All that glitters…

Thursday, June 12, 2008 by

In the early days of satellite telly, when there was no way I could get my parents to agree to the expense and hassle of buying a dish, I used to longingly look at the UK Gold schedules in Radio Times, marvelling at the brilliantly obscure programmes that I longed to see.

From ’70s instalments of Blue Peter and Record Breakers in the mornings, to complete episodes of Match of the Day and Top of the Pops late at night, with the likes of The Innes Book of Records and Carrott’s Lib along the way. Indeed, so committed was this channel to classic TV that it raided the archives for Frankie Howerd’s previously unbroadcast Then Churchill Said To Me and was even, with a fair amount of context-setting, prepared to screen Love Thy Neighbour which gets a (tentative) thumbs up for at least crediting the audience with the intelligence to make their own mind up.

Alas, by the time I’d finally arrived in the world of multichannel television, UK Gold had, bar Saturday morning repeats of Doctor Who, completely given up on any genuinely interesting archive shows to become, basically, BBC1-and-a-Half, showing the likes of Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers on an endless loop, as well as stuff like My Hero which was only about six months old.

In recent months, though, things had brightened up a bit with Wogan: Now and Then and The Generation Game: Now and Then proving a tad more imaginative than stringing the same old repeats together. But news has now been released about a rebranding of the channel, which will now be known as simply Gold, and a change to the programming mix.

According to Media Guardian, “In its new guise, Gold’s programming mix will move away from retro towards comedy, focusing more tightly on shows such as Only Fools and HorsesFawlty Towers and Little Britain… the Gold channel has generally focused on classic British programming, [but] the rise of broadband video-on-demand services means Gold is no longer the only place viewers can watch such repeats.”

So, because there are too many places you can watch repeats, Gold is going to show even more repeats of Little Britain, because of course you can’t see that anywhere else! Eh? Who came up with that idea? If anyone can tell me where on “broadband video-on-demand services” I can watch more ’80s episodes of Top of the Pops than the two or three VHS copies currently up on YouTube, I would love to know.

It baffles me why, with all the hundreds of channels available, not one follows the same approach as the original UK Gold and concentrates on genuinely interesting programmes from the archive. The best bet might be Paramount 2 with the likes of George and Mildred and Spitting Image (although I wish, when a channel repeated that series, it didn’t always opt for the atrocious first series, which even the production team thought was awful, rather than some episodes from later in the run when it was actually good), and of course the occasional archive show on BBC4 and ITV4. But these are only very rare occurances and most of them show the same old stuff over and over again.

Clearly, though, it makes more sense to have another channel showing nothing but non-stop Little Britain. Well done everyone.


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