Back in the late 1980s-1990s, I wrote scripts and series proposals for TV. Back then you had BBC, ITV (before de-regulation did everything all the top boys were saying it would not), Channel 4 and later Chennal 5 (the station hardly anyone used to be able to watch thanks to total screw up technical issues).
My most famous failure, that actually got a mention by a BBC TV producer whose name I cannot recall in some Guardian article, was A Cabinet Of Curiosities which was written at the same time as the horror-sci-fi The Diaries Of Fred Purvey -the BBC man told me "We'll go with your idea for the two main characters!" which would have been Roy Hudd as Fred Purvey and June Whitfield as "Mystic Marge".
I wrote all the scripts for each series (seven for each), put together creature and production illustrations and handed them in -the offer of the BBC footing the huge photocopying bill seemed a good one (all the scripts were typed, kids -no computers.....who is that keeps fainting at the back??).
Nothing. Then more nothing. So a couple of calls and eventually I hear "Oh. Didn't anyone contact you? There's this new TV series from the US -it's already made so no production costs." And my kill fee? Ever tried to get money out of the BBC? Bureaucracy and "we have no idea what you are talking about" followed by "Who was the producer? Oh, he's left. We can't enter into discussion on this."
So I cursed this stupid, no name, crap US TV show and prayed for it to be a massive flop.
It was called "The X-Files" -no, I never heard of it either.
Anyway, I continued with my quiz/challenge show projects, documentaries and even comedy. Yes. I wrote comedy. Sad Lad's Pad was described by someone at the BBC as "a very surrealistic version of Bottom but with three characters rather than two." I guess he must have read the script!
I think the first episode was titled "Barbara Windsor" and if memory serves me right the second involved the Sad Lads ending up in a Moroccan style British prison. Hookahs, fez's the works.
The guy in charge loved it. "I'm glad you came to us rather than radio first!" I never even thought of radio. Anyhow, the six scripts (I think I only have the rough first two episode scripts now) were read and the producer loved them. And then came the inevitable silence. Then a letter from a new producer stating "sadly these scripts are not as funny as you seem to think they are" -which was feckin' weird. I never laid any claims and I had never said in writing or over the phone that my scripts were great because I never would. Also, WTF was this new man?
A quick call and I found out that the old producer had left for a higher paid job at an independent company. The assistant, who I had talked to a great deal before then told me that it was "traditional" for a new producer to throw out any ideas approved by a predecessor -if it bombed HE got the blame. If it was a success then the previous man got the credit for commissioning the series. So in the bin it went.
I asked about what for the BBC was a very -very- rude letter? "Oh, he's straight out of university and never worked in TV before so he's rather rude to the point of insulting even established scripters." I wish I remembered his name (it's in a file) because one day.....
Let me tell you, this approving, going through discussing, sorting out cast or presenters and producers then leaving and everything being dumped covers all BBC departments including Wildlife -three times I was asked by the BBC Wildlife unit in Bristol (over the phone once and twice in person) "Do you know where that piece of footage is?" To which I responded: "It's BBC footage. Wildlife footage. Surely you know?" but it seems "the BBC is a big place as is the wildlife unit and those pieces of footage could be anywhere here!"
Now, the BBC seems to have lost its reputation for TV comedy. "Mr Khan" appears to be a 1970s, not very good ITV comedy...for children. Bottom and The Mighty Boosh seem to have been the final stabs at comedy before obscenity filled 25 minute crap took over. Not funny but unless there is an obscenity every other word it cannot be funny, right? Oddly, I did actually enjoy Uncle for some reason.
But the other night I watched the latest late night comedy, Sun Trap. Bradley Walsh has proven himself a good actor and funny so I thought "why not?" I sat there, my sister also watching the TV, not a single laugh.
WHY was this on at 22:45hrs? Kayvan Novak from this performance, should never work again. Bradley Walsh was only really a cameo but this really dented his reputation. Novak had a Scottish (??) accent that covered being a gay Frenchman(?), a.....no. Basically it covered every accent you need. If ever a show needed canned laughter it was this. It had no life. No humour and it, again, seemed to be a failed CITV (Childrens ITV) programme from the 1980s.
I may be a little hard on Novak because he had a senseless -and I DO mean senseless- script that had no gags or humour. The characters were sheets of blank paper.
I got quite angry. I thought my age. Then I got angrier as I thought through it that night. My scripts back in the early 1990s were "sadly these scripts are not as funny as you seem to think they are" but in 2015 the scripts for Sun Trap were funny?
Kids, look for independent companies or produce your own shows or films or audio podcasts -anything but go through what many, many others have over the years. Learn. You will always get ripped off, messed about, insulted and hardly ever paid!
Below: Bradley Walsh: "We took the money. Sorry."