As Channel 4 is said to be near admitting that the television list-show format may have outlived its uses, Ben Thompson counts down the causes for public rejoicing.
4 If we celebrate, Channel 4 might actually follow through this time
In March 2007, Channel 4’s then director of television and content promised to lance the list-show boil, proclaiming: “I don’t think we will be commissioning them anymore.” Four years on, the channel’s latest policy communiqué incorporates the ominously open-ended get-out clause: “If Jonathan [Ross] comes up with an exceptionally brilliant idea ... we may do it.”
3 Jimmy Carr might fly
After years establishing himself as a Bob Monkhouse-style gun-for-hire, Carr has made the most of the new start that the topical and satirical TV magazine show 10 O’Clock Live has offered, dispelling some of its smugness with a series of improbably astute interventions. Freed from the straitjacket of The 100 Funniest Sitcoms countdown, he could become Britain’s Jon Stewart.
2 Stuart Maconie will be free
Widely considered a founding father of the list-show, in much the same way as André Breton is known as the godfather of surrealism (everyone knows it was all down to him in the beginning, although as the decades pass it gets harder to remember quite how). In recent years he has carved out a new niche for himself as the author of best-selling Bill Bryson-esque dawdles around his own media career (music press memoir Cider with Roadies), the north/south divide (Pies & Prejudice), and the nature of middle England (Adventures on the High Teas). This last entry in the Maconie canon exhibits a clear decline in the quality of its titular pun. But with the shadow of the Frankenlist no longer falling across his workstation, Maconie might find the creative vitality to go back to basics in time for his next publication.
1 A new golden age for Channel 4?
Perhaps, if it didn’t have to pay a sub-caste of D-list celebrities £200 a time to share memories of cultural phenomena they were born too late to experience directly, Channel 4 could return to shaping Britain’s cultural landscape, instead of just littering it with the detritus of fast-food TV.
Ben Thompson has never appeared on a Channel 4 list-show