PREVlEW Film 99 With Jonathan

Ross BBC 1, starts Sun 21 Mar, 10pm.

Dun, dun, daaah, dah, dah, dah . . . the opening cords of Billy Taylor’s piano solo ’I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free' are instantly recognisable, having heralded the arrival of the BBC's flagship film show every year since it's first airing in 1972. Apart from a few brief absences, Film 96, 97, 98, etc. has been presented by Barry Norman, who has made his name synonymous with cinema.

Perhaps surprisingly, film shows draw relatively small audiences. Yet the belief that they have a core audience and the potential to generate healthy viewing figures has broadcasters littering their schedules with them, year in, year out. Few, however, survive longer

than a couple of series Film Night, Moving Pictures and The Little Picture Show have all fallen by the wayside. Which begs the question: what makes a popular film


Mark Cousins, presenter of Scene By Scene, offers one answer. ’Film shows just follow the agenda of whatever is on release and the distributors control everything so the shows end up being fairly shallow. The key is agenda


That synonymity of Barry Norman and cinema suggests that the success of a film show also hinges on its presenter. Qualities such as authoritative knowledge, passion for the subject and ease of presentation are of

paramount importance.

Bazza's replacement, following his move to BSkyB, is Jonathan Ross, a presenter with a variety of topical and quirky chat and quiz shows under his belt as well as a fascinating trawl through American B-moviemania with The Incredibly Strange Film Show. ’Barry's such a hard act to follow,’ says Ross. ’We'll being sticking to the show's traditions, but I want to make it slightly more of an


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Film 99: JR viewing

entertainment show, without losing the authority of the reviews.’

Aiming for a younger but broader audience, Ross' self- scripted show combines his passion for trashy pop culture with mainstream accessibility. ’One of the things all film programming misses out on is the love of the trashier end of the spectrum,’ suggests Ross. 'I don't mean mad old 8- movies, I mean the big blockbusters. I'll be approaching the show from the perspective of the younger audience that is excited about the new Star Wars movie.’

The series debuts with an Oscar special featuring interviews with the stars among them James Coburn and Emily Watson but also includes an alternative history of the event focusing on those films denied a statuette that went on to become classics. ’l’ve got mixed feelings about the Oscars,’ explains Ross. ’If the host is good then it can be a very entertaining show. If not then it can be fairly tedious.’ These are, hopefully, not famous last words. (Miles Fielder)

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