Friday, 8 May 2009

Bring Back... 'Flipside TV'

You may think that a bunch of z-list celebrities and media types sat in a poorly lit studio watching TV sounds like a gash concept for a TV show… but you would be wrong.

Originally going out in 2003, ‘Flipside TV’ was one of those amazing TV creations where its brilliance lay in its simplicity.

Based on an idea by a guy named Chas Bayfield which he had posted on his website Idea a Day, proving that the simple ideas are the best ones, the show was chaired by Richard Bacon, Iain Lee or Justin Lee Collins and featured three guests each episode. The show went out live in, or on the periphery of, what I would call the graveyard slot, which only added to the show’s genius.

The basic premise was that the three guests would sit and watch a TV armed with a digital remote, flipping through the channels until they found something worth watching, if it was particular interesting they would alert the host who would come to them for their thoughts and often throw to a full screen view of what they were watching. The host would also sporadically check in with each guest to see what they were watching and get their thoughts.

Ever since I got Sky in the early nineties I’ve known that there were a plethora of trash channels out there showing a veritable smorgasbord of truly heinous programming, but the advent of Sky Digital in 1998 increased the sheer volume of these crimes against TV ten fold.

I’d often discuss a truly awful late night find with my mates and we’d trade stories of these ‘see them to believe them’ late night shows at college, this is effectively what ‘Flipside’ was – a bunch of mates watching trash TV and mocking it. It shouldn’t have worked but by Christ did it.

Now, the run I experienced was when the show hit the legendary now defunct Paramount Comedy Channel (it also had a very, very late night unsuccessful run on Channel 4) but my research has led me to the conclusion that the version of the show that aired on Nation 277 was a lot more off the cuff and rough around the edges and thus a lot funnier, but that’s not taking anything away from the later Paramount run.

During it’s original incarnation on Nation 277, craggy faced asswipe Christian O’Connell was one of the hosts, with Justin Lee Collins a regular guest, by the time the show hit Paramount though, O’Connell was gone and JLC (and his trademark beard) had stepped in as a replacement.

Sadly the holy trinity of Bacon, Lee & JLC never actually appeared on the same show and it’s hard to pick a favourite from the three as they were all great for different reasons.

As Executive Producer of the show (he also apparently still holds the rights to the show) Bacon always seemed like he was trying to stop proceedings spiralling into smutty territory (which they invariably did anyway) but still managed to maintain his sarcastic, acerbic style.

Iain Lee is a geek, plain and simple, and that’s what makes him great, ‘Flipside’ was just another outlet for him to geek out over those things that were close to his heart.

And JLC? Well, anyone who saw him on ‘Flipside’ will know that the JLC we see on our screens today is just a watered down version of his real personality. His boisterous hosting ways meant any time he was on hosting duties the show would be lively to say the least. It’s a shame to see him playing it safe these days, because unshackled discussing the sort of things you know he loves, the man was a tour de force.

His current success has to be in some way attributed to his ‘Flipside’ stint and he and fellow ‘Flipside’ alumnus Alan Carr’s ‘Sunday Night Project’, although a million times better than the smug Jimmy Carr fronted original, is a sad reminder of how great these two were on ‘Flipside’.

I’ve only managed to stomach two episodes of JLC’s ITV2 chat show, but suffice to say it’s suitably rubbish, and you can’t help but feel he’d benefit from interviewing Boyd Hilton, Karl Pilkington or Victor off ‘Big Brother’ again.

In terms of guests, there were some that were better than others and line-ups that really clicked together, my personal favourite guests were Victor Ebuwa who although he was mocked on most of his appearances proved that his ‘Big Brother’ persona wasn’t an act, the legend that is Karl Pilkington – the most unintentionally funny man in the world and the only thing ‘RI:SE’ was worth watching for: the mammoth breasted Zora Suleman, who was always an eye-catcher.

With JLC currently trying to ‘Bring Back…’ popular casts and TV shows of yesteryear, someone should seriously consider bringing back JLC himself and the rest of the ‘Flipside’ gang, because in these self-referencing, post modern, new media times a show like this could be massive. Just look at the success Charlie Brooker and Harry Hill have had with shows centred on TV observations.

With bigger names the show could attract a great deal more attention, but a lot of its charm and appeal would almost certainly be lost in the process. With a lot of those who helped make the show so great having moved on, it would be near impossible to capture the old magic, but I’m convinced there is still mileage in this format yet.

We may have to accept that nostalgia for the original ‘Flipside’ is all we are left with, but if they ever decide to cease ‘resting’ the format and ‘Flipside’ makes a triumphant return to our screens one day, I’ll definitely be tuning in, remote in hand…

…And besides, as long as ‘Cheaters’ is still in syndication there will always be programming to mock…

There aren’t many clips of the show out there and if anyone had the amazing foresight to tape any episodes of the show please let me know, but in the meantime, enjoy these few clips I managed to track down on youtube…

Other Televisual Musings:

- In the coming week there are a couple of new shows hitting our screens that have caught my eye that I will definitely be checking out (and one returning show that I’ve sorely missed).

First we have ‘Sons of Anarchy’ which comes from the pen of Kurt Stutter who wrote and produced on ‘The Shield’ which is a very positive sign for this show. ‘Sons of Anarchy’ stars Ron ‘Hellboy’ Pearlman as the leader of the titular Motorcycle Club and judging from the trailers the show looks violent as hell.

If it lives up to my expectations ‘Sons of Anarchy’ will add another feather to the currently white-hot FX network’s already pretty fetching hat. The first season has already aired in the States and has been renewed (which is always a good omen) but you have to give credit to former smut peddlers Bravo for bagging the rights to it over here, with ‘The Unit’ already in their line up Bravo seem like they finally have a manifesto to bring in viewers: top notch US original series’ that may be a little too gritty for the likes of Five and Sky1 (it’s a shame to see the skin flicks go though!)

‘Sons of Anarchy’ will air on Bravo Tuesdays @ 10pm

The second show to get it’s UK debut this coming week is the Tim Roth-starring ‘Lie to Me’. Roth stars as a body language expert who solves crimes by detecting if people are lying or not simply from observing them.

It may not sound like much, but I think any show that manages to attract Tim Roth to a starring role must have something about it, and I think this could have the potential to succeed for FOX in the same vein as their other socially-awkward Doctor shows ‘House’ and ‘Bones’ have.

The fact that Sky1 has grabbed ‘Lie to Me’, which is just finishing up it’s US run, has to count for something, even taking into account their obvious ties with FOX.

‘Lie to Me’ will air on Sky1 Thursdays @ 10pm

And finally, the wonderful ‘Flight of the Conchords’ returns to BBC Four this week after too long of a break. The quirky brilliance of this show has attracted quite a large cult following since it’s initial run on BBC Four, so here’s hoping these new fans join us old fans and tune in, so we can make this show the hit over here that it is in the States and rightly deserves to be.

‘Flight of the Conchords’ will air on BBC Four Tuesdays @ 10.30pm

- After last week’s rant, ‘24’ gave me some food for thought this week: is Tony actually trying to expose these conspirators?

Maybe I’m clutching at straws, but if that is where they’re going with this, it would not only save the season but make it possibly the most powerful season in the show’s history. ‘24’ has always been pretty grey on the whole end justifying the means thing and this would be one hell of a way to drive that whole notion home.

Of course if Tony isn’t doing this for some greater good then sweet Moses is he one evil son of a gun. Almeida is such a bad ass now, it’s incredible to see the man that for all intents and purposes, and I hate to say this, has been Jack’s bitch in the past out there kicking ass while Jack is holed up behind a computer. I personally think Jack must be having withdrawal symptoms as he hasn’t killed anyone for a good while now.

Back to Tony though, his killing of Galvez was ice cold, that kick to the head was nasty enough but then suffocating him with a shower curtain!? To cap it all off, Tony then took a shower in the same bath tub that Galvez’s lifeless corpse was lent up against – even if Tony is unrepentantly evil now, you’ve got to give him props for that!

With four episodes remaining, I’m a lot more optimistic now than I was this time last week, and if this theory is right we could be in for one hell of a finale, then again this is ‘24’ so this time next week I could be back here claiming I’m done with the show!

- On ‘The Apprentice’ this week, Phil managed to fuck my prediction for this year by getting himself eliminated due to his massive mouth.

The awful Lorraine should have gone but thanks to Phil’s ego, the momentum he had just three short weeks ago all but evaporated through his constant clashes with alleged swinger Lorraine.

I think Alan Sugar will be proved wrong in the coming weeks though when Lorraine continues to cause trouble in spite of Phil’s absence.

The calibre of the contestants this year really is piss poor and how the likes of Mona and Ben are still there is beyond me. With Phil now gone I’m supporting the incredibly gormless James, because, well, someone has to.

- On ‘American Idol’ this week Kara DioGuardi proved herself once again to be the least knowledgeable ‘expert’ in the history of expertise.

Hot on the heels of the “Studio 57” incident and her inability to count came this week’s critique of Danny Gokey after his performance of Aerosmith’s classic ‘Dream On’.

Kara claimed that Danny would sound better doing some “early Aerosmith” like 1993’s ‘Cryin’ or ‘Crazy’ rather than 1973’s ‘Dream On’.

Way to go Kara. If she’s back next season I’ll be amazed.

- Finally this week we had the very welcome return of ‘Californicaton’ (finally) After my rant a few weeks back about Five’s treatment of both ‘30 Rock’ and ‘Californication’ we’ve now seen both return to our screens, although both have been absolutely buried in the schedules – why show great shows when you can run an ‘Ice Road Truckers’ marathon?

Anyway, bitterness aside, Hank Moody picked up right where he left off, sort of… I say sort of because when we last left Hank he was uncharacteristically happy and loved up with ex-wife Karen. At the time I was a bit disappointed with the saccharine, happy-ending season 1 finale as it felt completely detached from what had happened throughout the rest of the season, but my esteemed colleague Sam Brydges made the very valid point that the ending set things up nicely for season 2, as by the time Hank returned things would be fucked up again…

…And boy did Hank fuck up in a way only Hank can: by accidentally going down on someone!

All in all it was a storming return for ‘Californication’, with Duchovny basically method acting as the sex obsessed Hank. This first episode also introduced a virtually unrecognisable Callum Keith Rennie as aging rocker Lew Ashby who bagged the best line of the night: when he couldn’t find a condom, Hank suggested turning the light off and opening an Alka-Seltzer, a sentence Lew finished with: “…and fuck her with it!?”

Welcome back Hank. You were sorely missed.

Make sure you check in with TV or not TV next weekend for a Eurovision Special…


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