Relaunch. That’s a word that is bandied about with gay merriment in these fast paced, exciting times we live in. But what does it actually mean? suggests it means “to reintroduce a product or brand to the market after changes or improvements have been made.” This is a concept which is surely open to debate. In terms of television, it was announced this week that long-running cop show The Bill was to be taken off air after 27 years, following a disastrous relaunch. You see – these things can go wrong. The changes are not always improvements.

In the case of The Bill, they took a show which had long since descended into mindless soap drivel about Tucker from Grange Hill running rampage with a sniper rifle and a fake ID that somehow got him into the Sun Hill constabulary, and turned it into mindless soap drivel about Ash from Casualty looking moody in a new hour long format that nobody was watching. Yes, they messed up, with viewership dropping from 10 million viewers to barely 4 million almost overnight. They should never have gotten rid of Tony Stamp, methinks.

Elsewhere, this week also sees the relaunch of a hugely successful franchise – Doctor Who, a show that perhaps the concept of a relaunch was invented for. Whilst its true that every week (when its not a two-parter) is effectively a fresh start for the show, every couple of years since its inception its felt the need to change. When ailing lead William Hartnell started struggling with his lines, the show, which had already begun to evolve from its original remit to educate with regular historical stories with little or no sci-fi concepts, came up with the ingenious idea to change the lead actor to someone completely different, and work this change into the show in as up-front a way as possible.

Since then, its had a further eight changes of hand, and this week sees the yet another, as Doctor Eleven takes charge of the franchise. And its not just the lead actor that’s changing. With a new head writer, new executive producers, fresh directing talent, a new score, a new TARDIS set, this is somehow the exact same show we’ve been watching since its enormous 2005 reboot, the exact same show many have been watching since the original run between 1963 and 1989, and somehow an entirely new beast all at once. Doctor Who it seems, is built for change.

Other shows, perhaps, are not so lucky. Imagine if Eastenders suddenly ended up moving to Glasgow, the way Grange Hill was uprooted to Liverpool for its own disastrous revamp. Or if Coronation Street was suddenly populated with southerners, or Emmerdale was infested with chavs and townies. Though actually, its not that far off of late – give me a Dingles sitcom spin-off, featuring the madcap japes of Eli, Marlon, Zak, Shadrach and co and I’ll happily never watch it again. It remains to be seen if the move from Bristol to Cardiff in the ridiculously brilliant Being Human will pay off, though its head writer cut his teeth on Doctor Who, so quite probably.

Today, it was announced that The Film Program, more colloquially known as Film [Year] has found a new host in the shape of Claudia Winkleman. The BBC press release proudly proclaims the show will return with a new format, and feature regular studio guests – changing the feel of the show into something more akin to Newsnight meets whatever-bollocks Graham Norton calls his chat show these days. It could work. It may be the fresh start the show needs after a decade of Jonathan Ross’ dry reviews – whilst I like and even admire Ross, his opinion on films was greatly reduced when he proclaimed Batman Forever was the best film ever made simply to get paid for a poster credit. But it could also end up just like Top Of The Pops – viewed as an archaic program format which serves no purpose in this 21st century world when everyone it seems, is a reviewer.

Whatever happens with Film, it’s clear that the television landscape continues to change in ever more fascinating, but ever more disheartening ways. You can blame the internet, you can blame Simon Cowell, you can blame just about any mover and shaker in the telly world today but just for now, at least, be thankful that we have the likes of Being Human to showcase just what the BBC is capable of, and the likes of Doctor Who for proving that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, time and time again.


About Paul Holmes

Editor of The Velvet Onion since 2010, I also work in arts marketing and digital content producing, writer for a few things, listen to a lot of vinyl and watch lots and lots of Doctor Who.

Posted on June 25, 2011, in Articles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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