Back from the dead 

31 October 2008

What’s so ironic about the above image, you may ask?

Apart from the fact that it is taken from an episode of Friends that was shown on E4 tonight (nothing unusual about that!), there’s the use of text underneath the E4 on-screen logo that advertises a programme: “Dead Set Tonight 10pm”.

Again there’s nothing that unusual nowadays about broadcasters promoting a specific programme that they consider to be important (for whatever reason) by using such text displayed throughout a programme – a fairly common practice outside the main five channels – but it’s the programme being promoted that’s of relevance here.

For those who don’t know, Dead Set is a horror drama series that features zombies marauding around the Big Brother house (yes, really), and was conceived and written by Charlie Brooker who is known for his Guardian newspaper column as well as being the presenter of Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe.

Prior to Screen Wipe, he developed a website called TV Go Home which featured parodies of modern television programming and formats; indeed the whole subversive idea of Dead Set (namely, mixing a banal reality TV idea with genuine horror elements) is very reminiscent of some of the bizarre programme ideas he conceived for that project.

Now E4 normally displays its logo during programmes (as shown in the above image), but such a logo was unusually absent during at least the first showing of Dead Set. This is almost unheard of as far as E4 is concerned barring the rare occurrence of a technical problem.

But as people who know Charlie are fully aware, he isn’t exactly a fan (to put it mildly) of modern intrusive presentation techniques such as credit squeezing and on-screen logos (bugs/DOGs/whatever), and he often goes out of his way to frequently criticise their usage as being detrimental to the programme that is being shown.

As well as being logo-free, the end credits of Dead Set (at least when first shown) were also not messed around with as is often the case with other E4 programmes, so we can make a valid assumption that Charlie may have specifically instructed E4 not to display its on-screen logo during his creation as well as insisting that the end credits be left unmolested.

So the very fact that E4 had chosen to use text displayed under its on-screen logo for most of an evening in order to promote a programme that had been created by someone who had probably gone out of his way to prevent E4 displaying its logo during his programme, is more than a little ironic, all things considered.

If Charlie Brooker was dead he would be spinning in his grave, but thankfully he’s very much alive (unlike his zombie creations), so it will be interesting to find out what he has to say about this. Whatever the response, it’s unlikely to be that complementary.

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