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TV trends: The Working Title Show

Robert Weedon | Television | Monday 3rd August 2009

Panorama, On the Record, Top Gear, Nationwide, Top of the Pops, Countryfile.
These are all names of news or magazine programmes that are or were made by the BBC, and all which feature titles that, in my opinion, are successful. They imply what the programme is about, without being too explicit and they assume a modicum of intelligence on the part of their viewers.
The Investigation Show, The Politics Show, The Car Show, The One Show, The Pop Show, The Farming Show.
These are all what I like to think of as "working title titles" - the sort of name that might be used to pitch a programme idea, but will feature a better title when it reaches the screen. Two of these, as you may have noticed, are real titles of BBC programmes introduced in the last few years (although The Car Show was also the name of a Channel 5 motoring magazine during the late 1990s)

Unfortunately, this form of title appears to be gradually appearing more and more across television, and the days of truly clever programme names appear to be numbered. One suspects that at some point a survey by a market research company suggested that people weren't able to work out when first presented with a name like On the Record whether it refered to politics or music, therefore the programme found itself rebranded in the most simplistic way possible.

The fact that the former title implied something more hard-hitting, perhaps even more accountable, was lost when it was rebranded - the minute something is branded a "show", it automatically suggests an entertainment format, which in a world where politics and journalism seem to have lost any hint of the respect they once had, is perhaps fitting. Also witness Breakfast with Frost, which sounds inherently unwelcoming. To me, this title says 'I'm taking breakfast with David Frost, a man who likes frozen milk with his cornflakes - be prepared for a cold reception'. Compare this to the friendly-sounding Andrew Marr Show, where politicians come to grilled by a man who (if we're to believe the opening titles) drives to work in a Nissan Figaro. A terrifying prospect. (Actually, come to think of it, it also almost sounds like the Jeremy Kyle Show...now that would be a good crossover.)

Comedies are also becoming increasingly formatted in this way too, with the "The ... Show" becoming the norm - The Omid Djalli Show, The Peter Serafinowicz Show, The Armstrong and Miller Show. I'm half expecting to see "The Comedy Show" appearing soon in the listings. To be fair, this has always been the case in comedies - note The Morecambe and Wise Show, The Benny Hill Show, The Dick Emery Show.

Overall, one can only assume that this format of title is chosen to aid television listings and viewer recognition. A bit more originality would be appreciated, however.

RW



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