedian Jeff Merzer who hits his mark with material such as “these lights are scaring me, it’s like immigration.” But the star attraction is none other than the loathsome Paul Daniels himself, whose misogynistic patter (after getting two female volunteers from the audience he henceforth refers to them as “love” and makes “get them out” cracks) and boring old-style magic riffs feel happily alien and inappropriate to today’s TV. But that sort of sums up The Big Stage: end of the pier variety at its least appealing.

After another news update, it’s the movie on C5; and although a very different slot from the afternoon matinee, tonight’s film Danger Island is equally cheesy. Here’s another “made for TV” effort, imported from NBC in the US. Starring Richard Baymer and June Lockhart it features bikinied models, plane crashes and a ’70s disaster film ethic. When Channel 5 launched with the promise of a movie every night at 9pm, speculation was that they would quickly exhaust the gems and slump into “made for TV” ignominy. And that’s exactly how it is. Unfortunately for C5, the excising of News at Ten on ITV has diminished their movie slot greatly. Rubbish likeDanger Island (even the title’s rotten) doesn’t help, and by now the viewer is highly selective, knowing only to look in on the 9pm slot if it’s a film they’ve heard of.

For the last time today, we check back in with the C5 newsroom (Rachel Harris does the honours) and then we’re into an hour of soft pornography. Continuity announcer Tim Vine is going to have some fun here but at 10.40pm settles just for warning us “this programme contains nudity and sexual activity as well as strong language.” Sex and Shopping starts with full screen captions flashing up to a rumble of thunder: “THIS IS THE MOST EXPLICIT SERIES ON TV. TURN OFF, OR TURN ON TO …” and then filling the screen, “SEX”. This caption remains, mixed in with a montage of writhing females, bare breasts and the merest snatch of some swimming-trunked men. Sex and Shopping is a documentary series that investigates the world of the adult entertainment industry. Narrator Katrina Buchanan sets the scene. “Tonight Silvi and Alexa will be having sex with over 100 men …” It’s quickly revealed that Silvi and Alexa work for Global Communications, and the sex they will be performing is of the most virtual kind, over the internet, via web-cams.

What follows would actually be something of a disappointment to those male viewers expecting some libidinous stimulation, as Sex and Shopping launches into quite an in-depth discussion of the legalities of premium-rate sex lines and the 1959 Obscene Publications act. One would assume that most men are quickly put off some one-fisted fun by the continual appearance of the corpulent, pony-tailed head of Global Communications Kevin Swayne, and MP Nick Palmer, who between them provide quite an overview of the issues under discussion. The programme however, does try and reaffirm it’s sexy credentials, sometimes quite humorously as it introduces us to the founder of another online sex-service provider: “pussy galore is provided by Falussy Gabor.” Silvi and Alexa are given the last word: both are enthusiastic about their profession, stating definitively that they do not feel exploited, and that their job is far better than working for a burger restaurant. Over the end credits, Tim Vine: “Yes, why make burgers when you can market your buns?”

European Blue Review is ushered in with a C5 station ident featuring “Doctor” Fox pressing a stethoscope against a young lady’s chest. As she backs away uncertainly he grins to camera and produces the caption “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”. Hosted by ex-Network 7 presenter Trevor Ward, this is merely another programme built up around imported footage with a C5 frontispiece. Ward tries to keep it light and Eurotrashy: “Italian is on the menu, but we’re balancing it with a load of sauce.” There is a feature on porn director Max Bellocchio and a report on nude hairdressers (“Blue Rinse”). As we go into the commercials Ward keeps it ironic – “don’t go changing!” The second half features lap dancing and a profile of Rocco Siffredi, “born for porn”. But it’s all rather boring, ultimately and not even sufficient if you want a cheap laugh.

After a repeat of Queen Jukebox we’re into the wastelands of night-time telly. “Okay boys, stop fiddling with your toys,” says Vine still poking fun at the pornography, “and give full attention to our night of sport.”

Live and Dangerous is the overriding banner which will take us through until 6am. The title sequence features computerised piranhas and dirty electric guitar accompaniment, presumably personifying the “dangerous” aspect of the show. We kick-off with their live sports magazine programme hosted by Gail McKenna and Kevin Day. As expected the emphasis is firmly on the football although there is some reference to motor sports and boxing in their news coverage. It’s all actually quite credible, with the presenters obviously well-versed in their subject albeit a little too keen to practise the accepted vernacular (a story about Stuart Pearce is titled “The End for Psycho” and there is constant reference to “the footie”). Kevin Ratcliffe, manager of Shrewsbury Town, is the studio guest and McKenna and Day get value for money out of him, asking the sort of questions one would imagine the fans would like to hear put, particularly as they press him on the culture-shock of going from playing for the top teams to managing a small club.

Day is joined in the studio by a bookie, advising him on the odds for various sporting fixtures and bantering about the possible outcome of a fist-fight between Robbie Williams and Liam Gallagher. Julie Panker cuts in with ice hockey highlights, carefully couching her commentary to insure it remains accessible to newcomers to the sport. Although not must-see television, C5 serves its sports fans well here, with a thoughtfully compiled magazine programme pitched at pretty much the right level. “Good night from us, but the night is still young …”

Now we’re into the darkest depths of night-time with Dutch Football and Argentian Footballfollowing on. Both are imports, which, this time, C5 have not attempted to repackage. Their onscreen titles are actually, respectively, Gol – ESPN Dutch First Division and Gol – ESPN Torneos De Verano. Despite this the ad-breaks still feature the Live and Dangerous branding. The commentary here is in an unusual mid-American/sub-European accent and is initially unfathomable until one adjusts to it. The ESPN DOG is superimposed awkwardly over C5′s giving this whole venture a sloppy, ill-considered feel. That it isn’t live, detracts even further as breaks occur in the middle of the action, whilst half-time is crudely edited out.

Footy Shorts is C5′s irreverent look at soccer, yet one wonders who exactly is supposed to be watching at 3.50am, a long way adrift from chucking-out time. This episode happens to be the final one of the series and for a reason never fully obvious comes from Los Angeles. Host Sophie Blake interviews Jurgen Klinsman (wittily introduced via a close-up of a “No Diving” warning placard affixed to the adjacent swimming-pool) in splutters of two minutes or so as the programme continually breaks off to give us a rush of other items. Footy Shorts is obviously going for the matey credentials of Fantasy Football League with it’s “Harry Palmer Sings …” slot and its patently crap impersonations in “Fat Fred Does …” It’s during the latter we see Fred blacked-up pretending (craply) to be John Barnes. This is more of a run-around than a kick-about.

We’re back to bought-in territory with Triathlon World Cup. “Run, Bike, Swim” goes the caption urgently, only to be swiftly undermined when we discover that tonight’s footage hails from 1999. There’s nothing urgent about last year’s sport. Similarly the commentary has that patent slickness that betrays it as a post-production job. Thus the – perhaps sterling – work of commentators Nick Fellows and Steve Troon is undone.

Live and Dangerous rounds off with Through the Gears and Motorsport Mundial. Both programmes are motor racing magazine shows, both from abroad. Mundial in particular is instantly forgettable, with nauseous American voice-overs provided by Richard Nichols and Mike Reynolds and dull checklists of rally drivers, whereas Gears is rather more successful. This Australian programme is narrated by the nasal Merrick Beesley and after nigh on five hours of disembodied commentary it is something of a welcome contrast to actually see co-presenter Mark Littlejohn in the flesh as he test drives an Octavia 1.8 SLX: Turbo (“Skoda” to you and me). Gears is a little more creative in its choice of subject matter, too, with a feature on an art exhibition entitled “On the Road – The Car in Art”. Hardly worth setting the video-timer for, however, as with all of the Live and Dangerous output (bar the opening McKenna/Day programme) none of this feels like crucial-viewing. Perhaps it’s simply because these programmes span the night, but they somehow seem distant and of little relevance beyond their own confines.

As we await daybreak, C5 sneaks in a little surprise to the schedule. Frances the Firefly is a five minute animated public information film narrated by Richard Briers. One would guess it originates from the 1980s; it’s solid enough entertainment if a little incongruous betwixt the sport and the impending news. Telling the tale of a firefly lured into playing with matches, and thereby accidentally burning down her home, the message is obvious: “I hope now you realise how dangerous fire can be!” says Briars, and then the caption “REMEMBER NEVER PLAY WITH MATCHES!” It’s effective enough.


5, 4, 3, 2, Numb

“A high-five from 5, this morning! Good morning. In an hour - Wideworld. But first, 5 News At Breakfast.” The television day starts anew. Channel 5 continues onwards, perpetually churning out and buying in the programmes. Scanning those preceding 24 hours from a higher altitude one is a little lost in trying to pick out palpable peaks from the troughs. We can perhaps alight on the agreeable Beachcomber Bay which seemed to embrace the mandate to entertain and inform with real inventiveness. And later, 5 News at 6pm unashamedly marketed the news to ensnare a previously ignored subsection of viewers. Finally, we could rest on the opening section of Live and Dangerous - a lively and credible show which cast a long shadow over the dull and muggy five and a half hours that followed it.

Unfortunately, it is far easier to identify the troughs of the day. The largest, miasmic crater is undoubtedly The Roseanne Show. This loathsome piece is a vast gully of narcissism and nastiness. It is a black-hole and utterly worthless. Leeza and the afternoon matinee pall in awfulness by comparison, but then so would anything. Perhaps it is only segments of The Big Stage that sink anywhere near the subterranean level of Roseanne with its offensively outdated gags and limited horizons. But in general almost everything on Channel 5 falls someway below par.

Embarking on a full day of C5 I suppose I expected that I might develop an interest for some of the channel’s output that would stretch beyond the boundaries of TV24. This has absolutely not happened. C5 is unerringly mediocre and unremarkable and I have at no point felt compelled to return to any of its output. There doesn’t seem to be any particular sense of cohesion in the scheduling (beyond the tight repetition and trailing of its programmes) and no obvious effort towards building viewer loyalty. I came away from 24 hours in the company of Britain’s youngest terrestrial television channel feeling no more enriched than when I began. I actually felt a little bereft, glaringly aware of what a worthless viewing experience I had undergone. I was left with a sense of a channel that is patently failing to address, let alone open a dialogue with, its viewers. A channel that cuts corners and operates blatantly on the cheap.

My final conclusion was this: C5 does not exist for our sakes. It exists for the sake of it.

  <12noon – 6pm