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The Best of Five

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21.09.2000 (04.12.2002)

Advantages:
Some excellent dramas and films

Disadvantages:
Too many cheaply made programmes

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Quality and consistency of programmes

Range of programming

Quantity of advertising

Value for money

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When Channel Five first started a few years ago it soon got a reputation of relying on cheap American imports, even cheaper home produced programmes and a regular diet of soft porn films, soaps and repeats to fill its schedules. Not surprisingly, it was dismissed by most people as being a waste of time. However since its re-launch and name change it has become a much better channel and now does have the calibre of programmes that can tempt viewers away from the other terrestrial choices.

So here are my ten reasons why you might consider watching Channel 5

Number 10- Minority Sports

Five provides a good coverage of many sports that these days would not otherwise be seen on terrestrial TV. They might not be to everyone’s taste but part of the remit of this channel was to cater for minority interests. At various days during the week you can see; American Football, Kickboxing, Boxing, Australian Rules Football, Motorsports (including drag racing and bike racing), Ice Hockey and triathlon competitions. Popular sports such as golf are also covered although the focus is on the lesser events.

Number 9- Documentaries

Five shows one off documentaries on a wide variety of subjects. In the last few weeks we have been offered ‘The Real James Bond Gadgets’ a history of the real life high tech gadgets used by intelligence agencies, ‘Diana’s Top Ten’ a profile of Diana Princess of Wales as reflected through her record collection, ‘Killer Waves’ highlighting the danger of tidal waves and ‘Women With Beards’ an interesting investigation about differing attitudes to female body and facial hair.
Other documentary series like ‘Mysteries of the Ancients’, ’Aztecs’, ‘Kings and Queens’ and ‘The Impressionists’ (painters not mimics) provide more high-brow interest.

Number 8- Football

Not the really big matches, but for your obsessive football fan there is a lot to savour. A few months ago there was extensive coverage of the under-21 European Championships, there is also late night highlights of the EUFA cup as well as the Dutch League and the Argentinean League. Jonathon Pearce’s Football night provides some in depth discussion of football issues and general league game analysis. You’ll have to stay up late though, most of these can be seen after midnight.

Number 7- 5th Gear

This is Five’s equivalent to the BBC’s Top Gear and it is even fronted by ex-Top Gear presenters Quentin Willson, Tiff Needel, Adrian Simpson and Vicki Butler-Henderson. The format of the show is what you’d expect, test-drives, previews of new car and motoring related issues including some more off beat ones such as the recently highlighted ‘car exorcism’. The programme doesn’t attempt to do anything radically different form ‘Top Gear’ and in the same way that Top Gear did it succeeds in presenting cars and car issues in an interesting way to both enthusiasts and casual observers alike

Number 6- Films

The soft-core ‘erotic’ thrillers are still there tucked away amongst the weekday late night schedule but now there are also some real blockbusters in the prime time slots. Here is a selection of the best of them over the past few weeks

Terminator 2- Arnie is finally Back!
Analyse This- De Niro and Billy Crystal play mobster and spychiatrist respectively in a very good comedy
The Matrix- Probably one of the best Sc-fi films made in recent years
Groundhog Day- Bill Murray has a recurring day.
Magnum Force- Classic Dirty Harry
Contact- Jodie Foster goes looking for aliens
Saving Private Ryan- Excellent WW2 drama featuring Tom Hanks

Number 5-Five News with Kirsty Young

Channel five have always tried to be slightly different in terms of news, not that the items covered in itself different just the tone has been changed form the stuffy professionalism of the BBC or the more populist ITN to a new more informal and youth orientated presentation. This is really news for people who are not news addicts and the more casual approach suits this kind of audience. The anchor to Five News is Kirsty Young who became famous for reading the news perched on the edge of her desk rather than behind it. Five also were the first to run short five minute news updates and different times during the evening schedules as part of the add breaks. Some might say that this was all a gimmick but at a time when newspapers, and general interest in News and news topics like politics is at an all time low any inventive attempt to access those who might be put off by the traditional approach ahs to be applauded.

Number 4- Dark Angel

First shown on Sky One, this is a stylish sci-fi series, a mixture between X-men and Alias. The stunning Jessica Alba plays Max and genetically engineered human part of a secret government plan to breed new super soldiers. Inevitably Max and a number of her ‘siblings escape and go on the run in a post apocalyptic America ruled by an authoritarian government.
This series is high on style and production values, Jessica Alba looks great as the super human being who made a living as a cat burglar before she meets and falls for the idealistic leader of a underground movement Logan Cale aka ‘eyes only’, devoted to fight corruption and injustice. The stunt are realistic and the soundtrack high tempo and up to date, but unlike the many other designer sci-fi to hit our screens recently this does develop the characters and it has a intriguing plot, which does twist and turn unexpectedly throughout the series run.

Number 3- The Shield

Hard-hitting police drama doesn’t even begin to do justice to this US import. Set in a tough precinct of LA it features the excellent Emmy Award 'Best Actor' Michael Chiklis as the corrupt cop Vic Mackey. Mackay and his team are involved in drugs running, a protection racket and even the murder of an undercover policeman but despite this they do a good job of keeping the crime rate down. This is the central contradiction in the series, how can a bad cop also be a good cop? We soon realise that all the characters whether cops or crooks are not easy to define. Even Mackey’s captain who suspects Mackay and is out to catch him will still use Mackey and his unorthodox methods when it suits him as in the first episode where Mackay violently interrogates a child molester who has kidnapped and hidden away a little girl. This series often makes uncomfortable viewing but is well acted and intelligently directed. You could say it was a ‘Hill Street Blues’ for the millennium.

Number 2-C.S.I

CSI stands for 'Crime Scene Investigation' and it is basically the case files of a forensic/detective team based in Las Vegas. It doesn't have any of the dark, heavy feel of other series like 'Silent Witness', this is pure Hollywood designer crime drama, although it is quite graphic in its detail of the aftermath of the crimes. It's a mixture between Miami Vice, Quincy and NYPD Blue. You have to suspend belief a little as you see them achieve miraculous results with their high tech forensic techniques but it is great fun, well acted and well made.

Number 1- A Mind to Kill

This is another little known gem that has been going for some time now it was first aired in 1994. It is a high quality two-hour murder mystery set in Wales starring the excellent Philip Madoc as the hard nosed. And world weary DCI Noel Bain. It has been described as the Welsh Morse but it reminds me more of Taggart. This is gritty drama where the crimes are often gruesome but the quality of the stories is consistently good, as is the quality of the acting. Apart from the crime solving nature of the showthorugh the course of the series we follow Bain as he comes to terms with his wife death at the hands of a drunk driver and his difficult relationship with teenage daughter who is just as strong willed as he is. It works on many levels the crime mysteries are complex enough and with enough red herrings to keep you guessing and the emotional sub plots involving the main character are skilfully developed to give the show a continuity form episode to episode. This is very good piece of programme making, good enough to rival better know exponents of the genre like A touch Of Frost, Morse or Midsomer Murders. It deserves more praise than it gets and a much larger audience.


Things are not perfect by any means on Channel Five (are they on any channel?) but they are getting better. The channel still suffers from the lack of well-made, high-quality in-house programmes but that is more to do with the limited budget at their disposal than a lack of imagination. It does still lag behind the other terrestrial channels in its output but at least it is improving and has ceased to be the laughing stock it once was.

So there you have it ten reasons to watch Channel Five, try it out.

Thank you for reading and rating this opinion.

© Mauri 2002

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Comments about this review »

Toonarmy 14.05.2003 17:48

Great op, I love channel 5, and especially looooooooove Dark Angel and CSI. I used to watch The Shield and can't wait for the 2nd series, and now watch Boomtown. Yes, I agree they solve things far too quickly with their forensics in CSI, but that's american tv for you. Mind you, I love watching the way they solve things using forensics, and am thinking about studying for it. Have you ever read Patricia Cornwell books - they are full of forensic science, and the mapping of blood using string to see where the crime was committed etc.

KarenUK 06.01.2003 20:25

I think we watched something on Ch 5 the other day, that new show with Lisa Tarbuck. I sometimes watch the News there too.

offy 14.12.2002 00:19

We have been watching channel 5 more recently, although our signal is not wonderful. As I hate sports I obviously avoid this element of it. Great op.

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This review of Channel 5 has been rated:

"very helpful" by (100%):

  1. essential1
  2. Toonarmy
  3. JVL

and 19 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.



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