Why can't TV capture the spirit of the Fringe? | By Twonkey, aka Paul Vickers.

Why can't TV capture the spirit of the Fringe?

By Twonkey, aka Paul Vickers.

In 1997, the band I was the frontman for, Dawn Of The Replicants, appeared on the BBC Two TV show Edinburgh Nights with Mark Lamarr, We closed the show with our song about technology and aliens, called Radars. 

Hazel O’Connor, the singer made famous in the early 1980s by the film Breaking Glass, looked after me on set. She slapped make up on my face and combed my hair making sure I was telly ready, I was so young and green, it was lovely to get the help. We had just played a gig with Snow Patrol supporting us at Planet Pop at the Cas Rock, which is now a Sainsbury’s Local.

Phill Jupitus was also on the show talking about what he’d seen at Fringe but overall it was a pretty poor magazine style programme, which seemed fairly low energy and did not seem to reflect what was really going on at the festival.

 However I was glad to be on the telly and with Hazel’s help I felt we held our own. But it did make me wonder why TV channels play it so safe and miss the mark completely when covering the biggest arts festival in the world?

One the main problems with channels like BBC is they like to cover and support their own acts as they are already household names. It makes sense to people at home to watch Bob Mortimer on a rickshaw journey through Edinburgh’s drinking dens instead of covering new and up-and-coming acts.

 Looking over some the highlights of Edinburgh Nights I found a episode that featured Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly discussing their film together Mrs Brown,  which is a film was also produced by the BBC (no surprise). I guess they would say there’s so much going on its hard to know where to start, but that’s a lazy reason not to even try. 

Years later, in 2015, American comedy streaming service Seeso had a go at covering the Edinburgh Fringe. The show called Before The Morning After was filmed in American style diner built inside The Biscuit Factory in Edinburgh. 

This bold effort involved sending talent scouts around the festival shows to find out what was really going on and getting their favoured acts to feature. 

The idea was to try and create a show with the feel of 1980s new bands showcase The Tube. I featured –  this time in comedian mode as Mr Twonkey – in two episodes of Before The Morning After, which was filmed in the early hours of the morning after most people’s Fringe shows had finished. 

It featured one of the best-stocked free bars I have ever seen I think the idea was to create a party atmosphere that would hopefully come across well on screen and soon me and comedy crooner Frank Sanazi and The Iraq Pack (Frank Sinatra songs in the style of Hitler) had polished of a couple of bottles of Glenfiddich. It certainly had the feel of something exiting happening and it was really funny watching comic Paul Foot in his role as a waiter fall all over the set. 

I have never seen the finished show as you could only get it in if you lived in America, but the reviews I read seemed to say everyone appeared a bit knackered, drunk or on drugs. 

The thing that impressed me was that they had gone around the Fringe looking for new and up-and-coming acts they saw. 

In a way, producers need to see the Fringe as almost a live sporting event. The worse thing they could do is to try to book a TV show in advance. Only when the Fringe has started do you truly find out what the real buzz shows are. Its no secret which shows are really taking off and it would not take a genius to make TV show that is both entertaining and has its finger right on the pulse. But so far that has yet to happen at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

If there’s a TV producer reading this, why not give it a go? The Fringe needs you.

The Twonky without the 'e' is a 1953 American B-novie about TV possessed by something from future. Wouldn’t it be nice if that evil telly tuned into a decent channel broadcasting an amazing programme about the Edinburgh Fringe? You can but dream.

Twonkey’s 10 Year Twitch is at the Just The Tonic Caves at 16:10 daily

Published: 4 Aug 2019

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