The Royal Bodyguard Page 8

The Royal Bodyguard. Image shows from L to R: Colonel Dennis Whittington (Geoffrey Whitehead), Yates (Tim Downie), Captain Guy Hubble (David Jason), Sir Edward Hastings (Timothy Bentinck).

The Royal Bodyguard

Sir David Jason stars as newly promoted Royal Protection Officer Captain Guy Hubble, a man unquestionably totally out of his depth

Avatar

chipolata

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 11:56am [Edited]
  • England
  • 30,101 posts
Quote: Timbo @ January 7 2012, 11:51 AM GMT

As Alfred says, it's fine that a track record gets your material read and it is right that Commissioners should put some faith in proven talent, but even so... The script is pony, and just because scripts have been commissioned it does not mean they have to be put into production. There is such a thing as cutting your losses.


I agree with that to a certain extent, but I also think a show was commissioned to fill a certain number of hours and that show was produced, the way shows have always been produced at the BBC - the good as well as the bad.

The real problem for me is that BBC comedy, especially with regards to the mainstream, has lost confidence in itself. It doesn't know what works and what doesn't anymore, it's completely clueless, which is why there are some truly bemusing commissioning choices.

Avatar

Micheal Jacob

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 12:39pm [Edited]
  • Manchester, England
  • 299 posts
Quote: chipolata @ January 7 2012, 11:56 AM GMT

I agree with that to a certain extent, but I also think a show was commissined to fill a certain number of hours and that show was produced, the way shows have always been produced at the BBC - the good as well as the bad.

The real problem for me is that BBC comedy, especially with regards to the mainstream, has lost confidence in itself. It doesn't know what works and what doesn't anymore, it' completely clueless, which is why there are some truly bemusing commissioning choices.


Which is something I blogged about the other day on http://mjscripts.co.uk Why should Cary have a monopoly?!

Avatar

KLRiley

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 12:44pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 2,043 posts
Quote: chipolata @ January 7 2012, 11:56 AM GMT

The real problem for me is that BBC comedy, especially with regards to the mainstream, has lost confidence in itself. It doesn't know what works and what doesn't anymore, it's completely clueless, which is why there are some truly bemusing commissioning choices.


I wouldn't confine it to just comedy. The same feeling/process/lack of process that applies to drama commissioning as well. It's depressing when the most lauded series on the BBC on the past year have been the foreign lanaguage imports the Killing and Spiral. I think of the commissioning problem as the Pharoah syndrome. (Yes, I know he's a double act but the other name isn't as memorable.) Come up with one brilliant idea such as Life on Mars. Repeat the trick with Ashes to Ashes and then the BBC will go along with the truly dire Bonekickers, which at least they have the sense to can. However, 'the track record' means that ITV now let them loose with Eternal Law.

But it's the perennial problem. Do you keep going back to the tried and trusted and hope that the good out weighs the bad? Do you think 'actually we will let a newcomer have a go and throw money at them' (unlikely)? Or, in the case of drama, stick to navel gazing (making programmes about telelvision such as The Hour) or go for the period option as that's safe because we have good source material and even the Moff can't screw it up?

The Royal Bodyguard highlights that the commissioning process isn't working and that something needs to be done to bring in fresh ideas that are funny.

Quote: Micheal Jacob @ January 7 2012, 12:39 PM GMT

Which is something I blogged about the other day on mjscripts.co.uk. Why should Cary have a monopoly?!


Hyperlink it please Micheal because we're too lazy to actually input the address. ;) If you are saying the same thing perhaps people might listen.

Avatar

Micheal Jacob

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 2:13pm [Edited]
  • Manchester, England
  • 299 posts

Being completely crap, I've failed to turn the blog address into a link. Any tips welcome, because I can't make the advice in the help pages work. So here's the relevant bit, omitting the recipe for Eton Mess ice cream...

Talking to my comedy neighbours on Sunday night over my first and 90 per cent successful attempt to devise Eton Mess ice cream, we all had a moan about tweeters who declare that they only manage to watch five minutes of a show before turning it off. Tut tut, we went - what's half an hour in a lifetime? Sadly, I only lasted ten minutes of The Royal Bodyguard before my head began to hurt and, to my shame, I went in search of something else.

This unfortunate show bore out the venerable lesson that while an audience will come to a new comedy which stars a much-loved actor, if the show doesn't work, people won't come back for a second bite, a lesson proved yet again by a slump in ratings between episode one and two.

When I worked at the BBC, a major aspiration was to find a comedy vehicle for David Jason, a fine actor and a national treasure. Why this one was chosen is a complete mystery, but then so much of commissioning is mysterious. Potentially successful shows are turned down with little explanation, or explanations that seem perverse. A channel controller told me - I'd watch this show and enjoy it, but I don't want it on my channel. A commissioner told me a script was too funny. A former boss said he loved the first 15 pages of a script, which were hilarious, but that the next 15 needed to be brought up the that level. The writer did revisions, we resubmitted the script with the first 15 pages unchanged, and were then told that the problem was in the first 15 pages, which were just not funny.

It's no wonder that writers and producers often feel that they are working in a whimsical world. They are, it is.

If The Royal Bodyguard can be classed as an error - and it would be a pleasure to see David Jason back in a comedy - the return of another national treasure, Absolutely Fabulous, was to me a real treat, with Jennifer Saunders demonstrating what a clever writer she is, maintaining the heart of the show while making it feel contemporary and, in the first episode, creating parts for two younger and very talented actresses, Lucy Montgomery and Katy Wix.

My pleasure was only slightly diminished by seeing, in the second episode, the producer playing a non-speaking role as a music industry bigwig, and looking it must be said quite self-conscious. After allowing myself to be persuaded into an ill-advised appearance in a Birds of a Feather Christmas special, where my one line (Dorien, you spoil us) was thankfully cut from the finished programme, I formed the view that people who work behind the camera should stay behind the camera, a view reinforced by seeing the script editor of Mrs Brown's Boys essaying a role in the new year edition. Not a good idea.

Avatar

Matthew Stott

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 2:40pm [Edited]
  • Yemen
  • 19,296 posts
Quote: KLRiley @ January 7 2012, 12:44 PM GMT

It's depressing when the most lauded series on the BBC on the past year have been the foreign lanaguage imports the Killing and Spiral..


The BBC's own 'The Shadow Line' was just as good.

Only seen a very little bit of this; the bit with Jason in a new wig. Not for me.

Avatar

chipolata

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 2:43pm
  • England
  • 30,101 posts
Quote: Micheal Jacob @ January 7 2012, 12:39 PM GMT

Which is something I blogged about the other day on http://mjscripts.co.uk Why should Cary have a monopoly?!


Interesting blog, Michael. As somebody who has been in the business, when do the people involved in a show realise that it's just not working? The script stage, filming, post production, or only when it's actually broadcast?

Avatar

KLRiley

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 2:51pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 2,043 posts
Quote: Matthew Stott @ January 7 2012, 2:40 PM GMT

The BBC's own 'The Shadow Line' was just as good.


Give you that one Matthew. It did come to mind when I was mid rant but hey never let facts get in the way of a good moan;). But still a depressingly low strike for 'new' homegrown drama.

Thank for putting the blog up Micheal. I was going to ask the same question as Chip about when do you decide to cut your losses and run?

It's also useful to know that those of us who are trying to get stuff out there and are going mad because of the impenetrable nature of the commissioning system can take some solace from being told from someone who worked within it that it was in fact devised by Kafka.

Avatar

Micheal Jacob

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 3:27pm
  • Manchester, England
  • 299 posts
Quote: chipolata @ January 7 2012, 2:43 PM GMT

Interesting blog, Michael. As somebody who has been in the business, when do the people involved in a show realise that it's just not working? The script stage, filming, post production, or only when it's actually broadcast?


I've worked on a show where we all laughed immoderately throughout, and I only realised it wasn't working when I watched it at home with some friends. I've also worked on an audience show where we realised it was never going to succeed when tumbleweed blew through the studio during the first episode, and there were five more to go. I've made myself very unpopular by expensively postponing a series in pre-production when the writer realised the scripts weren't right. I've known that something wasn't going to succeed during rehearsals when the writers weren't taking notes and the cast began to over-compensate in their performances. So at any point really.

Basically, the more money that has been committed or spent, the harder it is to stop something, even when it's clear that the show isn't going to succeed, though people delude themselves by hoping that the audience will like it. They very rarely do.

Avatar

Micheal Jacob

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 3:59pm
  • Manchester, England
  • 299 posts

PS - thanks for creating the link, Chip. Much appreciated.

Avatar

Lazzard

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 5:23pm
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,879 posts
Quote: KLRiley @ January 7 2012, 2:51 PM GMT

... the commissioning system ... was in fact devised by Kafka.


So true.
A genuine quote from something I had in front of fairly senior people in comedy depatment:
"This is exactly the sort of laugh-out-loud, feel-good stuff people love...it's just not what we're looking for at the moment"

AvatarBCG Supporter

Tursiops

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 7:15pm
  • Welwyn Garden City, England
  • 9,788 posts
Quote: Lazzard @ January 7 2012, 5:23 PM GMT

So true.
A genuine quote from something I had in front of fairly senior people in comedy depatment:
"This is exactly the sort of laugh-out-loud, feel-good stuff people love...it's just not what we're looking for at the moment"

:O Angy :(

Avatar

Alfred J Kipper

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 8:30pm [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,364 posts

As Mr Jacob, ex of BBC says himself, the commissioning process is a mystery even to him, and presumably most other producers. I was gobsmacked at some of the reasons they gave for rejecting good sounding sitcom scripts, but somehow not very surprised. I don't like TV about TV but it sounds like there's a sitcom in there, about the bizarre and secretive world of commissioning. Do you think they'd er, commission it?

Avatar

Badge

  • Saturday 7th January 2012, 9:54pm
  • London, England
  • 9,490 posts
Quote: Lazzard @ January 7 2012, 5:23 PM GMT

So true.
A genuine quote from something I had in front of fairly senior people in comedy depatment:
"This is exactly the sort of laugh-out-loud, feel-good stuff people love...it's just not what we're looking for at the moment"


At least it proves they are good at comedy.

Avatar

bigfella

  • Sunday 8th January 2012, 9:58am [Edited]
  • Elsewear, England
  • 7,972 posts

Okay so this is not good.

But as my daughter points out, it's like a kids' comedy. Which seems to be backed up by the repeats going out at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. So why broadcast it post watershead in the first place? Why not stick it on in the "Big Top" slot where it may get a more favourable reception and it can be pushed for what it is?

Avatar

chipolata

  • Sunday 8th January 2012, 11:15am
  • England
  • 30,101 posts
Quote: bigfella @ January 8 2012, 9:58 AM GMT

Why not stick it on in the "Big Top" slot where it may get a more favourable reception


Yes, it worked for Big Top.