Things To Catch On iPlayer Before They Drop Off

A couple of entertaining programmes to catch up on before the dreaded seven day iPlayer window closes!
Paul Jackson* was for a long time an ITV entertainment executive in a variety of roles across a number of companies. And he’s also a dab hand at making radio programmes. A few years ago he made an excellent series that detailed how the US TV industry works with their commissioning system heavily built around pilots that may or may not ever see the light of day.
Now he’s back with a new series of Britain in a Box. Each week, he looks at an iconic British TV series and tells the story. The first episode of this run (the first for a few years) was about World In Action. The more you listened, the more you realised how much it’s missed. Today we do have Panorama on BBC1 and Dispatches on Channel 4 (criminally scheduled against one another, although the former does at least benefit from an Eastenders run-in, albeit up against Coronation Street), but without World In Action (or This Week), we’re missing a different angle on serious subject matter.
Ironically, it was Paul Jackson himself who essentially killed World In Action, when Carlton TV outbid Thames Television for it’s licence. Jackson sheepishly admitted saying some not very nice things about World In Action, as the realities of their bid meant that ITV couldn’t afford to not chase viewers for any minute of the day. I do think that Jackson was a little disingenous, however, blaming the whole thing on the 1990 Broadcasting Act – nothing to do with me guv! And we should member that there were suspicions that Carlton knocked Thames out the way in part because of a Thames edition of This Week – Death on the Rock – which revealed how the SAS had shot dead IRA terrorists rather than attempt to arrest them.
It’s good to see that there are couple of volumes of World In Action editions available from Network DVD.
I do wonder whether there aren’t even commercial considerations for ITV doing something a bit more challenging though. Yes, it has Tonight. But that has repeatedly had its budget cut over the years. I find it interesting that CBS in the US, has the behemoth that is 60 Minutes, that continues to perform very strongly in the ultra-competitive US TV market, where there is no such thing as “Public Service Broadcasting” requirements placed on it. Upmarket, advertising along with a healthy audience is what makes the programme affordable.
By the way, this week’s Dispatches on the on-going phone hacking scandal is worth catching.
Elsewhere on Radio 4, they’ve just embarked on a Raymond Chandler season. Throughout 2011, they’ll be dramatising all Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, with Toby Stephens playing the famous gumshoe.
Now I’ve not yet listened to their first production – The Big Sleep – which was broadcast on Saturday. But I will be. However, I have listened to their half-hour documentary about Chandler (who was educated in Britain) which is well worth catching. And there was a very good afternoon play – Double Jeopardy – which told the story of how Billy Wilder and Chandler came to co-write the dramatisation of the James M Cain novel, Double Indemnity. This was Chandler’s first stab at working on a film screenplay. Adrian Scarborough plays Wilder, while Patrick Stewart is the gruff Chandler. Catch it if you get a chance.
*For any radio people reading… No, not that Paul Jackson!