C5: 6am – 12 noon

By Graham Kibble-White

First published April 2000

The live 5 News and Weather, although billed no differently from the other interminable C5 news bulletins, is where we find the anodyne Katie Ledger and Mark Geoffreys. The news bulletin is delivered with alacrity and dispensed with with all the enthusiasm of a commitment fulfilled, before our presenters kickback and present us with that “coming up” menu that defines a magazine show. Our first story: “Pulling Power – the secret to meeting Miss Right”.

This might be billed as news, but it’s actually chat. Programmes of this type orbit stars, stars in the celebrity sense and this morning we have Emmerdale‘s Steve McGann who is promoting a charity hike in Peru. This prompts a particularly forced link from Geoffreys into the next item “I suspect it will be very hot in Peru – but what about here?” and we’re into the weather forecast. It seems to be a given, for some reason, that morning programmes must feature regular news and weather bulletins; whilst one can accept that the longer breakfast TV shows will have a transient mobile, renewing bank of viewers, one wonders whether this is really the case for a one hour show that goes out before the general working populace are on the move. Similarly 5 News‘ look at the papers turns up twice in the programme. Here we see the most perfunctory review of the press, and tellingly the papers featured are The Sun and The Mail. The paper manifestations of 5 News?

Aside from following the news agenda (or at least the light and fluffy end of it) the editorial rationale also seems to be to promote forthcoming C5 programmes. Hence a five minute slot on pop music, introduced with “tonight is Pepsi Chart night on Channel 5 …” and towards 7am we are introduced to The Tranny of the Year Show (“this star-studded glitzy event can be seen on Channel 5 tomorrow night”).

But these plugs are sold with some charm by Geoffreys; notably a stalwart of home shopping channels. Although Ledger is the anchor, Geoffreys is the character. It’s an unchallenging, unambitious hour that, unlike – say - Breakfast News, makes no pretence that it is has any influence on the news agenda, or its viewers. It remains an inconsequential mild wake-up call – but notable in that it is one of the few programmes on C5 which actually seems aware of its audience and addresses them directly. The programme ends with an appeal for contributions from the audience via phone, fax or e-mail, a plea which will be repeated throughout the day at the end of all the main bulletins.

Wideworld hardly consolidates on the groundwork laid down by 5 News and one would assume that any audience it might have inherited would switch over to The Big Breakfast after a couple of minutes. This programme is extraordinarily low-key, today featuring an uninvolving film following a group of children and their move from primary to secondary school. Paul Coia interviews the co-chairman of the National Taskforce for Standards in Schools Professor Tim Brighouse as a bookend to the piece and fails to bring anything memorable to the 30 minutes. This (surely) ironically monikered programme is one of the least expansive pieces on today’s schedule and attempts to address … no one really.

Milkshake has already conceded 30 minutes to BBC2 who kicked off their children’s programming at 7am, thus highlighting the scheduling oddity that is Wideworld. So, we have here something of a throwback as C5 reinvents the Broom Cupboard format first seen on the Beeb – what? – 15 years ago and long since dispensed with by the Corporation. But it is a good format, allowing for a real intimacy and live exchange between the programme and its audience. There is nothing new here: trails, birthday cards, inane but agreeable banter. The only non-traditional note struck is the omnipresent e-mail address DOG’d on the screen.

So if the format is a bit of a throwback, then our first offering follows suit: Muppet Babies, today’s first imported programme – a former BBC1 perennial some years back, this Marvel/Henson co-production was in many ways a precursor to the now ubiquitous Rugrats. Again we’re in a nursery, and again there is an adult subtext to the programme although its movie pastiches and allusions are a little incongruous in the wide-eyed Milkshake line-up. ‘Babies remains diverting but not quite as clever as it thinks it is. In fact, it’s a little irritating.

Back within the overarching Milkshake programme, C5 continues its dialogue with the audience as birthdays are announced abetted by homemade cards sent in by mums and dads made visible for our scrutiny. Here we also encounter the first of the day’s many C5 news updates, linked to within the Milkshake programme, with Mark Geoffreys still at the desk (“… thanks Lucy.”)

Then it’s C5′s very own Beachcomber Bay. The C5 children’s department have obviously identified that puppets are very popular as all of their programmes feature anthropomorphic artificial animals. Beachcomber Bay is set around the activities of Salty (a dog) and his fellow nautically themed companions. The token human is Jenny (played with wide-eyed gusto by Casey Lee Jollies) who fulfils the role of responsible older sibling. It’s a fun programme which bursts into song approximately every two minutes. About half way through an educational film on fishing pops up and then we’re onto a memory game. All of the above would, I can only imagine, successfully engage the pre-schoolite’s attention, push their imagination and broaden their horizons (a little). If the amount of Beachcomber Bay-based homemade cards in theMilkshake strand are anything to go by, this is C5′s most successful programme of the day. For half an hour C5 doesn’t feel slipshod and irrelevant. It’s still cheap TV, but cheap and cheerful.

Milkshake delivers us into Dappledown Farm where we meet more puppets. This time they’re based on farmyard animals and our grown-up sibling character is Brian Cant – a veteran of children’s telly, but here appearing a little at sea. Perhaps the format isn’t as strong and there is rather a less sureness of touch about the affair. When Cant says “while I’m waiting let’s sing a song shall we?” it feels a little forced, and said song, which features no accompaniment whatsoever, becomes a bit embarrassing. Never before have you wished so hard for Brian Cant to just grow-up But the songs just keep on coming, thankfully never quite as bizarre as this effort and lashed to educational subtexts (the “Count ‘Em” rap familiarising the viewers with numbers, while we’re also taught how to identify different water fowl). Dappledown Farm is certainly not a failure, although it does feel a little too avuncular and staid. It is basically a sturdy programme although one wonders how successfully it holds its audience against Jim Henson’s Animal Show or even The Big Breakfast.

Milkshake returns a shade before 9am to sign-off children’s programming for the day, and any evidence of credible public service broadcasting (admittedly not the channel’s raison d’être) on C5 for the next 10 and a half hours.

On a channel that, within these 24 hours, will feature 60 minutes of repackaged European pornography, and a man who will black-up in search of cheap laughs, The Roseanne Show is the nadir. Here’s US import number two for the day.

This morning Roseanne enters accompanied by the expected whooping from the studio audience. She lurches into an off the cuff story about a car accident (an appropriate analogy for the programme) that elicits an awkward smattering of applause. She then reads out some viewers’ correspondence and again this seems genuinely unrehearsed as she stumbles over words, seemingly unaware of content or where it’s going. In addition to this there is a Tom Arnoldesque baseball-capped cheerleader called Daily Pike whose function is presumably to provide a foil to Roseanne. Today Pike underscores the host’s comments with “Alright!” and “Get over it!”

Stooge number two is “Cyber Sidekick” Zach Hope. Hope is described as a geek; he apparently monitors the goings-on in an online chat room affiliated with the programme. However he contributes nothing to speak of, beyond the delusion on behalf of the programme’s production team that the spurious inclusion of the internet means they’re pushing the TV envelope here.

Pike trails the upcoming guests and upon mention of “Motivational Guru” Tony Robbins Roseanne repeatedly bawls “I had sex with Tony Robbins!” Here is the benchmark of wit onThe Roseanne Show. Shortly afterwards rap artist Mos Def’s performance is met with “You are great! I’ve never even heard of you!” by the host. Def submits to an interview with Roseanne and appears somewhat bemused at the surfeit of “How cool is that?!” “Love, love, love that!” and “Totally!” Groping for an appropriate response his plainly all-at-sea predicament provokes a self-congratulatory stream of hype from Roseanne, reaffirming that she inhabits the cutting-edge of TV.

Tony Robbins finally makes his appearance and is met with hyperbolic, half-nonsensical gushing. “I had the germ-thing where I couldn’t shake hands – he cured me!” Roseanne tells us repeatedly. The interview runs to a slaphappy form, with question after question bearing no relation to each other or the answers given. After restating that she had sex with Robbins, Roseanne blurts out that she hasn’t been sleeping with her husband lately: “I’m afraid of sex because of the germ-thing.” This sort of cod-revelation is in poor taste, reeking of a greedy self-obsessed individual gagging for more of the limelight. Robbins gently sidesteps the comment.

The guests are chopped off with a sloppy piece of editing and we go to the phones to receive an apparently unplanned call from Cheryl Chase, voice of Angelica in the cartoon-series Rugrats. This is the most turgid encounter today, with mutual backslapping giving way to awkward pauses as Roseanne patently tries to think of a question to ask. And when she manages that, she then talks over Chase’s response. This little segment is presented in an awkward manner, with Roseanne persistently looking off-camera, her attention on neither us nor the studio audience. Finally it’s all over, the programme wrapped up with alacrity, the image of Roseanne ensconced on her throne (it is literally a throne) – loud, overbearing and ultimately dull – one has to ask oneself “is this so cutting-edge that I failed to appreciate it?” Throughout her career Roseanne has always been quick to define her work as challenging and innovative. Whilst there was arguably some truth in this regarding her sitcom work (bringing the working-class agenda to the US TV network) here the programme she promotes is an empty vessel, buoyed up by bluster. As the end credits roll, there it is at the end of the blur of names: “Executive Producer – Roseanne”.

“Taylor tells Thorne that she saw Ridge in bed with Brooke.” So says the Radio Times’ synopsis for today’s episode of daytime US soap The Bold and the Beautiful. And that pretty much covers it. Silly names and farcical situations, this represents a resolutely brain-dead 25 minutes. Probably aimed at some unimaginative template of the “housewife” this is beautiful (in the most banal way) people with the stiffest of hair. Enough said.

Beauty and the Beast follows, a modern fairy tale if you will. American TV (yes, this is another import) has an incomparable capacity for sombre pretension, and Beauty and the Beast is a notably humourless exponent. This episode is grandly entitled “Terrible Saviour” featuring overblown dialogue of the “he’s dead Catherine, and a terrible shadow has lifted from your heart” ilk. Linda Hamilton’s Catherine rarely smiles and looks forlornly into a softly focussed camera throughout. One again imagines C5 schedulers targeting that housewife with the hope that the perpetually doomed romance between Catherine and Vincent (the beauty and the beast respectively) will tug at the heartstrings. But this is po-faced nonsense, with little to be said for it.

The US talk show is now perceived to be the province of Channel 5. Leeza is hosted by the ex Mrs Christopher Quentin, Leeza Gibbons, and leans more towards the brainless self-help ethos of Oprah (of which more later) than the spiteful narcissism of Roseanne. Leeza bounds onto the set with joyous greetings for the audience (whom she refers to as “gang”). She sets the scene advising us that today we will be embarking on a discussion prompted by recent events in the news. And she has invited “women who are smart, who are up on it.” to comment. Said women are Julianne Malveaux (syndicated columnist in The Economist), Alexandra Paul (Baywatchactress) and Debbie Mantenopolus (described merely as a “TV Personality”). Leeza coos “I’ve always wanted to talk to Debbie!”

It is almost beyond parody that this line-up are invited to comment on the recent murder of pre-school children, a case they dub “The Jewish Day Care Shooting”. A relative of one of the victims is in the audience and invited to participate: “Ishmael, will you stand up so we can just give you a lot of support?” Leeza rushes over and thrusts her microphone at him. “How can you get past the rage place?” she asks. “Ummm … I’m not really at the rage place.” Ishmael replies. Leeza assumes there is a commonality of experience and employs a limited repertoire of buzzwords to express them. Funny that a programme which is supposed to celebrate the myriad facets of the human experience should address it in such limited terms.

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