When I was editing the Judge Dredd Megazine [back before the dawn of time, if memory serves], I was also in charge of Dredd summer specials. In one of those I introduced six all-new strips as standalone stories - pilots for potentially ongoing serials. The special even included an interactive element, enabling readers to vote for which story they felt deserved to get a full series commission. [It wasn't a new idea, by any means. Ronnie Barker starred in a series called Seven Of One, featuring pilots for potential series. This begat classic British sitcoms Porridge and Open All Hours - not a bad success rate.]
This year digital channel BBC3 launched a new series of six hour-long shows, all potential pilots for ongoing series. First out the box was Phoo Action, based on an old comic strip by Jamie Hewlett [co-creator of Tank Girl and member of cartoon rock outfit the Gorillaz]. Estimated overnight ratings suggest less than quarter of a million people watched Phoo Action, only two thirds of the normal BBC3 audience for the timeslot. Not a massive success, considering the amount of marketing push put behind the action comedy spoof. But today it's reported BBC3 has already commissioned a six-part series of Phoo Action.
Is that folly, blind faith, or a commendable belief that the series will find its audience over time? Time will tell. Phoo Action's notable for being first drama filmed at the new BBC Scotland headquarters, Pacific Quay. Ordered a full series to be shot in Glasgow later this year will certainly help offset concerns that too many shows commissioned by BBC Scotland are being shot elsewhere.
I've only seen the first 15 mintues of Phoo Action, as iPlayer kept quitting on me. It certainly bore the Hewlitt stamp, like one of Jamie's eyepopping cartoons had been brought to life. But the pacing felt slow, slow, slow - as if a cracking 30 mintue idea for a jazzy post-pub funfest had been stretched to fill 60 minutes without the budget to match. If the show's to succeed, it needs more story, more depth. Satire poptart sensibilities get wearing in heavy doses.
As for that Judge Dredd summer special with the readers' poll to choose the most popular pilot to get a full series, well, that was a totel swizz. I'd already commissioned the two series I wanted from among the batch of six. The rest were one-offs I had no intention of ever continuing. The readers' vote was a totally cynical gimmick designed to elicit interest in some sub-standard one-offs. [No wonder the Guardian newspaper once described me as an opportunistic marketing spiv.] Let's hope BBC3 is more genuine than that.
As Piers has pointed out in the comments section, I should apologise to all those who voted in this particular poll some 15-odd years ago for my cavalier attitude at the time. I could blame the follies of youth, but I've always been something of a jaundiced misanthrope, so that probably won't wash. Anyway, sorry for being such a git. Moral of the story: don't bother voting in entertainment polls, who never know which arsehole is manipulating the results.