Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to E4′s Autumn season launch at an undisclosed top secret London location (the pub). I was slightly baffled as to why they wanted me to come, but excited by the idea of getting a sneaky peek at upcoming shows and rubbing shoulders with people from tellyland.
Now, you might imagine that being in a room full of journalists and PR folk might be a little daunting to an outsider like myself, but fortunately there was a free bar. That helped, a lot, as did the fact that Steve and Nikki from E4 were really nice and welcoming and I met a whole load of friendly, great people, including the awesome Catherine & Gen (we did indeed party hard!) and contrary to the general stereotype of the press, lots of newspaper and magazine journos who were absolutely lovely.
Anyway, you really don’t want to know about all that, you want to know about shows themselves. Read on…
The stand-out show of the evening, Misfits comes to E4 this November and looks like being one of the best British shows of the coming season.
It’s about a group of teens doing Community Service who are struck by lightning and get superpowers (well, most of them do…). When I heard about the premise, I wasn’t too sure about it, a lot of the buzz has been “Skins-meets-Heroes” and it’s easy to imagine how that could go horribly wrong. But I’m happy to say that from the clips I saw, it looks brilliant.
Stylistically, it seems they’ve done a hell of a job on a presumably low budget, the scenes I saw were very well directed and had a great look. The writing, too, is very good, much funnier than I was expecting, and the cast are pretty much perfect for their roles.
I won’t go too much into the characters and what their powers are as it might verge into spoiler territory, but there’s the stereotypical hard-nosed chav with the Vicky Pollard hairstyle, the regretful sports star gone bad, the sexy party girl and the slightly creepy nerd. But it’s Irish smart aleck Nathan played by Robert Sheehan who steals the show, he seems to get all the best lines and I think he’s going to be very popular. In the first episode we also meet their scary probation officer. The storm affects him too, in a very interesting way.
In a few ways it reminded me of E4′s hit from the same time last year, Dead Set, both in the look of the show and the darkly comic writing. It seems the series will be playing with the idea that they will be doing heroic things while still being looked upon by society as scary ASBO kids.
A little disclosure here, I did meet the cast and they were all lovely. I had the chance to have a brief chat with Robert Sheehan and Antonia Thomas in particular, and they were some of the nicest, most down-to-earth people you could meet, which is saying something given the amount of praise everyone in the room was heaping upon the show. But the fact that they were so nice has no bearing of how good I thought the show was, the clips spoke for themselves.
The show starts in November on E4, and I think it’ll appeal to many people, from fans of sci-fi and fantasy shows, to comedy fans and people who enjoy the likes of Skins. Fairly soon I think there’ll be some things popping up on the E4 Misfits website.
[Since then I've seen the first episode, click here for a full preview.]
The Cleveland Show
Coming to E4 in early 2010, this spin-off from Family Guy features the Griffins’ neighbour Cleveland Brown as he moves back home to Virginia to reunite with his high school sweetheart Donna and meets her family and neighbours, including a family of talking bears.
The show seems to be parodying the way that in the 1970s and 80s, there were some US sitcoms (for example All in the Family, Maude or Perfect Strangers) that had spin-offs where the African-American characters packed their bags and starred in their own separate show (The Jeffersons, Good Times, Family Matters). The opening sequences we were shown, where Cleveland sings the theme tune while Peter Griffin waves goodbye and asks if he wants to take a certain baby with him, were hilarious and a good sign that this series will be just as good as Family Guy.
School of Comedy
I’m actually going to write in more detail about this show tomorrow, it starts this week on E4 and looks like it’s worth a look.
It’s a sketch show entirely performed by a cast of children, all playing adult roles. Yes, there is a bit of “haha, isn’t that funny, kids are swearing” (and, well, it just is) but the writing doesn’t seem to be too bad and it looks like it could be a fairly good sketch show without the kids, whose presence just notches up the mirth value that little bit more.
What’s especially interesting about School of Comedy is its origins as an after school club. I’ll go into a little more detail on that tomorrow night.
We only got to see a very brief promo video for the fourth series of Skins, which will probably start early next year. I can’t say very much about what happens, mainly because while I enjoyed the first two series, I didn’t actually get round to watching the third, when the new characters were introduced, so I have no idea who anyone was. But I have to say, it looks very good, visually much better than anything I’ve seen in previous series. And I now have a DVD of series 3, so I can catch up!
James Brown’s Supermodel Salon
This documentary series follows hairdresser James Brown as he prepares to open his new salon in London’s Fashionable Wigmore Street. The series is likely to be more notable for the appearances of Kate Moss than anything else. Apparently you’ll see Moss talking on screen here more than ever before.
Now, anyone who knows me probably is fairly familiar with the fact that hair isn’t really my area of expertise (I have two styles, mess and catastrophe) and I’m also not really big on the whole supermodel thing. But if you are into that stuff, then, erm, you should probably watch it because it’s probably quite good. Don’t ask me, I don’t know…
The announcement that E4 had picked up Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy’s musical comedy-drama came just a day before the event. The show, about a high-school choir, or “glee club”, has generated a tremendous amount of interest and E4 does seem like the perfect home for it.
Now, I have to admit that it doesn’t sound quite like my kinda thing. But I do like the idea that, unlike High School Musical, the characters are actually likeable, and the diverse choice of songs, with everything from Queen to Kanye, is a lot more appetising than the Disney behemoth’s sugar-pop.
But what makes me especially think that Glee will be worth a look is Murphy’s previous show. Not Nip/Tuck, which had a great first couple of seasons before slowly descending into what can be charitably described as an unwatchable mess, but his earlier series, Popular. The cult series, full of knowing, surreal comedy, was undoubtedly the greatest “locker show” ever made (Freaks & Geeks a close second, if you’re asking). So I’ll definitely give it a try.
Overall, I was very impressed with E4′s line-up, and no I’m not just saying that because they plied me with alcohol. While BBC Three is going backwards (amazing to think it was once home to the likes of Nighty Night, it’s now on a mission to do a documentary about every teenager in Britain) and ITV 2 is aiming itself more and more at a female audience, E4 is going from strength to strength with a really exciting line-up, and is looking like the best “youth” channel out there.