Wednesday, 12 January 2011

More4 & The Daily Show

I’m still reeling from discovering that More4 have cut The Daily Show back to just the Global Edition highlights package that airs on a Monday.

I don’t really have an end game for this post: I have no point to prove and nothing I say is going to undo this terrible decision, but having this forum to voice my feelings may give me some sort of catharsis on this whole issue.

I guess I should start by saying thank you to More4 and Channel 4 as a larger entity. Surprised by that last sentence? Don’t be, I am thankful to them, as everyone who has enjoyed The Daily Show in the UK for the last 5 years should be. Without More4 we may never have seen any of this great show on our screens, so although they may have now cruelly snatched it away from us without seemingly a second thought, without them we may never have had The Daily Show in the first place.

My own selfishness has to contribute largely to how I feel right now, I have taken The Daily Show to be a right rather than a privilege for the last half a decade and thinking about it now, we’ve all been lucky to have it in our lives in such an easily accessible way at all.

That said however, what More4 have done is deplorable if you ask me – to allow a show to build up such a solid and loyal fan base for five years and then to just discontinue it with little to no regard for those fans is disgusting quite frankly.

The Daily Show was pulling in roughly 75,000 viewers a night in the UK, not brilliant but not bad going when you consider the nature of the show – a satirical look at, mainly, US politics tucked away on a two-bit digital channel. Ratings are obviously the most important thing in TV but they don’t always make or break a show, if they did Mad Men and 30 Rock would certainly not still be on our screens.

Those two shows remain on screen due their critical acclaim and that is something The Daily Show receives in spades. I always thought More4 was more about the quality of its programming rather than ratings, hence their decision to make The Daily Show almost its flagship show when it launched, but I guess they’ve either changed their mantra over the last few years or I just had them wrong all together.

The decision to all but axe The Daily Show is reportedly rooted in More4’s desire to bolster its “high end American programming” and to invest more heavily in its home grown arts programming such as the drab and depressing documentary series True Stories.

So what is this “high end” US programming they speak of? The channel has recently bought the rights to the US remake of Shameless, which incidentally has received generally unfavourable reviews from the critics that matter. In my opinion, you can’t get much more “high end” than The Daily Show so this logic beggars belief quite frankly.

Below are both the response I got from Channel 4 themselves after I, in the heat of the moment, sent them a little email expressing my displeasure at the axing of The Daily Show and the email itself. Now I hate people who complain about TV, so I’d like to make it clear this isn’t a complaint, it is merely someone letting a television channel know their opinion:

Dear Mr Bunkham,

Thank you for your e-mail. We are sorry to read that you are disappointed about More4's decision to discontinue showing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show has been a fixture of weeknights on More4 for five years now and - just like with 'Friends' on E4' - the time eventually comes to say goodbye to programmes we've loved to make way for other programmes.

The Daily Show is an US acquisition and while we will continue to buy overseas programmes for More4, we have decided to spend more of the More4 budget on local commissions such as True Stories, which help support the UK independent production sector.

You will still be able to view The Daily Show Global edition every Monday on More4. We've also got our own home-grown satirical take on the week's news coming up later this year on Channel 4 in the form of the 10 O'Clock Show, which we hope you will enjoy.

Please be assured your complaint has been logged and noted for the information of those responsible for our programming.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.

Regards,

Grace Dawson
Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

And then my initial, slightly angry, email:

I just wanted to let you know that I am shocked and saddened to learn of your decision to scale back quite possibly one of the greatest satirical television programmes of all time to a pathetic one night per week.

I have watched The Daily Show on more4 religiously from the day it launched, it has become more of a fixture in my home than any UK produced show - to simply pull it from the schedules after allowing it to build up a loyal fan base for five years is both cruel and short-sighted. And further more to replace it with nothing more than repeats of Grand Designs is an insult to the thousands of Daily Show fans in the UK.

I have read your standard response to similar complaints about this cancellation on other blogs and I would just like to say that however large the financial saving you are making by down-sizing The Daily Show is, it won't be enough to fund any sort of UK produced show anywhere near the standard of what is quite possibly the most important show on US TV in the current world climate.

Claiming you are going to focus on more "high-end" drama and then purchasing a knock-off US remake of Shameless, which has already been panned by critics is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

I feel betrayed and let down by both channel 4 as a corporation and more4 as a channel and as such I am as good as done with your spectrum of channels.

As long as The Global Edition remains on more4 you will have my viewership at 11.05 on a Monday but beyond that I won't contribute to your viewing figures anymore, although to be fair as I'm not fan of either Come Dine With Me or Grand Designs I'd have no other reason to watch your channels anyway.

Regards,

Gareth Bunkham

So as you can see, in spite of the fact that I’d already told them I’d seen their standard response posted online by several other people who’d also decided to let More4 know what they think of this decision, they sent me their standard response anyway without really addressing any of my admittedly tongue-in-cheek points.

And yes, they really did compare the cancellation of a still running show to stopping showing repeats of a show that finished airing years ago, repeats of which have pretty much filled the schedules of one of their other channels for the last decade.

To tell me I might be able to get my satirical fix from The 10 O’clock Show is to show just how little this channel actually seems to understand its viewers. Don’t get me wrong, I love Charlie Brooker – incidentally I think he’s the closest thing we have to a Jon Stewart in this country – but there is no way in hell that The 10 O’clock is even going to be fit to lick The Daily Show’s asshole clean.

I’ve been upset by this type of decision before but there is always a way to eventually get hold of season-based shows if a channel drops them, but there is no such luxury in this case.

The Daily Show is on four times a week, you can’t view their videos on the website from the UK and there isn’t going to be a DVD out any time soon to help us catch up.

I’m not tech-savvy enough to get round country-blockers or to start downloading torrents each night to watch the show, but even if I was, who has time for that sort of thing in addition to a full time job and the other commitments life brings!?

If you are reading this post or this blog, the chances are you have more than a passing interest in television so I hope you will understand my pain. If however you have happened here by accident you may wonder why I am pissing, moaning and generally acting like I’ve had bereavement about nothing more than a TV show.

Well the reason is that The Daily Show has been an integral part of my life for five years now and has played a major role in shaping who I’ve become as a person. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I genuinely credit Jon Stewart and the staff of The Daily Show with shaping both my world and political views and they are certainly the reason I know, and care, more about US politics than I do about UK politics.

Regardless of my personal feelings The Daily Show is one of the most important shows on television in these ridiculous times we live in – this is a fact reflected in the numerous polls Stewart and the show top on who America and the world listen to and trust to get their news.

In the wake of the recent shooting tragedy in Arizona, Jon Stewart would have been the one to cut through all the political scapegoating and make me see exactly what happened that day and why such a tragedy occurred. Stewart in fact delivered a poignant and moving monologue on the issue by all accounts that has been praised across the internet, but we won’t get to see that now (unless it makes The Global Edition of course).

More4 may have edited the hell out of The Daily Show to get it on UK screens pre-watershed but at least we had it and we could enjoy and appreciate the sharpest, smartest and most important piece of satire the world has ever produced on a quad-nightly basis.

So fuck you More4. Fuck you right in your “high end” ass. Fuck you for making me fall in love and then breaking my heart without a second thought. Fuck you for robbing us of literally the only show that didn’t seem to have an agenda in the way it reported the news and fuck you for replacing it with repeats of Come fucking Dine with Me.

But thank you to you Jon Stewart and thank you to The Daily Show. Thank you for five glorious years and helping me become who I am today. You shall be missed more than you will ever know…


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