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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Blunkett drama boosts More4 debut
Robert Lindsay as Tony Blair and Bernard Hill as David Blunkett
Robert Lindsay and Bernard Hill played the politicians
Channel 4's digital spin-off More4 got a ratings boost on its first night thanks to its screening of a satire on politician David Blunkett.

A Very Social Secretary, which documented Mr Blunkett's affair with publisher Kimberly Quinn, was seen by an average of 484,000 viewers.

It hit a peak of 574,000 viewers an hour into the broadcast.

More4 head Peter Dale said he was "delighted" with viewing figures that beat BBC Three and Four's first nights.

"For a public service channel to create this impact with a challenging schedule in such a hugely competitive market is an extraordinary achievement.

"This is a very encouraging start," he said.

More4's first night of programming saw an average of 269,000 viewers sampling the channel, according to unofficial overnight figures.

It line-up included More4 News, US satire The Daily Show, and comedy with Rory Bremner.

'Vaudeville' theme

In Monday night's satire on the Blunkett affair, the former home secretary was played by Boys From The Blackstuff actor Bernard Hill, while Ms Quinn was played by Victoria Hamilton.

My Family's Robert Lindsay was Tony Blair and Smack The Pony star Doon Mackichan his wife Cherie.

Writing in the Times on Tuesday, TV reviewer Joe Joseph said it "took its cue from vaudeville" from the carnival-ride music in the opening credits.

He said the show was a "hugely entertaining lampoon" from which Tony Blair came out more scarred than Mr Blunkett, who is now the work and pensions secretary.

'Treat' to watch

The Guardian's Nancy Banks-Smith said writer Alistair Beaton was "plainly sympathetic" to Blunkett but had parts of the parody "so right".

"Bernard Hill is acutely true as Blunkett," she said.

"But Robert Lindsay is gloriously funny as Tony Blair. It is a treat just to watch him thinking. Screwing up his face, clutching a mug, struggling to pull his palms apart as if he sweated glue."

More4 says it aims to show "the best of documentaries, smart films, quality news and contemporary drama".

The new series of White House drama The West Wing will make its debut on More4. Spin-offs from favourite Channel 4 programmes will also be shown.

The channel is available on Freeview, as well as through Sky and cable packages.


What did viewers think of A Very Social Secretary, or any other aspect of More4's launch night? The debate has now closed, and a selection of comments appear below.

'A Very Social Secretary' was a classic! Very refreshing and very clever in its satire. I practically choked when Carole called Tony 'Toblerone'.
Katarina Grant, London

I thought that Bernard Hill was absolutely brilliant as always - I can well believe that's how our politician's carry on which is why nothing ever gets done. Not satire, very much like real life.
Linda England, Kedington, Suffolk

'A Very Social Secretary' was smug, boring and toe-curlingly unfunny. A pity, as Bernard Hill was excellent.
Pete, Bournemouth, UK

As a big Channel 4 News fan, I was particularly looking forward to More4 News, but it was a bit disappointing last night. I think this can largely be put down to yesterday's news agenda being a really difficult one to launch with: while More4 News's agenda is to look at less 'popular' news items, it would have been crass not to dedicate much time to the earthquake. Whether this conflict between aim and reality continues to be a problem remains to be seen; if it does it can probably be put down to having an arguably more ambitious remit for half an hour than Channel 4 News has for an hour. Time will tell. One thing's for sure, this channel overall is fantastic - it's certainly the first time I've watched one channel solidly for over four hours in a very long time!
Paul, Crayford, UK

I didn't watch the programme, as the channel name makes me laugh too much. What's wrong? Try saying it in a Welsh accent.
Kate, London

A Very Social Secretary was great, especially the part when Mrs Quinn told Mr Blunkett to "talk dirty" to her. It's a pity, though, that this channel for the over-30s decided to stain the corner of my screen with the channel's logo throughout most of the film!
Andrew Wiseman, Cambridge, UK

If this is what More4 saw as being suitable as a 'fanfare' opener to it's line up - it doesn't auger well for the future
John, Norwich,Norfolk

I've seen better Sixth Form skits. Adult entertainment? I don't think so.
Frances, Kent.

I like the look of it and long may it continue!
Alastair, Pontefract, Yorkshire

A great launch night, especially enjoyed 'A very social secretary' which was compulsive viewing for me. Also enjoyed 'The Last Word', especially Dr David Starkey, and The Daily Show was hilarious, I look forward to watching more of this !
Adam, Neath, UK

The on-screen channel logo seemed to move all over the place throughout the evening. Sometimes it was in the bottom right hand corner, sometimes I couldn't see it, and other times it was very faint in the top left. Hopefully they'll copy the BBC's digital channels and remove the logo for films and flagship drama; or copy ITV2 and have the logo machine break down.
Will, Falkirk, Scotland

I really enjoyed this - well written, well acted, amusing, topical. More of this kind of thing, please!
Lucy Simpson, London

What a superb "documentary". Had to be seen to be believed. Bernard Hill was fantastic and should be rewarded with every acting accolade in the next 12 months.
Sally , Birmingham, UK

Bernard Hill was superb as Blunkett and totally believable. At times I forgot this was a play and not the real thing. As for the New Labour "spin" and Alastair Campbell hovering in the background (or under water on one occasion),it just oozed class.
Richard North, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Absolutely brilliant but scarily believable. I just kept picturing the faces of Tony and David watching it and loved the idea of them seething away.
Nick, Reading, UK

I thought A Very Social Secretary was one of the nastiest, most childish, most spiteful programmes I'd seen for a very long time. I'd hoped for a sharp satire; what I got was a shallow sneer, written by someone who evidently thinks it's hilarious that a blind man should actually get some sex. I actually went out and got Freeview on the strength of More 4 and this programme in particular - wish I hadn't bothered if this is the best they can do. "Adult entertainment"? Playground entertainment, more like.
Paula Kirby, Inverness, Scotland

Fantastic and funny, what a way to start a new channel, from start to finish i was chuckling away, Bernard Hill was David Blunkett to a T, saggy under eyes and the Blunkett look and voice, superb. More like this please!
Ian, Hastings, East Sussex, UK

We enjoyed it as a piece of drama and certainly gave us a few laughs.
The Scotts, Merseyside. UK

The script was witty and well-performed, and Lindsay's performance as Blair was superb (and put me very much in mind of his performance as Michael Murray in GBH...)
Pete Fenelon, York, UK

Poor old Blunkett seemed to be portrayed as a bit of a sad old case - wonder how close to the truth this is. Thought it was very hit-and-miss and thought it was trying to be a bit to clever at times. I did like the Cherie line about how hard it was being a civil rights lawyer whilst being married to Toblerone.
Ashley Fovargue, Pontypridd, South Wales

Was really looking forward to this new free channel and tuned in with dismay to Sky channel 165 to see that it was scrambled. Whoever is responsible for the More4 marketing should be punished with a big stick, as (s)he's a very naughty boy.
Alan Pitchard, Kent, UK

As a viewer in the Republic of Ireland - a country that has dedicated Irish-advertising streams of Channel 4 and E4 - I was looking forward to being able to watch More4 'Free-To-Air' as promised. However, despite heavy marketing as a 'new free-to-air' channel, it has launched encrypted and is unavailable to those who do not wish to pay for Sky Digital. I did watch some of the launch night on Sky, and considering the content of the channel, its a big loss to free satellite viewers. Its also a disgrace that Channel 4 used such deceptive advertising.
Cian Duffy, Dublin

I totally agree with Martin from London's comments about the availability of the channel for digital satellite views. I note however that it is available (along with E4) on Freeview. So how does that work?? The cheapest I can get these channels for (along with a load of complete rubbish that I don't want) would be 15 a month. Is it really worth it??
Sam Wood, Wokingham, UK

For those who are complaining that More4 has been advertised under false pretences, it had been made more than perfectly clear that you would at least need to be a Freeview viewer to watch this channel. That may have required the viewer to retune their Freeview box to make sure More4 was stored on their machine as an active channel. As a Freeview user, I had no problem viewing More4. For those using Sky who couldn't view More4 last night, it would be more useful to target Sky, or Sky's deal with Channel 4, than Channel Four itself, who I'm sure did all they could as a responsible public broadcaster. As for the launch, the scheduling of The Daily Show is perfect (shame we're a week behind), and 'A Very Social Secretary' was an entertaining and sometimes insightful look at Blunkett's recent history. Lyndsay and Hill's performances were marvellous, even if they script they were working from was not as engaging and as humorous as promised.
Steve Bishop, Southampton, UK

Facts of the tale aside, Bernard Hill was deliciously accurate in his portrayal of Blunkett's mannerisms. I look forward to the promised content of More4 with anticipation - if it matches it's parent (and I might even venture as far adding its older, purple sibling) then my loyalty to Channel 4 as the last great bastion of quality among commercial TV channels can only continue to grow.
Tom Molloy, Leicestershire, UK

I'm a bit taken aback that More4 is not Free-to-Air on Digital Satellite as promised. I'd really quite like to watch it.
Nia Roberts, Llandudno, Wales

Why has Channel 4 made More 4 a subscription channel on Digital Satellite? Viewers have been told for a long time it would be free to air - now we are told you have to subscribe. It's disgraceful and wrong for Channel 4 to mislead the general public and the media.
David Williams, Stafford, UK

More4 looks like a worthy addition to the free to air channels (I'm getting it on Freeview, I'm not sure why your other correspondents believe it to be pay TV only in the UK). I didn't think much of the Blunkett show, but I'm very glad to finally see the Daily Show on in this country!
Simon Grayson, London, UK

There's no point people complaining that it costs money on Sky. The fact is, the channel IS free to air, and it is Sky that has chosen to make it part of their premium services, not Channel 4. There is only one profiteer involved here. Either way, you all missed a very entertaining programme which, despite the inherent comedy, all seemed to ring a bit too true for comfort.
Colin, London, UK

I visited the More4 website yesterday morning to confirm that the new channel would be, as promised and despite rumours to the contrary, "available free-to-air on Freeview, Sky Digital and digital cable". Yesterday evening that had changed. More4 was not after all available via the Freesat platform. Why? What changed in the intervening few hours? Like many others I can't receive Freeview. The Freesat service is my only option to "go digital" without buying a subscription I don't want and don't need. So much for Channel 4's efficiency, planning and Public Service broadcasting ethos! What a farce.
Steve Watson, Bridlington, UK

I have to agree with Cian and Martin. If only could we watch More4, would we be able to express our opinion.
Elizabeth, London

Noting Nancy Banks-Smith in the Guardian: but since when was satire meant to be "sympathetic" to its target? 'Nuf said about the political bias of UK TV drama commissioners.
James Exelby, Qatar

I think it is disgraceful that More4 has been allowed to launch as a pay channel. They have broken the law for false advertising. They have wasted people's money. My household has got Freesat recently because of the arrival of More4. Come Monday night, it was not available. I urge the public to email Sky, Channel 4, press, MPs, government offices. Whoever you can. This is a public channel and should be available to the public for free. Why do we pay our TV licence?
Oliver Liddard, Bridgend

Thought it was very funny in places. Especially Cherie's aide constantly calling Tony Blair "Toblerone". Can we encourage everyone to do the same? The only part I found myself cringing was the "sex-scene". However, I was almost reduced to tears by his attempt at dirty talk.
Gordon Jones, Fife, Scotland

A Very Social Secretary was hilarious, a sort of Yes Prime Minister for the 21st Century. No-one came away unscathed. Even Blunkett's poor old dog came in for an ear bashing. And Boris Johnson must be cringing at the pathetic foppish portrayal of himself. Class!
Katy Dee, Lincoln, UK

More4 advertised this channel as free to air on all platforms, then at 11am-ish on the morning of the launch all the references to it being free on the Sky digital platform suddenly disappeared to be replaced with a statement saying it would be subscription only. I know some people bought Freesat from Sky recently on the basis that they would receive More4 and they are all livid. C4/More4 have so far failed to respond in any way other than removing any posts on their forums about this shameful incident.
Andy, Wales

This is what I think of More4's launch night - a con! We have been let down by More4 not being a full FTA channel on digital satellite. Obviously Mr Murdoch and Sky have Channel 4 over a barrel. Come on BBC, please get your own Freesat offering up and running!
Jay, Washington, UK

I have Freeview AND Sky's Freesat service and I still can't get More4. A quick poll in the office revealed that four of us re-scanned our Freeview boxes but only one of us was able to pick up More4 and he lives 20 miles away. Makes me wonder if the channel is being broadcast in ALL Freeview areas, and if not why don't they tell us before we waste time re-tuning?
David, Selkirk,UK




SEE ALSO:
Viewers attack More4 scrambling
11 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
Blunkett concerns over C4 drama
27 Aug 05 |  Entertainment
Rise and fall of Blunkett in song
13 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
October debut for new C4 channel
25 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
Channel 4 plans over-30s channel
18 Sep 03 |  Entertainment


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