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Making Saturday Shine

Making Saturday Shine
Staff Reporter
22 August 2012

The upcoming Media Guardian Edinburgh TV Festival will see a debate about what makes a great Saturday night primetime entertainment hit. Here four execs discuss the essential ingredients

John Kaye Cooper

Controller of entertainment, ITV

So, what are the challenges for Saturday primetime, particularly with a current global dearth of exciting new series or formats? Inevitably, the “next big thing” is likely to include familiar, or indeed derivative, ideas and themes but with clever twists. The Saturday night audience wants to feel they are part of a big scale event that they can share with their family and friends, and talk about over the following week. I would love to believe that the next blockbuster could be something completely original. But the history of TV entertainment suggests it will be a clever remake of a theme we have seen before!

Kenton Allen

Ceo, Big Talk Productions

There was a joke doing the rounds of every under-pressure entertainment development team recently: Why are ITV1 looking for Jesus? Because they need a bloody miracle. My crystal ball is broken but I have a hunch that stripping Superstar across nine nights at the start of the school holidays will not have paid off for ITV. The show was not exactly an instant hit. And instant hits are what Saturday night entertainment is all about. Creating an entertainment format that hits the bullseye from day one is the second hardest thing to do in TV. Because holding your nerve and tweaking the format as you go if the show launches to a lukewarm reception is the hardest.

Mark Linsey

Controller, entertainment commissioning, BBC

It needs to be a show that gets the whole nation talking, something with very broad appeal and with an idea or talent (ideally both) that will bring the audience together in front of the TV. It must make a noise and be utterly unmissable. It has to deliver plenty of drama with jeopardy, tension, and surprise. Crucially, the audience has to connect emotionally with the ‘story’ unfolding in front of them. What the audiences really want is something a bit different and the real challenge for commissioners is to get suppliers to think in a different way about Saturday night. Too often we get the same things in the same area pitched to us. The show still needs to have traditional Saturday night values, but with a new dimension that makes the audience think they are getting something new. Easier said than done.

Daisy Goodwin

Ceo, Silver River

“The perfect Saturday night show has to be something you can watch with your family where there isn’t a fight about the remote control. The best formats are the ones where the one line pitch is simple – a talent show – a celeb dancing contest, but the execution is unfailingly sophisticated and ahead of the audience. And you need a hook, whether it is Cowell’s barracuda smile, Brucie’s dreadful jokes or the chairs on The Voice. It’s bread and circuses basically.”

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