Some 20 years ago John Willis, head of Channel 4, told me that he wanted to do a week of shows about the homeless on 4. He was determined to do it but worried that commercials makers wouldn’t want to be associated with a channel doing a week of depressing programmes.
John’s father was the legendary Ted Willis, a writer of extraordinary screenplays and plays, who was also a dedicated socialist. Hence I suppose this was one of the reasons that his son wanted to do this week about homelessness.
The week would include Cathy Come Home, Edna the Inebriate Woman, interviews with people in terrible circumstances and including a group of people building their own homes.
A few months later I bumped into John and asked him about the success or failure of his experiment. He told me that he was thrilled about it. Far from a disaster, Channel 4’s income for that week had exceeded the income from any week from the previous six months.
This connects to my previous post about Jack Rosenthal. If Channel 4 can do such a radical transformation of their normal weekly output what about Jack and others?
There must be treasures hidden somewhere waiting to be aired. There must be plays from Pinter, Stoppard, Charlie Wood, Rosenthal and many, many more just crying out to be seen and audiences that want to see them.
Come on Channel 4, root around, dust them off and show them again. John Willis has moved on but there must be someone at 4 with the wit to take a chance.
Think about it. Please. Just press the button marked GO.