The most showbizzy bits at the Edinburgh television this weekend were the half dozen sessions modeled on hit British TV programs. This year no less than six TV formats were presented here, complete with hosts and panelists.
In the festival opener, How To Look Good Naked: the Edinburgh Special, Gok Wan attempted to replicate his innuendo-laden Channel 4 hit makeover show, handing out fashion awards to sheepish TV execs (Ruby Karaishe, E4′s factual entertainment CE won best dressed female, while C4′s head of factual entertainment Andrew Mackenzie took the gong for best dressed man). The version of C4′s 8 out of 10 Cats, a comedy panel show built loosely around the world of statistics, was heavy on laughs, and even included the interesting stat that four of the five most talked about programs on UK television in the past year fell in the factual entertainment family: Top Gear, Britain’s Got Talent, The Apprentice and Big Brother (the sole drama was the ultra popular Dr Who).
And in the Dragons’ Dens sessions, the BBC’s entrepreneur program, a raft of producers pitched projects for development money to commissioning editors. In an otherwise lackluster Dragons’ Den for formats, a young Diverse employee named Olivia Simove breathlessly pitched Sponsor My…, in which participants compete for ‘funding for your major life events’, the idea being that anything from weddings to IVF treatment could attract corporate sponsorship. In a country with uber-strict product placement restrictions, the idea sounded at best far fetched. In the real Dragons’ Den she would have been sneered off the stage as too risky. But Simove managed to secure £2,000 from ITV’s controller of alternative programs Layla Smith, who mused ‘I still don’t know what the show is about but it feels fresh.’
The Festival’s Channel of the Year Awards seemed to be running on a loop, as the BBC won all five trophies, for the first time in the awards’ seven-year history. BBC One and Three won terrestrial and non-terrestrial channel of the year, while The Apprentice (BBC One) and Gavin & Stacey (BBC Three) took terrestrial and non-terrestrial program of the year. The fifth award was for the BBC One drama Doctor Who, voted by the beneficiaries of the Network and Fast Track training schemes operated by the Festival’s charity.