BBC Winter/Spring season launch showreels

 by Martin Belam, 8 December 2005

Today I did something I've never done before at the BBC, which was to go to Television Centre for a staff screening of the show reels for the main channel season launches. Like most broadcasters, the BBC bundles up the highlights of the next few months into a seasonal show reel, which along with a press release is guaranteed to generate a few column inches of newspaper coverage. Staff can then go along to what is effectively the show'n'tell of the channels - and with a Christmas theme to the presentation we even got complimentary mince pies and mulled wine

One thing that was noticeable was that things either looked very good, or excruciatingly poor. In particular the re-casting of Gimme Gimme Gimme star James Dreyfuss in My Hero looked like a ratings disaster waiting to happen, and BBC Two sci-fi comedy "Hyperdrive" featuring Kevin Eldon looked as funny as your dog dying.

A couple of things stood out as interesting. "Life on Mars" features someone thrown back in time to 1973, although in fairness one of the guys I was watching it with did point out how weird it was seeing your own childhood as a period drama piece.

"The Truth About Climate Change" looked certain to rattle the cages of the folks at Biased BBC, although I noted the voiceover was explicit in stating it was David Attenborough presenting 'a personal view'. Equally likely to aggravate anyone politically right of centre was the Snow father-and-son combo presenting "Whose Britain Is It Anyway?" with the Marxist complaint that 90% of the people of Britain own only 10% of the land. A hat-trick of sensitive topics was completed with "Pinochet in Surrey" telling the story of Pinochet's arrest whilst visiting the UK, with Derek Jacobi in the title role.

I'm not really a great person for television to be honest - our Sky was switched off the other day and once I knew I could still get News 24 I wasn't particularly affected by losing the rest of the channels. (I do still miss having the sport at home, but we unsubscribed six months ago as part of an efficiency drive to save up for our traveling). There were only two things that stood out for me as things I'm going to miss out on through being away.

"The World Cup Story" looks like a great series, examining the history of the tournament in the build-up to Germany 2006. The clip shown looked at Marco Tardelli's celebration after scoring the second Italian goal in the 1982 Final. Espana 82 was the first World Cup finals I really remember, although I have vague memories of the 1978 tournament. They interviewed Tardelli, who gave the kind of quote that reawakens the Roy of the Rovers wannabe in every football fan:

My kids give me joy, but nothing beats that moment.

The second thing I am gutted I will miss was of course Doctor Who. There was only a small teaser clip in the BBC One show reel:

Rose: Where are we going?
Doctor Who: Further than we've ever gone before

However, the Christmas highlights show reel had some of the opening sequence of The Christmas Invasion. I'm hoping I'll get to see this in Qatar, and have already bought the tape, the packaging, the stamps, and filled in the customs form for my folks to video it on Christmas Day, and have it straight in the post to me before we leave my wife's family to start our tour of Europe.

The most powerful show on offer though was a BBC Two programme, that featured South African Bishop Tutu facilitating meetings between victims and perpetrators of crimes in the Northern Ireland sectarian troubles. Even in the small clip shown it looked to be a genuinely moving programme, if somewhat uncomfortable or even painful to watch.

Keep up to date on my new blog