On the night of my birthday, I came to be chatting with my friend and chose to tease her – as is my wont – about her employer, the BBC. I was at that stage though where my wit is half a lap behind my mouth, and I probably just sounded a bit obnoxious. I was quipping that I was glad I didn’t pay my license fee – a deceptive assertion in itself: rather, my landlady pays it for me – because I find the output on BBC1 too dismal to watch, and I was saying this mainly to get a rise out of her because, in short, the scurrilous elixir had well and truly been supped and I was being what scientists call 'a knob'.
It worked, and I was met with a well-rehearsed spiel about the amount of new programming broadcast in 2007, exciting projects across all mediums due for the new year, and so forth. I’d hit a nerve, and this was fair enough. She is after all one of the people who has to cast her eye over all the complaints the BBC receive from nutters far and wide. Stephen Fry once wrote that the people who contact the BBC to complain are the very people whose opinions the BBC should resolutely endeavour to ignore: it must be a vexatious task.
As events took a less jovial and slightly more defensive turn than I had intended, I had to quickly backtrack, reassuring her that I am really a BBC fan, but also a rather annoying wind-up merchant. Channel-wise, I confirmed, Two and Four certainly get my vote, and I stick Radio Four on the wireless most days and, so long as it’s after 9pm, a bit of Radio One can get thrown in too. I meekly stuck to my guns over BBC1 though: I can't help but be struck by how bogged down with slow-paced, badly acted dramas it is, and I will go ever so slightly more mental if another theatre-trained white middle-class actor arrives to play one of Walford’s hard men. The young Hertfordshire town Eastenders is filmed in is more ethnically diverse than the bizarre Turk-Somali-Chinese-Etcetera free corner of E20 in which it is set.
Maybe, just maybe though, Saturday night entertainment has moved on a little. I’m no fan of constant talent shows (Lloyd-Webber is a seriously rich toadman: why is the general public funding his auditions for him?) and BBC1 hasn’t mustered a decent sitcom yet this decade, but I suppose – National Lottery coverage aside – it’s no worse than it’s ever been, and in some ways it’s a lot better.
In 1983, long before the likes of Jackass or Davina McCall’s Don’t Try This At Home, Noel Edmonds’ Late Late Breakfast show included a segment where members of the public were tasked with performing outrageous stunts. To say these were done on the cheap might be something of an understatement. The events in the below clip shows an incident in which one lucky viewer was left with a broken pelvis and spinal injuries (and very nearly saw John Peel get squashed flat).
Three years later the spectacular feats continued, until one viewer died whilst rehearsing a bungee stunt.
Shit telly, but not much in the way of real life mutilation and fatalities. A happy medium, perhaps then?
5 weeks ago