Written by Media, Radio, TV

When TV (or Radio) Uses Your Workplace

This Wednesday, ITV2 launches that rarest of things, a new sitcom. Actually, that’s a bit unfair, as ITV has been commissioning a reasonable amount of programming for ITV2. It’s just that most of it really doesn’t interest me.
But this week there’s something that I am looking forward to – FM. Indeed, if you head over to ITV’s site, you can watch a preview of the first episode.
It’s not too bad with The IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd playing a DJ alongside Kevin Bishop, who plays his co-host, and was a one-time boyband member.
If Skin FM, the radio station portrayed, doesn’t look too much like your local radio station, that’s because it won’t. There really aren’t any radio stations like those you see on TV. Skin FM is evidently modelled on Xfm – well Xfm before Capital (and now Global) took it over.
But sitcoms are more about the characters and a DJ who can’t mix but decides to fake it with a mix CD is not really that far from the truth at all (so I hear).
As ITV’s trying to be edgy with this show, there’s lots of swearing, and a bit of sex too. And we get a few cameos: the first episode features The Guillemots, Justin Hawkins (ex-Darkness) and Marianne Faithful! And we’re promised that there are more to come. They add, I suppose, a hint of Larry Sanders to proceedings.
I suppose the most disappointing thing about it, is not what was on-air, but the quote from producer Izzy Mant in last week’s Broadcast (NB. Quote isn’t in the online piece):
“When I first came across this project I thought: why hasn’t anyone done a sitcom set in a music radio station before?”
Umm. They have.
As I mentioned a while back when this series was announced, the UK’s seen Kit Curran and The Lenny Henry Show (the sitcom incarnation). And they’re both British!
And possibly more famous than either of those was WKRP in Cincinatti.
They’re just the shows set in music radio stations. There’ve been others set in non-music radio stations: Frasier immediately springs to mind. And radio comedies like Radio Active or even On The Hour.
Indeed, of all occupations featured in sitcoms, radio has definitely had more than its fair share.
That shouldn’t detract from FM, but let’s not forget our heritage shall we?
As I said at the start of this piece, it’s always entertaining to see your place of work featured in fiction, and invariably it’s not accurate. A couple of weeks ago Radio 3’s The Wire had a play by Mark Lawson entitled The Number of the Dead. This was set in an un-named news studio and featured Tim McInnery as Timothy Freeman, a slightly jaded news presenter with his much younger co-host. Suddenly a breaking news story begins to impact on his life personally.
Now Mark Lawson obviously has a good idea about how radio studios work (he frequently presents Front Row in between his otherwise gargantuan workload), but in this instance you felt that he was like a cook presented with a rack of herbs and spices, trying to desperately shoehorn all of them into a recipe.
So we had lots of lingo that those “in the biz” would probably recognise. But it was all just a little forced. His producer was rude and offensive to his wife, when if there’s one thing we all know about producers, and that’s that they don’t upset the talent. And the character was just that bit too jaded.
What was really more entertaining was trying to work out who Lawson might be basing this story on. With talk of studios like “C7” it could only be the BBC since even the largest commercial operator has a relatively finite number of studios and usually names in a sensible scheme: “A, B, C…” or “1, 2, 3…”
There really is no commercial news station with the exception of LBC, and Radio 4 doesn’t do long news programmes that continually ask for emails and texts. So it must be Five Live that he’s thinking of. And the obvious show there would be Five Live Drive with Peter Allen and Anita Arnand. But I don’t really think Peter Allen behaves like McInnery’s character!
(I’d love to post the mp3 of this, since we’re long after the iPlayer window, but I’d probably be shot).
At least we have series two of Moving Wallpaper to look out for on Friday. Not content with generally showing off on QI on Friday, Ben Miller’s back as his wonderfully awful TV producer Jonathan Pope. This time, he’s without the dreadful Echo Beach which I stopped watching after one episode (either you believe in a soap or you don’t), and we have a seemingly non-broadcast zombie series instead.