five (that’s Channel Five to you and me) is set to take its first tentative steps into the world of multichannel with the launch of two new channels: five us (Five U.S.) and five life (not to be confused with Five Live). They’re both going to be launched on Freeview, which is good news, isn’t it? Nah.

I used to get quite excited whenever a new channel was added to Freeview’s lineup. But I’ve come to realise that most of the channels are utter crap. Also, most of the new channels have been squeezed in by reducing the picture quality. These days most Freeview channels just look like a load of pixelated, blocky shit — a step above YouTube.

Luckily, Channel Five has found the space for their new channels by buying part of Top Up TV and nicking all of their space. (Top Up TV is repositioning itself as a PVR service. The PVR will cost £180, then £9.99 per month. Any takers? No?) So at least Five’s new channels won’t look as though you’re watching them through a sieve.

But they sound as though they are going to be full of a load of insipid trash.

Five US features a mix of American drama, films, documentaries, sport and comedy…

Just like the original Channel Five then.

…while highlights from Five Life include the highly-acclaimed drama series Love My Way and the award-winning The Ellen Degeneres Show.

“Highlights” like some programme that nobody’s ever heard of, and a chat show hosted by somebody that everybody thought was left behind by the 1990s.

Let’s face it: these channels are going to be filled with programmes that aren’t even good enough to be shown on Channel Five. And is there anybody who thinks that Channel Five has enough material to fill even one channel?

People said the same when ITV launched ITV3, which the last time I looked was the third-biggest multichannel channel (behind Sky One and ITV2). That doesn’t make its content any good though. ITV3 is filled with twenty year old dramas that look as though they were filmed in an actual theatre, and probably should have stayed in the theatre aswell.

Meanwhile, ITV2 has become the home of uninspired spin-offs called things like The X-Factor X-treme DX Reloaded Uber Edition the Third On ITV2 (I think that’s also the name of Gilette’s new razor). Either that or it’s showing some wet Holywood chick flick or teen movie.

ITV4 is the worst of them all, especially when you consider that ITV essentially removed Men & Motors to make space for it. Like Men & Motors, ITV4 is meant to be aimed at blokes. But whereas Men & Motors had the well-known brand, fanbase and reasonable programming, ITV4 doesn’t.

Can anybody actually think of any progammes that ITV4 shows? The only one I can think of is David Letterman, which already had a perfectly good home on ITV2. Indeed, since they moved Letterman to ITV4 you would think that they would show it at a decent slot, but it still occupies the same irregular post-midnight slot. You could only hope of catching it if you came back late from the pub and happened to be flicking past ITV4.

ITV isn’t the only company polluting Freeview. Channel 4 has also done a disappointing job. E4 is okay, but it promises a lot more than it ever delivers. It should be showing more experimental British programmes. But most of the time it shows cheap American imports that are superficially good looking but are ultimately as appealing as stapling your bumcheeks together. The one thing going for the channel is E4 Music, which actually shows a decent variety of music. It certainly does a much better job than The Hits or TMF.

The jury is out on Film4. I have watched a few films that I wouldn’t have seen anywhere else, but the number of repeats already is worrying. I don’t think it’s quite delivering.

Then there is More4, another channel that seemed promising but you never seem to watch it. Again, does anybody know what this channel shows? There is The Daily Show, if you can remember to watch it. But is there anything else? Whenever I flick past it, it seems to be showing repeats of Noel Edmonds’ Imaginary Telephone Conversations.

The channel launched in a blaze of publicity with A Very Social Secretary, but has produced nothing notable since then. More4 is obviously hungry for more of that kind of publicity — it’s only gone and shot George Bush. Please.

Then there is the BBC. In fairness, the BBC’s digital channels have produced much more quality programmes than its commercial rivals have. But still something seems to be lacking. BBC Three in particular seems to have completely lost its way.

In fairness, a lot of BBC Three’s troubles seem to stem from the ridiculous rules and quotas that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport imposed on the channel. It famously told the BBC that BBC Three must show news in order to distinguish itself from commercial rivals, then later criticised the news programme because nobody watched it!

A couple of years ago, on the crest of the Little Britain wave, BBC Three seemed like a quite a good channel actually. Don’t forget that BBC Three was also the home of The Mighty Boosh and Monkey Dust, two fine programmes.

But since then it has produced reams of steaming poo like Tittybangbang (officially the world’s least funny comedy) and Grownups (a flimsy script coupled with dreadfully wooden acting, this makes Two Pints look like a bloody masterpiece). Even Rob Brydon seemed to be shat up with the misfiring Anually Retentive.

Since ditching the 7 O’Clock News, BBC Three seems to have filled its current affairs quota with documentaries by complete dullards wittering on about their tiny penii. And people think bloggers are self-indulgent! And let’s not forget those awful programmes about parenting. If I want to see lots of toddlers with potty mouths I’ll go to the supermarket.

The whole tone of the channel is unbearable aswell. Why are those continuity announcers trying to be my mate? It is contrived, unfunny and annoying.

BBC Four is pretty good at what it does. And let’s face it, most of BBC Three’s best programmes would probably fit easily on BBC Four. Vaguely decent comedy shows like Screen Wipe or Don’t Watch That Watch This do fine on BBC Four, so why not? Sometimes it feels as if the Beeb uses the word ‘youth’ as a proxy for ‘shit’. So they should do with that shit what everybody else does with it. BBC Three should probably just be thrown in the toilet, and the BBC could concentrate on just the one digital channel.

7 comments

  1. [...] This is the same reason why the DCMS’s big idea of getting BBC Three to do yoof news (which I mentioned in my previous post) completely flopped. I actually quite liked BBC Three’s news programme because it was sometimes quite amusing, and it was generally quite a good programme. But I didn’t watch it because of the news it gave me. I liked BBC Three news for what it was, but I didn’t kid myself on that I was watching the news. Deep inside I knew that if I actually wanted to watch the news I would have been watching Channel 4 News or News 24. [...]

  2. John

    It is a lie that is always perpertrated by snobs like this that all U.S. TV is crap. There is SO MUCH US TV, that there is plenty of good TV, you just have to search for it. Some of the shows that Five US have got ARE high quality drama, at least as good as any British drama’s we get nowadays. In fact, most US Drama is better than UK drama we get nowadays! I lived in the USA for six years and I never had a problem finding quality TV to watch. I can’t say that for when I returned to England, prior to Freeview, that is!

    It’s not about a a whole channel having quality, it’s about a high enough percentage of high quality TV that there is always something to watch.

    I am fed up with people saying ‘there’s never anything good on TV’ then say, ‘let’s watch something we videoed last week!

  3. [...] Somebody calling themselves John (but where are the credentials, huh?) left a comment on my post about Channel Five’s new channels: It is a lie that is always perpertrated by snobs like this that all U.S. TV is crap. There is SO MUCH US TV, that there is plenty of good TV, you just have to search for it. [...]

  4. bollox,i hate all that snobby US drama,comedy or what ever you wanna call it>>>>(shit) is my word,the bbc need to start making more comedys,and less of those documentarys that shows either a kid shitting in the toilet or what ever,but as for virgin one ,that took over ftn is terrible,ftn was better, abc1 is dead,but i wonder whos taking the channel 15 slot, cant be virgin one,becouse there on 16 ,i did hear that abc2 is coming to the freeview screens in 2009,but we don’t know for sure.

  5. Jo, the ABC1 stream is now used by ITV4. CITV took ITV4′s old slot.

  6. mark

    Freeview is a load of rubbish the qulity sucks (constant sound drop outs every few mins) and i wonder how many people have been left with no tv because of the poor quality. My girlfriend got freeview and it worked ok till a few months before the switch over now its naffed, even tried new boxes boosters etc. Call anyone they say “put a digital arial on your roof” but what if you havent the money to spend paying someone to do it ???

  7. CHRIS ANTONIOU

    FREEVIEW IS CRAP…………….WE ARE BEING CONNED BY ITV AND THE BBC. THE ENTERTAINMENT IS AWFUL……..CHEAP RUBBISH MOSTLY SUPPLIED BY TEH PUBLIC IN THESE PROGRAMMES STUPID SODS……….