Thursday, February 14, 2008

BBC3 loves that Phoo Action

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.


Dylan said...

I'm shocked! You're as bad as the BBC and their phony phone-ins.

Piers said...

Might I gently suggest that admitting this was not, perhaps, your smartest ever move?

You've just given every single person that participated in that vote a reason to dislike you.

And you didn't even say sorry.

David Bishop said...

It's no news flash to anyone who's seen me speak at a comics convention - I favour brutal honesty. But I'll edit in an apology, as it's warranted. Admit your mistakes and acknowledge your guilt, whenever possible.

bodnotbod said...

I can't believe Phoo Action has been picked up for a full series. I know I'm a great deal older than the target demographic but I felt the script was extremely weak. It lacked punchy lines. And the structure of the story was frankly rubbish. The fight scenes were very stagey and unimpressive. The bright colours throughout made my head hurt. Cormwell's voice for the basketball headed Freebie was annoying.

9 out of 10 for originality (though it owed a great debt to Adam West era Batman), 2 out of 10 for execution.

If BBC iPlayer continues to let you down there are *cough* other ways to get hold of it.

Rach said...

Your confession actually made me feel a lot better.

I'd begun to wonder if I was delusional and had no taste when everyone else seemed to vote for ones I hated. But in fact they were all voting with me.

On second thoughts that means I'm not the stand out individual in the crowd. I'm just another drone. Noooooo.

stevendenton said...

I remember the special (I still have it as a comics horder you don’t tend to get rid of stuff no matter how bad it is) and I seem to remember the news it was just a gimmick and all a lie broke pretty soon afterwards. I think that may have shattered my optimistic view of the world and laid down the foundations for the bitter and twisted shell of a human being I am now. next time I shout ‘Get The F**k Away From Me!’ at a charity canvasser in the street I’ll know it’s your fault… so it’s not all bad that’s come from the 2000ad poll rigging.

Phoo Action has a really good cast but looked terrible so despite being a regular bbc3 viewer I decided not to tune in, good job to by the sounds of it.

Dylan said...

I was only joking btw david. Thought it was quite funny tbh.

Jon Peacey said...

It may have been trailed hard but this just means that, to me, Phoo Action has looked terrible on a monotonously regular basis.

It should not be forgotten that while Seven of One spawned Porridge and Open All Hours some 20 years later it also gave us the abysmal Clarence.

Are you also responsible for 2000AD's Big Dave? I can't remember when it was printed so don't know whether it was before or after your time!