15 February 2008

A Pope to restore faith

If Saturday Night TV is the first prize on British television, in the audience ratings tombola, then Friday night at least used to be somewhere between the fondue set and bottle of scotch. With each channel drawing on its strength, the BBC would wheel out its comedy big guns against Inspector Morse. But with the BBC now spreading its comedy across the various "platforms" and days of the week, and ITV desperate for anything to shore up its ad revenues, it leaves precious little worth even owning a TV for, never mind switching it on.

So three cheers for ITV's Moving Wallpaper, whose existence surely owes more to Commissioning Editors' cynicism than creative intent. The conceit seems like Executives taking an each way bet - a half hour show about making a soap, followed by the soap itself, with ironic cross-references and a star cast to knit both halves together. It means even if the plebs didn't get it, they'd tune in to see Jason Donovan and Martine McCutcheon, and the chattering classes would snigger up their sleeves at the media in-jokes.

Amazingly it works - or at least the behind-the-scenes half does. In Jonathan Pope we have a great management incompetent with the visionary capacity of a headless chicken, with Ben Miller as the cringingly inept Soap Exec leaping from one appalling idea to the next. Maybe there is a way back for ITV from the abyss of multi-channel programming.

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