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Friday, January 11, 2008

Like a duck's quack

As a fan of new structures I had to check out the Echo Beach / Moving Wallpaper double bill.

For those outside of the UK (and also for people who have better things to do) the pitch is - one show equals two shows. Echo Beach is a new soap on at 9:30. Moving Wallpaper is a sitcom that features the fictional story of making a new soap called Echo Beach and its on half an hour earlier at 9:00.

I was intrigued by this premise. It reminded me of my own work with projects like Circumference in which the main character talks about his own film.

However, for me, it didn't work as it had a negative bias. The slimy (fictional) producer of Echo Beach is always annoying the writers, trying to sell out the show, making glib choices for short term gain, trying to win soap awards rather than gain credibility and casting based on demographics not what is best for the show. Which is probably how it happens in real life. But the effect of course is that you then feel a mug for watching the soap.

If however the Moving Wallpaper half had showed us TV people trying to do something great with a crappy soap, sneaking in hidden moral messages, casting people who need the work, putting in 'unpopular' characters that advertisers wouldn't like (but the audience would) then I would feel great watching Echo Beach. I'd feel I'd helped get one over on the starchy old TV suits.

Just an idea. I recommend the show to you as a study of unusual structures and ideas. I don't recommend it to you as entertainment. My wife lost interest in about 3 minutes.

Sam Wollaston in The Guardian says, "I'm also slightly worried about this obsession that TV currently appears to have with itself. What will happen if it continues? I think it may turn into one giant impenetrable swirling vortex of onanism."

So at least I learnt a new word...

o·nan·ism (ō'nə-nĭz'əm)
Coitus interruptus.

[After Onan, son of Judah (Genesis 38:9).]


deepstructure said...

this sounds fascinating. are the characters on moving wallpaper actually writing the echo beach episode that comes on after?

Tim Clague said...

Yes. But the writers aren't well written - if you see what I mean. One critic wrote of the show - it makes you wonder if scriptwriters can't even write good dialogue about scriptwriting then it must all have gone wrong.

deepstructure said...

how disappointing, because it's a wonderful idea.

Lucy said...

Re: MV I thought it was all a bit weird myself, but thought it was alright - as you say, it does seem a little negative, an "in" joke even - and whilst mildly amusing, how long can that go on for?

And the writers seem a little too in the background for my liking, but that's probably just ego on my part.

However, I have high hopes for Echo Beach in the long term. I think it's time we had a post-watershed soap and one in the sexy South instead of all those in the Naughty North and London. And our Jase is always welcome on my Telly, aaah, my childhood sweetheart... imagined, sadly but hey ho

Stuart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stuart said...

I know Tony Jordan the show's creator. He mentioned the show idea to me just short of a year ago over a beer. At the time the idea was for Moving Wallpaper to be on ITV1, with Echo Beach following immediately after on ITV2. Would this original scheduling have worked better? Discuss.

I reckon yes. I really don't like "behind the scenes" shows. Why would I want to watch "Doctor Who Confidential" a show that just keeps telling me that "Doctor Who" is all make believe? Watching film and TV requires a suspension of disbelief - so how can I get emotionally attached to characters or involved in the drama when I've just been reminded that it's all pretend?

Had it been broadcast the way Tony intended I think both programmes would have picked up their own separate audiences, with some of the MW audience dipping into EB occasionally out of curiosity. An intriguing idea, doomed by unadventurous scheduling.

To save the show, MW could be interspersed with clips of EB so there's no need to watch the whole EB programme (which I have zero interest in).

deepstructure said...

i don't see how the scheduling makes any difference. if the content isn't compelling then it ultimately doesn't matter.

and if you categorically don't like "behind the scenes" shows then you're missing the point. this isn't a reality show - it's fictional writing. that means story-telling. done right this could be fascinating, regardless of your interest in the particular setting. it's just an excellent format for storytelling potential.

ever seen the play 'noises off'?

Tim Clague said...

So - conclusion.

Idea - good.
Execution - poor
Scheduling / proposition to audience - iffy.