If your immediate thought after reading that title was “oh good! I like helping needy children, because it’s the morally correct thing to do” – leave. You’re useless, and this blog is not written for people like you. Go join a volunteer shelter or something. You see, we’re not talking about dying kids here. We’re talking about ‘Children In Need’, the TV fundraiser.
Every year, the show, which is shown on BBC1 and takes up a whole evening of programming, makes a whole lot of money for dying children all across the UK. It’s a good cause, certainly, and this year they gathered over twenty million on the night. However, this money came at the cost of human entertainment, as viewers were forced to watch several half-baked ideas brought to life in the name of showbiz variety. Among the many broken ideas that came to our screens was a ten-second (it felt) preview of the next Doctor Who Christmas Special, a visit by Gok Wan to Coronation Street which went nowhere, a similarly pointless crossover between Top Gear and Ashes To Ashes, and two shorts (and we mean short) skits from the casts of Merlin and The Royle Family. Each time something was announced, it brought about at least a bit of excitement among the audience watching, but almost every single part of the show disappointed. The featured moments - a great Strictly Come Dancing section aside – were flat and boring; the brilliant Terry Wogan wasn’t getting any support from his audience as he went about presenting; Tess Daly had to hold together the show on her own (which she just about did), and overall the night disappointed.
So here are our ideas for how to improve Children In Need, and make it a show which can rival Comic Relief (a fundraiser which routinely makes over forty million pounds on the night). We think with these ideas, the show will vastly improve.
1: Get Terry Wogan a sofa. The presenters have to stand for the entirety of the show, which just feels mean. Give them a sofa area where they can sit and talk to guests in-between links. It’ll save Terry’s legs, and he won’t then spend so much time complaining about his knees.
2: Bring back the second-floor. The show used to have a set of stairs which led to a balcony, from which the presenters could introduce the acts, who performed on the dancefloor below. Bringing it back will make the show feel much more contained, as at the moment the studio is far too big, and not enough is going on in it.
3: Give Terry less to do. If you put Terry Wogan in front of a crowd, he’ll start improvising. It’s how he works. And that’s also partly why we all admire him, but… You need to take him out of proceedings more. Don’t send him into the crowd, don’t have him greet every act once they’re finished performing their songs. If you keep him from the audience, they will respond more whenever he does appear. It’s like the inevitable Graham Norton appearance on Comic Relief: he’s an inspired presenter if you don’t put him onscreen for hours on end.
4: Switch presenters around. As a part of #3, the presenters should be paired up and given slots of their own. Like Comic Relief! It brings more identity to the show, and you can have more child-friendly presenters on at the start, before going more adult as things move along.
5: No more Fearne Cotton. Personally, Wilftonville dislikes her. But on top of that, nobody wants to go backstage – it ruins the mystery of what will happen next if we have interviews with Duffy held, apparently, in a corridor.
6: Gaby Roslin. We want her back! Or at the very least, give us some more variety with who presents. Why can’t we have any middle-aged, female presenters? Grr, BBC!
7: The first hour should be presented by Dick and Dom, and should feature lots of custard pies, gunge, mess, and mayhem. It’s fun!
8: Work on the ideas properly. You have a year to set up your ideas, so once you’ve decided that the cast of The Bill should sing songs by The Blues Brothers, work on it more. Don’t give up as soon as you establish the concept. Work on it more, decide what should happen, and when, and give the thing more structure.
9: No regional programming! Don’t cut to county-specific sections so we can see a group of teachers in Leeds get their hair shaved off for charity. It’s boring.
10: You own the shows, BBC. Dr Who, Merlin, The Royle Family – you should be able to do more with them than two-minute sections. You don’t need to work a reference to your mascot Pudsey into each one; so let the writers do something silly and fun with the cast, and let them have more than two minutes running time. The Doctor Who sections you had last year, and the year before – those were perfect.
11: Tone down the actors who sing. Sure, it’s lovely that they can do this, but we don’t need to have seven or eight acts where a soapstar sings a showtune. Get them to do something with more variety, instead – why not have them do some shadow theatre, or mime for a bit?
12: Cut the last two hours. They’re completely surplus, and it forces you to start recycling bits you’ve already shown. Cut them, and streamline the show so you space out the goods bits more smartly.
13: More variety, overall, please. Singing and dancing is all well and good, but how about some comedians? The BBC has so many sketch show people at the moment, so why not commission some special sketches from them all? It spices things up.
14: Bring in more of your shows. Quiz shows, perhaps? They’re always decent value for money – the BBC2 programme that comes on while the main show breaks for the news is almost always one of the best parts of any Children In Need Night.
15: Stop asking us to give you money. We get the idea. Also, the idea that you ‘need’ the money? I’d rather you ‘would like’ it. Seems like a nicer thing.
16: Paul Daniels. We need MOAR magic on the BBC.