Chris Philpot TV Production & Digital Marketing

Going L!VE – and Going, Going, Gone!

Originally published on my personal blog on the 31st of May 2013.

The Argentine essayist Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” I almost completely concur, except that my vision of heaven is a ginormous tape library.

A Beta tape with a photo of L!VE TV's ‘News Bunny’ character on the label.
Image credits: Kino Praxis, Ashley Hames

Wall-to-wall and floor to ceiling, it would hold every minute of every programme I have ever watched, from Walking with Dinosaurs to Challenge Anneka. It would be a more extensive and better catalogued version of YouTube, without the adverts and the macroblocking. Some of my best memories working behind the scenes in TV involve unpacking crates containing hundreds of hours of sports matches, and running that one crucial tape across to a time-critical edit.

I hope that someone wealthy shares my unhealthily romanticised image of the humble Beta tape, and bids on the astonishing eBay auction for the entire L!VE TV programming archive. For the uninitiated. L!VE TV was a cable TV channel that ran during the 1990s. The popularity of satellite channels (and the rise and rise of BSkyB) prompted a national newspaper—and a smattering of now-household names—to launch their own channel in an attempt to cash in on cable technology. What started as an innovative experiment soon devolved into a race to the bottom to try and bolster the ratings, via unforgettable programmes that can best be described as ‘stunt broadcasting’. Shows on L!VE TV included:

News Bunny
A newsreader sits behind a desk and… erm, reads the news. In the back of shot, a chap dressed as a rabbit gives his thumbs up or thumbs down to each headline.
Britain's Bounciest Weather
Picture your standard weather forecast. Now replace Michael Fish with a midget on a trampoline. You've got the idea.
Topless Darts
Take a wild guess! Let's just say this is one variant form of darts you're unlikely to see on the oche at the Lakeside.

The whole story is wonderfully told in Chris Horrie and Adam Nathan's 1999 book L¿ve TV!: Telly Brats and Topless Darts (ISBN 0671015745). Sadly it looks to be out of print, but you might be lucky enough to find a second hand copy on Amazon. I digress: up for grabs in the eBay auction are more than 100 boxes of archive material from L!VE TV, as well as IP, format rights, trademarks and so on. At the time of writing, bidding stands at a mere £820, which is peanuts for an Aladdin's cave of irreplaceable video.