Thinkbox’s new columnist, John Plunkett, looks at what 2017 has in store for commercial TV
It’s not only viewers who change channels. In an era when golden handcuffs are largely a thing of the past, TV talent now regularly play for more than one team - Gary Lineker on the BBC and BT Sport, Bear Grylls on ITV and Channel 4, David Walliams on, well, pretty much everything.
But the new age of channel hopping took on an added dimension this month with the new series of Saturday night talent show The Voice, formerly of BBC1, launching on ITV – a bit of a coup for commercial TV.
In the ultra competitive TV marketplace, complicated by the changing ownership of production companies, it’s not just faces changing channels - its formats too.
The Voice is not the only show that has left the licence fee for commercial climes, it was front page news for almost every newspaper when it broke that The Great British Bake Off was snapped up by Channel 4 when Love productions decided to move on from the BBC. How these two shows play out in their new homes will be an intriguing story in 2017.
The Voice presenter Emma Willis promised some “extra razzle dazzle” when the show made its ITV debut on Saturday - “They are good at razzle dazzle at ITV” - after five series in a similar slot on BBC1 (where it did battle with ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent).
The Voice was always a medium-sized hit for BBC1 without ever breaking into the top tier of Saturday night entertainment shows, and despite the best efforts of its “coaches” it never found a singer to seriously bother the top 40.
The show’s biggest star name, Will.i.am, blamed behind the scenes “politics” for the show’s lack of success in producing a hit single.
Certainly there is the sense that ITV will be more commercially ambitious with the series - record label Polydor, who will award a contract to the winner, have been more “hands on” from the beginning, according to Will.i.am’s fellow coach, Tom Jones.
Jones, returning to the show after he was dropped for the last series on BBC1, isn’t the only change, with Jennifer Hudson and Gavin Rossdale both newcomers to the coaching line-up, alongside tweaks to the format and a bigger, brighter set.
ITV will also broadcast a spin-off show, The Voice Kids, coming to the UK for the first time as part of its deal with creators Talpa Media (now owned by ITV Studios).
As if any extra spice was required, The Voice is up against a new BBC1 talent show, Let It Shine, featuring Gary Barlow, a former judge on … ITV’s The X Factor.
The proof of the pudding, as Paul Hollywood won’t need reminding, will be in the eating.
It’ll be alright on the night(ly) show
Among the bolder TV experiments of 2017 will be ITV’s decision to strip a new weekday entertainment show in place of News at Ten. David Walliams (him again) will be the first of a rota of guest presenters on the new show, scheduled for an initial eight-week run, featuring a “high tempo mixture” of topical comedy, studio games and guests on The Nightly Show.
The new show from ITV’s Kevin Lygo has the potential to alter the landscape of the primetime schedule. Lygo was closely involved in Channel 4’s 11 O’Clock Show nearly two decades ago, which ran for five series and launched the careers of Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen. Right now everyone’s after the next Carpool Karaoke. Maybe this will find it.
Elsewhere in 2017…
Idris Elba trains to be a professional kickboxer in Discovery Channel’s Idris Elba: Fighter. The Luther star travels to Cuba, Japan, South Africa and Thailand, pushing himself to the limit as he trains to take part in a no holds barred bout.
Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston will both star in and executive produce Channel 4’s Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick. Top writers from the UK and US will adapt 10 of the the sci-fi novelist’s stories for a contemporary audience.
From Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, creators of The Likely Lads and Porridge, comes Gold’s Henry IX, the story of a 40-something King suffering a midlife crisis. Charles Edwards stars alongside Sally Phillips, Kara Tointon and Annette Crosby.
David Morrissey and Zoe Wanamaker star in Sky 1’s historical drama series Britannia, Sky’s first co-production with Amazon. Morrissey leads the invading Roman army in the “heavyweight clash of all time … the Roman gods vs the Celtic gods”.
A reality show like no other, Channel 5’s In Solitary follows a group of people who will spend five days and nights in solitary confinement. The “anti-social experiment” will also put presenter George Lamb through the same gruelling task.
David Tennant and Olivia Colman return in the third and final series of ITV’s hit crime drama Broadchurch. This time it really is goodbye, before its writer and creator Chris Chibnall heads off to take charge of Doctor Who.