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They only care about the food

Nightmares in HD: C5 Goes Berserk About Animals

Culture

Are too much animal videos a bad thing? Not as far as Channel 5 is concerned. Their recent animal shows-only day may be easily mocked, but the dudes just won their first Bafta! Writer Matt Charlton mocks them anyway...

Are you the kind of person who sits at your office desk, absent-mindedly staring through the window at the ‘outside’, with all the potential and possibilities it holds, and at some point, a thought occurs to you – ‘I wonder what my dog gets up to when I’m not around…’; Are you the kind of person, when your friends are talking about their baby’s first steps, first words, or first independent bowel movements, draws parallels with something hilarious Mr Fluffywhiskers did in the garden last Sunday morning?

You are? Me too. Granted, we are a nation of animal lovers… I value my cat’s wellbeing over the majority of human life – hell, you’re probably looking at cat videos on Instagram right now aren’t you? PAY ATTENTION – I put a lot of effort into this.

The point I’m eventually arriving at is that broadcasters know that whenever they put something pet orientated on TV, they are guaranteed at least a certain amount of people watching it – the same sort of people who watch ‘Rude Tube’ (E4) because they’ve heard about this YouTube thing but choose to steer clear, as they imagine it to be some sort of over the counter enema kit.

I have come to the conclusion that this must be the reason for the full-on breakdown suffered by Channel 5’s schedulers a couple of weeks ago.  Either that, or the scheduler in question had recently lost a dear pet, in which case I’m truly sorry, but come on mate, please don’t bring your personal problems into the office.

So here’s what they did on Channel 5. Here’s an absolutely true, non-embellished run down of that day’s schedule, on what is ostensibly one of our five ‘main’ channels: ‘Dogs Make You Laugh Out Loud’ (I have no idea whether this was a statement or an accusation); ‘Penguins Make You Laugh Out Loud’ (They do, you bastard! Just say they do and we won’t hurt anyone else!); ‘Puppies Make You Laugh Out Loud 2: Laugh out louder’ (I may have made up that last bit); ‘Naughty Dogs Make You…’ right – so, you get the idea.  Oh – and it’s worth mentioning that all of these programmes were each an HOUR LONG. Never mind – here comes some respite in the forms of some popcorn movies… oh. ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’ and ‘Garfield’.  Phew – it’s over, right? YOU WISH. Now it’s time for ‘Kittens Make You Laugh Out Loud’, followed by ‘Kitten’s Got Talent’, a show almost exactly the same as ‘Kittens Make You Laugh Out Loud’, separated only a half-arsed pun that someone in the production office came up with at 5:25 on a Friday evening after having banged their first line of the weekend. But now it’s over… surely…

Well of course not. Not before we are treated to ‘Psycho Pussies: When Cats Attack’ (Channel 5). It comes to something when you find yourself hoping that this is a warts ‘n’ all documentary about the untimely split of Atomic Kitten (we all remember where we were), but no.  No – more viral clips, apparently interspersed with ‘first-hand accounts of some of the worst cat attacks in Britain’, presumably some first hands now being their only hand… sorry.

By the way, Channel 5 is still a thing. Yes – it shocked me too. Stumbling across this zoophilia-based schedule was the first incident that reminded me of this fact, the second one being a particular moment in the BAFTA Television Awards (BBC1, 13th May) where, to the genuine shock of everyone in the room – including apparently the makers of the programme – ‘Cruising with Jane McDonald’ (Channel 5) won the best feature award.  You remember Jane McDonald – she was the ocean going answer to Jeremy Spake; Maureen from ‘Driving School’ but with the ability to hold a vibrato (a vibrato, you filthy bastard). Anyway, turns out this was Channel 5’s first ever BAFTA.  This is a channel which has been running now for twenty-one years. Its first BAFTA. Twenty-one years.

For those of you who have forgotten about it, or lost touch with its majesty, Channel 5 started in 1997, and at the time resembled a televised fight between Loaded Magazine and ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ where both sides somehow lost. It has since morphed into something more like Channel 4, but Channel 4 about eighteen years ago minus anything remotely innovative, and with plenty of Peppa Pig heaped on… just in case you weren’t about to projectile vomit all over your flat screen already.

Their big-ticket items are ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Neighbours’… and now apparently ‘Cruising with Jane McDonald’ – shows all lifted either partly or entirely wholesale from other channels.  So, Channel 5’s commissioning strategy is basically the televisual equivalent of dumpster diving, only the loaves of Warburtons liberated from around the back of Sainsbury’s are probably less stale than the formats in question. You’ve got to question anything that was launched by the Spice Girls and a naked Keith Chegwin (RIP) and has subsequently gone on to lower its overall tone.

So, amongst all of this cynical pillaging, where’s the comfort? Where can we find a quiet corner of the schedules where we don’t have to sit through re-hashed formats and their bastard child spin-offs (I’m looking at you Big Brother’s Bit On The Side)? Where can we got to reassure ourselves after having no idea who that over-basted fuckpie is sitting in the diary chair, or where the hell Madge and Harold have gone? Oh. It’s cat videos, isn’t it. Or footage of a penguin falling over  which- yes – made me ‘laugh out loud’.  This scheduler may have been on to something.

Sod it.  I’m going to watch some re-runs of ‘Pets Win Prizes’ on Youtube. Congratulations to Channel 5 on the BAFTA… I guess.

 

@Matt_Charlton

Read Matt’s story on the 10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Depression.

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