On 4th September 2016 the news broke that Claudia Winkleman will no longer be hosting Film 2016. This was followed with an announcement from the BBC that a new presenter will be appointed ready for the new series to begin in the Autumn. This has prompted lots of discussion in the Twitter-verse about who should replace Winkleman and whether the show should go back to its previous format.
For the uninitiated, Film 2016 is a TV show on BBC One that reviews the latest theatrical releases, along with interviewing actors and directors and showing previews of films heading to cinemas in the near future. It started in 1972 with film critic Barry Norman, who would talk directly to camera about his thoughts on the films he has seen, and when he was replaced by Jonathan Ross in 1999 the BBC decided to keep the format that served Norman so well. It was in 2010 when the Beeb decided to shake things up a bit and have a presenter discussing a film with a regular critic and a guest critic live on air. Enter Winkleman as the host and film journalist Danny Leigh as the resident film buff.
When Ross left the show there was an overwhelming flow of support for one of the most famous film critics, Mark Kermode, to take the reins (something which he has always denied being in the running for). So the appointment of Winkleman, who had very little professional experience of the film world, and a change to the structure of a show that had been on air at that point for nearly forty years, was met with some hostility from fans. Regardless of whether you supported or opposed this move, you have got to admire the BBC for making such a brave decision.
Now we find ourselves in a very similar position to where we found ourselves six years ago. The chair is vacant once more and a debate has started on a replacement. There are those that are in the unshakeable belief that the show should go back to the way it was presented in the Norman/Ross days and others who think the structure should stay the way it is and the replacement should be a critic or a presenter in the same ilk as Winkleman.
I’m firmly in the latter.
Now, I love films and people probably think I’m a little pretentious with it. When I asked my brother-in-law if there were any foreign films on his film-subscription service he simply replied “why would I search for that?” (Neanderthal!). For me, it doesn’t matter if a film has subtitles, who it’s directed by and whether it is in colour or has sound, so long as it works as a film. I started watching the film show when Ross was at the helm and thoroughly enjoyed it…
…but he didn’t ‘alf go on a bit!
For those without a keen interest in film, I can see this premise as appearing to be very pretentious and boring. I was the only one who used to watch it out of all my friends and family and was seen as a bit of a film snob as a result. Recruiting Winkleman in the hot seat was a stroke of genius in my opinion as her sparkling wit and warmth has attracted an audience to the show who would normally have changed the channel when the iconic title music started to play. You still had the same level of critique that the die-hard fans craved but you had Claudia to hand to bring an accessibility to the show that was once lacking.
She was the Riker on the film critic’s Enterprise, if you will allow me to throw in a Star Trek reference. She was on hand to say what she thought of a film, was not afraid to disagree with any critic to grace the set and would ask them to clarify what they mean if they compared and contrasted a release with a film that most had never heard of never mind seen before. Not everyone is bothered if the latest release recalls the same meaning as a long lost Fellini feature, or summons the same visual aesthetic as an Argento flick. Most just want to know if a film is worth watching.
If I were in charge, I would stick to the same format and recruit a presenter to host the show and keep Danny Leigh as the regular film critic. I don’t watch a lot of TV but I find Cherry Healey has an infectious enthusiasm for everything that she presents and her interest always feels genuine. She presents a show called Inside The Factory that my other half watches and is a programme I would usually find as dull as dishwasher, but I have never been so interested in how a cornflake is made! That’s a result of her presenting skills. I would also like to see Mark Kermode sitting in the guest critic chair, and I think Helen O’Hara shouldn’t just leave it at the one appearance. A favourite in the Film Fluff household is Anna Smith and it would be great to see her on the show, too. Oh, and I’d put it on a lot earlier and not move it around the schedule if another programme over-runs!
Keeping the show as it is will give it a better chance of a) raising its viewing figures, and b) attracting new audiences to lesser known films. We can’t continue on this multiplex diet of franchise blockbusters and unimaginative remakes and this show has been at the forefront of bringing different films to its audience’s attention.
So there you go, BBC. If you would like to use any of these ideas then send me a DM on Twitter. You’ll find my rates are very reasonable.