I think we can all agree that some things live are much better than others. You don’t need to work in TV to know that some things aren’t going to work well, while other things are. For example, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people would love to watch crocodiles fighting each other live, or amateur balloonists taking off for the first time ever live (bear with me on this one — I have my reasons. I have thought this through. I’ve a philosophy about this and everything). I’ve never seen two crocodiles fighting — I’m not even sure if they do fight actually, other than in the movies — but I fail to see how that could not be at least marginally entertaining to watch. Especially when they both try to death-roll each other and realise Hey, he’s doing the trick that I always do! Oh dear…this does not bode well for me…
What can I say, the crocodiles I imagine have a sound grasp of the English language.
Amateur balloonists taking off for the first time ever live though…now that could be fascinating, I think. After all, TV viewers love nothing more than watching a potential disaster from the comfort of their own home. Here’s my thinking: the show would begin with the camera man or woman creeping up on the first of the amateurs in their dressing room, as they prepare for their maiden voyage (which is suddenly not looking like a very wise idea, since they started to study the sheet of statistics they’d been given which shows precisely how many first-time ballooning accidents go horribly wrong…). The camera person would then wait behind the door and, the second the already nervous amateur walked through the door they’d shout through a megaphone: “AGHI’MAMONSTER!” just for the fun of it. Cue mass amusement for millions of sadistic TV viewers as the amateur screamed with fright. After this, and a ten minute calming-down period, the amateur would be led outside, along with the other willing — or not so willing, as the case might be — participants. At this point, the presenter of the show (Frankie Boyle would be absolutely ideal for this job, love him or hate him) would interview all the amateur balloonists standing in a line — each one shaking, some throwing up, one running off into the distance, arms and legs going everywhere — taking every opportunity to make lewd and inappropriate but highly amusing jokes about what could potentially go wrong when the balloon took off. Now there’s an idea for a TV show live which I’m sure a lot of people would tune into. I wonder if the Japanese have already done it yet? Something tells me this might look tame next to some of their ideas…
It’s decided, then: coming up with a great live TV show idea really isn’t that hard (note: when I say live tv show, I’m not talking about reality TV as in with people — I’m talking about live TV as in the new documentary-style concept that is currently all over British TV). The previous is an extreme example, but there must be millions of other things which you could film live, right? I mean, when you look at it like that, what’s the likelihood of getting it wrong?
Enter the BBC. If anyone can do it, they can.
With all their TV experience, you’d think that the BBC would be able to come up with some INCREDIBLE, mind-blowing live TV programmes…shows that utilise all the Beebs power and breath new life onto our screens. But no. Stop right there. Instead, they come up firstly with Foxes Live (no comment) and then WildEarth Live — a TV show about the world’s most amazing wild animals not fighting or running around or doing much of anything, really (if you want great wildlife TV, I highly suggest you check out Deadly 60. OK, so I’m massively biased because my good friend Mark Sharman works as a cameraman on it, but still, it is really bloody good and the best chance you have of seeing fighting crocodiles I reckon). Then there’s the problem with the show’s name…it’s only live for about 20% of its running time, and consists otherwise of recorded footage. But wait, it’s not all bad news. It was recorded live earlier that day, which isn’t half as bad, right?
Wrong. It’s still rubbish. If I tune into a TV show which claims to be live, then I want to see more than just Elephants standing around casually, wondering if they may or may not walk forwards or sideways (then decide to do neither). I want to see action. I want to see things happening which make the idea of it being live something very special…like anything could happen! Not recorded action, or captivity action, or action from earlier in the day, but real genuine live animal shenanigans with fear and danger and all that stuff you need when you’re unwinding after work and nothing feels as good as watching life in jeopardy. In other words, I want to see things which I can’t see anywhere else, not even in those amazing nature documentaries that are always on Discovery. Not quite like some extreme zoo in the future where John Barrowman’s great great grandchild — stay with me, pretend he isn’t the gayest man alive for a second — spins around on one foot and says “Tonight’s the night…at the extreme zoo!” but something similar. With health & safety standing by, of course. Spinning around can be dangerous. I don’t know how Kylie does it.
Now we’ve established that WildEarth Live was rarely ever live and rarely ever worth watching, it’s probably a good idea to mention Volcano Live on BBC 2. Wait a minute, it isn’t — that was an absolute clusterfuck too. Unless they’re exploding or threatening to explode, volcanoes are about as riveting as a rowdy pub discussion about catalytic converters. Instead, let’s do some imagining and get away from all that money-wasting crap with a good bit of escapism. Here are a few ideas that I would like to see go live sometime soon:
Crap joggers live: in this series, camera men and women would hide in the bushes, waiting for crap joggers — sorry, people new to jogging who are still extremely self-conscious about how they run and how they look — to slog their sorry bodies past. My God, how cruel an idea for a TV show. Still, they’ll live. Anyway, in this show, it’d all be in the anticipation. Many hours might go by without one new crap jogger of note, but it’d all be worth it for that one special moment when the camera man or woman jumped out and surprised an overweight jogger who was clearly out jogging for the very first time ever in his or her life. This would be followed by footage of the jogger lumbering along earlier in the day — thank you slow motion technology — and the screen would then be cut in two: on the right you’d see another location, with hundreds of thousands of people in a park looking at a great big jumbo screen with the crap jogger footage on, and on the left would be the crap jogger now realising the implications of it all, stunned into silence by a combination of shock — getting on the bus tomorrow is going to to be a nightmare! — and out-of-breath-ness (which goes without saying, I think). There’d be downsides of course. Legal battles from rich crap joggers would likely become a regular occurence with this show, but these would be dwarfed by the enjoyment of a nation, which is clearly more important than paying out a few hundred-thousand in legal fees every month.
Beards live: self-explanatory. Camera men and women would walk around the streets of England and film the best and most audacious beards out there. Priceless TV. An unexpected hit.
Hedgehogs live: because hedgehogs are freakishly fast and the grunting noise they make in mating is one hell of a lot more interesting than any casual Elephant.
Angry washer-uppers live (men who have never ever done it before): this show may sound average, but in fact it has all the elements of great TV — think Falling Down combined with…well, this, because I can’t for the life of me think of anything to compare this idea to. The concept would be to film only the angriest men who have never done washing-up before. We all know how frustrating washing-up can be at times, but this show would really test the limits of male chauvinistic patience. To add extra tension and excitement, the men would be given extra special challenges including really baked-on oven-trays and things which only an experienced housewife would contemplate attacking! They wouldn’t even be allowed to use special spray-on products either, they’d have to do it all by hand with equipment that was specially designed to not work as well as it should, furthering the hellishness of it all! In the background would be a state-of-the-art dishwasher which the mens’ wives would occasssionally operate, adding to the enjoyment of the viewing masses.
Knits live: schoolkids, poor hygiene, microscopes and hysterical parents totally freaking out. And don’t say it’d never catch on: we live in a country where you can turn on the TV at 8pm and be greeted by a giant red vagina (Embarassing Bodies), don’t we?
Crap tattoos live: so many crap tattoos out there…so little time! This show would take the oh-so-popular concept of turning-up-at-work-to-surprise-the-person who doesn’t realise they’re about to be humiliated, and marry it with a psychologist who would then explain what might have been going through said person’s head when they acquired the dolphin, or poorly rendered portrait of Adrian Chiles’s face (I said might. I doubt anyone could explain that…).