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Pop Idol, Fame Academy et al.

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SW
Steve Williams
Did any of those ITV2 shows mentioned at the end ever get made?


Unfortunately ITV2 dating shows of 2002 are now a fading memory, although there was a dating show on ITV1 around that time called Eliminidate with Kerry Katona, which was a big flop and booted out of its slot after about three weeks.

They were very lucky with Pop Idol because they'd had two high profile Saturday night flops in 2001, The Premiership of course plus also the intention was that Slap Bang with Ant and Dec could be a long-runner that could be on for six months of the year like the House Party, but it was a disaster.

I remember reading this article at the time - https://www.theguardian.com/media/2001/jul/02/mondaymediasection3 - which is from just before The Premiership began and is very interesting. Funnily enough one of the shows they mention as their big hopes for the autum is HearSay It's Saturday which was an even bigger flop than Slap Bang and the final episode ended up going out at two o'clock in the afternoon. Moment of Truth never went to Fridays though there were a couple of Saturday staples that were on Fridays for a bit, like The Brian Conley Show.

Soapstars was never shown on Saturdays, it was part of another ill-advised venture on ITV that autumn, where Mondays were specifically branded as an evening of particular interest to younger audiences, they did a load of trailers for it - "Monday's my day" - and alongside Soapstars there was the Russell T Davies drama Bob and Rose and The Sketch Show, the, er, sketch show with Lee Mack and Tim Vine, all skewing a bit younger than your average ITV weekday fare. And the whole thing lasted five weeks before they panicked at Bob and Rose getting low ratings, punted that to a post-10pm slot and parachuted Denis Norden repeats in to replace it.

Would be fascinating to think what might have happened if The Premiership had worked at 7pm, not just for Saturday night telly but for the Premier League, presumably we wouldn't have Saturday teatime matches. But it probably would never have worked, even if the show had been brilliant (which it wasn't), and I think ITV knew that. The original plan was to do it at 6pm which would have meant it would have been out of the way before the big shows, and because it was so soon after the final whistle, it would have seemed like the matches were almost live and people might have deliberately avoided the results. But it turned out the rights wouldn't let them do it at 6pm, and they'd spunked so much money on it, it was a waste putting it on after ten, so they decided to do it at seven, which didn't work for anyone.
JO
Jonwo
I remember David Liddiment presenting a programme on Channel 4 called What Killed Saturday Night TV which ended up being a redundant programme as it aired before Strictly and The X Factor became huge hits.
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VM
VMPhil Granada North West Today
Jonwo posted:
I remember David Liddiment presenting a programme on Channel 4 called What Killed Saturday Night TV which ended up being a redundant programme as it aired before Strictly and The X Factor became huge hits.

I remember watching a show along the lines of ‘What happened to Noel Edmonds?’ (can’t remember the actual title) which was shown just before Deal or No Deal became a huge hit.
SW
Steve Williams
Jonwo posted:
I remember David Liddiment presenting a programme on Channel 4 called What Killed Saturday Night TV which ended up being a redundant programme as it aired before Strictly and The X Factor became huge hits.


Yes, in July 2004 - although we'd already had Pop Idol pulling in millions of viewers less than a year previously. But it was a legitimate concern at the time, as I say between House Party and Strictly the Beeb were scrabbling around for anything that might catch on, and all of ITV's big brands like Blind Date and Stars In Their Eyes had either ended or were in terminal decline, and nothing new seemed to be coming to replace it.

The other thing about Fame Academy vs Pop Idol was that the first time it clashed, a very high profile evening indeed, was actually on the hottest weekend in the history of Britain in August 2003, so hardly anyone was watching either show.
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JL
JamesLaverty1925 Central (East) East Midlands Today
Score posted:
Pop Idol 2 did average higher ratings than the first series, averaging 8.2m compared to 7.5m for the first series (excluding results shows as they weren’t all long enough to make the BARB top 30s). Although PI2 didn’t have quite the same surge towards the end and the final was over 2m down on the first series, I think the general perception was that the second series had not been as good.

Then The X Factor came in and actually averaged slightly lower than either Pop Idol (7.4m) and there was some talk that ITV felt the whole format might have peaked, so they felt the safest bet was to stick with the format with the star power of Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne.


Yes, for the first two series it was pretty much neck-and-neck with Strictly, I remember Brucie saying in the Radio Times he was so amused that fusty old Strictly was going toe-to-toe with the snazzy new X Factor. Strictly certainly was stronger competition, Pop Idol came during that odd period in 2001-04 when BBC1 didn't have a regular big live entertainment show on a Saturday night, the House Party having long been axed, and also didn't have Match of the Day either, so they didn't have many schedule staples and their Saturdays were very hit and miss.

As you say, Pop Idol 2 was considered inferior to the original. I've said this before but the original series of Pop Idol seemed a revelation at the time, the thing I always mention is when Rik Waller had to get a bye and then pull out, and on the show they actually discussed this and invited the audience to ask questions to the judges, and it felt like a real breath of fresh air, a show that was honest with its audience and was happy to discuss its machinations. It was a really clever format as well, I remember when it was announced the top ten would be singing every week I thought that would be quite a dull and repetitive format but it actually had a proper creative reason for doing that as you could see them improve every week. Had they done the familiar vote-for-your-favourite-and-then-there's-a-final format Gareth Gates would have had it sewn up from day one, but this way they got a more satisfying result.*

Whereas on Pop Idol 2 it all felt that bit more contrived, and it felt like they were trying to replicate all the characters and the talking points from series one, so it was nowhere near as exciting. One thing I remember about the final of Series 2 is that it was three hours long (which rather illustrates what a beast it all was now) but half an hour before the end they stopped for a news summary which was seemingly so the final half hour could count as a separate show and they could report a bigger audience. A bit cynical.

As you say, they ended up pretty much making The X Factor a big hit. It's interesting because at the turn of the century, as I say in that period between House Party and Strictly, the general concensus was that the big Saturday spectacular was dying, and what you'd be left with was shows like Friends Like These, made on a tiny budget and pulling in modest audiences, and that would be it for the future. And then The X Factor started making the sets bigger and boasting about its viewing figures and throwing the kitchen sink at it, and suddenly these shows started mattering again.

Popstars the Rivals was TLS but had nothing to do with Cowell. Was an ITV production not Syco or Thames.


Yes, although it was the most shamless retread of Pop Idol, and had very little to do with the first series of Popstars, which had all been pre-recorded with no studio shows. Actually the original Popstars (which started twenty years ago this week) was a really strange departure for Saturday nights, it was more of a documentary than it was light entertainment.

The original Popstars was a revelation at the time, again it was very honest about showing its machinations (happily admitting when nobody turned up to the auditions, and of course very much so after HearSay has been formed and the programme became about itself, Popstars interviewing HearSay about being interviewed about being on Popstars). But by the time The Rivals came around it had been totally overshadowed by Pop Idol and the studio shows were exactly the same, none of the judges from the original Popstars of course but one from Pop Idol, sat in the same place in the set as they did on Pop Idol, and following the format to the letter. At the same time you had Fame Academy 1 and so you got the scenario where on Popstars they were trying to make a group but they were all singing individually, and on Fame Academy they were aiming to find a solo artist and they all sang in groups.

As mentioned, Fame Academy 2 was shown at the same time as Pop Idol 2, it was the most shameless spoiler attempt of all time. It would chase Pop Idol around the schedule so both started at the same time, and even the phone numbers were one digit apart. People complain about the Beeb chasing ratings, never had it been so cynical and obvious than it was here. A total embarrassment.

* Of course, even though Will won, Cowell was always clearly in the Gareth camp and even after the show he still thought Gareth was the best bet and promoted him endlessly, more than Will probably (I'm not sure you'd be able to get away with that these days, Gareth pretty much got the same prize so the whole competition was a waste of time). A few months after the first series they showed the live tour show on ITV and it was the most ludicrous Gareth-heavy edit, Will was barely in it, it was as if his fan club had made it. Which they probably had, to be honest, given Cowell signed it off.


Of course, Fame Academy 2 completely stripped the format of any originality it ahead.

FA1, at least, had a different feel to Pop Idol, with the poorly performing acts being "at risk", and the supposed "Star pupil" getting the reward of performing original material during the live show, with those not the star, or at risk forming groups/duets.

FA2 however, just followed the Pop Idol format, and just became a clone.
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JO
Jonwo
The most memorable part of Fame Academy was Richard Park arguing with Patrick Kielty which turned into a feud.
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BH
BillyH Founding member London London
I thought it was Daniel Bedingfield not understanding the concept of impartiality and telling everyone live on air to ignore the other bloke and vote for Alex.
Member since 26 May 2001
JL
JamesLaverty1925 Central (East) East Midlands Today
I thought it was Daniel Bedingfield not understanding the concept of impartiality and telling everyone live on air to ignore the other bloke and vote for Alex.


I've worked with "The other bloke", aka Alistair Griffin a few times. He's rather less than complementary about the programme (but appreciates it did help him in some ways). He eventually resurfaced by unofficially soundtracking major British sporting events.
SW
Steve Williams
Of course, Fame Academy 2 completely stripped the format of any originality it ahead.

FA1, at least, had a different feel to Pop Idol, with the poorly performing acts being "at risk", and the supposed "Star pupil" getting the reward of performing original material during the live show, with those not the star, or at risk forming groups/duets.

FA2 however, just followed the Pop Idol format, and just became a clone.


Well, indeed, you could argue that had the original Fame Academy gone up against Pop Idol, they could have argued it was a distinctly different programme and offered viewers a choice, but given it was just Son Of Pop Idol, that argument went out of the window. As you say, in the first series, it was quite a loose and flexible format, and those who weren't up for eviction had the freedom to collaborate with the others and do different stuff, or write some songs. But seemingly this was too complicated for the audience, who by now wanted their say on every aspect of every show, so in series two everyone was up for eviction every week, and because they moved from the big studio to the academy, there was no chance of any dancing or large scale performance, everyone just had to stand there and sing. Just like on Pop Idol.

I remember in the first series that the one who was supposed to win was a girl called Mali, who played about a million instruments and was always given really credible oldies to sing like Tracks Of My Tears, and the judges showered her with praise every week. And the second she was up for eviction she was immediately voted out.

People say programmes are run into the ground these days but it's worth remembering how much Fame Academy there was for the first series - an hour long show every Friday (which meant other shows like HIGNFY had to get out of the way), plus shows at 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday with stuff from the academy, plus a late night one around 11pm in case anyone shagged on camera, plus extra shows on BBC Choice and CBBC. Loads and loads of it.

Jonwo posted:
The most memorable part of Fame Academy was Richard Park arguing with Patrick Kielty which turned into a feud.


Yes, all very unedifying, everyone remembers the gesture, but my "favourite" bit was when Kielty started moving on before Park hadn't finished, and Park shouted "Oi!", the greatest breakdown in televisual etiquette ever.

Park said some interesting stuff on Fame Academy, there was a great bit when someone sang a Shakira song and the Grants were saying she was "better than Shakira", and Park said she clearly wasn't and it was "dangerous rubbish" to say so because it got their hopes up to a ridiculous level, which was quite an interesting and useful thing to say, I thought. Unfortunately, it then got to the stage where Kielty straight up contradicted and ridiculed everything Park ever said - "I don't know what you were listening to, we all thought it was brilliant!", that was his catchphrase.

Presumably Kielty decided he should be on the side of the contestants at all times because it was supportive, but he never realised that if you constantly poo-poo everything the judges say, eventually people are going to wonder why they're on the programme in the first place, and it wasn't entertaining, it was just horrible. On the other side, Ant and Dec were happy to send up Simon Cowell but they had the wit to emphasise that he did actually know what he was talking about and he was being sincere in his comments and they could be useful for the contestants. Not so with Park.
SO
Soupnzi London London
Always felt it was slightly strange how Fame Academy just ‘arrived’ in the schedules. I used to read all the showbiz and TV sites of the day, yet had never really heard of the show until about 1 or 2 weeks before. It was an Endemol format of course (which I think had already aired in Spain), but I wondered how quickly it had been rushed to screen to capitalise on the success of Pop Idol.
LV
LondonViewer London London
Not how I recall it. I remember it being massively hyped as a cross between Big Brother & Pop Idol. If anything, its problem was that expectations were too high.
Last edited by LondonViewer on 12 January 2021 10:52pm
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BR
Brekkie Wales Wales Today
Yes, and as such it was the sort of thing people didn't expect the BBC to do.
Be nicer and more tolerant to each other. Them's the rules.

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