Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

Taking notes

Sunday, March 4, 2012 by

Tanja Cilia

Today’s 20-somethings assume that The Spice Girls were the first ever manufactured-for-television (read prefabricated!) pop band, just as slightly older people reiterate that it was S Club 7.

The death of Davy Jones reminded those of us on the other side of 50 that at least for us, this trend began with The Monkees, who appeared in the eponymous television series.

What began as a series of vignettes inspired by the mokumenatary A Hard Day’s Night, actually acquired the soft rock quartet real-life fame with records such as Last Train to Clarksville, I’m a Believer, Steppin’ Stone and Little Bit Me, Little Bit You.

The Partridge Family bridged the gap between ‘family saga’ and ‘musical sitcom’ – and is probably best remembered for foisting Keith Partridge (actually David Cassidy) upon the world. The storyline was about five siblings, their widowed mother, and their music career.

Well before Girls Aloud, the girl group created for 2002 ITV1 talent show Popstars The Rivals, there was S Club 7 (later S Club). The latter had their own TV show, which, like The Monkees, was screened localy.

Over the years, producers of series – from sit-coms to drama – have realised that music fills holes in the plot, just as the ‘memories’ or ‘flashbacks’ trope is used in a bid to justify situations that defy explanation, or attempts to show us what is going on in a character’s mind.

Saved by the Bell had Zack Attack; Full House had Jesse and the Rippers; Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Dingoes Ate My Baby; and Growing Pains had The Wild Hots.

This comment, of course, does not include Vonda Shepard, who held court in the basement watering hole of the dramedy series Ally McBeal, and occasionally allowed the characters to sing, too. Shepard is an artiste in her own right; she sings and plays the guitar and piano. Just for the record, this series also gave us the unisex bathroom. It was also famous for the cross-overs with The Practice.

Among the many other song-and-dance gigs there were the animated cartoon groups The Archies and Josie and the Pussycats, both based on the Archie comic books series.

It is worthwhile mentioning that the latter – as with The Monkees – featured a song played over a chase scene, where the groups ran from or after different characters.

Back in 2007, the head of programmes gave TVM a new look, which included idents, bumpers, news and weather branding. I recall at the time he had told me the idea was to emulate trends at Sky, ITV and STV.

He had also said that eventually – he would not specify a date – Education Channel would become TVM2, ‘soon’ after it turned digital.

Much water has flowed under many bridges since that interview – but last Wednesday the “channel nobody watches except people who have programmes on it and their families” underwent a change of identity.

I have no doubt bureaucracy and the squeezing of monies like blood from a stone were to blame for the delay.

We are told PBS intends TVM2 to be a sports and factual programming-led schedule, maximising use of certain operations such as news, and broadcasting documentaries.

Hopefully, this will be the impetus for a thorough overhaul of the PBS website, which is still obsessed with the goings-on of the Eurovision Contest and the doings of Kurt Calleja (http://tvm.com.mt/eurovision ).

It would be interesting to find out how many people who worked at E22 will be absorbed in the new set-up; how many have been reabsorbed into the education sector whence they were originally seconded to the station; and how many are now working at the Education Department or Ministry, or elsewhere (in­clu­ding PBS); and whether this is due to ‘exigencies of the service’ – or not.

As a corollary, it is hoped that any recruits will manage to drag TVM2 out of the doldrums in which its predecessor found itself because of a series of unfortunate events.

The publication of statement of intent applications for programmes would seem to indicate that what is in store will not be endless repeats, flotsam from TVM and jetsam from amateurs who were refused employment at other stations.

Have the employees been offered first refusal? Were they interviewed to see whether they would fit into the new set-up? How were the new people recruited?

I would say the new station is the ideal one on which to screen local documentaries such as L-Istorja Minn Wara l-Kwinti from scratch, for those who have missed parts of it. Room must also be made for other one-off local documentaries, and the screening of films shot in Malta.

• A sportscaster has just learned the word ‘mediocre’. So in one report, all was thus: the team, the game, and the defence. It was a bad day for football, apparently; other things were dubbed “careless, confused, useless, hopeless”. In the end, the winning team “żbukkaw (sic) ir-riżultat”.

Meanwhile, we have it on record that “there is no supremacy whatsoever in local teams, except for in one or two teams”. If sportscasters cannot give proper and coherent reports, they might as well pack their kit bags and go home. They cannot rely on one-size-fits-all scripts.

• PBS has won the television and radio rights for Malta ‘A’ national team and under-21 national team matches until October 2013. The idea is to encourage more people to back our national teams.

Other initiatives to this end are a reduction in ticket prices, stadium tours, public relations visits by national team players to various schools, and open days.

Hopefully there will be pre- and post-match programmes on TVM2.

television@timesofmalta.com

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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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