The home of Critic, Writer and Film-maker: Liam Walters

The Midnight Shift of TV Land


So have you ever been awake at 3am and couldn’t sleep? Did you turn on the TV to try to rest your mind into sleeping, or perhaps even fell to sleep with the television on, waking up to find some strange program running? TV during the late and early hours an be quite a tricky thing to pull off, as the whole basis of scheduling is having a Target Audience to which you need to schedule to, but who could possibly be in the target audience at 3am?

So at the time of writing this, it is actually 3am. For the past few weeks, in fact, I’ve been up till 5 and waking up at noon. Although whilst I have been without a television for most of those weeks, this past week when I’ve had close access to a television, I managed to gain two posatives from my late night ventures. Firstly, I am able to see what type of shows most of the Freeview Channels air during the late night slots. Secondly, it means I am able to sleep through the early morning horror which is The Jeremy Kyle Show.

So lets focus on the terrestrial channels to begin with. BBC1 shows light viewings. Tonight it is Fake Britain, which takes a look into businesses which deal with fake products, and how the police find out and put a stop to them. Why you would actually want to see a program like this, at this time, would be difficult to say, but if I was to hazard a guess, I would really call it a sleeping program. Just a program to put on in the background whilst you try to sleep. After Fake Britain, The news in broadcast until the early morning. BBC2 on the other hand has News running until the middle of the night, at which point changes focus completely and just displays pages from Ceefax.

Something that many people have noticed when viewing late night shows, which also appears on BBC1’s Fake Britain, is the use of a sign language interpreter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that deaf people can watch television, but I don’t think it’s right that they have to wait until 3am to be able to, especially for a show like Fake Britain, or god forbid, even Hollyoaks.

Moving on, ITV offers splendid programming from 2:50 though 04:35 with the ITV Nightscreen, which is basically a powerpoint presentation of upcoming shows and movies to be broadcast, backed with some generic cheap music. This, however, is gold compared to the show lined up after it, which is The Jeremy Kyle Show, which I have shown my distaste for earlier in this article. I guess I was wrong, not even at 5am can you escape Kyle has his psychotic shouting.

Channel 4 seems to either show generic television shows from the 80’s, or films from that time period as well. Whilst watching this particular night, I came across the show ‘Hill Street Blues’, which was originally broadcast in ’89. The interesting thing about this show, is that it was actually originally broadcast on ITV. Channel 5 fills up your night by broadcasting a show called ‘Super Casino’, from  midnight through til 4am. As a gambling programme, the show is broadcast live, which you can tell just by watching how tired the presenters look. You really have to feel sorry for these people, not only having to work at this time, but also being on Channel 5… Must be dreadful.

So now we move on to the freeview channels, which give us a lot more variety for late night entertainment. ITV2, ITV 3, ITV 4 and Yesterday all fill up their late night airtime by broadcasting teleshopping shows, therefore not having to deal with what to fill up this dead time with, whilst still being able to boast about 24 hour broadcasting. Channels like Dave will normally just broadcast the same loop for 4 or 5 programs, until they switch off at 3am , whilst E4 will do similar, though taking the shows that they have broadcast earlier in the day, and broadcasting throughout the night.

More 4, BBC 3, BBC 4 and Sky 3 all do a similar thing, where they fill up the late night slots broadcasting shows that have already aired in the channels past, with More 4 showing popular shows such as Come Dine With Me, or BBC 3 showing such shows as ‘Worlds Strictest Parents’, but the less said about that show, the better. From what I’ve seen, a lot of Sky 3’s late night shows are repeat broadcasts of several game shows, which as ‘Don’t Forget the Lyrics’ where idiot karaoke singers get paid large sums of money for knowing the next 3 words of a song.

So there you have it. If you find yourself unable to sleep at 3am, then be rested that there is a whole heap of terrible or boring shows for you to fall asleep to… Though if I had to offer a word of advice, I would say stay away from ITV… Last thing you need is to be woken up at 4:30am by a shouting mad man name Jeremy… And I’m not talking about Clarkson.

On a final note about late night broadcasting, the advert breaks are noticeably shorter, mainly due to the fact that hardly anybody is watching, so that there is no one to try to sell their products to. I’ve just never understood why advertisers dont aim their adverts to this market of late night viewers. Show adverts about coffee or becoming a milkman or something, we have a whole range of people who stay up late watching basically anything that comes on the screen. There has to be something to sell them to improve their miserable lives… And if there is, then I’ll be there watching to see the advert.

Please hurry.

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