Saturday, September 26

The best of the rest: The game of the name

- July 9, 2018

What’s in a title? Some telly programme titles went through a period of shouting exactly which channel they had been pitching for. Everyone remembers the time of The Boy Whose Face Looks Like Porridge and The Girl With Twelve Legs. Yes I’ve just made them up, but we all know there was a time when titles like that would either signify they were on Channel 5 or the latest David Walliams book cover.

The BBC’s shows tend to be a bit more “jolly hockey sticks”, saying exactly what they are in the case of stalwarts like The Antiques Roadshow. Or more often simply taking their naming habits from publishing – usually the drama they’ve most recently adapted like last week’s launch of Picnic At Hanging Rock, the original of which is still the most unsettling thing I’ve ever seen on a small screen.

ITV programme titles tend to sound as if they really just want to be headlines in the Daily Mail

ITV programme titles tend to sound as if they really just want to be headlines in the Daily Mail weekend supplement. Long Lost Family: What Happened Next, Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs, Violent Britain: Drugs, Knives and Gangs… Mystique, your home is not here.

And Channel 4. I like that you shouldn’t ever jump to conclusions with the hints of these titles. The Great British Germ Hunt starts this week and could be anything from a nationwide manhunt reality show to a pastiche on the Bake Off explaining how healthy bacterias are in many things that we eat. It’s neither – Kate Quilton explores the invisible world of a very specific germ, involving a nationwide swabathon, testing music festival goers’ resilience, and two ordinary Brits are given the Everyman treatment. Also starting this week on C4 are Inside Alton Towers and Anti-Social Media. It’s something of a delight that there are no further clues about either of these shows, mixing the channel’s propensity to simply hint with its titles with the knowledge that it likes a bit of zeitgeist.

Simplify your viewing habits, judge a book by its cover, try a different channel. Even if it’s only from time to time.

The Great British Germ Hunt; Wednesday, Channel 4, 8pm
Inside Alton Towers; Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm
Anti-Social Media; Thursday, Channel 4, 11.05pm

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