TV Go Home

Tuesday, December 4, 2001 by

Until recently, the boast “from the cult website …” would surely have been considered the least promising, driest possible build up to a new comedy show. However throughout Tuesday night as E4 trailed the upcoming TV Go Home this was the phrase apparently designated most effective in rallying up viewers.

As the notion of “multi-platform media” begins to become more than just a phrase buzzing around London pubs at lunchtime E4 has self-consciously led the push to blur the edges between TV and the internet. Its on-demand coverage of Big Brother and play-along-at-home comedy quiz Banzai are both important steps in shaping the future of interactive TV. Now taking it a step further they’re plundering from the source and championing what was formerly an unambitious comedy website as a TV show in its own right. As a portent of a possible future, it’s not very promising.

Part of E4‘s remit has to be to innovate. Not only must it draw material from new and unusual sources, it must be seen to be doing so. To stay afloat and to continue to serve a notional audience of media-savvy yet counter-cultural twentysomethings E4 has to exhibit some of those facets itself. The internet is the new fanzine-culture, certainly, but more important than that, it’s easy to access. Whereas 10 years ago a TV channel intent on drawing upon grassroots talent would have to make some effort to locate that subculture (and that would mean distasteful things like reading fanzines and maybe – just maybe – writing letters to people) nowadays they’ll get it all in an email entitled “Have a look at this site” sent from a mate who in turn had it sent to him. Yes, there’s still a word-of-mouth element at work here, but all in all the grassroots is suddenly in your face and all too easy to exploit.

Thus, although E4 are bandying about “from the cult website …”, in reality it’s debatable that they’re getting much in the way of kudos at all by exploiting a commodity that’s well-circulated already. Even subs on The Observer are sufficiently au fait with to insert a mention of it into an article about TV-related websites. Of course, none of that’s a criticism of the site itself, but rather a swipe at E4 and a misplaced notion of pushing the envelope.

That rather sour analysis aside, what of the show itself? Unfortunately it’s not up to much. If we’d played along with the notion that the existence of a TV Go Home programme was innovative in itself, this realisation would have been doubly disappointing. Utilising a format that looked tired when Peter Richardson pressed it into service 10 years ago for The Glam Metal Detectives, TV Go Home attempts to parody modern television culture. Unfortunately the targets it hits are all too obvious (reality TV/hyperbolic kid’s programmes/pretentious discussion programmes/empty-headed celeb-centric shows etc). These are genres that have already been widely ridiculed and which themselves are now common currency exchanged in every derogatory discussion about the quality of TV today. Alongside this TV Go Home takes sideswipes at other barn doors. The “Daily Mail Island” sketch is a case in point. Here TV Go Home ridicules the newspaper’s unseemly right-wing axis. An unsubtle punchline involving gay bashing would surely have told E4′s audience nothing new: The Daily Mail is homophobic and silly. We all knew that. To take a pop at it is far too easy.

If the writing lacks imagination, the playing is worse. None of the performers strike the right note. Parody is a subtle business, and yet here we have a troupe rolling their eyes and baying at the camera. A spoof news report fails to make much of an impact other than to prompt the viewer to wonder just what we’re supposed to make of the hopelessly mannered reporter. Is he supposed to be a parody of something? If so, what? Worst of all has to be Colin Bennett who one has to hope was pressed into service for reasons other than some vague kitsch value he might carry. The nadir is his representation of a game show host which is simply another outing for You Should Be So Lucky‘s Vince Purity. It’s terrible, ham-fisted stuff.

With TV Go Home, E4 are leading the pack and establishing new trends again. Just as it’s become a cliché to say that a television adaptation rarely transcends the source text, E4 are establishing a whole new standard – “It’s not as good as the website”.


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