Some book and TV show ideas that almost happened then didn’t

A is for…


Some days when I’m sitting back surveying my life, I’ll nod to myself and feel pretty lovely – ticking along, mainly employed doing what I like doing, I could probably march down to a cashpoint right now and withdraw two hundred quid. I’ve got a sodastream. But then a moment will pass and my eyes will glaze and I’ll whiten slightly in the face, I’ll remember the ones that got away, the wild horses that I pointlessly grappled, the giraffes I clumsily stuffed into suitcases for no reason. Like anyone delusional/ambitious enough to pursue a career in writing, I have a submarine’s worth of ideas, some rubbish, some awful, some dreadful, and one or two absolute belters that for a second looked like they might finally find my star going stratospheric (very fitting for a star). I call them “false dawns”, it’s a term I completely made up by myself to signify the promise of a sudden upsurge in fortune being countered by a swift punch in the cock. Houses of Cards collapsing like a house of cards, TV guys saying things like “yeah, it’s kind of cool, but you know… can we totally change it and not use you?” At last count I have a TV show idea “shelved”, a completely written book languishing in purgatory, another kids show idea doing the rounds – none of these can be discussed for superstitious and professional reasons, but if you’d indulge me, I thought I’d revisit a handful of the greatest ideas of all time that started promisingly before wilting like a dog made of spinach. If you’re a passing TV producer or book publisher, these could totally be resuscitated by the way…

Middle Class ABC – this never made it past the development stage, but the idea was to do a side-splitting socially upmarket modern kid’s book morphing A for Apple, B for Ball, C for Cat into A for Aga, B for Bunting, C for Chorizo past G for Gazebo and all the way to Z for Zest. There was a great artist almost in place, I began daydreaming about all of the other ABC books I could churn out, like a Hipster one with A for Alfalfa and U for Ukulele and V for Vinyl. Then another book called Middle Class ABCs suddenly appeared from nowhere and it all turned S for Shit, hence no publishers were I for Interested A for Anymore.

Cop Shop 85 – A sitcom script co-written with my old buddy Handsome Daf in 2005/6, we managed to get this into the hands of the top BBC comedy commissioner at the time, but for some reason he passed on it (he may have been scared of how funny it was). Set in 1985 this tells the story of a maverick Soho cop relocated to a dreamy Welsh town called Llondon to recover from a nervous breakdown, but trouble follows him like a tuba soundtrack follows a hippo so it’s not long before Llondon is invaded by a balletic gang of street thugs modeled on the dancers from Michael Jackson’s Bad video. Think Police Squad meets Life on Mars meets Hot Fuzz (although this predated two of those things!), my fave line is when Dirk (Soho cop) admonishes his new partner Pete (local Llondon cop) for not understanding his tough London ways and an emotionally raw Pete says “you think I don’t know London? You think I don’t get it? I went to see Cats in 1983!” You can’t write gold like that.

The Biography of a Solider with PTSD (working title) – this was painfully close to becoming a reality, I wrote three chapters of the real life story of a marine coming back from Iraq to find himself paralysed by post-traumatic stress, and it looked like a slam-dunk until publishers decided that Iraq was too passé for the demographic of McNab fans who had shifted their war obsession to Afghanistan. It’s a shame because I’d spent an entire chapter describing a helicopter journey that could blow Apocalypse Now’s dick off.

Charity Shop Challenge – I met with a TV producer and I don’t think I’m trumpeting my own horn too much when I say that my gameshow idea changed the way he looked at the world – he loved it! It was set in a charity shop where in amongst the usual tat there would be carefully concealed hidden treasures – original works of art, one-off dresses by top designers, signed records, and a sort of Supermarket Sweep style premise. He was giddy with enthusiasm, suggesting possible hosts, scribbling mad notes in a hurry. We practically hugged and floated home on a cloud after our meeting, never to ever discuss it ever again.

Antiques Roadshow but with Records – this is just something I’ve wanted to do for ages. Danny Baker could host it, vinyl nerds would love it, it’s got BBC Four written all over it, right guys?

Now tell me yours…

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