Magazine article The Spectator

Get a Life, Chris

Magazine article The Spectator

Get a Life, Chris

Article excerpt

This week I'm going to tell you about a programme even better than Our Mutual Friend. It is a work of such awesome genius that every time I watch it, I have to pinch myself to be sure that I'm not daydreaming. But before I go on, there are few other things I want to get off my chest, starting with that letter from Christopher Bland objecting to my description of the people in charge of the BBC's programming as `philistines and morons'.

I'm sorry but the weight of anecdotal evidence does rather suggest that I'm right, though I do regret the timing of my remark. The person, of course, whom we should all be attacking right now is the MP Chris Smith for his monumentally fatuous edict that the BBC should dump toff-- friendly costume drama in favour of gritty social realism.

Chris, you are a total dork. As anyone who spends any time watching television knows, there is no stronger incentive to reach for the off-button than yet another serious drama about angry, unwashed lowlife on council estates. Get a life!

Now on to another of my bugbears: that toe-curling Frazier episode involving a pub full of characters with 'English' accents that made Dick Van Dyck sound as Cockney as Bob Hoskins. Is there really such a shortage of British actors in America? Was no one in the script team capable of recognising that Mancunian Daphne would refer to `last orders' rather than `last call'? More to the point, how on earth are we supposed to take Frazier's claims to sophistication seriously when it insults us with such glaring solecisms?

Oh dear, I'd better be quick with my other two grumbles or there'll be no room for that brilliant programme.

1. Sorry, but the new Father Ted (Channel 4, Friday) simply isn't as funny as the first two series. Too many unnecessary outdoor shots; not enough character-based comedy; too much gratuitous surrealism.

2. David Starkey's series on Henry VIII (Channel 4, Sunday) is a load of tripe, which depresses me because normally I agree with almost everything he says and does. His great talents have been wasted on a series so vulgarly determined to make Tudor England 'relevant' and 'accessible' that it keeps rubbing our noses in stupid footage of tanks, the Royal Wedding, the TGV etc. It would have been better done on the radio. …

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