Monday, August 18, 2003

IT WAS THE NEXT BEST THING TO BEING THERE, AND LEAVING REALLY EARLY: We've suggested before that ITV2 really is the natural home for the 'coverage' of the V Festival, the annual event that exists solely to provide consolation prizes to people unable to get tickets to Reading or Glastonbury; the Nationwide League festival finding a home on a largely unloved channel. But even the low expectations the phrase "ITV2 at the V2003 Festival" conjures up weren't quite met by what went out on screen last night. If we didn't know better, we'd think ITV was only really interested in some cheap music footage to fill up the night-time hours in the coming year, and the live elements were chucked in to seal the deal and make the festival feel they were important.

Lisa Snowdon and Zoe Ball were hired to present. Yeah, Lisa Snowdon is so much more than lingerie model; she's flogged breakfast cereal in her pants as well. Fair enough, she did a short spell on Top of the Pops, but the key word here is "short", and being asked to provide intelligent links on a semi-live music show was like asking a porpoise to lend a hand with plumbing on the grounds that it knows a bit about water. Zoe - who, on form, can handle a live show with wit and aplomb - clearly decided that if Lisa S was the level of performance ITV2 wanted, then she'd be able to be just as useless as her. The producer wants shooting for allowing the pair to perform to camera with Posh Spice (circa 2001) mirrored sunglasses, too - without wanting to sound like a Daily Mail editorial, telly presenters where you can't see their eyes (and, indeed, get a reflection of the bored-looking crew instead) are just being rude. Having said which, it sums up the whole couldn't-give-a-fuck attitude - the by-now-cliched "we gave four festival virgins a video camera, this is their diary..." feature shouldn't have been broadcast - I could live with it being a tired idea that ran through every single commonplace (look, there are queues; look, the toilets are really bad - erm, except this was early on the first day, so in what way were they bad?), but the girls hadn't even managed to work the camera properly, and so every shot was totally overexposed and the whole thing was unwatchable.

Meanwhile, they kind-of missed the point of the V festival, which is, supposedly, the music. With a mixture of artists who are actually at the top of their fighting powers (the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the bemusingly respected Queens of the Stone Age) and acts who some people might want to see (Coldplay, David Gray, and the other mainstays of Groups Who Sell Well At Asda), you'd have thought that there would at least have been some plum musical gems to make up for the dross. So why, then, was the programme mainly comprised of the sort of filler muck that the BBC's Glastonbury coverage relies on when there's nothing going on on stage? To make matters worse, they'd actually cut short the music they did get round to playing to bring us Zoe Ball being shown a drummer's dressing room backstage (it's a Portakabin with a drumkit inside it) or Lisa interviewing someone she clearly has never heard of.

One of the interviewees was Skin who claimed that she'd gone down great on the previous day's leg of the festival - it was rammed with people, jumping up and down, singing along even although the album hasn't been out that long (and hasn't been selling). Curiously, the footage of her performance on that day showed this audience not quite as keen - indeed, they stood stock-still and looked bemused. Not surprising since the first thirty-dozen rows seemed to consist of fourteen year old kids from Toffland, who wouldn't recognise a genius if they had been set it as a GCSE subject. She thrashed and clambered and flung herself about, and the audience stared.

The best thing ITV2 did was to bring us Polly Harvey - knee high boots, too-short cowgirl style outfit - doing 'Dress'. For a moment, it was almost as if the producers had been hit by a falling crate of good taste. Unfortunately, at this point the picture went blank. After a couple of minutes, a hastily-banged together slide promised 'Programming Will Continue In A Few Minutes' (just like it was the early days of television) but when, eventually, ITV2 roared back into life they'd decided to stick on a Blur video instead. Dismal coverage that wasn't even considered worth stuggling to get back onto the screen. An uncared for festival given a half-hearted show. You sometimes get what you deserve. More SOS than V.

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