OTT returns…

Thursday, May 26, 2011 by · Comments Off 

OTT: The book

OTT: The book

…in book form.

Yep, after all-but pledging over a year ago in our comments section that he would produce a paper compendium of the best of the website, Mark Jones from Broken TV has now done precisely that.

Priced £16.99, Off The Telly: The Best Bits of the British TV Website, 1999-2009 is available here.

It weighs in at over 300,000 words and 678 pages. Any profits from this endeavour will go to British Alzheimer’s charities.

In the meantime, website TV Cream is running a competition until June 3, 2011, where you can win a special version of the book. See here for more details.


Thursday, January 14, 2010 by · 32 Comments 

The end

The end

With the recent technical difficulties and all (still not resolved at the time of writing, but our webhosts have now fallen silent, so who knows?) I’ve been prompted to make a decision about this site’s future, or lack of.

As of today – and fast on the back of Ian’s excellent and final chart of the decade - there will be no more updates on However, it will remain online, as is, until its HTML rusts into pixel dust… or someone pulls the plug. I will, though, be switching off the comments in due course.

The thing is, the recent technical kerfuffle really brought it home to me that I no longer have the time or the appetite to keep this thing running. When it looked like it might be wiped off the web altogether I actually felt – well – a fair bit of relief.

In addition, I  also firmly believe OTT’s time has passed. We’ve done 10 years of this and it was lots of fun, right? Read more

’09 in (quite a few) lines

Saturday, January 2, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Si's matters

Si's matters

And here we are, at the end of the usual seasonal flurry of updates on OTT. As ever, we’re bowing out for now with our review of the last 12 months of television.

It was the year in which The X Factor notched up its best ever ratings, Torchwood turned into a critically acclaimed BBC1 ratings blockbuster, C4 struggled to produce any memorable comedy, Not Going Out and Primeval were both axed… and then recommissioned, Chris Tarrant yet again failed to nail it with a Millionaire successor, and Richard and Judy got off  the TV sofa, possibly for good.

So, 2009. Here’s how we saw it »

Christmas… logged!

Friday, January 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Was it "the best Christmas ever?"

Was it "the best Christmas ever?"

As ever, OTT has written-up this year’s Christmas telly, for our big and bulky Festive Television section.

Obviously, with nine out of the 10 most watched Yuletide shows, BBC1 was yet again the ratings victor with strong showings in particular for EastEnders, The Royle Family and Doctor Who.

But how did the big day play out across all the terrestrial channels?

Read the feature »

[Oh, and OTT's review of the year follows shortly...]

That was the decade we watched

Thursday, December 31, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Scenes from a decade

OTT doesn’t have much truck with the idea of a “golden age of television”. Every era has programmes that are exceptionally good and desperately poor. If there has to be a “golden age”, then it began when TV was invented. It hasn’t stopped. Not even in the face of some of the telly from the last decade.

The ratio of small screen triumphs to travesties is the same as it ever was; there are just more of them. The past 10 years weren’t characterised by new lows or highs; just different ones. What we watched didn’t really change; how and when we watched did.

Here’s a commemoration of sorts in the shape of an A-Z of the decade’s television»

2010 visionaries

Monday, December 7, 2009 by · Comments Off 

The decade of Big Brother

The decade of Big Brother

As 2009 winds down, like everyone else, OTT is indulging in a spot of house-keeping and tidying up the last decade of television.

So, we’ve assembled our list of the shows we feel have been the most influential in shaping the last 10 years of telly. They’re not necessarily the very best the noughties have had to offer, or the most popular. But, as we hopefully justify, all have left a mark on the TV landscape.

Which, from our selection was “a messy flop, but of a kind with which the BBC flirted shamelessly for the rest of the decade”?

What series ushered in a suite of similarly themed programmes, pretty much most of which ended up being cancelled by C4 as it sought to reinforce its public service remit at the decade’s end?

And can you name the pivotal reality show which featured a crunch sequence from a Travelodge Hotel conference room?

For those answers, Read the feature »

2009 – How was it for you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

Your starter for 2010...

Your starter for 2010...

Alongside planned end-of-the-decade business, OTT is hunkering down once again to prepare its review of the year’s television.

And, as always, we’d really like your contribution. Jack Kibble-White will be putting together the finished piece (and to see previous years, click here) so please email him your comments, essays, paeans and poison pen letters to him by Tuesday December 15 (erm, 2009).

Jack’s address is

Be screening you

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel

Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel

ITV1 launched its remake of The Prisoner to British press last night at the Odeon West End in London’s Leicester Square, screening the first two episodes to journalists.

Written by Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise to Candleford, Out of the Blue) and co-produced with America’s AMC, it’s a worthwhile undertaking indeed, despite the huge expectation the project provokes. In an era when US TV is big on puzzles and ellipitical plotting, The Prisoner fits in very well indeed. And what it really has in its favour is this version is a series, with a finite run (six episodes) and a definite end. So there’s no fear of a plot in flux, as showrunners consider the possibility of further seasons. We will get answers. Read more

Now Three is Five

Sunday, November 1, 2009 by · Comments Off 

ITV's digital portfolio

ITV's digital portfolio

So it’s happy fifth birthday, today, to ITV3. And a tip of the hat to ITV4 which is also celebrating – four years of service.

By way of a tribute, one-man OTT-updating machine Dominic Small returns with a history of ITV’s digital strategy. From ONDigital, to ITV2, there have certainly been ups and downs. As Dominic reminds us, the network’s nascent dabbles in the digital market weren’t very successful…

“ITV regional operators did dip their toes into the satellite pool quite early on, with mixed results. Many of the ITV franchisees of the time worked together to launch a new UK-based satellite channel with Europe-wide broadcast, though this pioneering venture – Superchannel – was not as successful as had been hoped and later ended up in the hands of an Italian firm, and subsequently the American broadcaster NBC, who dumped much of the UK content for US-produced output.”

For more, Read the feature »

A surfeit of H20

Friday, October 30, 2009 by · 7 Comments 

River carnage forever!

River carnage forever!

Something new. That’s what you can expect from ‘The Waters of Mars’, which was screened to journalists this morning at London’s Soho Hotel.

To describe it as “dark” isn’t terribly helpful, but this is probably as hopeless (in the sense of lack of optimism) Doctor Who has ever been. Screening over, and in the Q&A with Russell T Davies and David Tennant, one person was moved to ask if they still considered the show suitable for children.

Read more

Barry Letts, 1925-2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

Barry Letts (right) with Jon Pertwee and Dalek

Barry Letts (right) with Jon Pertwee and Dalek

Like all major figures involved with Doctor Who, producer Barry Letts seemed to have his own personal anecdote about working on the show, one which  got endlessly trotted out to the benign bemusement of fans.

In his case, it was a bizarre story about recieving a letter containing a poem advising him of the proper pronounciation of ‘chitinous’. Yet that, and several other similarly prominent anecdotes about eyepatches and ‘Katy’s fella’, belied the fact he also had a great many fascinating stories to tell about the years he spent working on a fascinating programme, many of them relating to a pivotal moment in television history.

Read more

Sladen with goodness

Saturday, September 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Sarah Jane and friends

Sarah Jane and friends

So what links The Sarah Jane Adventures to The One Show? Answer below.

As Dave Golder’s already reported on the SFX website, last night saw the press launch for series three of the excellent Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

The opener, ‘Prisoner of the Judoon’, is most notable for Elisabeth Sladen’s truly brilliant, and slightly bonkers, performance as an evil Sarah Jane. It’s a two-parter packed with thrills and gags, although, as Dave points out in his piece, the Chandra parents do come across as superfluous to the action… but they are nicely played. Read more


Saturday, August 29, 2009 by · 12 Comments 



It’s not a big thing. Not a big thing at all, but I’ve always been conscious that any ‘behind the scenes’ info regarding OTT is going to be, at best, of minimal interest to anyone.

But, today the site officially (I say officially, there’s been no Home Office ruling or anything) celebrates its 10th birthday. So, for my sake more than anyone else’s, today I write a little about what OTT is, and how it came to be.

Good luck to all who click the ‘Read the story’ link! Read more

Dead air

Friday, August 28, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Screen blight!

Screen blight!

Dominic Small is back on OTT with another researched-to-the-nth-degree feature, this time looking at how and why TV channels die.

“There was a time,” says Dominic, “in the pre-digital era that the launch of a channel was a big deal, attracting national attention and significant press coverage (Channel 4 in 1982, the Sky service on Astra in 1989, and the arrival of Channel 5 in 1997). However, the increased capacity offered on digital services has since meant that new channels have arrived on virtually a weekly basis. Not all of them, though, have stuck around…”

Read the feature »

…But is it art?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

Basil vs Dalek by DWM's Ben Willsher

Basil vs Dalek by DWM's Ben Willsher

So, in this month’s Doctor Who Magazine (out about now, so pester your newsagent), I have a 10-page feature wherein I try to discover if Doctor Who is actually good television.

Now, to be honest, this is more a conceit to talk to a range of TV experts who haven’t ever really gone on the record with their views about the series, so I hope there is some fresh opinion within.

When I submitted the piece, I also filed some additional box-out bits, but Editor Tom Spilsbury opted not to use them all.  So, with his permission, I’m slinging some of them here, on OTT. (I do also have graphs charting AIs, ratings and just general ‘success-ratings’  for Doctor Who – and elements therein – over the years, but some dull techie problems prevent me from getting them all online right now… maybe another time).

Thus, please do click-through; read these bits and – should you also buy DWM (and you should) – feel free to tell me what you thought of the piece. Here we go, then… Read the story »

Doctor Bow

Monday, July 20, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in costume

Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in costume

A new era of Doctor Who gets underway today as filming began on the show’s 2010 series. And to beat the spoilers, Matt Smith’s new, pleasingly boffinish costume was revealed on this morning’s edition of Breakfast at 8.55am.

More than that, the press release attached to this event is the first issued by Premier PR – who also work on Ashes to Ashes, Hustle and Spooks – since they won the contract from Doctor Who‘s long-standing publicists Taylor Herring earlier in the year (although Taylor Herring will still be dealing with all press for the remaining David Tennant episodes). And here’s what it says… Read more

Get Mad!

Monday, July 13, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Mad Men series two, is out on DVD and Blu-ray today, July 13, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Detailing the fear and loathing within a 1960s advertising agency on New York’s Madison Avenue, the US drama has aired in the UK on BBC4, to great critical acclaim.

A third season is scheduled to air in America from August, but – going by previous form – won’t make it over here until the start of 2010. To help bide the time until then, OTT has spoken to those nice people at Lionsgate, and bagged three copies of the season two DVD – “packed with featurettes and audio commentaries on key episodes, offering unmissable insights into the world of Mad Men” – to give away to three OTT readers. Read more

Strictly switch-around for BBC1 autumn

Thursday, July 9, 2009 by · 8 Comments 

Darcy Bussell and Alesha Dixon to 'refresh' Strictly

Darcy Bussell and Alesha Dixon to 'refresh' Strictly

Strictly ‘refreshed’, 16 celebs going around the world in 80 days, Take That headlining a Children in Need concert at The Albert Hall and Totally Saturday “not as good as it should be”: Today’s press launch for the autumn season on BBC1.

BBC1 Controller Jay Hunt was on confident, bullish form as she unveiled BBC1′s new season line-up (joshing the event was quite nerve-wracking for her “given what happened to my predecessor… I’ve looked at all the pictures you’re going to see today, and I didn’t see someone walking backwards when they should have been walking forwards… but I might have missed something”). Read more

They think it’s all over…

Sunday, June 28, 2009 by · 1 Comment is now! is now!

With the collapse of Setanta last week, Steve Williams has jumped up from the subs’ bench and written a new addendum to his much lauded history of football on TV, Goalmouths.

So, where did it all go wrong for the channel?

“For those looking for the date the tide turned for Setanta, you could cite December 2008…” says Williams. Why? Well…

Read the feature »

Patrick Dowling, 1919-2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009 by · Comments Off 

The Adventure Game

The Adventure Game

Patrick Dowling, co-creator of The Adventure Game and producer of Vision On and Take Hart, has died. He was 89.

Dowling was a pioneer. He conceived new ways of using television to delight and inspire generations of children, and had the imagination and tenacity to see his ideas come to full fruition.

In doing so he exploited the power of the small screen to both entrance and intrigue.

Dowling’s work was never didactic, in the way of so many of the BBC’s early children’s series. Instead he demonstrated how it was possible to make the educational seem entertaining, and vice versa.

Read more

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