Kenton Allen takes a look back at TV in 2017

Kenton Allen takes a look back at TV in 2017

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Kenton Allen fast-forwards through 2017. He is terrified by Trump and thrilled by Bake Off, but looming over everything is Netflix

January

I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, so thinking back to January 2017 is a little challenging. From memory, I think we were all discussing whether Jay Hunt was going to host The Great British Bake Off.

Certainly, we were all discussing those Jay Hunt rumours, which must have been about the vacant position of Bake Off chair.

In other news, we were all braced for the Great British Drama Boom and hoping that Left Bank Pictures wouldn’t get any more commissions from SVoD services that hadn’t yet been invented.

In programming, Tom Hardy grunted about in the mud for Taboo, lots of famous faces grunted about in the snow for Fortitude 2 and there was grunting of a very different kind when Apple Tree Yard made its Sunday night debut on BBC One.

Across the Pond, and presumably to deflect us all from the horror show that was the inauguration of the Donald, our chums at Netflix were promising to launch a new drama series on the hour, every hour, for the next 12 months, until we all started to bleed from the eyeballs. It’s going to be a fun year! Unless Trump does something stupid… like provokes the North Koreans into testing out their nukes or retweets some random British fascist fake news. But he wouldn’t do that – we all pray.

February

One of my favourite actors, Kevin Spacey, is back for House of Cards season five. I love Kevin Spacey. He is the best.

In other news, Big Talk starts shooting season seven of Cold Feet. This involves plenty of trips to Manchester. I can’t help wondering why Channel 4 doesn’t move to this fabulous city. Note to self, someone should suggest it but I mentally note, like a teenager, #itwillneverhappen.

Broadchurch season three launches on ITV. Critics say the show is back to its best. The Nightly Show also launches on ITV. Critics slay the show. But I suspect Kevin Lygo knows what he’s doing. I love Kevin Lygo. He is the best.

March

Bloody hell! It’s all kicked off at Channel 4. First up, 50% of The Mighty Boosh and a brilliantly witty Danish lesbian are hosting GBBO. Those Jay Hunt rumours have now gone bonkers. Not least because, in the world’s worst-kept secret, David Abraham has announced he is standing down as CEO to start a GBBO-themed cupcake shop, I think.

Tipped candidates include Jay Hunt, J Hunt and Jacqueline Hunt, alongside the likes of Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh, Mel and Sue (job-share box tick) and Kevin Lygo. I love Kevin Lygo. He is still the best.

Across the Pond, as we annoyingly call the nearly 9,000km gap between the UK and West Coast US, the spring season kicks in: 13 Reasons Why and Iron Fist premiere on Netflix, followed soon by Girlboss and Dear White People.

Everyone in US network TV has a collective aneurysm and all that anyone can talk about in the UK is Prue Leith. Despite what people say about Prue, she’s the best. I follow her on Twitter because she’s “hilarious”.


The nation was gripped by Line of Duty in April 
(Credit: World Productions/ BBC / Bernard Walsh)

April

It’s MIPTV. Yay! We don’t go: we prefer the October event, as, it seems, do most of our colleagues. Channel 4 relocation bingo kicks off.

Speculation about Channel 4’s new CEO steps up a gear and Charlotte Moore is talked of as a front runner – although it seems that no one has actually talked to her about it.

Fox’s takeover of Sky is approved by Eurocrats. Ofcom takes over regulating the BBC. All of this is “fascinating” but “it’s the programmes, stupid”, as the nation is gripped by Line of Duty on BBC One and Jeff Pope’s Little Boy Blue on ITV. Meanwhile, Better Call Saul season three debuts on Netflix.

In an act of defiance designed to stop the flood of 16- to 24-year-olds migrating to SVoD services, the BBC retaliates: The One Show runs a 15-minute story on the resurgence of caravanning. Take that, you Yankee SVoD bastards!

In what will become a defining moment for the creative – and many other – industries, Bill O’Reilly, the hugely successful and commercially valuable Fox News commentator, is forced to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct. In unrelated news, Amazon announces a new drama series, I Love Dick.

Everyone not working for Netflix straps on nappies

May

Those Jay Hunt rumours are back: a) Jay is going to be the new CEO of Channel 4; b) Jay is going to run Apple/Facebook/Amazon/Uber/Deliveroo; c) Jay is going to replace Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. I place a bet.

Then, sadly, it emerges that Adam Crozier is going to step down from ITV after seven years. I place another bet. We are genuinely gutted at Big Talk Towers. Adam has been a brilliant and transformational leader of ITV. He’s also a thoroughly nice bloke and has always taken the time to keep across what we’re doing and buy us breakfast once or twice a year. He will be sorely missed.

While all this is going on, Theresa May, having called another bloody election, has then declined to take part in any leaders’ election debates. That’s democracy, folks!

June

Those Jay Hunt rumours were all bollocks. It’s announced that Alex Mahon is the new CEO of Channel 4. Jay leaves Channel 4. Those “who is going to replace Jay Hunt?” rumours start in earnest. I place a bet on Prue Leith. And a side bet on Julian Assange.


Jodie Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor in July
(Credit: BBC)

July

Just before everyone buggers off for August, all kinds of fun and games begin. First up, the BBC make a total Horlicks of announcing its top stars’ pay, which erupts into a massive gender pay-gap issue. Tony Hall actually considers gender reassignment in a bid to appease his top female stars.

Next, the BBC announces Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor Who and Paul Dacre’s head explodes.

Then, to add insult to Daily Mail sexist claptrap injury, ITV announces that Carolyn McCall will be its new CEO.

Back to the programmes: Love Island becomes a break-out hit for ITV2, with a show that young people actually watch, shock! The Handmaid’s Tale wows audiences with its overall brilliance and general lack of Netflix involvement.

Hulu goes up in everyone’s estimation, until Netflix announces that it has 100 million subscribers and is worth almost nine times ITV, at $60bn. Everyone not working for Netflix straps on nappies for the rest of 2017.

August

No one at any UK broadcaster returns a call or email, so I resort to catching up on House of Cards and Baby Driver, Edgar Wright’s latest Big Talk Pictures film, also starring Kevin Spacey.

It’s released to critical and huge commercial success. I love Kevin Spacey. He is the best. GBBO launches on Channel 4 and is an instant hit. Shops sell out of cake-making gubbins. Prue Leith adds thousands of Twitter followers. Everyone is thrilled.

September

Big Talk launches an awful lot of shows all at once, which is terrifying: Diana and I, Back, Cold Feet season seven, Timewasters. I start drinking even more heavily than normal. Meanwhile, Peak TV reaches a new frenzy.

No one does any work other than discussing what they’ve been watching or listing the shows they have yet to watch. Narcos series three, Deuce, American Vandal, Big Mouth, Tin Star, Liar – and that is just up to 3 September.

In response to the SVoD threat, The One Show dedicates a whole show to knitting. It’s a golden age, says everyone.

I ponder emailing Jay about getting a new iPhone X before anyone else


Andy Harries (Credit: RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian)

October

Mipcom. Those Ian Katz rumours start. Otherwise, it’s biz as usual, with the FAANGs announcing even more ambitious programming slates and an arms race of expenditure on drama. At this rate, it won’t be long before one of them strikes a deal to remake Lord of the Rings, I remark over a bucket of rosé.

There doesn’t seem to be a more appropriate place to read the New Yorker and New York Times revelations about Harvey Weinstein than where I’m staying – the Majestic Hotel – apparently, the scene of some of his execrable behaviour.

Back in London, a domino effect kicks in and it feels like society is shifting on its axis and moving towards a far better place. But it is going to be a very painful process.

As a diversion from the daily tsunami of horrific revelations, I check in on Prue Leith’s Twitter feed. She’s in Bhutan and… Jesus Christ, Prue! Not now! I stop following Prue as I hear she’s a big fan of Stranger Things and I don’t want any more spoilers after Bhutangate.

Meanwhile, those Ian Katz rumours are true! Channel 4 News is strangely quiet on the subject. Goodness knows why. Those other Jay Hunt rumours are eventually proved to be true, as it is revealed that she is to be Apple’s new European content head.

I ponder emailing Jay about getting a new iPhone X before anyone else, but decide against this. I write to Zack Van Amburg, instead.

Andy Harries manages to piss off the entire industry in the US and UK by getting the first major UK drama commission from YouTube Red. Origin is a sci-fi series that will cost $20m an episode – just for Left Bank’s fees and Andy’s hairdresser. God knows what the actual show will cost but, next time I see Andy Harries, he’s buying me a small country.

November

Monday morning. Amazon announces that it is spending $250m on the rights to Lord of the Rings. These tech guys are crazy, I think, while perusing the overnights. Three terrestrial shows get more than 10 million viewers on Sunday night – I’m a Celebrity…, Blue Planet and Strictly. Those linear-TV guys have still got some moves, I muse, as I scan the web, expecting to discover that Netflix has signed David Attenborough and a shoal of yellow fin tuna on exclusive deals to join Shonda Rhimes.

But, sadly, this is not true. What is true is that the sexual harassment scandal has gained further traction, with almost daily stories of unforgivable behaviour from those that should know better from all walks of life.

Netflix is not immune. Those Kevin Spacey rumours surface and Netflix subsequently halts production on House of Cards and removes him from the show. I don’t like Kevin Spacey.

December

Expensive bits of California are on fire. And the news of the landmark acquisition of Fox by Disney creates an earthquake. Everyone says this is Murdoch getting out of the entertainment business, until it’s revealed that the Murdochs will be the largest shareholders in Disney. The Canny Old Fox has entered the Mouse House. 

We’re now at Peak Sexual Harassment Scandal. Every time I get an email alert, I expect it to be a revelation that another “star” has been exposed for inappropriate behaviour.

It can’t be long before Homer Simpson’s time is up. In a parallel universe, the BBC wakes up and announces exciting plans to launch an SVoD service. Only 10 years and 100 million Netflix subscribers too late. But, hey ho.

I doubt the BBC could have commissioned The Crown, watching the story­lines in season two, which has just “dropped”, as young people say. Also “dropped” are Mindhunter, The Grand Tour season two and, for the love of DHL, an avalanche of Bafta DVDs.

I’ve worked out that, if I don’t sleep at all over Christmas, I’ve just about time to catch up on all my 2017 viewing before 3 January. See you on the other side.

Kenton Allen is Chief Executive of Big Talk Productions.