Michael Grade to become chair of ITV

Well, that one came out of left field, didn’t it?

ITV has been in a lot of well-publicised trouble this last few years. From a lack of direction at the top, to declining ratings, to critical savagings, to several failed takeovers, things have been going from bad to worse for what is still the only real contender to the publicly-funded BBC. Which has itself been undergoing a renaissance over the last few years, shining a light onto ITV’s current weaknesses.

One of which has been the lack of a Chief Executive.

Well, it looks as if Christmas has come early for ITV, as today news broke that Michael Grade has defected from the BBC for, ooh, ten times what he was earning, a large packet of shares, and the ability to be more hands-on in the world of television again.

This news gives ITV a fighting chance to regain its position, and – here’s the clever bit – also deprives the BBC of one of its big guns just before an extremely tricky negotiation with the government over the licence fee settlement.

It’s a beautiful coup. Well done.

Target Practice

While out on Saturday with UK screenbloggers, I made a promise which may seem somewhat foolhardy.

I asked each of them what their target for next year was, and promised a bottle of Sainsbury’s own brand champagne if they achieved it. (Not such a bad prize – apparently it beats all of the more expensive champagnes in a blind taste test.)

So, for the record, here’s what they need to do to win.

Lee Thomson

4 x completed 1 hour TV Drama. One bottle per.

Christine Patton

2 x feature films completed and sent to production companies. One bottle per.

Bang2write

A 6-part TV series commissioned. (1 bottle)
To be the script editor or writer on a film that begins principal photography in 2007. (1 bottle)

Optimistic Reader

A first draft of a feature film. (1 bottle)
Win or place in a competition with a short film script. (1 bottle)
Writer on a completed short film (1 bottle)

What about me?

Well, Optimistic Reader has kindly put up for my target, which is to have a completed short film which I’ve both written and directed.

I was after an easier target, but she insisted on both.

Ha. Champagne’s as good as mine.

Back 9 For 60

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has picked up a back 9. So that’s all right then.

Here’s what that actually means:

A US TV season is commissioned initially for 13 episodes. They’ve generally got about half-a-dozen in the production chain by the time they start airing, and are starting to prep the last half of the series.

If a series isn’t performing well, they stop at 13. That’s just about enough episodes to release on DVD (hello Firefly).

If a series is performing dismally, they don’t even air the full batch of episodes on TV, replacing it with something they know will perform. If it’s an outright failure, it may even be cancelled after just a couple of episodes and everyone sent home (hello Coupling).

As a US producer, what you actually want is a full season commission. A full US season is 22 episodes long, and those extra episodes are known as the back 9. So if the series is performing well enough (and what a world of calculation and deal-making is hidden in those two words), you’ll be commissioned for the rest of the season.

If you’ve picked up a back 9, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to stay in the game. Find your audience, and you can make it to a second season.

So congratulations to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It’s the new show from Aaron Sorkin, with two great actors in the lead (Matthew Perry – who knew?), and Tommy Schlamme as the staffed director.

There are a few problems with it, to be sure. It’s a show still finding its feet as of episode 6. At the moment, we keep cutting from the story to watch the show-within-the-show. In other words it’s as if the West Wing showed the voting in Congress every week for ten minutes of the running time. Not so fun.

Nonetheless, I think it’s got the potential to be great.

Now we’ll get the chance to find out if it matches that potential.

It’s just gone 3am here in the UK.

And the election results are beginning to come in from the US.

BBC News has the latest here. They’ll keep updating as the night goes on.

I can’t stay up with you any longer to find out the makeup of the 110th Congress of the United States. But nothing is certain at this point.

Tomorrow I may wake up to a Congress that is no longer an international laughing stock.

I hope so.

Strange as it may seem, I still believe in America.

Tomorrow we’ll have a better idea of how the world will be for the next few years. I hope that it’s a better place when I wake up.

My thoughts and best wishes are with you all.

As better men than I have said: Good night, and good luck.