light entertainment

Des O’Connor recently spoke on behalf of the public, claiming that we all want to see the return of light entertainment and big stars to British television. He said: “Just ask the public and I think we already know what they will say. They miss the kind of big stars and quality light entertainment productions that the whole family could sit down and watch together.”

Is that right? I’m pretty certain that he’s wrong on this, twofold. Many have no desire to watch light entertainment and those that do have more than enough options.

The world we live in is very different from the one inhabited by Des O’Connor. As spokesmen for The Public go, I think he’s probably one-thousand rungs down the ladder. If you ask Des, he’d probably argue that we all still demand holidays in Marbella too. First of all, who are ‘the general public’? Britain is more diverse and has more option in terms of entertaining themselves than ever before. There isn’t a crisis in television. It’s just that TV has got more competition than ever before.

‘Light Entertainment’ still exists, for sure. However, it’s changed from the way Des O’Connor views it. Once upon a time, the height of cool was to sit at a small round table drinking brandy with your wife in furs watching Bobby Darin or Ol’ Blue Eyes. Now, people are more prone to hopping into a camper van and pitching up in the family field at Glastonbury than they are listening to someone croon ‘boom bap bap scoobidy pop POW!

In terms of TV, you can get light entertainment in the shape of pretty much anything that Ant and Dec star in. Or anything that Graham Norton puts his name to. The X Factor/Pop Idol/Britain’s Got Talent franchise is the living, breathing equivalent to Stars in Their Eyes and New Faces, both light entertainment giants of yore.

Despite the successes, there isn’t the same hunger for family viewing there once was. Graham Norton’s BBC One show, Totally Saturday, has been axed due to a complete lack of interest from ‘the general public’. In fact, ratings show that over a million TV sets preferred to tune into a repeat of Animals Do The Funniest Things.

Totally Saturday featured the big stars that Des O’Connor spoke about, with guests including Lionel Ritchie, Sir Roger Moore and [Insert Latest Pop Group Here]. Viewers have hardly fallen over themselves to tune into Justin Lee Collins’ light entertainment show, with it’s big guests and big songs. The desire to see a ‘good all-rounder’ isn’t there, like many continually suggest.

The fact is, television was once king. During the ’70s and ’80s, when light entertainment had stupidly high rating figures, there weren’t as many channels, there was no internet to compete with and in general, people would tune in for any old crap because television still felt new… something that was growing and getting better. Looking back, it was Stan Boardman saying ‘Geermans’ and Freddie Starr staying soberish. Tat.

TV has failed to cotton on to the fact that the media and entertainment landscape has changed. It’s still using the same principals as it ever did… just like the music industry did (and look what a mess they’re in right now).

For television to grow and breathe, it needs to ignore old men like Des O’Connor. Sure, celebrate him and Bruce Forsyth. They’re all-singing and all-dancing and we may never see their like again… but for crying out loud, don’t take business advice from them. They’re the past. TV needs to look forward and ignore yesterday’s men.

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