Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Will Moving Wallpaper have a short-lived Renaissance?

Cast of ITV1 drama Moving Wallpaper

I was tempted to entitle this post “watching paint dry”, but that would have been a cheap headline.

The first series of Moving Wallpaper went out on ITV1 on Friday nights last year. An ambitious twin programme strand. Moving Wallpaper, the dramatised behind-the-scenes show about the disastrous production of Echo Beach (an Australian-looking soap set on a Cornish beach) which was shown immediately afterwards. Echo Beach never really stood on its own as a show. It was propped up by the wittier and darker Moving Wallpaper. Neither show performed well in the ratings charts.

In the end, ITV ditched Echo Beach, but bravely recommissioned Moving Wallpaper. And so on Friday night, the first episode of the second series started with the production team being told that their show Echo Beach had been cancelled. But thanks to the unfortunate death of a struggling writer, and a clause buried in the minutiae of the insensitive producer’s (Jonathan Pope, played by Ben Stiller) contract, they have a new show to pilot ... a well named zombie show called Renaissance.

The film Five Minutes of Heaven starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt - which premiered in the cinema a week or so ago and will appear on BBC1 NI fairly soon - includes scenes where a TV production company display selfish and insincere qualities. Scenes that may well upset real journalists and producers who dislike the portrayal and feel it undermines their genuine and professional approach.

However, Moving Wallpaper takes industry discomfort and misrepresentation to a whole new extreme level. It is now for the television industry what Drop the Dead Donkey was for the newspaper trade ten years ago. A cutting look at the worst behaviours and practices of the media.

Quite fun to watch if you’re not easily upset. Quite short to watch - only 22 minutes of show when all the ads squeezed in. It’s not quite watching paint dry, but it does need a few more jokes and visual gags squeezed in to keep it moving. And must have been quite cheap to produce given the tiny cast and small number of sets.

But perhaps like Drop the Dead Donkey, it should have found its home on Channel 4 and not ITV1. Available on ITV’s catch-up service if you can bear the ads. Given Friday night’s ratings (Moving Wallpaper was the least watched terrestrial show with just 2.1 million viewers, a 9.1% share), ITV’s accountants may have the final say on whether the show survives in its 9pm slot until the end of the series.

banner for ITV1 drama - Moving Wallpaper (series 2)

And if you look on the show’s ITV webpage, the banner has the timeslot overlaid on a blank box instead of hard coding “Fridays, 9pm” into the graphic. Planning ahead in case it becomes stripped and replaced wallpaper!

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