06 March 2007

ITV's Premium-Rate Phone-Ins 1987-2007

A telephoneStudents, drunks and the long-term unemployed are today huddled on their sofas , their fingers mashing the buttons of their TV remote controls as they search in vain for ITV's Premium Rate Phone-Ins, which died last night.

Born in 1987, Premium-Rate Phone-Ins was the younger sibling of the notorious Premium-Rate Chatlines. Having seen its elder family member gain its dubious reputation after thrusting itself (along with a number of semi-clad, gyrating women with unlikely breasts and improbable tans, plus several gym-addicted young men in overtight T-shirts, all keen to "make new friends on the telephone") into tabloid newspapers, softcore magazines and the advertising breaks on TV's "James Whale Radio Show" in the mid-1980s, Premium-Rate Phone-Ins quickly realised what it would take to let it push through the crowd in the heavily shoulder-padded world of Thatcher's Britain.

Soon Phone-Ins found itself hanging around in Soho alleyways near the Groucho Club, offering the prospect of good - and extremely lucrative - times to red-eyed media types who seemed more interested in the pressing business of finding a lavatory cistern with a nice flat top, a good lock on the door and no draughts. It was not long before, like a modern day Lulu, it was mixing with the nation's leading figures: hanging on Terry Wogan's arm as he hungrily urged the nation to get its collective wallet out and spend its wad on charitable causes, sidling up to Richard Madeley on the sofa as he took time off from the endless task of revealing the vastness of his wisdom to the country to urge his viewers to start fingering their buttons and dial in to the latest premium quiz, standing by to answer (extremely expensive) calls from a voyeuristic audience as an endless parade of the desperate and untalented prostituted themselves before the nation on Big Brother, X Factor and their ilk.

All this was as nothing, however, compared to Premium-Rate Phone-Ins' greatest coup, persuading the doddering old gentleman that was ITV to give it a whole TV channel to itself. ITV Play was the zenith of Phone-Ins' achievement, filled as it was with hour after hour of former Big Brother finalists, ex quiz-show warm-up men and shiny-toothed blonde women in their early twenties all doing nothing but singing Phone-Ins' praises. And all the while viewers across the land were falling over themselves (admittedly this was, in many cases, due to having imbibed enough Bacardi breezers to stun a herd of wildebeest) to pay 75p a minute to attempt to answer impossible quizzes in which the answers to the question "What would you find in a woman's handbag?" included "rawlplugs", "dog biscuits" and "balaclavas" and all despite their belief that the call centre they were ringing probably only possessed one, broken telephone manned by a profoundly deaf monkey.

Such an exercise in hubris could not go unpunished. Soon the very gods themselves, not to mention journalists eager for a rip-off Britain story to fill up their pages on a slow news day, were crying out for Premium Rate Phone-Ins' demise. With even the slumbering, not to say comatose, media-regulation giant Ofcom giving signs of being roused, senior officials at ITV led by Michael Grade last night visited Premium-Rate Phone-Ins' ITV Play home bearing a thank you note for all the millions it had brought ITV in one hand and a sock filled with wet sand in the other.

ITV's Premium Rate Phone-Ins will be remembered in a special service at the Lord Reith Church of Revolving-in-his-Grave. It will be (a) buried, (b) cremated or (c) shot from a purpose-built rail-gun into orbit around Saturn(*). Those wishing to leave their condolences are asked to repeatedly dial an 090 number despite having absolutely no prospect of getting through.

(*) Ofcom regulations require that As A Dodo advise readers that (c), being the least likely answer, is, of course, correct.


gazuky said...

Eh? Surely premium phonelines are the future!!

I know this because my horoscope tells me to ring one every day...

Jungle VIP said...

Hmmmm....I quite like Will Young in a straight sort of way.

They have gone of course. late night found me searcing for my usual drink of water and a glimpse of the woman who delivers these shows. She's been replaced by mid 70's drama.

I've often thought the way we might elect the next PM and cabinet is to require them to partake in CBB for a month where we get to see the whites of their eyes properly.

TB et al would shit their pants