Tonight on ITV1 there's a programme called Holiday Showdown Extreme. I can only assume this is like the old ITV show Holiday Showdown in which two mismatched families go with each other on both their summer holidays, only made more extreme. Seeing as the show previously consisted entirely of the two families having protracted blazing rows for the entirety of the show, I can only guess that this time they're being armed.
Holiday Showdown was occasionally quite amusing, but only by virtue of being a direct rip-off of Channel 4's Wife Swap. In both shows, two families who obviously are never going to get on (posh family/common family, hippy family/strict family, whatever) are put in stressful situations to provoke them into massive arguments, which we as viewers are invited to watch and laugh, feeling smugly superior.
Shamelessly lifting successful formats from other channels is of course something of an ITV mainstay. In the past few years we've also seen Dancing on Ice, Grease Is The Word, Tycoon, Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway, You Don't Know You're Born, For The Rest Of Your Life, Saturday Cooks and Primeval; rip-offs respectively of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, The Apprentice, Dragons' Den, Who Do You Think You Are, Deal or No Deal, Saturday Kitchen and Doctor Who; hits respectively for BBC One, BBC Two (and now One), BBC Two, BBC Two, Channel 4, BBC Two, BBC One and BBC One.
The tactic is understandable though, since ITV seem to be singularly unable to come up with hit shows off their own back. What might help would be if they stopped scrapping programmes after two shows if they haven't instantly achieved massive ratings. (Interested readers may wish to witness this phenomenon firsthand by watching the optimistically titled Sing It Back: Lyric Champion 2007 which starts and quite possibly ends on Saturday.) So what can ITV do to become a force for television good? None of us wants more carbon copies of successful shows from other channels; we'd much prefer to just watch the original successful shows. They could try giving their new shows more of a chance to find an audience, but while this sounds good in concept, I'm not sure there are many instances where it actually would work. I mean, would any number of episodes of Celebrity Wrestling have made it into a piece of watchable entertainment? Now, there's only so many episodes of Harry Hill's TV Burp that a channel can sustain per year, so what to fill the remaining hours of airtime with? I haven't got any ideas. If you have, I invite you to submit them to the comments box. Or send them to ITV. They need all the help they can get.