I like to believe there should be two distinct and identifiable bands running right across the Saturday night schedule – one at about 7pm and another at 10. The first should be packed solid with so-called “family” entertainment: light, bright, non-offensive, multiple age-group programming, regardless of the genre. Game shows, comedies, dramas, talent and variety shows and general entertainment… whatever. At 7pm the TV should be dripping with the stuff.
At 10, the atmosphere is different because you can cut the kids out of the picture but, more importantly, it’s getting to that time of night where nothing is getting started. It’s generally not a time when you might grab a few minutes in front of the box before going off to do something else. No – I submit that if you’re watching at ten, it’s because you’ve gotten comfortable there and, frankly, good for you. However, this means it’s not a time for disposable telly — you demand something more engaging, something you can become involved in and care about. A good story, maybe a film or a drama, something gritty or something funny, but something you can relax into and which will entertain you.
It’s interesting to observe which of the channels attempt this and which do not. BBC One, for example, is airing what is fast becoming another of Auntie’s blasted repeat-until-fade sitcoms: The Vicar Of Dibley. Dammit, it was funny the first time, maybe even the second and third. BBC Two, on the other hand, reruns both parts of Stephen Poliakoff’s acclaimed drama Shooting The Past, presumably in keeping with the channel’s recent photographic theme. Another repeat, but a good one, and well-timed. BBC Three goes with Chicken Run. They’ve done this before. Yeah, it’s very well done, and yeah, it works on many levels and yeah, it’s very funny… so… whack it on at 7! BBC Four is still conducting dramas a-plenty, this time in costume, with both parts of eighteenth-century romp Fanny Hill.
Now, ITV1 takes an interesting slant, in my opinion. Saturday Night Divas, it would seem, is some kind of musical variety thing as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with all manner of big-name female performers. ITV tends to make a good job of these studio-based specials so, while not particularly up my street, it’s not a bad call. Again though, why is it on at quarter to ten? This could have just as easily been served up much earlier – or are we not allowed to mention breast cancer in front of children yet? They follow this with a round of Parkinson which, again, is classic Saturday night television. It’s popular because it kind of works. Sadly, however, my EPG says it’s yet another repeat.
ITV2 is once again suffering from an outbreak of The X Factor, but follows this at half ten with possibly the best film offering of the night: Sister Act. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s a good fun film with a decent plot, strong cast, and you’ve got to love that soundtrack. This wins out over Chicken Run simply because I’m prepared to wager that it’s been longer since you saw Sister Act. I’m right, aren’t I? Well, either way, ITV4 has Blazing Saddles, which is another reasonably strong offering. I mean, you’re not seriously going to watch Four Weddings again, are you? If you’re considering it, let me simply say this: “Is. It. Still. Raining. I. Hadn’t. Noticed.” Yeah – do you need another evening of that?
More 4 picks up and concludes its triller Britz, based around Muslims in modern Britain, and examining western prejudices. Despite being in two parts, it’s two long parts – and I didn’t see the first, so I’ll be looking for the inevitable repeats. Seems like good, solid, gritty Saturday night material though – maybe part one could have been tonight. Five is well and truly locked into its torrent of imported police dramas, going for CSI and then Law & Order, while Five US picks up from the beginning of David Duchovny’s much-reviewed and generally well-received Californication, and runs the first three episodes.
I could go on into the small hours, or until close, but I think we’ll leave it there. So, that’s a night’s TV more or less covered – as I said at the start, all this may become clear at some point. It’s the kind of thing you write so that you can refer back to it later on. Or maybe that’s just something I do. Oh well.