Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Showdown at the Charlotte Street Hotel

Imagine the scene: Nigel is there, front of centre, flanked by his trusty lieutenants, the head of entertainment nervously flicking a cocktail menu between thumb and forefinger, a couple of random schedulers, PA note takers and interactive bods, plus FiFi and her top team. I sauntered in, nodding to Nigel and sitting myself down in a seat close to FiFi. She started the meeting with a very kind introduction to yours truly – mentioned some of the more notable hit shows I had on C4 and how excited the Corporation was in having me take the channel to the next level. Her speech felt a bit cold and choreographed and everyone eyed me suspiciously but I was pumped up and ready for whatever was thrown in my direction. There’s nothing like a well tailored blazer to make one feel comfortable and on top of the world.

FiFi asked Nigel to stand up and explain what he felt were the primary failings of Castaway and where he felt it went off course. He did an admirable job, citing Liverpool’s Champions League run as a crucial factor in ratings decline. All bollocks, of course, but delivered with such confidence that I could only watch with admiration. Here was a master at work, deflecting criticism and blame, and standing up for the mistakes he’d made. I observed everything, taking mental notes, and was called upon only once to offer my opinion on where we could take the spin off shows on my channel.

Absolutely stunned by how many people were called in for this meeting. I counted 16 people, including me, present. The meeting lasted nearly three hours, and I still wasn't sure what kind of final decisions had been made by the end of it. Anyway, not my problem. I played it well cool and offered cursory comment, demonstrating (I hope) that I really wasn't responsible in the first place for this, but would happily help if need be. I should have known full well that this was just Fifi giving me a 'taste' of how the Corporation manages things.

At the end I was pleased when I suggested a weekend special that could make a virtue of the series in a big 48hour repeat-fest splash perhaps hosted by Dermot O’Leary - which I felt was neither critical of Nigel nor dismissive of FiFi, and thereby treading the fine political tightrope between the two powerbases. Job done me thinks.

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