E4’s autumn 2011 preview party report

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As summer (such as it was) begins to fade away, and the leaves begin to turn, so too the television channels have a whole new season of programming to premiere. E4, being the fun, youth orientated channel that they are, decided to throw a bit of a party to celebrate their upcoming new schedule.

Jay Hunt, Chief Creative Officer at Channel 4 (and hence also its younger brother, E4), took to the podium to deliver a short shower of praise on the channel’s recent successes, and enthuse about its upcoming shows.

Hunt, still giddy off the success of The Inbetweeners Movie (a show that, of course, began life on E4), informs us that E4 is now outperforming both BBC Two and Channel 5 when it comes to young audiences; a statistic that Hunt is extremely proud of.

After running through some of the other successes the channel has achieved in recent months, attention turns to the future, and the myriad new and returning shows that will begin airing throughout the autumn. “Yes, our Friends DVD has finally worn out”, Hunt jokes, as she introduces a show-reel featuring clips and teasers of the many upcoming shows.

The reel lasts for about five minutes, but the clips are all short and snappy, and most give very little away in regards to the actual shows, save the briefest of surface impressions. And some of those impressions are better than others.

On the plus side, Misfits is returning, and while the glimpse of Robert Sheehan’s replacement Joe Gilgun gave nothing away as to his character, he at least looks the part, and won’t appear out of place in the trademark orange jumpsuit. Also returning is cult comedy Phone Shop, the cast of who are in attendance, and reality TV show Made in Chelsea (many of whom were also in the audience, likely lured by the free bar rather than industry concerns).

The new shows look a rather more mixed bunch. The reboot of Charlie’s Angels could be camp fun, while Chris Addison’s Show & Tell (Room 101, essentially) will likely rise or fall on the quality of guests it can secure. Given Addison’s comedic connections, there’s probably not too much to worry about.

As for Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, anything is possible. Fielding has always been a bit of a wild-card, and his surreal sense of humour looks to have been given free reign based on the clips we see. Fielding – who’s also in attendance at the event, along with Addison – wants to emulate some of the great sketch shows of the past, with Spike Milligan and The Kenny Everett Show in mind. “Television needs a mad-man”, he says. It’s sure to be an acquired taste, and whether his bizarre brand of humour will flourish or flounder outside of the (loose) structure of The Mighty Boosh remains to be seen.

In terms of imports from across the Atlantic, we have Fox’s Zooey Deschanel fronted New Girls – “It’s so quirky”, enthuses Hunt. (Of course it is. Of course it’s quirky.) Based on the clip shown, New Girls will need more than Deschanel being cute and free-spirited to carry it.

Similarly, new CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls looks dishearteningly derivative. The clip shown fell startlingly flat, and it couldn’t look more “American sitcom” if it tried. Think Friends plus Two and a Half Men, divided by Will & Grace. It’ll probably be massive.

And so, as the stars and staff of E4 retreat to the free-bar, we’re left with a sense of cautious optimism over the direction that the channel seems to be heading this autumn. With the cancellation of Big Brother, the Channel 4 family have been able to invest an extra £5million in comedy, and the schedule certainly reflects that.

The home-grown examples are certainly more encouraging than their US counterparts, but both have a lot to prove. Similarly, even the channel’s biggest drama success, Misfits, can’t rest on its laurels, with the loss of its break-out star and the introduction of a relative unknown in his place. However, the writers have earned enough good-will over the brilliant past two series that we’re pretty confident they’ll nail it.

And there you have it. That’s what E4 has in store for us over the coming months. And we’re certainly looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Watch the Charlie’s Angels reboot trailer…