Magazine article The Spectator

The Fast and the Furious

Magazine article The Spectator

The Fast and the Furious

Article excerpt

It's three in the morning and a BBC executive is home in bed. Suddenly he wakes up, sweating. 'What is it, darling?' asks his solicitous wife. 'I had a nightmare, ' he replies; 'I dreamed that one of our viewers was bored. Bored! Just for a moment, but, my God . . . ' It's the only explanation for some of the Corporation's programming. It seems to believe that we can't cope with anything more than five seconds long. If it doesn't provide us with new excitements in a constant, hectic flow, then we will -- the ultimate horror -- switch to another channel.

Take The One Show, which goes out on BBC1 at 7 p. m. most weekdays (though not during the Olympics). It's a magazine programme in the tradition of Nationwide, which was, by comparison, as stately as a royal funeral. It's frenetic. Nothing can be simply what it seems. Faces, words and images appear at random. In the show I watched, the first item was about price-comparison websites which claim to find the cheapest car insurance. Was the chap who reported this merely allowed to offer us help? Of course not. They put him into a funfair, so that everything he said was accompanied by pictures of people screaming on roller coasters, go-karts or carousels. Why? For what conceivable reason? Was it some limp reference to swings and roundabouts, or the whirligig of fate? It made it almost impossible to follow what he was saying.

Then Kelly Holmes appeared to talk about British prospects for the Olympics.

(As I write, BBC coverage of the games has been almost entirely about British Olympic prospects, interspersed with the occasional, 'Well, a disappointing result for Britain there . . . ' Perhaps things will have perked up when you read this. ) I assumed Dame Kelly would be allowed to give us her thoughts. Yes, but only after we'd seen a picture of her dressed up as a gypsy, gazing into a crystal ball.

Then a classic moment of goldfish television -- TV for people with no attention span. They were going to tell us about some of the more obscure Olympic events, starting with archery. I'd have been interested to hear an archer talk about it. Instead, we had Gyles Brandreth and Carol Thatcher demonstrating how bad they were at archery!

For around 30 seconds! That was stupid and pointless, but also demeaning to the sport and the viewers. …

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