If I could be bothered to go back and check up on the exact statistics then I could be a little more precise in this matter, but I can’t so we’ll just have to settle for the more general statement that follows instantly: this journal seems, to date, to have been a relatively cuss-lite zone. Something of a surprise to many people to whom I’ve spoken in person, perhaps – particularly those who’ve heard me at work – but for the most part I’ve managed to lift my mouth out of the gutter before putting finger to keyboard. This is a much-desirable state of affairs, if you ask me (although you don’t have to, seeing as how it’s my journal and I’ll tell you what I want regardless of any quizzing or lack thereof on your part) and one that will doubtless continue after the one brief hiccup that follows herein.
You see, dear reader, I fear that today’s subject is going to involve and indeed require a fair-to-middling amount of swearing, as befits my current mood. As we shall see, such language will be pointed in a very specific direction and will not be used without consideration and justification.
For those of you who started to drift off during the above, here it comes again in greatly-abbreviated form: the following post may contain naughty swear words, so if you’re easily offended by foul language, I suggest you stop reading and perhaps crochet yourself a new hat or something. I don’t really want to listen to anyone whinge about my swearing, so if you don’t want to read such profanities I suggest you do yourself a favour and don’t give yourself an opportunity to be a cunt about it.
So, now the cheap shots are out of the way, on we go. What in the world could drive me to feelings so vitriolic that I seem unable to express them using non-sweary words? Well, in a way I’ve only myself to blame, but I’m very much afraid that I’ve been watching the ITV.
Fool to myself, I know. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start, as seems to be the somewhat tedious tradition these days, at the beginning. Well, not quite the beginning: for the sake of (relative) brevity, we’ll skip over my usual whinge about the general state of post-1992 ITV. Wonderful cure for insomnia though it may be, it’s really only orbiting the very fringes of today’s crux. No: today, dear reader, we shall uncover the rather shocking news that a programme of considerable quality has managed to slip through the net and onto the ITV’s prime-time schedule… and then see how the network has managed to regain its reputation as a third-rate tat-peddler by proving its ability to shoot dead a good idea before proceeding to wilfully piss on its grave for fifty-seven minutes a week.
Last week saw the start of a run of imported US drama series Pushing Daisies on ITV1 (formerly known by a plethora of superior channel names, but as promised I won’t go there just now). Rarely one to listen to hype and even more rarely in tune with popular opinion, it was with more than a little scepticism that I tuned in (once I’d remembered where I hid ITV1 on my digibox – it’s channel nine, if you ever have cause to look for it in the flat. And yes, that is a perfectly logical place for it to be, for reasons we’ll not explore for the now). A gnat’s piccolo short of an hour later, I was forced to make some toast. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I needed something on which to spread my scepticism to make it slightly more palatable as I ate my cynical thoughts like the craven fool I was.
Pushing Daisies really is a quite delightful little series. It starts out with a premise so simple it looks rather rubbish when it’s written down, as I shall now prove: the main character is a pie maker called Ned. If he touches a dead person, they come back to life; if he touches them again, they’re dead again – and for good this time; if he brings someone back to life for more than a minute, someone else dies in their place. Unimpressed? I certainly was when I read about it – not an awful lot of mileage in that one, I thought. It’s nice to be proven wrong sometimes.
Set somewhere on the periphery of the “real world”, Pushing Daisies has a lovely, somewhat quirky style to it that either sets it above and apart from your standard drama fare, or makes it look all weird and unreal, depending on your point of view, I suspect (I very much subscribe to the first one). Someone else who saw it described it as a sort-of cross between The Avengers and Amélie and whist that’s probably not quite spot-on it’s certainly quite close to the mark.
There’s rather a lot of narration in the first episode, although I’m told that settles down a little after the delightfully titled “Pie-lette”. This, too, bothered me at first – a bit too ‘Housewives for my liking, I thought – but narration does rather suit the series well and when it’s being read by no less a person than Jim Dale it somehow becomes impossible not to warm to it. The habit of informing the viewer of a person’s age right down to the minutes and that of referring to the main character, Ned, as “the pie maker” are either eccentric little touches or a recipe for annoyance, but I find them delightfully concise and endearing.
Happily, the actors seem to “get” the offbeat style of the show and – helped by some rather beautiful writing – I found myself warming to all three of the main leads almost straight away. Thanks to her former role in Brookside, Anna Friel has rather been the focus of many mainstream reviews of the programme to date (and even a Radio Times cover, bless ‘er), which is fair enough as she’s very good, but with all due respect to Ms Friel, I have to say that I find Chi McBride’s Emerson Cod and the rather-attractive-actually Lee Pace’s Ned the more interesting characters, from the evidence of the first couple of episodes, anyway.
In short, a very good series and I’d recommend it to just about anyone. So far, so very non-sweary, so what was with that long-winded warning earlier on, Adam, eh? Good question – well done, me. Well, the Law of the Sod requires that any series this enjoyable has to come packaged with a nice big caveat and I’m afraid that in this case it’s one hell of a biggie: it’s being shown on the ITV.
Unlike its terrestrial brethren, the ITV hasn’t done so well with its transatlantic acquisitions for a fair while now. That could, of course, have something to do with their nasty habit of yanking a show off its primetime slot and into the obscurity of so-late-it’s-almost-early viewing if it fails to pull in enough viewers by episode two, which is a nasty shame but, it would seem, the way things are in the world of mainstream independent television these days. Still, they really seem to have gone to town promoting Pushing Daisies, so there’s always a chance it’ll avoid a similar fate.
Now, owing to the small matter of the writers’ strike last year, the first series of Pushing Daisies was curtailed in a fairly dramatic manner – the envisaged twenty-two episode run wound up as a nine-episode series, albeit with a second, full-length run already confirmed – so what the ITV inadvertently ended up with was a series of rather more British proportions, length-wise.
Now, what with all of the series-length shenanigans having taken place around the end of last year, the ITV, unlike its transatlantic counterparts, had the handy advantage of knowing exactly how long the series would be before they started showing it. So, what’s the very best thing to do if your series runs for nine episodes and there’s something else you want to show a little later in the year on a fixed date? Well, so long as you’re not being run by a load of twunty cockbags, the answer is very plain to see: start your nine-part series nine weeks before this other unmovable feast.
The people at the helm of the ITV can, sadly, only dream of one day reaching the heady heights of twunty cockbag-dom. And so it is that the pisspoor channel once more decides to shit in its viewers’ cereal bowls before adding the Cheerios by allotting the nine-part Pushing Daisies an eight-week run.
Some kind of football thingy in a couple of months’ time (I could go and find out which football thingy if I wanted, but it really doesn’t seem worth the effort – and no, I don’t especially want you to tell me, either) has led the poor excuses for fuckwits who call themselves schedulers to drop the second episode of Pushing Daisies in order that the series should be done and dusted before the footie comes along. The quite bloody fantastic second episode, may I add.
The first episode of Pushing Daisies seems to have done a fair bit of business for the ITV, pulling in far more viewers than programmes run in the same slot of late. So, what better way to welcome these new viewers to your channel than by fucking them about? Having failed, for once, to broadcast a pisspoor show, I suppose it has to be expected that the ITV would attempt to rectify this by pissing on (and off) its viewers in a most disagreeable manner.
ITV’s response to viewer disquiet over this state of affairs proved, if nothing else, that the customer relations and scheduling departments were singing from the same hymn sheet; sadly, it’s a shit hymn that treats us, the humble viewers, with nothing short of contempt. The news that they may “show the episode at a future point” cuts no mustard and their attempts to blame the writers’ strike fail to stand up to even the mildest of scrutiny. Here’s what they’ve said to many of the people who’ve contacted them to complain about their decision:
“Due to the US writers strike, delivery of many acquisitions has been affected. Rather than receiving a full series of many of this year’s shows we’ve had a range of different options – such as 13 parts so far for Gossip Girl and 9 parts for Pushing Daisies. This has an impact on scheduling – particularly in the more competitive slots – as we typically receive dramas in parts of six or eight.”
So… the writers’ strike means that they only have nine episodes instead of twenty-two, which means that they don’t have time to show all of them. Er, how does that work, then?
Starting the series a week earlier would, admittedly, have posed a slight problem as, according to my trusty Radio Times, ITV1 was showing some sort of boxing match, but given that the third episode was followed this week by a repeat of a film, would it have killed them to show two episodes this week and avoid the need to piss off all the new viewers they were hoping to bring to their channel with such a big launch for a series they obviously have high hopes for? Seriously, do these people ever stop to think about how they’d like it if they ever tried to watch their feeble excuse for a television channel? Fucktards, the lot of them.
The basic assumption seems to be that viewers won’t care if someone pisses about with their programmes, so there’s no need for the broadcaster to go to any trouble. I’m by no means suggesting that the ITV is alone in this one and I’m sure I could think of acts of contempt committed by any of the main networks, but that doesn’t exactly make it any better or more acceptable.
My trips to ITV1 are mercifully rare and this isn’t exactly going to alter that situation. It’s all very well flinging out the occasional gem, but there seem to be two flaws with the ITV’s latest plan: putting new and interesting programmes on to bring new viewers to your channel isn’t going to do much in the long run as they’re not, on discovering a wonderful new programme, going to decide to stick around through all the rest of the unbearable shite pumped out of the network at a rather alarming rate. I may have come to the channel for Pushing Daisies, but that doesn’t make it any more likely that I’ll stay for All Star Mr & Mrs, Britain’s Got Talent (I beg to differ) or any of the other televisual arse-gravy shat onto the unsuspecting ITV viewer with distressing regularity.
And secondly, if you’re hoping to attract new people to wow at the truffles to be found amongst all the shit, is it really a good idea to make them hate you before they’ve even got comfy in their seats?
ITV was never likely to edge its way any further up my EPG, but I congratulate the ignorant, arrogant, contemptuous fuckwits who have ensured it that, in this domicile at least, it remains Britain’s least-pressed button.
I was on the verge of finishing this gargantuan post here, until I remembered something else that’s annoyed me, so here goes.
Twenty-thirdly, then, we turn to the matter of commercials. Now, given that Pushing Daisies is an American programme, it conveniently has several spaces built into it for commercial breaks. Five of them, or thereabouts, per hour-long programme, if the memory serves (at least). So it takes a very special kind of “genius” to decide not to use these handy little breaks in the action and just bung the requisite three commercial breaks in seemingly at random.
Again, the ITV is admittedly not alone in this respect. Sky’s managed this trick with impressive regularity, although if you want a really A-class example of TV pillockry, look no further than Dave, which has seen fit to (very badly) edit out the ad break conveniently placed in the middle of each edition of Whose Line is it Anyway? so that it can then (equally badly) edit in its own break a couple of minutes earlier. Gosh, look at that: I’ve digressed. How rare, unprecedented and surprising.
But anyway, with built-in break-points seated sometimes moments away from the ITV’s poorly-executed breaks, the episodes of Pushing Daisies that they’re actually bothering to show us manage to look slightly less impressive also. I appreciate that the ITV has to follow set guidelines relating to the placement of commercial breaks and the time that elapses between them, but if I were to be so unbearably sad as to re-watch the programme with a stopwatch (and make no mistake: I have) I would be able to point out that the three commercial breaks in each of the two episodes broadcast to date could easily have been accommodated within the built-in “plot crescendos” that occur throughout.
This is, you see, really the issue: American programmes are made with adverts in mind. As such,the programmes are structured to reach natural crescendos throughout, to bring the drama up to a boil and thereby hopefully ensure that the audience doesn’t use the short break that follows to go and do something else, never to return. By ignoring this basic rule of commercial drama, the ITV once more manages to take its gift horse, smash its face in, beat it to a bloody pulp and serve it on a platter with lashes of hot contempt. Bastards.
And, indeed, buggery-bollocking twatlord wankers.
There, I’m done.
Pushing Daisies is, for all of that, a wonderful programme. It’s on ITV1 on Saturday nights and available to watch at itv.com for 28 days after broadcast. Except episode two (the appropriately-titled “Dummies”). It’s quite possibly the first and last time you’ll ever see me recommending that you tune in to the otherwise-unbearably-shite ITV1.