diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 18, 2007

New 2s

Only one TV channel has ever perfected the design of its pre-programme idents, and that channel is BBC2. It's now 16 years since BBC2 introduced its series of animated 2s (you know - the paint-splattered 2, the falling-blade 2, the spinning-shadow 2, and so on), and these are generally accepted as the best TV ident branding ever. Channel 4's coloured bars probably ran it a close second, but everybody loved the wit and clarity of the BBC2 twos. So much so that the series ran for a full 10 years, with additional animations introduced at regular intervals. Many of these new 2s were even better than the originals - the squeaky-jumping 2, the radio-controlled wheelie 2, the exploding 2, the fly-zapping 2, the doner-kebab 2, etc etc. Through such simple yet powerful branding, everybody knew that BBC2 stood for creativity, mischief and innovation. And it was never a chore to sit through the ten seconds before the start of each programme while the announcer told you what was coming up next.

Other channels have tried to emulate BBC2s idents, but never quite so successfully. The BBC1 balloons were loved by many but hated by others, while the BBC1 dancers left most generally unimpressed. Channel 4 has never quite regained the impact of its initial logo, and its latest 3D landscape compositions may be impressively epic but on repeated viewing feel over-clever and over-long. And ITV has tried increasingly desperately to mimic the branding success of the other channels but always fallen far short of cool. No, BBC2's 2s were unbeatable.

And then in 2001 BBC2 updated its image. Some chief executive, in her wisdom, decided that the old 2s were looking tired and needed updating for the 21st century. A new set of 2s were introduced, this time on a widescreen yellow background and each acting out some short vignette. Domino-toppling, fish-swimming, spot-scrubbing and rubbery-bouncing were all featured, and each ident was an expensive animated mini-masterpiece. Unfortunately, however, they were all a bit same-y and the channel's charm rapidly dissipated. So the new 2 could do acrobatics - who cared any more? And that's how BBC2's on-screen identity has been for the last six years - slightly underwhelming and lacking in impact.

Until this morning. Today (at 10am) a brand new series of BBC2 idents is launched. And hurrah, the proper 2s are back. There's a 2007 twist which is that each 2 is now "a window on the world". The camera pulls back each time to reveal that the 2 is actually the flap in a tent, or the mirror in a car, or a hole in a wave-sploshed breakwater, or even some chocolate sprinkled on the top of a cappucino. It could all be over-pretentious lifestyle rubbish, but I'm hopeful that some of the magic of the original branding will return. You can see a sneak preview of the seven new idents on the BBC2 website, and also here, here and here. Plus they've put together a special printable BBC2 idents wallchart (which sounds like it should be great, except they've somewhow managed to select all the wrong idents and missed the ones we really loved). But hurrah, the proper 2s are back (fingers crossed).

BBC2 logos 1991-2001: here, here, here, here
• BBC2 logos 2001-2007 (if you care): here, here, here, here
• BBC2 logos 2007- : here, here, here, here
• Watch classic BBC2 idents: here, here

Ident review
10:00 Cappucino: Chocolate sprinkled through a wobbly metal grating to form a brown speckled 2 atop frothy coffee - then lovingly destroyed by a teaspoon-wielding hand (brown is an improvement on yellow, but grated chocolate may eventually grate)
11:30 Seascape:
Epic offshore wave action, continuing slightly too long before pulling back through a 2-shaped hole in a wooden breakwater (that's somebody throwing a bucket of water through the gap, surely?) [watch]
12:00 Zoetrope:
An updated Metropolis-esque skyscape is revealed to be a sequence of images in a spinning magic lantern [watch]
13:25 Chase: Trendily-shaggy action man runs up forest path, then escapes his captors by diving through a 2-shaped rocky portal (closely followed by a dog, awww, look, it's a cute ickle collie, awww) [watch]
15:00 Mirror: Raindrop illumination turns out to be headlamp reflected in oddly-positioned wing mirror as car speeds through night-time London (that looked like the Rotherhithe tunnel, and I definitely spotted Tower Bridge too) [watch]
16:35 Tent: A lot of unzipping finally opens a wholly impractical 2-shaped door in the canvas, allowing us to look out at a snowbound polar explorer (apparently there are alternative versions which feature a beach and an open-air pop concert) [watch]
23:50 Sunroof: Looking upward through a slowly-opening 2-shaped sunroof as a car drives beneath a a sunny canopy of idyllic green leaves (and the occasional lamppost) [watch]

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