Saturday, December 09, 2006

A party thrown by ITV

We presume 2006: Greatest Hits was an attempt by ITV to shake up its usual end-of-year Song of the Year show by, erm, not really doing anything much. The words "ITV" and "celebration" go together like "taliban" and "hot-tub" or "Rumsfeld" and "integrity", so the horror of the evening was always going to be built-in.

This sort of show, done well or badly, feels like a tea-time treat, something to kick off Saturday night viewing, so naturally ITV scheduled it for Friday evening prime-time, when half of the audience who might have been interested would have been out binge-drinking or - just possibly - watching gigs.

Cat Deeley is off hoping for a call from Maxim to remove her outergarments ("building a career in America"), which meant ITV had to fall back on the increasingly ubiquitous Vernon Kay. Kay, of course, has had some experience presenting music television - he was one of the shepherds who helped an entire channel, UK Play, over the edge of the cliff during his time at Top of The Pops at Play - but since then has been busily carving himself out a niche as a light entertainment presenter; succeeding on managing the first word of that job description and not coming near the second. We wonder if the person who had signed him up for this had watched last week's Celebrity Family Fortunes, in which Gaby Logan effectively took over the presenting while simultaneously competing, and started to wonder if they'd made some sort of mistake.

To be fair to Kay, it's not his fault that the show had a terrible format - band does song, and then gets "introduced" by a short video package, followed by a stilted interview, a complete arse-about-tit of an organisation. But a man who can introduce Ana Matronic and pronounce her name in a way that suggests he's missed that it's a pun does deserve some sort of special prize.

To be further fair to Kay, it's equally unlikely he's directly to blame for the total lack of atmosphere in the studio. There's an audience in the studio, but it looks slightly thin and, with the ill-conceived set design and unsympathetic lighting, it looks like the hopes for a mid-80s TOTP Christmas special feel had merely delivered the atmosphere you'd get in a regional news studio on the night of the death of an especially well-loved local weatherman.

Could the music lift the programme? Of course not: presumably trying to reel in some sort of Daily Telegraph pop-page readership, the show was packed with James Morrisons and Snow Patrols; even Scissor Sisters turned in a dreadful, slow ballad.

If this really was the year we've just lived through, thank god it's over. ITV managed to suggest that we've spent twelve months suspended in the sounds Dido has in her head.


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