Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Thanks to...



A big thanks to all of you who made it possible (in no particular order):

James Herring for keeping my identity hush-hush, Steven D Wright for all his indiscreet emails (don't worry I won't show anyone), Fiona Lennon for the iced skinny lattes, James Silver for his great advice, Rowena Gray for being a saint, Michael Gove for staying stum (thank you!), Kevin L for encouraging me during my darkest days, Lucy Lumsden for first rejecting it as a sitcom, Addison for coming up with his own storylines, David Flynn for sorting out the 'Itchy Reality' t-shirts in Edinburgh, Marty Durkin for all those inspiring rants, Andrew O'Connor for teaching me how to play poker, Jemima K for always fighting my corner, Murray for keeping me sane, Martin Davidson for being totally straight with me, Ro Newell for the birthday cake, Will Self for never knowing who I was (and not caring!), Dan Mazer for being a top man, Kufena for offering to sleep with me if I went on Screenwipe, Helena Peacock for the rollerskating lessons, Graham Smith for being a great sub-editor, Jo Shinner for the Anthea insights, Bear for being a pussy, Dan McGolpin for getting drunk to celebrate his mention, David Glover for the NASA contacts, Stuart Murphy for agreeing to play the villain, Rob Thirkell for lending me his signed McGee book, Camila Lewis for having the bottle to wear her old Word outfit in a Brighton hotel room, Danielle Lux for the Pret muffins, Kleiny for keeping me in on the loop, Nigella for taking it on the chin, Charlotte Black for the inside scoop on the "E4 years", Neale Simpson for getting me into Soho House, Ben Gale for showing me his REAL bathroom, Hannah Barnes for the gym story, Wayne Garvie for the anecdotes about Fincham, Gary Reich for the encouragement, Lambert for sexing it up just for me (thanks man, I owe you), Adam Freeland for never pandering to me, Peter for the MGEITF invite, Jon Ronson for his patience, Chris Curtis at Broadcast for being the first hack to support me, the constant smirking from Peter Salmon that kept me going during the early days, Robert Popper for taking the first hits (sorry mate), Mahoney for putting up with my kinky boot fetish, Steve Gowans for our early conversation about myspace, Dom W for giving me her opinions whether I liked them or not, Elaine Bedell for feeding me home-made hummus when the going got tough, Dan Chambers for all the proof reading (slap on back well deserved), Jay Hunt for flirting with me without realising who I was, Dan Hine for the late-night emails, Sue Murphy for the corduroy fashion advice, Yentob for the Groucho cocktails and gossip (I owe you big man), Julian B for his words of wisdom, Riley Anderson for never doubting me, Hincksy for letting me beat him at squash (and the pic of his car), Grimsdale for passing on his literary agent's details, Ben Silverman for being so Hollywood, Jana Bennett for blanking me (twice), Henrietta for introducing me to Dave Gravy, Ralph Lee for asking nasty questions, Simon Shaps for not being in it (no matter how hard he tried), Daisy Donovan for the coffee and salad, Grace Dent for worrying on my behalf, Peter Moore for his (very) dry anonymous comments, Duncan G for his invaluable help with the meaningless commissioning jargon, Claire Grimmond for the long lunches, Remy for being robust but charming, The Wolfster for giving me Murdoch's feedback on the blog, Daisy Goodwin for the encouragement (and help with Mexico), Suzanne Gilfillan for the watch, Tara Conlan for being an absolute star, Lisa O for laughing out loud at her cameo, Holly Pye for the access, Julia Wrigley for spending more time on the blog than on facebook, Andy Mac for thinking I worked at Tiger Aspect, Stephen McCrum for being very bitter, Peter Dale for finally understanding what email is for, Liz Warner for the DVDs, Charlie Brooker for snubbing me, Anna Blue for the cough medicine, Richard Bacon for the story about Ant & Dec, Simon Dickson for using the word 'organic' a record number of times in one pitch meeting, Jay Rayner for worrying that I was going through a midlife crisis and blowing the biggest break of my career, Danny Fenton for the beers and scoop on Jez, Reemah S for brainstorming buzzwords with me, Meredith for the sushi and bitching, Claudia Emery for being so supportive (will you marry me?), Helen Veale for the cycling maps, Lorraine H for inspiring me to write my favourite post, Roy Ackerman & Amanda C for the 'early years' stuff, Helen Bullough for forwarding those emails, Andy Newman for being my ultimate Libertine, Peter F for having a good sense of humour, Ben Frow for the anecdotes (I miss you- please come home), Dawn Porter for supporting me in the press despite the conflict of interest and DC for pretending not to read it. You're a legend. Thank you all and goodnight x

Love, Dominic Vallely xx

Sunday, 4 November 2007

The Observer Q & A with the TVC

Journalist James Silver (left) probing the anonymous blogger. Picture courtesy of Rex features.

The Observer: Why did you start writing the blog..? Was there a particular moment or incident..? Was it general exasperation? Describe the origins, where the idea first struck?

TVC (puffing on cigar): I started to get increasingly frustrated and annoyed by the state of TV and some of the attitudes of execs and channel controllers to ordinary programme makers. I started thinking about how many ego maniacs run the industry and yet are completely unaccountable for their actions. Satire was the best way of bringing to light some of these personalities, their monstrous working practices and apathy for the ordinary viewer on the street.

The industry was lacking any kind of satirical comment, especially about the mercurial way channels are run and the dirty habits of how commissioning editors treat their producers. I’ve always enjoyed the irony of how TV channels are obsessed with chasing youth and yet they are mostly all run by middle class, middle of the road, middle aged white men. This inspired me to create the ultimate character who is obsessed with youth, and yet has no clue what the kids really want.

I remember sitting through a Channel 4 briefing when Hamish Mykura said he wanted more programmes that felt like "scaling the north face of the Eiger". Anyone who is seduced by jargon like this is in danger of disappearing up their own arse. Jana Bennett is a prime example of this awful Harvard business school-approach to talking about and making tv, and it is something we should try and resist. And so the concept for 'itchy reality' was born. So, indirectly, we can all be thankful for commissioning editor bollocks speak which has been a big inspiration for my writing.

The blog never intended to create such a fuss, it was merely supposed to be a playful 'poke in the eye' to some of the industry's big self-obsessed egos and a way for me to vent my spleen after a bad day at the office. I would highly recommend starting a fake blog for anyone who wants to engage in a cathartic up yours to their own industry. As long as you can keep your identity hidden, of course.

The Observer: What are you trying to achieve with it...? it strikes me as far more than that just a funny read/office entertainment? Is the aim for it to become, in a wonderful hall of mirrors type way, a Larry Sanders style sitcom..? Is it all one big pitch for a show!?

TVC: Well it's certainly not a pitch for a TV show. I'm not self promoting or trying to make a name for myself. To be honest, the blog just evolved over the first 6 weeks and grew organically. Writing the blog is a very 21st century way of communicating directly with my peers without the meddling influence of publishers, editors or channel execs telling you what to do and how to do it. It has been a cathartic and liberating experience.

The Observer: Why are you calling it a day?

TVC: I've been writing this now for 6 months straight updating it virtually on a daily basis which is quite a hefty amount of time and energy writing about the manic world of television.

Not to mention keeping my identity a secret which is almost a full time job in itself. I have lost count of the times my colleagues have asked me who i think is behind the blog and keeping things hidden is quite a stressful burden to carry.

I feel the time is right to take a rest, park the character of 'TVC' and his world for the time being and go back under the radar until it’s time to re-ignite things next year. There’s still a few more surprises left in store for 2008 and beyond.

The Observer: What is it about the TV industry that is so ripe for satire right now?

TVC: I started the blog in April 2007 just before the fakery scandal and crisis in viewer trust broke; little did I know the blog would become a fantastic off-the-record news source for what was happening inside White City at the time. I certainly didn’t join the bandwagon of self-flagellation going on at the BBC or use this blog as an excuse to attack Mark Thompson. I’m not a bitter disgruntled programme maker. I think history will remember Thompson as someone who made the right choices, ultimately. Job cuts are hard but so is working in an overstaffed bureaucratic-heavy organisation where lifers work with impunity no matter how useful their job role.

At the time when i started the blog it felt like no-one was pointing out how overblown, melodramatic and, frankly, ridiculous the TV industry can be or the nitty gritty of how programme makers are put under tremendous pressure to create 'narrative jeopardy' where no jeopardy exists to begin with.

If you'd have come to me 6 months ago and said that Stephen Lambert would one day be out of a job because he sexed up a trailer for a fly-on-the-wall film about the queen I wouldn't have been at all shocked or surprised. My early postings about Lambert showed him to be no longer interested in making programmes for the youth channel and snubbing TVC regularly for the warm bosom of Peter Fincham's higher profile channel. It's very easy to see how this arrogance led to the Crowngate scandal.

The Observer: The world you describe is like a seething basket of vipers. Is it as bad as the way you portray it?

TVC: There are things I've witnessed and wanted to write about but have resisted because it would have compromised me and led to my identity being outed. TV is such a bizarre, neurotic and schizophrenic place to work. It often rewards people whose erratic behaviour and bullying attitudes just wouldn't be tolerated in any other working environment.

The Observer: Your depiction of the meetings, empires, petty behaviour at the BBC is particularly sharp - instantly recognisable for anyone who has worked there - ie VEPVMC in your latest post (i) surely you must have worked at the corp at some point, perhaps you are there now? (ii) what is it about the BBC which so intrigues you as a writer?

TVC: I have worked at the BBC before, but the truth is that I've not had the type of top-level access that I fictionalise in my blog. I don't go to lunch with Mark Thompson or Jana Bennett. It's very much written from an outsider looking in and yet some of the scenarios I write about do obviously happen. When the queen stuff exploded, for example, I wrote a post about Fincham and Lambert waiting to be dressed down by Jana Bennett as 'naughty boys waiting to see the headmistress'. A day later and the media guardian reported it happening exactly like that. Everyone assumed Jana had exploded and she was quite annoyed by this suggestion when questioned at Edinburgh.

The BBC is a bit like a posh public school, anachronistic and old fashioned at times, brilliant and inspired at others. It always amazes me how a company with a guaranteed income of £3billion can be run in such a chaotic fashion. We all fund the BBC so we should care about who runs it and how they go about making programmes, much more so than ITV or Channel 4.

The Observer: Why did you pick Danny Cohen as a (semi-fictionalised) subject..?

TVC: I don't know the guy personally and I have drawn inspiration for the character of ‘TVC’ from lots of TV executives in the industry. I've got nothing personal against Cohen at all and I’d be very surprised if he had taken any of it very seriously.

The Observer: Some have criticised you for anti-semitism. How do you answer that? Why have chosen to make this character Jewish? Would you, as [Stuart Murphy] said, have made such a big deal of his skin colour..?

TVC: I'm a Jew myself so calling me anti-semitic is puzzling, and it strikes me that this is simply the only way that my detractors can have a dig at what I'm doing. If i was Sanjeev Bhaskar I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to write about an Asian channel controller.

I write from the same school of playful self-parody that Larry Sanders or Mel Brooks do. The fact that TVC is Jewish is a very minor part of his character, which is evident by how little his religion has featured in the 240-odd posts I have written.

The Observer: Similarly: How do you answer complaints that it's "bullying" (Stuart Murphy said that), "spiteful and at times downright nasty" (Owen Gibson, Guardian journalist)?

TVC: It surprises me when journalists or former channel controllers think the blog is bullying or nasty. The loyal readers who work lower down the TV food chain have never accused it of these things. It’s the same as saying that the 'Vicar of St Albans' in Private Eye was "spiteful" towards Blair and The Thick Of It was “nasty” towards Alistair Campbell. I suppose some people are too close to what I write about to understand the subtle nature of the satire.

The Observer: Why the anonymity? Would it really be career-ending, or might you not end up lauded as someone who exposed the industry for what it can be, at its shallow sharkpool worst?

TVC: I've heard that very high-powered people in the industry (some of whom feature on the blog) have not seen the funny side to what I'm doing at all. Television is a very small world run as an exclusive club and doors would certainly shut in my face after the storm I've caused. I have a successful career which I cannot risk jeopardising.

The Observer: There are those who say, so many details are spot-on that you have access to DC's diary. Can you scotch some rumours? Are you James Herring? Steven D. Wright? Are you two people?

TVC: Who I am is not important. What is more important is who I'm writing this blog for. I'm writing it for the footsoldiers of the TV industry who have no public voice, who are expected to lie to contributors, visit sink estates and persuade single mums to sell their soul, sign away their European working time directive on working hours, have no job security, slog their guts out for months on end without holiday pay and then see people like the fictional ‘TVC’ steal their ideas and take all the glory. If you look back at the over-stressed, torn-to-pieces P/D in my 'secrets of editing' post, that's who the blog is written for.

The Observer: So who are you..?! Do you work in the indy sector, tell us that much?

TVC: I am an established programme maker who has won awards and achieved critical acclaim. I love modern TV and formats, I am not some old school disgruntled programme maker with an axe to grind. I simply wish the BBC, Channel 4 and other channels were more honest about how the industry really works.

The Observer: What kind of feedback have you been getting from industry insiders? Any angry emails? Have you heard from industry bosses?

TVC: If you'd have told me that over 200,000 people would end up reading the blog I'd never have believed you. I’ve had hits from all over the world, from the Disney studio lot in Hollywood to Dominos Pizza headquarters in New York to the Houses of Parliament. The themes I address obviously resonate with a wider audience other than just the media classes.

It always amused me that lonely perverts who googled ‘sex & animals’ would regularly come across a post I wrote about a fictional animal therapy TV format from Ricochet (makers of It’s Me or the Dog) and gain this unexpected insight into the world of TV!

The level of support from well known industry figures has been surprising. I have received words of encouragement and tip-offs from indie bosses, former channel controllers, commissioning editors, producers and lots of anonymous insiders. I think the worst email I ever got was from Daisy Goodwin, who simply said: "take me off your email list". One big player - who I would never dream of naming - said the blog was "the highlight of my day" and that I was "nothing short of a phenomenon, darling".

I think that's why i was always a bit surprised when the press would use words like "despicable" or "disgusting" or "spiteful" ... That certainly wasn't the kind of feedback I was getting on a daily basis from the industry.

Friday, 2 November 2007

FUCKING FUMING!!!

Gobsmacked. I sat in silence at my desk as the rage built inside me. I feel badly let down. Distraught, actually. How can I show my face in the corridors of White City now? I have mustered all my energies into this big push, encouraged by the people I've trusted. The people who helped poach me from Channel 4; the very people who I have always placed my absolute faith in. I did everything - from meeting the great unwashed in Glasgow to bloody showing my face at these awful events.

What a HUGE fucking mistake. I have exposed my ambitions in a way that makes me a laughing stock in the industry.

Well fuck The Corporation.

And fuck them all.

Stabbed in the front

TO: Fifi01@Corporation.co.uk
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 14:18:31 +0100
SUBJECT: RE: Corporation One Controller Application


Fifi

I’m stunned. Was there anything in particular that hindered my application?? I thought you had given me assurances last week that I had (and I quote) “a very strong chance of securing the position” especially having revitalised the Youth Channel with appointment-to-view squelchiness.

Despite this admittedly devastating setback, rest assured that I will continue to do the job I was hired for and re-energise the Youth Channel going forward.

Best wishes
TVC


TO: Hincksy@EndemolGlobalUKInc.Com
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 14:21:14 +0100
SUBJECT: SHAFTED


Fucking asexual workman-like boot wearing stuffy bitch!!!!!!!!! Fifi has fucked me over for sure. And I cannot fucking believe they are even considering that Tranter witch over me!!!!!

Fuck!!!!!


TO: Herring@DarkLordPR.com
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 14:25:02 +0100
SUBJECT: (No Subject)


I would like to formally terminate our 26-month Brand New Me contract. I am aware this will be to great financial cost to myself but I cannot continue with this marriage of convenience any longer, James.

It pains me to say that I feel badly let down by you and your agency’s inability to secure me the Top Job.

Ciao, and thanks for the memories,

TVC


TO: Headgirl@silverbollocks.com
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 15:03:02 +0100
SUBJECT: RE: Swishing Format


Where were you when I needed you the most?????
TVC


TO: Roly01@Corporation.co.uk
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 15:06:24 +0100
SUBJECT: RE: good luck today!


I thought I had your backing for the Top Job? The world is changing son, and I worry that you're going to be left well behind.

Fuck you,
TVC


TO: Yentob-personal@Corporation.co.uk
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 15:07:24 +0100
SUBJECT: (No Subject)


Don't you have any fucking power left anymore? Or were you just humouring me over lunch last week??

TVC


TO: Beddell@Corporation.co.uk
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 15:08:41 +0100
SUBJECT: RE: The Wall talent sign-off


Kleiny says you’re supporting Tranter over me??? Explain. Is this some RSC fucking drama mafia connection???

I’m bitterly disappointed in you

TVC


TO: personalassistant@Corporation.co.uk
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 15:10:12 +0100
SUBJECT: (No Subject)


Anthony- get me Clifford on the fucking phone NOW! I need to get hold of some dirt on Tranter. And do NOT put any journos through to me, especially those cunts Glibson, Conlan and Norman.


TO: Rt Honourable James Purnell MP
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 15:19:40 +0100
SUBJECT: Any openings?


Sir,

I would like to be considered for any future Ministerial posts that might become available in your department. As a young firebrand creative leader, I have all the necessary skills to be an asset in your team. (I also went to school with both the Milliband brothers).

Respectfully,
TVC


TO: Applications@HarvardBusinessSchool.Com
FROM: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 15:23:01 +0100
SUBJECT: Fast track application?


Dear Sir / Madam

I would like to enquire about your Dual Semester Fast-track Advanced Senior Media Executive Consolidation and Expansion Course 2007/8. I am the Youngest Controller in British Broadcasting history (by 9 months) and I would like to find out if you could squeeze me on your new course starting next week?

Best wishes
TVC

STUNNED

FROM: Fifi01@Corporation.co.uk
TO: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
CC: humanresources@Corporation.co.uk
DATE: Fri, 2 Nov 2007 13:26:02 +0100
SUBJECT: Corporation One Controller Application

Dear TVC,

On behalf of The Corporation, I would firstly like to thank you for taking the time to take part in the formal internal application process for the role of Controller of Corporation One.

As you can imagine for such a prestigious job, the calibre of applicants was extremely high.

Unfortunately, after very careful thought, on this occasion you have not been selected to go through to the next stage of the internal interview round.

Once again thank you for your application, and we wish you the very best of luck in the future.

Yours sincerely

Fifi

still waiting...

13.10: Snuck out to the canteen. Felt all eyes were on me. Noticed Jane Tranter looking very pleased with herself. What's going on?


12 noon: Nothing has come through yet from top brass on either my email, blackberry, direct line, mobile or on the ringmain... but I know it's only a matter of hours now. Have locked myself away in my office to work on my acceptance speech whilst Anthony decorates the office with balloons and party banners in readiness for the party later on.

Richard not Judy

A bottle of MO√čT is chilling in the fridge and Anthony is rushing about making frantic last minute arrangements so there's an Ariel photographer present when my appointment is announced on the Ringmain later today.

For the special occasion I am wearing a cashmere blend knit jumper (that I picked up in Scotland on my travels) and simple chinos. It is understated and says I am approachable, friendly, a safe pair of hands, and most of all - that I would never dream of fucking over The Queen.

What better way to start the first day of my soon-to-be new empire at White City than with the sun shining down and Richard & Judy announcing they are free agents? Richard is coming in to see me next week (I knew wooing Amanda Ross would pay off) and I cannot wait to float my new idea past him for Corporation One's primetime Sunday evening show called "Richard NOT Judy" ( in which Richard hosts an itchy chat show and 'virtual' Judy joins via live satellite link up from her boudoir, reclining in a black-lace negligee and sipping on a glass of chilled Chardonnay)

The grannies will love it. Fuck yeah!!

The TVC Years they'll call it (maybe Maggie Brown will write a book about me? Must lunch her ASA-fucking-P)

I put my feet up on my desk, ordered a double espresso, and waited...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Stephen Lambert's CV

Fuck me, guess which persona non grata has just emailed!

FROM: StephenLambert@formatguru.com
TO: TVC01@Corporation.co.uk
SUBJECT: Coffee?

TVC,
As the architect (and founding member) of itchy reality factual formats, I feel you and I have always had a lot in common. We both understand what the kids want to watch (scraps, conflict, jeopardy etc). Now that I have left RDF Media I feel it is the right time to try my hand in commissioning. I'm keen to know if you could use someone at the Youth Channel with my track record in building core programming brands from creative kernels and jumpstarting teams?

CV attached.

Best,
Stephen
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Shit - there is no way on earth I can be associated with this cockcheese! What if IT were to find out I was in email dialogue with him?? Imagine the fall out for my media brand if some tabloid hack ran a scurrilous "new Mothership Controller considers Lambert for key post" headline??

I immediately hit delete and ask Anthony if its possible for old emails to be saved in some central server or something. I cannot risk there being any fucking trace of Lambert's approach to me.

Must admit though, it's funny how the mighty have fallen. Next thing you know he'll want to start making 'serious' 'organic' sob-umentaries!!

10 Reasons why I hate Glasgow

1. The helicopter ride was very fucking bumpy. I was sick twice.

2. It took over 30 minutes to drive from the airfield to the Corporation Scottish HQ!

3. Everyone looked cynical and very miserable.

4. No one laughed when I told my Aspen skiing trip joke.

5. Too many girls wearing cashmere

6. Angry atmosphere during Q+A - there is nothing worse than a shouty Scottish crowd when you've been on the road all morning.

7. Lack of ambition in their ideas for Corporation One during 60-second itchy pitch session.

8. Muriel Gray lives up here.

9. So does Hamish Barbour.

10. Even colder than fucking Manchester.