24 November 2006

The Cold War re-ignites, to a degree.

When you do as I have done and start divorce proceedings from television, you are asking for trouble.

Like lovers splitting up, you occasionally seek solice with each other, hoping that the flame can be rekindled and the crushing disappointment that marked the end of the relationship can be forgotten with a quick canoodle.

Well, clearly it can’t. I have watched precisely one and a quarter hours – a fling of just 75 minutes – of television since Monday. And, as someone who adores the BBC, of course it was all BBC output.

And, less obviously, it was all rubbish of the first order. I don’t mean to say I was unimpressed, or bored, or shocked or anything. I was actually appalled. I have seen rubbish that not only shouldn’t have been broadcast, but also shouldn’t have been made.

First up, we must name the guilty behind “The Innocence Project” (BBC-1). The drama programme was written and produced by someone who clearly had a dim view of the dim viewers who would be tuning in. I watched the full hour, at first amazed, then appalled, then terrified… of the implications involved in the fact that this rubbish could get to air without anyone stepping in and saying “you’re having a laugh, right?”.

We were treated to a bunch of university students (each with one-dimensional personal problems that didn’t detain me at the time and needn’t do so here) who managed to be both super-intelligent-we’ve-been-on-University-Challenge-you-know and also really basically stupid and ignorant.

Yes, here were people that the state was educating who could hold conversations between themselves where alternately one of them would prove to be super-knowledgable about something obscure (vetch, in this case) and would proceed to lecture the viewer about the subject at hand, in detail, without a care as to the importance of the matter. The same super-intelligent proto-lawyer would then express complete ignorance of something fundamental – like “what is murder” or “what does a judge do” – and someone else would happily pipe up and explain, in, very, careful, tones, in, case, we, got, lost.

Just who wrote this rubbish? And for whom did they write it? As they sat behind their typewriter, were they actually thing “you stupid bastards, watching television, I’ll teach you a lesson?” and, if so, was the lesson “that writers like me should have our typewriters taken away and a law passed ot prevent us ever working in television again for the good of the nation”?

Stung so badly (and suffering from the very self-inflicted nature of the wound – it’s not like I don’t know where the “off” button is) I should have known better than to have tuned into television’s brain-rotting output again tonight.

But I felt I was justified. “PM” on Radio 4 had featured several detailed, well-researched and thoughtful pieces about the probable old-fashioned assassination of a Russian spy. It was interesting and very “newsy”. Certainly the nostalgia of such a poisoned-umbrella-style murder in the heart of London made it fascinating (despite the tragedy of it involving a man slowly and painfully dying).

The “BBC News at Ten o’Clock“, the flagship news programme of BBC-1, if not the entire BBC television service, should, therefore, have been a good watch.

My mistake. I got “The News of the World” on screen. Uninformed speculation was presented by BBC reporters as fact. Incorrect assertions – proven so hours earlier by PM – were trotted out and presented with a fanfare. The reporters fell over each other in the rush to report nothing at all of interest in an astonished tone to a breathless nation.

The entire road accident of a “news” report reached a tabloid apogee when a reporter, all full of his excellent research – “evidence” as the BBC would have it – presented it to “a scientist” (of what, and of what utility, was not revealed) to get his opinion.

Now, if you’re going to do this after having spent 10 minutes sat in front of Google, don’t, for crying out loud, don’t let us see the damn fake “evidence” you’ve unearthed. Basic journalism. Honestly. If you’re making such a big deal of what has been revealed to you… a print-out from Wikipedia’s page on Polonium is Not Your Friend. It’s not evidence. It’s not research. It’s not journalism.

It’s just bloody typing.

And, I’m afraid, my experience of television in the last week has been one long experience of looking at people’s typing. All of which has managed to have hundreds of thousands of pounds thrown at it in order to get it to screen. There simply is no excuse.

An infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number fo typewriters and an infinite amount of time will produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

This week’s television? Ten monkeys, one typewriter, twenty minutes. Well done. Have a peanut.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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