In the UK: BBC1, 6.55pm, Mondays-Fridays
Nationwide was great, wasn't it? Populist 70s entertainment and current affairs, in touch with the person in the street, able to mix the serious with the fun, the highbrow with the lowbrow. So what to make of The One Show, a resurrection of the concept for the 21st Century.
The sheer, monstrous awfulness of The One Show can be seen from the name: the BBC has decided to melt down all the genres it can think of into one show, unless I'm misreading it and
- The Beeb are actually fans of Lord of the Rings and this is their tribute show that will rule all others
- It's short for The BBC One Show, just in case you're liable to forget which channel it's on
- They're fans of Highlander and the final episode will have live decapitations to decide who should be the last remaining immortal.
So we start off with “consumer reporting” à la Are We Being Served?, work our way through “celebrity” interviews à la Davina, push through the pain barrier to a nature segment, and carry on with a heartwarming human interest interview in the vein of The Heaven and Earth Show, before being squeezed out the other end of the whole sausage-making process with the results of an inane phone poll.
Tonight, we'll have a history segment from Dan Snow (Battlefield Britain, Renaissance) and Charlie Dimmock doing something with gardens (Ground Force, etc).
In the future, you will only need one TV show. The One Show.
Unfortunately, it's all pants.
The Nationwide of old, despite its often patronising attitude, knew how to do this stuff. If you do consumer reporting, you have to be on the side of the viewer; if you do a celebrity interview, you have to have a celebrity and an interview; you have to have presenters who understand the show; you have to have segments that show the viewers things they haven't seen before. There has to be variety and it has to be fresh.
The One Show was having none of this. Now I may have blinked and missed the redefinition of consumer reporting, but I always thought that if you do hidden camera work, you're doing it to expose some iniquity that the public must be outraged by or that should at least be obviously against common decency.
I don't quite get the point of hiring a bunch of actors to irritate people in public places with the sole intent of seeing if they'll complain. I don't see the point at all of some flint-eyed, unblinking, humourless woman then explaining why her two-day investigations of a couple of trains and restaurants proves we're all rubbish for not daring to complain when someone plays their mobile phone jingles too loudly.
But proper consumer journalism takes time, research, legal teams and some gumption. Following people around on trains, playing music? Easy-peasy in comparison. Besides, who really cares about the regular viewer, when you can just hector them instead?
As if that weren't enough, there was then a phone-in so that the BBC could settle once and for all the burning question of whether we'd ask someone who was smelling their feet in public to stop smelling their feet in public.
This is your money and mine in action, here.
As a counterpoint, the Nationwide of old, rather than having a go at the audience, would have asked why there aren't any conductors in trains to stop people from anti-social behaviour or why restaurant owners don't stop people from smoking in non-smoking sections like they're supposed to.
The celebrity interviewee was Freema Agyeman. She was in Pontypool; the presenters weren't. Nationwide would have sent someone to interview her for a filmed insert (not always though, I grant you); The One Show went for the “10-second-delay” satellite phone approach. So we got a stilted stop-start interview consisting of “What's it like working with David Tennant?” questions. No surprises of any kind. How surprising.
If you're going to pick a celebrity, pick one who's actually got something to say. FA's only been filming a week - how many crazy stories do you expect her to come up with?
The rest of the show was just as you'd expect. Segment on red deer? Ooh, aren't they lovely. Heart-warming interview? Heart-warming, although I actually ended up wanting to thump the guy by the end of it.
As for Adrian Childs and Nadia Sawalha, they were both good, but they both appeared to think they were still on their own shows, with Sawalha offering Loose Talk-style confessionals, and Childs obviously wondering where the apprentices were. As of yet, no chemistry, but I'm sure that'll change.
So no real sign of truly understanding the audience through the programme proper. Instead, we have the Beeb's new pan-corporation brainwave scheme for audience involvement. If we're not actually going to talk to real people except to berate them, we could just sit at our computers, talk to each other and wait for them to give us stuff for free over the Internet. Sorry, I mean “involve them in citizen journalism using Web 2.0 techniques”.
The One Show has red-button interactivity, to be sure, but it also has its own Flickr site. Unbelievable. And unsurprisingly, it only has 45 members with four actual contributors. You have to make people want to contribute for Web 2.0 to work. And if you're spending your time telling them off and serving them stuff they've seen on all your other shows already, that's not going to happen.
It's early days and I'm sure there'll be better moments later in the series, but from the first episode (and the ratings: 3.4 million or an 18.9% audience share), it's clear there's an obvious disconnect between the show and the audience. I'm not convinced the producers actually know how to relate to potential viewers (I'm not sure I do, but I know they don't). There's going to need to be some trauma surgery before this has a chance of taking off.