So today, Channel 4 are expected to announce they are pulling the plug on Big Brother. It’s no surprise – their contract runs out next year and no-one expected them to renew it. However, it seems indicitive of a wider trend in TV. With the decade about to change, I suspect telly will change with it, too.
Last night’s You Have Been Watching was a good reminder of this: it was a 90s special. On the one hand that seemed a little strange, but it’s actually somewhat prescient. The 90s were characterised by home makeover shows, programmes about groups of 20 and 30 something friends, docusoaps, ‘gritty’ children’s/teen programmes, ‘laddish’ and ‘ladette’ post-pub telly and US sci-fi imports. The millennium end of the 90s was all about the list show.
Of course, most of these trends trickled into this decade and then promptly died – and the trends from this decade carrying over into the next will surely do the same.
On the whole, this decade has been dominated by star search talent shows, reality TV game shows (with ‘real’ people and ‘celebrities’ and the blurring of the two), business shows, property shows and expensive US drama. Oh, and Doctor Who.
The signs are that all of these, too, are on the way out. Anyone who has watched the most recent series of Location, Location, Location, Dragon’s Den or Property Ladder will have sensed just how incongruous they feel in ‘the current economic climate’ – but also how tired the formats are becoming. The decade’s crop of US drama has either ended (The Wire, The West Wing), is about to end (Lost), or seems a bit confused about where it’s going (Heroes, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives).
The ‘talent search’ stuff has gone through multiple revisions on a theme, but with American Idol suffering the loss of Paula Abdul, The X Factor being resoundly criticised for its ‘now with added audience’ changes and BGT receiving a lot of flak for its treatment of Susan Boyle and the child contestants – not to mention the fact that Peter Kay’s spoof pretty much killed anyone ever taking the things seriously – this genre, too, feels like a dying beast.
The Apprentice losing Margaret and Strictly replacing Arlene are hardly signs that those series are in good shape – and now the decade’s grand-daddy, BB, seems to be on its way to the googlebox in the sky. And Doctor Who, of course, is going through a big revamp in order to (hopefully) keep it 2010s fresh rather than looking like a 2000s relic.
Telly, like music, fashion, architecture and style, seems to naturally gravitate to decade-shaped flavours, so as this decade peters out and a new one powers up, I’m expecting a whole raft of new stuff. What it’ll be, and whether it’ll be any cop, remains to be seen.
(PS This decade isn’t over yet, so we’re still running The Bitch Factor for all your X Factor bitching needs).