The BBC's long-running Film Programme returned last night, with new host Claudia Winkleman and a format change that includes a live broadcast and guest critics. As someone who's often lamented the lack of a decent film show on UK TV, I was especially keen to see if the BBC have managed to breathe life into a film magazine format that generally bored me. A collection of random thoughts:
Claudia Winkleman and The Guardian's Danny Leigh. Well, for the most part they worked okay. Similarly to Jonathan Ross, Winkleman appears to have found a hitherto unknown "serious side" when presenting Film 2010, that's a world away from her signature dizziness on shows like Strictly Come Dancing's It Takes Two. You felt reassured in her presence, live TV didn't seem to give her any anxiety, and her style of having a natter with co-presenter Leigh worked okay -- although she sometimes slipped into prattle and, really, I don't rate her as a critic. Can you blame me? She may be a huge movie fan, but she has zero reputation as a film critic. It's hard to know why you should care about what she thinks.
Another problem was that they tended to talk for so long you began to lose interest, and it felt very rehearsed (which it probably was). If you're going to have a chat about your opinions on a movie in this manner, it needs to be more spontaneous, energetic and playful. If Winkleman and Leigh had great chemistry together, I'd be happy to listen to them mouth off for 5 minutes, but they don't at the moment.
There are now three supporting reviewers/reporters in Empire magazine's Chris Hewitt, cinephile Antonia Quirke (she dislikes Pixar!), and Ultra Culture film blogger Charlie Lyne -- who looks younger than my DVD collection. Hewitt was live at the London Film Festival's opening night, interviewing Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley -- which was of mixed success. It worked because it gave us a sense of the camaraderie between the three actors (who laughed and joked in a surprisingly candid way), but it failed because you were so fixated on the trio's tipsy behaviour that nothing they said sunk in.
Anyway, I'm not convinced Film 2010 needs those three, in addition to Danny helping Claudia dissect the week's big movies. A few reporters covering global showbiz events would be more than enough.
One clear misfire was letting Charlie Lyne compile a lighthearted Top Five films with a connection to the moon (um, WHY?), which felt redundant and contained mainly tenuous choices like, well, Enter The Dragon. In fact, it felt designed to get people annoyed and send in their own suggestions, which may or may not have worked. All I know is it definitely wasted 5 minutes and seemed to suggest bloggers are only good for compiling fatuous lists.
There was also a Questionnaire feature, where celebs answer a slew of quick questions. Simon Pegg was the first subject, rattling off his answers during a press junket for Burke & Hare, apparently. I'm not sure this is really necessary, but I guess it helped break up the show.
It kept being mentioned that you can tweet @BBCFilm2010 and perhaps have your message read out live on the show, but Winkleman only recited a handful of tweets and none were worth the effort. I love Twitter, but using tweets like reader's letters just doesn't work. It's better to have a ticker running at the bottom of the screen, really -- during specific segments of the show. But even that would look ill-suited outside of a reality show. And tweets from a public that shouldn't have seen films being reviewed until their UK release on Friday? Is that of any use?
Did the fact Film 2010 is transmitting LIVE add anything of value? In this context, I don't see why a pre-recorded show isn't actually preferable. Winkleman and Leigh might at least slow down their chats. I'd be happier if they did occasional live editions when a notable film event was happening. Make those moments feel special. Otherwise, live TV is only worthwhile if part of the enjoyment is the feeling of spontaneity, but everything looked too rehearsed for that. In particular, Winkleman looked to be on a tight leash, although the best moments were when she went off-script -- including a last-second yelp like an excitable puppy who's been told she can have a treat for getting through the episode.
But if you've chosen to hire a presenter known for her crazy impulsiveness, then why reign Winkleman in so much? A balance has to be maintained, as I couldn't stomach a movie version of Winkleman's shtick from It Takes Two, but it makes little sense to muzzle her.
The runtime has also been extended to 45-minutes, but it felt like there was less content than the previous half-hour shows! Maybe it's because they spent so long reviewing The Social Network and Despicable Me, or because the episode was full of unnecessary fripperies like that pointless Top Five list and Pegg's Questionnaire?
And where were the mentions of DVD and Blu-ray releases this week? Considering more people watch movies at home than in the cinema, I'd like to see the home cinema market catered to more.
Maybe the problem with Film 2010 and shows of its ilk is a fundamental change in habits: the internet offers better film criticism, with daily regularity, via websites, blogs, podcasts and vodcasts. A traditional TV show can only work if you're interested in hearing the opinion of the presenters (and do we care what Claudia Winkleman thinks?), and if it's regularly packed with exclusive trailers, industry reports, and celebrity interviews. There wasn't much of that in this opening episode, beyond a look at Narnia's Voyage Of The Dawn Treader that played over the credits. They didn't even ask Garfield about Spider-Man!
An unremarkable start, then -- but let's see how it develops over time. One thing you won't get with Film 2010 are too many opinions that diverge from the mainstream, which personally disappoints me.