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Factual Festival: the day of the TV expert is done

Factual Festival: the day of the TV expert is done
News
David Wood
14 November 2014

Commissioners of popular factual programmes across the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV agree that the days of the TV expert are over on British TV.

Speaking to a Televisual Factual Festival session about popular factual programmes, Channel 4 head of factual entertainment Liam Humphreys said that “the days of the didactic lifestyle expert are done”.

ITV’s factual commissioner Katy Thorogood added that for ITV “it’s not about experts but shows fronted by big characters” such as Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs on ITV1, or Julian Clary’s upcoming natural history series from Oxford Scientific Nature Nuts.

Lindsay Bradbury, commissioning editor, factual and features for BBC1 and BBC2, said that while her channels had some expert talent the BBC was really “looking for vivid larger than life characters who are not always on their best behavior”.

Southern presenting talent also appears to be out of favour with at the BBC and ITV.

“We want talent which doesn’t have a southern accent, doesn’t wear groovy glasses and who is larger than life”, said Bradbury.

Shows in the BBC1 8pm slot that worked were all about transformation and resolution, added Bradbury, and have to be about subjects that affect the whole of Britain.

ITV’s Thorogood said that she was currently piloting a lot of popular factual shows in the 9pm slot but there was little demand for property shows on ITV. “It tends to be a southern middle class obsession and if we did too much property on ITV we would alienate our older, northern audience.”

Channel 5 factual commissioning editor Simon Raikes has commissioned a new series with a “visceral and engaging” approach to the history Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets – fronted by historian Dan Jones.

Raikes added that C5’s celebrity autopsy series had been very successful.

Autopsy: Whitney Houston’s Last Hours really hit a sweet spot for us. It’s a tabloid subject which we added depth and intelligence to by putting a ticking clock on the last days of a celebrity’s life.”

“And we also interrogated why she died, using autopsy reports which are a relatively untapped resource.”

“ This meant that we brought to light a lot of stuff which tells the viewer how she died and which also illuminates here whole life.”

“She didn’t, in fact, die of a drugs overdose, but she drowned in a bath what was too hot.”

C4’s Liam Humphrys pointed to Richard Ayoade as a presenter who worked for C4, with a new travel series which lampoons the genre.



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