Channel 4 has had some hits and misses this season as it tries to find replacements for the phenomenon that was Big Brotherby Peter Bazalgette / November 17, 2010 / Leave a comment
Malcolm in Seven Days: more mutual support group than TV show
Question: since 1900 which of the following have there been fewest of—popes, Labour prime ministers or men on the moon? This was one of the challenges on the Channel 4 game show, The Million Pound Drop. The contestants start with £1m and have to place their diminishing pot of money on the correct answers to save it. If they are unsure, they can hedge it across different solutions. What’s your answer? I quickly calculated there had been six Labour PMs and had little idea about the popes but guessed ten or 12 (it was ten). As for men on the moon, I knew there had been more than one landing but not how many (12, it turns out). This is a show with clever questions which encourages us to get involved at home (disclaimer—it comes from a company I used to work for). And should we feel so inclined we can get more involved than that: Channel4.com has a play-along online game. At one point in a recent episode a caption told us that 127,000 people were doing so. That was about 6 per cent of the viewing audience of 2m—an extraordinary statistic. And it is very gratifying for Channel 4, which pitches its brand to the digital natives coveted by advertisers.
The network is rebuilding at the moment. Having just axed Big Brother, it is looking for replacements. This involves trying a number of new ideas, not all of which will work. Here I’m referring to Seven Days, an interactive documentary series which petered out in mid-November. It started with around 1m viewers and sunk to 400,000, suffering the indignity of being bumped from 10pm to 11pm in mid-run (by The Million Pound Drop, as it happens). Unlike TMPD, Seven Days concentrated so hard on establishing a parallel online experience that it forgot to make the show itself compelling enough. First and foremost, programmes have to work as old-fashioned linear telly for the vast majority who won’t be leaping to their laptops.
The idea of Seven Days was to make a topical weekly documentary about the lives of a smorgasbord of Notting Hill residents. Meanwhile, Channel 4 laid on a sort of social network, jauntily named ChatNav, through which viewers could comment on and advise the participants. It was promoted on air thus: “They want to know what…