_ Champion at e bit
Sitting tight for the Champions cameras Which programme do you think has picked up Channel 4’s biggest audience of late? Was it that Brookside episode where Mandy and Sinbad buried Trevor under the patio? AC Milan v Juventus? The final of Fifteen To One? llone of the above. It was in fact a documentary — Chrysalis Films’ brilliant Cutting Edge documentary on the last days of England manager Graham Taylor, picking up an audience approaching eight million.
That essentially factual programmes can garner such impressive viewing figures is encouraging in a TV climate
supposedly dominated by three-minute
attention span light entertainment
people shows. Cutting Edge has adopted an oblique, irreverent but incisive approach to its subjects which makes for films that are entertaining and subtly informative.
The audiences have noticed.
It’s a format pioneered by the BBC’s Forty Minutes slot (Cutting Edge commissioning editor Caroline Pick was formerly involved with that series), but Channel 4 have given their documentaries the finance and promotion they require, and as a result Cutting Edge has already spawned a spin-off.
Champions takes the same painstaking, personal approach to the world of sport (the Taylor film can be , seen as a precursor of the new series), looking initially behind the scenes at s the worlds of racing, weekend , amateur football, speedway, tennis schools, cycling and female boxing.
The accent is on the people rather than the performance. Sports producers are definitely excluded from the films, made by some of Britain’s
I best documentary filmmakers,
2 endeavouring to shine a light into the
1 often arcane worlds of team and
1 individual competition. The big
; questions are asked, and occasionally
answered. Just why do jockeys wear
tights under their jodhpurs? (Tom Lappin)
Champions: Fit To Ride is on Channel 4 i on Monday 4 April at 9pm.
_ Home on the strange
it was a surreal kind of evening, the launch of BBC Scotland’s new programme Cunroamin’. In designer Janice Kirkpatrick’s minimalist flat, an assembly of home-owners who had allowed a TV crew plus presenter, Edi Stark into their homes, stood nervously picking at shrimp tartlets and watching the video.
Apart from Janice, there was Lucy who collected nick-necks by the bucket load and positioned a statue of Jesus, found in a skip in the bathroom; a couple sat mute on the sofa who’d designed, constructed and built their own wooden house, and Stephen, owner of a party flat with a fountain as a coffee table and more candlesticks than a cathedral. Andy, the new age traveller who lives under a tarpaulin and twigs wasn’t invited. Didn’t have a telephone, you see.
In the wake of high-snigger factor programmes, Signs of the Times and Scottish Television’s series, The Home Show, this series could be another chance for communal guffawing at other peoples’ taste.
In fact it is a straight-down-the-line documentation of complete eccentricity. ‘lt’s about people’s idea of home because there’s only so much you can say about interior design,’ says producer, Claire Sillery. ‘That’s not what makes people’s homes interesting. What does is why they have their homes the way they do.’
The six programmes cover urban,
Edi Stark goes flat-hunting
rural, conversions, stately and self
3 built houses and feature a variety of
5 weird and wonderful people. In the
: environment of their own home, they
i talk about everything from how long it i took them to decide what colour to paint the bathroom to how they turned 1 their living room into a Wild West
' saloon. But do they have anything in common?
‘Most people don’t like where they live,’ says Sillery. ‘They don’t control where they live and the thing about all the people on this show is that they do. They’ve made an active choice and they’re unusual in that respect. They all know themselves because you wouldn’t let a TV crew into your house ' if you didn’t.’
And what happens if the audience does universally puke? ‘C’est la vie,’ says Stephen, owner of the party flat.
; ‘lt’s water off a duck’s back, I’m not i house proud at all, I iust like my flat. 3 There’s nothing that special about it, 1 it’s just a few of my things and some i brightly coloured walls.’ (Beatrice
Colin) Dunroamin’ begins on BBC2 on Friday 25 Mar at 9pm.
Eddie Mair, the former Radio Scotland rising star, takes over the lunchtime show on Radio
Five Live. Martin Cox. commissioning news editor for Radio 5 Live. has clearly heard the question before though he's too polite to say so. The answer. albeit a rehearsed one, is illuminating. So Martin. which national newspaper will this new. nationwide. 24-hour news and sport channel most resemble? ‘lt will be the Mail on Sunday for its style and tone.‘ he says. ‘the 'l'elegrap/i for the range of stories it covers; but neither for their politics.‘
Radio 5 Live is the cunnineg named successor to Radio 5. But where Radio 5 was a dumping ground for the bits other BBC networks didn‘t want — live test match coverage is the perfect example — R5L aims to develop a strong identity of its own. Sport will continue to be a strong feature but the backbone of the station is news and
current affairs. This is director general John Birt‘s famous ‘mission to explain‘ taken to its logical conclusion.
Radio 5 Live hopes to capture an audience that BBC news has traditionally failed to reach; in demographic-speak. the Cls and C2s. particularly in the 25—45 age group. lnevitably it will attract Radio 4 listeners. but the real competition will be from local independent stations that are increasingly developing talk-based formats for the peak breakfast and drivetime shows. Expect a tone pitched somewhere between the fast-paced breathlessness of Radio lFM's Newsbea! and the national agenda- setting style of Radio 4's Today programme.
‘BBC radio is very good at covering what will be on the front pages of tomorrow's broadsheets but not so good at what‘ll be on the inside pages.‘ explains Cox. ‘We want to broaden the range of news we cover.‘
R5L has to fill every hour ofevery day with talk. so there will be plenty of time for smaller stories and reports from the BBC‘s specialist reporters who often don't get the chance to fill in the background to the day‘s news. Talk may be cheap, but talk radio isn‘t. and it's only by squeezing better value from existing BBC correspondents home and abroad that R5L is possible.
Cox also promises to widen news coverage by using contributions from regional bureaux — Scotland will be covered from Glasgow -— in an attempt to give non-London news greater prominence. ‘ln the past I've had producers in Moscow and Washington but no one in Britain outside London.‘ he says. ‘If it matters in Glasgow, it should be interesting to a wider audience.‘ (Eddie Gibb)
R51. is Iatmched on Monday 28 March and will broadcast on 909 and 693 MW.
I The Breakfast Programme Weekdays. ()«830am. Presented by former lTN political correspondent Peter Allen. this show sees R51. vying with the Tar/11y programme for heavyweight political guests. It promises to be ‘tirst and live' but the use of the word ‘breakfast' in the title suggests a lighter touch than its Radio 4 competitor.
-- Midday With Mair Weekdays.
noon—2pm. R51. poached Radio Scotland's hot property Eddie Mair to host the lunchtime show described as ‘hard- hitting news live from across the country'. Mair was still doing pilots and wouldn't reveal much about his show. but it's unlikely to be dramatically different from his previous morning show.
I Alastair Stewart’s Sunday Sundays. 911111—1100". Big name newsman takes on big name interviewee. probably of the political persuasion. in a set-piece which should give lazy joumalists a story for Monday's papers. Will also feature a review of the week's news and a look back at those top stories of twenty years ago.
I liuscoe on Five Weekdays. 2—4pm. Sybil Ruscoe. ex-Newsheat and News 93.
brings the Radio 1 populist touch by
adding celeb interviews to the current affairs mix. Ruscoe is being promoted as the archetypal R5L presenter; ajobbing hack who has covered pop. sport and news in her time.
I flight Moves from Scotland Thursdays. midnight—2am. Stuart Cosgrove. recently appointed Channel 4 commissioning editor and St Johnstone apologist. promises to take you ‘through a maze of controversial issues‘ in what sounds suspiciously like R51.’s attempt at 200 radio. Phone Stuart to tell him you knew his father.
62 The List 25 March—~7 April I994