Yesterday, comedian Janey Godley (of whom more later) said to me about the superfluous ‘tasks’ in the first episode of ITV1’s Show Me the Funny: “Finding someone called Michelle in a street in Liverpool does not mean you are a good comedian; it takes no comedy talent.”
What on earth is the point of this show?
For no logical or demonstrable reason (apart from copying a not-very-good old TV format where comics performed in front of ‘difficult’ audiences) this week our mis-used nine comics had to perform five minutes of new material to soldiers at Catterick army camp.
Four minutes into the show, the scripted voice-over said pseudo-dramatically – “They’ll be a tough audience to please.”
Maybe. But it was not until 29 minutes into the show that the comedians actually started to perform to the audience.
Why oh why oh why do they not just Show Me The Funny?
Perhaps next year, when television screens the 100 metre race at the Olympics, the race itself will be preceded by 30 minutes of watching the athletes learn how to juggle fruit… and we will only be allowed to see glimpses of the race itself.
In this show, where the format involves writing five minutes of new material, we only get glimpses of the acts performing that material. The longest any of them got was two minutes; most got significantly less than one minute; the shortest appeared to get around 4 seconds.
Last week, I said the problem with this show was that the producers could not see the wood for the trees. We are now into another week, another simile. It is now clear they are just barking up the wrong tree.
The producers are so busy showing us irrelevant production values that they do not have any time left to show us the funny. And, because they have chopped the comedians to pieces in the edit, the person who actually comes across strongest is judge Kate Copstick whose tongue is as sharp as her Scotsman reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe. La Copstick has clearly been chopped-to-hell in the edit as well, but she still shines forth a beacon of light in her Cruella de Vil world.
Perhaps I am just becoming a grumpy old man.
A least Show Me The Funny showed us glimpses of what we were supposed to be seeing.
Yesterday, I was invited along by Sky TV to what they called a PR “junket” – which my dictionary defines as “an extravagant trip or celebration”.
Sky say that, by 2014, they will be spending £600 million on British programming and that “original British comedy provides cornerstone of Sky1 HD autumn schedule” this year.
Well, all I can say is they’d better hurry up and get their publicity act together.
I was one of six mostly-mystified people with an online presence – I think we were each supposed to be highly influential in our blogs and websites – and we were invited to “round-table interviews” with some of the talent involved in the new Sky comedy shows.
What a disastrous bit of PR. Are companies just suicidal nowadays?
“What shall we do today?”
“Oh, I know, we will see how we can damage our own brand image.”
Four months ago, I blogged about the disastrous recording session for IKEA’s ‘comedy/Friends’ commercials – it is an old blog which still gets a few hits every day or so.
IKEA promised to ply their Family Card holders with plentiful food and drink if they attended the endlessly unfunny recording of their TV ads. The food and drink which was not supplied made Southern Sudan seem like a land of milk and honey.
Sky did not promise any food or drink, so I can’t complain about the small bottles of water which were probably supplied by the excellently-run hotel where the junket took place and not by Sky.
But I can bitch about the lack of any discernible organisation.
The story was that they would screen clips from possibly four shows, then there would be these “round table interviews” with the talent. Presumably the idea was that, from these glimpses of the shows and sparkling quotes from the talent, we would write glowing online pieces which would spread the word on how good the ‘products’ are.
This was supposed to happen 5.30-7.00pm – “arrive at 5.15pm” we were told. The very efficient hotel staff showed us into a padded room. I should have started to worry at this point.
Around 5.45pm, the first appearance was made by a Sky person – a head popped round the door to say “We’re running a little late” and then disappeared.
The first ‘talent’ came into the room accompanied by a PR lady just after 6.00pm, we turned to the TV screen but there were no clips.
Perhaps later, I foolishly thought.
So we rather awkwardly asked questions of the talent who brilliantly plugged their unseen show. This was repeated with three more different groups of talent being ushered into the room (with large gaps of emptiness between) each with a different, mostly mute, PR lady. We had four bunches of talent from three new Sky series; the talent from the fourth show seemed to have wisely done a runner.
It was a magical mystery guess as to who would come through the door next. Sometimes, as they entered, we were told which show they were on; sometimes we had to guess from their faces and the single sheet press releases we had on each show.
For the record, the shows were The Cafe, Mount Pleasant and Trollied. The billed people from the Spys sitcom must have gone on an undercover mission elsewhere. It was only when we asked at the end that we discovered they were not turning up.
The show people were all rushed through to a tight deadline because, having started half an hour late, the Sky PR machine did not want to end late because they had other things to do. Poor Jane Horrocks and Jason Watkins had to try and ‘sell’ their show Trollied (set in a supermarket) in seven minutes, which they did brilliantly. But what do you ask about a show you haven’t seen which is set in a supermarket?
I asked if, because they were used to performing in studios, it was more difficult to act in the ‘real’ supermarket which Sky had built for the series.
Jane Horrocks said she had done so many ads for Tesco she felt at home in a supermarket.
I like Jane Horrocks.
But quite what we were talking about no-one really knew. Which brings us back to Janey Godley, who was one of the six influential online people invited to the junket and who said to me (I paraphrase extensively):
“You have to see clips to know what the tone is. You can shoot one idea in any number of ways. You can have a great idea badly done and it’s crap. You can have a bad idea brilliantly done and it’s wonderful.”
No clips meant we had no idea what we are supposed to be helping Sky TV promote.
I felt like asking if any of the talent had had their phones hacked by News International.
The “junket” lasted under an hour; one of us had come all the way from Devon to attend.
It all ended with a brief head popping round the door again to thank us for coming. Someone asked: “Are there any DVDs so we can see the shows?”
“Oh,” the surprised PR replied: “Send us an e-mail if you want one.”
I think a basic rule-of-thumb should be… if you are trying to kick-start good word-of-mouth in hopefully influential online sites and blogs… then show us the product.
Show Me The Funny fell at the first hurdle because it failed to Show Me The Funny.
Sky TV, trying to promote their TV shows, fell at the first hurdle because they wanted good word-of-mouth but failed to show us anything at all of the programmes.
And whatever happened to outright bribes of canapés, knick-knacks or, at the very least, an inflatable Jane Horrocks doll?
Word-of-mouth works both ways.
I will listen with interest to Janey Godley’s weekly podcast this Wednesday – after only a year, it gets over 100,000 downloads per week via multiple sites – having built on the success of her blog which, since 2004, had built up to over 500,000 hits per week on multiple sites.
I left the excellent central London hotel hosting the Sky junket – the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall Place – I recommend it highly – thinking the highly-trained if rather overly-smiley hotel staff should have been arranging the PR.
Then I thought:
“Shall I slag off this shindig or not? If I do, they will never invite me to another one.”
“What have I really got to lose?”
The answer was obvious:
“A bottle of still water but no knick-knacks or inflatable Jane Horrocks doll.”
Do the words Brinsley Schwarz mean nothing nowadays?
(Janey Godley’s weekly podcast also talked about this Sky junket – 10 mins 20 seconds in)