Channel 4 Entertainment and Events: New Brief 2020
WHAT DO WE DO?
From channel-defining events (Stand Up To Cancer, Sink or Swim) to award winning satire (The Last Leg); from top quality comedy entertainment (Cats Does Countdown, The Big Narstie Show), to cutting-edge new talent vehicles (The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan, The Tez o’Clock Show) our slate is characterised by range, attitude and ambition.
We work with a wide range of producers and genres, both outside and inside the channel. Sometimes we work with a single company, while other events cover a broad range of cross-genre content and may involve a mix of suppliers working on the same project. As well as our own commissions we also work closely with other C4 departments to deliver major events across the schedule.
Channel 4’s All 4 The UK strategy is now fully operational, with a commitment to significantly increased Nations and Regions spend. With our National HQ in Leeds and Creative Hubs in Bristol and Glasgow up and running, it goes without saying that we particularly welcome and encourage pitches from companies based all over the UK.
WHAT DO WE WANT?: CHANNEL 4
Over the past 12 months our focus has been a search for new talent to author a range of fresh entertainment shows. We’ve had real success, delivering new vehicles from Mo Gilligan and Tez Ilyas as well as developing ideas and pilots with a huge range of new people, from Samson Kayo to Rose Matafeo to Jordan Brookes.
While we are always keen for you to bring us brilliant new talent, for 2020 we particularly want to hear your bigger ideas. Here’s what we’re after:
Big Broad, Funny Studio Entertainment Formats (Fridays Night 10pm)
TFI Friday; Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush; The Friday Night Project; Balls of Steel: Channel 4 has a rich history of funny, ambitious, ideas-driven studio entertainment formats. Filled with humour and energy, they set a distinct tone for the department and for the wider channel. We haven’t properly been in that space since FNP ended, but we’d really like to. These shows all had certain things in common: they were joyful and anarchic, they were creatively restless and aimed to surprise as well as entertain. Crucially, they also had a clear topline format or purpose which shaped all the content.
We want your ideas for shows that will do the same sorts of things in 2020. They are unlikely to be new talent vehicles, although there could be opportunities to build new talent in (Friday Night Project after all used the borrowed fame of the guest host to support the relatively unknown Alan Carr and Justin Lee Collins).
We will be running a short period of funded development for this slot and are inviting submissions accordingly. Please send us your ideas (no more than 2/3 sides of A4) by Friday November 15th. We will then allocate development money to our favourites, with the aim of piloting one or two ideas in early 2020.
Please submit ideas via email to Katie Buckley on firstname.lastname@example.org. We will let you know if your idea has been successful by Monday 25th November 2019.
Competitive, Creative Comedians (Friday Night 10pm)
Eight of Ten Cats Does Countdown continues to be a brilliant and important programme for us. Consistently innovative and funny, it also does an outstanding job of bringing new and unusual comic talent to the Channel.
We’d like to find another competitive comedy-led format to compliment CDC. We don’t want a traditional panel format; we’re after a more imaginative studio show where funny people go head to head. It will probably have some sort of life outside the studio. Tonally Cats does Countdown is a good guide and anything we do needs to have the same ambition in terms of developing new talent. The touchpoints are obvious, but think Taskmaster, Hypothetical, Roast Battle or E4’s new Emma Willis fronted format Pants On Fire.
Celebrity Challenge…with Purpose (9pm)
Sink or Swim was a big, noisy triumph for us. Celebrities swimming the channel isn’t a new idea, but two things made SOS feel different. Firstly the ambition: taking a dozen non-swimming celebrities and giving them 12 weeks to not only learn to swim, but swim well enough to take on the English channel felt impossible and terrifying; we loved it. Secondly it was rooted in a real social issue, which gave it a powerful heart.
There seems to be a real viewer appetite for big entertainment challenges with social purpose: The Real Full Monty and Harry’s Heroes have also had great success in this area. We’d like to hear your ideas for what else we can do.
Celebrity Challenge…with Humour (9pm)
On another note, a different sort of celebrity challenge: one driven by humour and live jeopardy rather than social purpose. We’ve missed the ambition, fun, scale and - let’s be frank - noise of The Jump. For four series it was a channel defining entertainment event which helped kick off the new year with a very noisy bang. What can we do in a similar space and with similar DNA?
We want your ideas for big, strippable celebrity challenge formats which have entertainment (rather than purpose) at their heart. They will almost certainly be live or at least feel as though they could be. Casting is always crucial to these shows but more important is the idea: it needs to be clear and ambitious. Crucially, The Jump was rooted in an authentic world with real sports and real rules; the humour and jeopardy grew from rubbing against that. Whatever new show we do here will almost certainly need a similar seam of authenticity running through it. This doesn’t mean we’re looking for a sports show; it just means that it can’t simply be funny for the sake of it. Bring us your big, bold, funny ideas.
Over the last couple of years C4 Entertainment has excelled in backing diversity, disability and new talent. In 2020 we want to direct that focus towards female talent. We’ve always been backers of brilliant women, from Aisling Bea and Katherine Ryan to Roisin Conaty and Sara Pascoe among many others. Eight Out of 10 Cats has been particularly important at breaking and building new female voices.
Now we want to step up that backing. Who are the outstanding, funny women we should be building shows around, and more importantly what are those shows? What is the format that that will bring a new generation of female talent to C4 Entertainment and allow them to grow? How can we build shows that protect that newer talent?
It’s not just a ‘gang show’. We get a lot of pitches for shows built around a talented but random cast and a set of funny but random ideas. That’s not to say all pitches need to come fully formed or that we won’t develop ideas with you – but there must be clear top line to work from and make sense of.
Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer has grown from a high-risk commission into a channel-defining - and award winning - live event. And now it is supported by a year-round set of cross-channel programming, from special versions of existing brands like SAS and Bake Off to brand new programmes like Sink Or Swim.
SOS has shown that the SU2C brand is now strong enough to move beyond revivals or celebrity versions of existing C4 shows and we’re keen to hear more fresh ideas. What exciting things have you always wanted to do that might suddenly be possible under the SU2C banner? What ideas could only happen, or could become bigger and better because SU2C gives them a reason or purpose?
And please don’t think that fundraising or campaign messaging has to be absolutely front and centre – both Sink or Swim the original Celebrity Crystal Maze are examples where SU2C provided a purpose without it dominating the editorial of the show.
From the Comedy Awards to the Comedy Gala to Derren Brown playing Russian Roulette, Channel 4 has always a natural home for big, noisy entertainment events. We’re always keen to hear ideas for more. They could be gigantic, live one-offs, week-long strips or a series of returnable single events.
We’re open minded about what form they might take; they could be linked to an anniversary or real-world event; they could be a huge terrifying stunt; they could be a distinctly Channel 4 spin on traditional event territory (in the way that Stand Up To Cancer feels like a very C4 way of doing a telethon). What they will be is creative, noisy, ambitious and a little bit frightening. They may well be authored by key piece of massive talent, or they could feature a wider cast of famous faces. It’s always helpful to have examples, so here are some things that have impressed us, both on Channel 4 and other broadcasters: Guy Martin’s Wall of Death Live; Jesus Christ Superstar Live; The Channel 4 Mash Up; The Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis; Derren Brown: Apocalypse
It goes without saying that any ideas could be linked to Stand Up To Cancer if that helped give them purpose.
WHAT DO WE WANT?: E4
Noisy Original Comedy Entertainment
We are still looking for original noisy comedy entertainment ideas. They should be punchy and are probably formatted with talent at their heart. The main E4 brief can be found on the 4Producers pages here: https://www.channel4.com/commissioning/4producers/e4
Stand Up Plus
As well as this we are particularly keen to look at new ways of delivering stand-up. We want to go beyond the usual ten-minute sets you see on traditional formats like Live at The Apollo or Channel 4’s old Stand Up For The Week; we’re calling it Stand Up Plus … Other channels have been experimenting in this area with some success: ITV2’s The Stand Up Sketch Show and Comedians Giving Lectures on Dave for example.
How would you build a show that lets great new comics find different ways of delivering their material? What brilliant creative twist could take traditional stand up in a new direction? We want your best ideas.