No, not postage and packing though there are similarities. I refer to production and programming. And in this, I am just a consumer. And I know I am picky and particular (another p&p) and that what suits one doesn’t suit another. But it does seem to me that the behemoth ITV and BBC have a long running competition as to who can programme worst. There are films shown so often, it’s just a ripoff for licencees. Or we can try and outmanoeuvre self selection so showing you episode 12 on Friday night and then if you missed it, we rerun it on Saturday an hour later. We have longlived well liked series of which we only see the same episodes repeated which makes me wonder if the audio model (described to me by the National Sound Archive) is the same on tv. They have dumped most of it and just screen the segments they have to hand.
Or perhaps there is no honour in programming. It won’t get you up the corporate ladder. So it is pushed on to the shoulders of whoever can bear it and they couldn’t care less either. That’s how it seems to me. When I got to an afternoon recently in which two over exposed films were shown one after the other, I began to think that, though it would be a lot of trouble to cancel my tv licence, I might bill the offending broadcaster for damage done to my dentition by the gnashing of my teeth.
Recently I watched the new Hinterland. I am embarrassed to admit that I nod off but then there’s nothing to keep me awake. It was like a metronome on Valium. As I wrote to a friend this morning “less Nordic noir, more noddy noir”. If I could afford it, I would hire an enormous billboard and paint in the biggest letters “Just because it’s slow doesn’t mean it’s interesting !”
Pace fascinates me because it’s make or break. Some time ago I watched spellbound while Neil Oliver investigated early British communities and their spiritual beliefs, via ancient remains. I think that lasted an hour, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I remember an hour on the Saxons partitioning land off into fields and how this discovery was superseded by the discovery of a Bronze Age meadow, the presenters talking intelligently and interestingly about the history of my homeland.
There are two things we can’t get round in documentary – the script and the presenter – and just because the presenter may have written the script isn’t always how to avoid the quagmire either. A recent revisitation to the story of Boudicca died of boredom. The minor dramatisations were OK but the story was thin and it had to fill a sixty minute slot so they said the same things over and over, admittedly over beautiful scenery. So where is the producer in all this and what is he or she doing ? Yes, yes, I know – pulling whatever it is together, words image and people, but I begin to think this is a sort of side bar to man versus machines.
I remember a documentary fronted by a hagridden Rupert Everett with a bad haircut in a tracksuit that did nothing for him (yes, his bum did look too big in this) and while I am sure the images matched up and timings were OK if not good, the producer had not said “Go away, drink water, fix your face, sort your hair out and no you can’t wear that” and I wonder why not : that was always part of the job – perhaps anything goes, especially if you can drive the relevant technology, though in programming, it has reduced flexibility.
90 minute dramas have been extended to two hours and it means at least one plot twist too many and that over extension kills Vera – which has only got better in script development, photography, crossover between the country and people – where it stands. Other longer running series have become caricatures of themselves, campery. Isn’t it time to focus on what the people who watch terrestrial television might like to see instead of highhanded “it’ll do” ?