I have just been watching Sky Three, which is Sky’s cheapo Freeview channel. It’s supposed to be like Sky One but a year behind or something. Sometimes it has some good stuff on it. I’m talking about Futurama here, nothing else.
Anyway, the idea behind many channels on Freeview (Sky Three, The Hits, TMF, Ftn, Sky Sports News, etc, etc) is to basically act as 24 hour advertisements for subscription services. So if you like the look of Sky Three, this is meant to tempt you to go and buy a Sky box and a subscription to Sky One immediately. But sometimes I can’t help thinking that Sky Three acts as more of a deterrent.
The programme I have just seen is a nightmarish mutant child of Trisha and Judge Judy. The graphics are all mock tabloid headlines: big bold white italic sans-serif text on a red background. The set is shaped like a courtroom, except it is the sort of courtroom that you could only see on trashy television programmes. It’s a techno-court with flashing lights and white metallic platforms instead of the usual modest wooden dock.
Sitting in this metal dock is the late 1990s equivalent of a chav; the sort of person who before the invention of the word ‘chav’ was known as ‘Trisha guest’. You remember the late 1990s: she is wearing not a Burberry baseball cap but a sky blue camisole that really emphasises her shape (and by ‘shape’ I mean ‘weight’). The whole thing just looks like it’s straight out of the 1990s. Even the sort of bonehead who will regularly tune into a programme like this won’t be fooled: this is a repeat.
At the end of the programme, the centrepiece of the set is revealed: a flashing sign that lights up (NOT) GUILTY, exactly like a (DON’T) WALK sign.
I can’t help wondering, though, if the usual British standards of fairness and justice are somewhat compromised by the name of the programme: GUILTY! Yes, including an exclamation mark. And at the end of the programme when the credits are rolling, the audience chants: “GUILTY! [clap clap] GUILTY! [clap clap] GUILTY! [clap clap]…”
I stayed until the end of the programme because I was curious to find out when it was made. 2001? 2000? Well it turns out that it was made in 1998. Somebody at Sky Towers has made this decision. Not just any old trashy tabloid programme will do to promote the Sky channels on Freeview. They have decided that only this eight-year-old programme called ‘GUILTY!’ will do.
I won’t be getting Sky Digital any time soon.