We all know what talk shows are like, don’t we: they’ve a fairly rigid formula. Entertainingly witty host, celebrity guests who are all publicising something, laid back chat , then time for the theme music. Or you have the political variant, which has soundbytes, talking heads and arguing about the headlines in easily digestible chunks.
What would it look like if someone did the opposite of all that?
You’d get After Dark.
For 10 years, back in the mid 80s to 90s, the UKs Channel4 (back in the days when it took risks and innovated), found a creative solution to an unusual problem. TV in the UK was just starting to broadcast 24 hours a day, which left them with large blocks of overnight time to fill, which advertisers were reluctant to sponsor. So they came up with a format that turned the discussion show on its head.
Each episode had:
- A controversial or interesting topic.
- Four or five experts on comfy sofas
- A host to get them talking
- A drinks trolley to keep the guests refreshed
And the cameras just kept rolling until the discussion ended. Wide-ranging discussions of two or three hours were common, on all manner of topics. Sex, terrorism, secrets, war and history were all put under its microscope.
This little kitty was a little bit too young to appreciate it at the time. This staple of post pub TV ended before I was legally allowed to be purchasing strong beverages, but some episodes are available online, like the one linked below- two and a half hours of in-depth discussion about spying and official secrets in which some seriousl explosive claims are made,on live broadcast.
It’s something tha could only have happened when it did. Today’s media landscape is much more tightly controlled in many ways, and hours of air time of indeterminate length wouldn’t be given over to such a program today. But it should.