Wednesday, 14 October 2009

MONEY FOR OLD SOAP


I've just finished watching Episode 1 of Hollywould, Kent TV's new soap/internet drama based on Kent university life, so I thought I'd give you a flavour of what I thought of it. It started today (Oct 14) and I have to say, it's not as cringeworthy as R. Kelly's mind-numblingly awful rap opera Trapped in the Closet, but I'm not going to let that restrain me from dishing a bit of healthy criticism.

I have to say, I'm slightly in agreement with Tony Flaig's assessment that "Kent TV is an outrageous waste of taxpayer's money" (especially after TDC's decision to close the public toilets); and judging from the quality of Hollywould, it seems like it's a cheap experiment in amateur filmmaking. But is it an experiment that the taxpayer should fit the bill for (£20,000)? That's for somebody else to answer, I guess.

Generally, I'm hazarding a guess that those who wrote and filmed it are fans of Channel 4 sitcom, Spaced. The choppy, MTV-style editing, full of self-referential voiceovers and tech-savvy nods and winks (i.e. the robot dog, webcams, web browsers, etc.), make it very similar to Spaced, if a little bit desperate and clutching at straws. What made Spaced so brilliant was it was the first sitcom of its kind to feature British twentysomethings of a particular generation (Generation X), defined as they were by pop culture, video games and Hollywood blockbusters. This was the sole reason why Spaced was littered with in-jokes, movie references, witty asides, and lots of other bits and bobs which people of their age group can completely relate to (i.e. comic books, zombie flicks, etc.).

In this sense, Spaced reflected youth culture and student life far more accurately than most sitcoms of its era – as a result, it arguably led Hollyoaks to crib some of its style and originality (with their penchant for fantasy sequences, flashbacks, using cutting edge pop/dance music, etc.). From what I can see, the makers of Hollywould have been influenced by both Hollyoaks and Spaced, but what Spaced succeeded in doing was juggling an ironic and unique approach to the sitcom format with interesting, funny and likeable characters. And If I'm honest, I didn't feel I liked any of the characters in Hollywould very much, particularly the central character, Holly. She seems a bit drippy. I'll admit that it's only the first episode and 4 minutes isn't much to base an opinion on, and if it is true that Hollywould wants to encourage viewer interactivity by voting for how they want stories to develop, then I for one would like to vote for Holly to actually become worth watching.

I also couldn't help but notice that Holly is jogging in a red Kent TV baseball cap during the opening sequence. How's that for product placement, eh? This automatically reminded me of Tony Flaig's prediction ""that poor acting, plot will be combined with heavy, none too subtle, public service messages." You certainly can't get more obvious a public service message than a red baseball cap with Kent TV emblazoned on it can you, Tony? I dunno, I don't quite feel Hollywould is in the same league as the stuff which it's clearly trying to ape and emulate. If you're trying too hard to make something cutting edge, rarely does it make the cut, in my opinion, so Hollywould needs to pull back its reins a bit. It can't just launch into being a Corrie for the Web 2.0 generation, especially if it doesn't bother to make its characters appealing or likeable enough.

Sure, it can pack in lots of self-referentialisms, lots of nods to mobile phones, PCs, techno gizmos and all the groovy stuff young 'Generation Y' college kids use, but ultimately, if all their energy's poured into appealing to its target demographic, then it's all style over substance, isn't it? I might even vote for the most outrageous plot developments imaginable, just to see if they take heed, in a futile attempt to make it more interesting. Anyway, I've embedded Episode 1 above in this blog entry for you to watch. You can be the judge of it, but in my view, Kent TV are having a bloody giraffe dabbling in this little bit of nonsense - it could easily have been left to one of the countless student TV stations up and down the country. The word 'desperate' springs to mind.

7 comments:

  1. What amazes me is that KCC are currently reviewing Kent TV, having just spent another £400,000 to extend the contract while this is going on, now they spend another £20,000 using the excuse that the soap has a public service message. The real reason is that the hit rate is poor and they are trying to boost this with this so called soap. They have already tried a pop contest earlier this year, what next readers wifes or a bit of porn to increase viewers. I am sure that not all of the 84 KCC councilors agree with the way KCC has so far spent 2 millions on this and still seems to be throwing money at it when it has not been the self financing project that they were promised.

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  2. Just to correct a comment above - it's not an extra £20k the money for Hollywould came out of the existing programming budget.

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  3. If the £20,000 was included in the £400,000 that KCC has already paid the contractor then KCC have paid far too much for the contract if this soap episode is a sample of what £400,000 can buy. If KCC wanted to put out a public service message aimed at young people they could have just used Youtube which would have reached a much larger audience of young people. So Kent TV has had 2 million visitors at a cost to us tax payers of 80p each. Not exactly value for money in these times where front line service are under pressure. If Kent TV was operating on a level playing field with other media companies rather than being total supported by KCC then it would have been closed long ago. Let see if the contractor continues Kent TV if KCC withdraw.

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  4. It's Crossroads but with worse actors, sets and writing.

    Luke, you're not old enough to remember Crossroads (lucky bugger).

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  5. I'm sure that even Luke can remember six years ago... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossroads_%28TV_series%29

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  6. Yes, I can remember the re-make/update/relaunch they did of Crossroads in 2001, which was pretty terrible if I remember correctly. But thankfully the original Crossroads isn't in my memory banks. I think I was two-years old when it originally got axed. Haha. Should I consider that a blessing?

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  7. Definitely closer to crossroads than Spaced and I'm not sure that a wind up dog from a car boot sale counts as a 'gizmo' . Overall some of the worst acting, most plodding dialogue and shoddy editing I have ever seen. A 3 year old could do better by randomly clicking on YouTube.

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