VoiceoftheNorth’s fearless reporter PETER MORTIMER hid in a BBC drinks cabinet to eavesdrop on a recent meeting of the BBC’s Forward Programming Committee.
Names have been changed to avoid the threat of libel actions. The four committee members are simply referred to as Clod (the chairman) Sod, Thump and Stir.
CLOD: Very well ,let’s hear all your suggestions. Would you start us off, Sod?
SOD: What about Celebrity Mountain Rescue? We drop a few celebrities on top of a mountain in bad conditions, then send more celebrities up in a helicopter to rescue them
CLOD: Absolutely brilliant! And so original! Thump?
THUMP: I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I’ve come up with Celebrity Amputation
CLOD: I like the sound of it. Tell me more. . .
THUMP: It’s full of audience participation: viewers choose one of six celebrities to lose a limb. . .
THUMP: . . .then viewers choose a celeb from another list to carry out the amputation
CLOD: Stupendous! And do these amputations actually take place?
THUMP: Of course not.! This is reality television. Nothing is real. We’ll just shoot some footage at the pork butcher’s shop involving a meat cleaver
CLOD: Ah, I see. But won’t the viewers notice that these celebrities’ particular limbs are still intact after the programmes?
THUMP:Nah! These are minor celebrities. No one will even remember who they are after a few weeks and by then there’ll be a whole new batch.
CLOD: Good point. Well, both of those ideas seem to be winners. Now for my own bit of blue sky thinking: Celebrity Mourning! We find six celebs who have recently lost a loved one, put them all together for three weeks in a circus tent located in a remote part of Bratislava, challenge them to swallow live goldfish, insert earthworms into their anuses and swing on a trapeze. Week by week, viewers vote off the celebrity least able to deal with these tasks as well as their grief with the results recorded on a Grief-o-Meter which flashes lights and makes lots of noise
THUMP: Truly excellent!
CLOD: Splendid! One hundred per cent winners so far! Anything from you, Stir?
STIR: Well, I was approached by an investigative journalist who wants to examine the role played by major car manufacturers in infuencing government policy in their road building programme
CLOD: Which celebrities would be involved?
STIR: Um, I wasn’t actually thinking about any celebrities, I . . .
CLOD: Did you say ‘no celebrities’?
THUMP: A contemporary TV programme without any celebrities?
STIR: My contact is a highly professional investigative reporter. He has a proven journalistic track record and. . .
CLOD: Has he been on Graham Norton?
SOD: Or any of those all-male comic quiz shows?
STIR: Well, no actually he hasn’t but. . .
THUMP: Give it to Joanna Lumley. She could drive up and down the M1 in a bright pink sports car. Keep it light, keep it bouncy
SOD: Maybe Bill Nighy, too?
THUMP: Nighy’s still a bit busy on Marigold Hotel XII, I hear
CLOD: Best park it for now then. Is that all?
SOD: Well, this one’s a bit radical, maybe, but I just thought. . .well. . .
CLOD: Yes? Don’t be shy now.
SOD: Well ,it seems me that one particular show has escaped our broadcasting revolution entirely.
THUMP: Surely not!
CLOD: I’m all ears: spit it out!
SOD: OK. Here it is — the weather forecast!
CLOD: The weather forecast?
SOD: Why not have celebrities read the weather forecast? A different celebrity every day!
(A silence descends)
THUMP: Hmm. Interesting.
CLOD: Radical, I’ll give you that. Problem is, we rely on a regular supply of new weather forecasters to become tomorrow’s minor celebrities
STIR: But what have they done to deserve celebrity status, apart from read a few words off a chart?
CLOD: They’ve appeared on TV, of course. That’s enough! It’s a beautiful system. We create the celebrities, then we stuff every programme full of them. And if they are quickly forgotten, so what? We’re creating more all the time! Well, thanks all of you for your valuable contribution. I declare this highly fruitful and constructive meeting closed. Glass of celebratory British Broadcasting Champers, anyone?