Globe Link News, The Girlie Show, plus of course Sports Night and Studio 60 were all fictional shows we saw only from the production point of view. I’ve just finished Studio 60 and while I enjoyed it, the fictional show jarred horribly because whilst it was supposed be be funny and incisive satire it was just staggering awful, I’d never have watched it. In Drop the Dead Donkey/em>, on the other hand, we famously never saw more of Globe Link News than the presenters’ “good evening” in the credits.
Echo Beach is the show produced by the characters in ITV’s new comedy Moving Wallpaper with the twist that ITV have actually produced it. Unlike Studio 60 it’s meant to be rubbish, but in contrast it is brilliant. Doing 12 weeks of a show that’s supposed to be a ratings grabber and yet has to be distinguished by its rubbishness is a pretty tough undertaking, but it is very, very funny. Based squarely on the Home and Away surf and sunshine model, but set in Cornwall (that still has me giggling each time I see the credit sequence) the show is successful because takes itself seriously. Shows like Home and Away or Neighbours can be hilarious when they have their moments (though it’s rarely worth wading through the hours of dross to find those) but Echo Beach is strewn with alienation devices sown in Moving Wallpaper (an excellent British 30 Rock that would stand on its own, but wouldn’t be a fun). Echo Beach is perfectly cast: Jason Donovan and Martine McCutcheon play it totally straight (even though they have cameos in the parent show). The sun always shines in Echo Beach Cornwall, the soundtrack is stuffed with britpop and there are helicopter shots of coast line and glamourous houses. Whether it will sustain it for twelve episodes I’m not sure, but four in it’s still going strong (last week was dull but this weeks back to form).
The Guardian don’t seem to be able to make their mind up whether or not it’s succeeding (Gareth McLean hedged his bets when it started). Today’s Guide suggested it’s not doing well in the ratings, but Guardian Media says it’s doing great. I’m surprised less by the fact that funny, intelligent, innovative programming should do well on ITV than that it appeared there in the first place. In episode one of Echo Beach a sacked writer is seen headbutting a picture of Michael Grade. I’m no fan of his either, but like Jason and Martine, it would appear he has a sense of humour.