One of the cultural changes that has happened in Britain over the past 30 years has been the deregulation of business and looser state control that occurred in the 1980’s. On the one hand it temporarily boosted an ‘enterprise culture’ but in partnership with a greater deregulation also saw an increase in the “I can do that” cowboy culture element and aspirational individuals intent on claiming dubious qualification to achieve a required lifestyle. I suppose in some ways it caused a bastardised meritocracy which enabled an element of fakery into the enterprise economy.
When I lived in Australia it was hard to do anything without filling in forms in triplicate. You couldn’t advertise in the Yellow Pages without registering as a business with the government ,given approval and a registration number. Whilst in the UK anybody can literally place an advert in the Yellow pages or online and launch themselves into business.
More TV Fakery
Channel 4 has launched an investigation into the qualifications of child care guru Claire Verity . Channel 4 have received confirmation from the body that awarded her claimed qualifications that they have no records of her attendance. Claire Verity’s clients have included Sting, Claudia Schiffer and Mick Jagger.
She has been accused of child bullying with her advocacy of parenting techniques that include leaving babies to cry, limiting ‘cuddles’ to no more than 10 minutes a day and leaving children outside ‘to air’.
Guru’s a Plenty
A while ago TV diet Guru ‘Doctor’ Gillian McKeith ,who sternly advises people to change their diet by examining their faeces, was found to have achieved her dubious doctorate via an uncredited US mail order service. She has since dropped the Doctor from her name but continues to her be employed using her diet claims despite the sullying of her professional qualifications.
I’ve always been intrigued as to why so many British TV programmes are not so much sold to the US market as completely remade for the US market. Steptoe and Son became Sanford and Son, Alf Garnett became Archie Bunker, The Office became..er..The Office and soon Life on Mars will be localised for the US. Sunny Blackpool
Now I hear that Hugh Jackman’sViva Laughlindrama-musical , essentially a US remake of the BBC series (Viva) Blackpool in which characters suddenly start miming well known songs (wasn’t that a Dennis Potter thing originally?) only this time set against the gambling hotels backdrop of Navada has been laughed out of production after just two showings . The New York Times has dubbed it the worst TV show ever made. Or should that be re-made.
Remake, Remodel, Recycle
I guess our two cultures are further apart than we’d care to realise. Or maybe, as a fellow blogger pointed out, it’s cheaper for US television to just remake our programmes with US actors (and US accents) rather than negotiate all the legal terms for British actors and productions crews (in the same way that music on i-Tunes is often not universally available across all the international on-line stores due to different local licensing agreements?). Heaven knows we couldn’t afford to remake most US series just to ‘localise’ it and so tend to take them as is complete with cultural references that we may not fully grasp.
I suppose we have our own remake culture in the UK with so many TV programmes originating on radio and being re-made for the slightly more ‘down market’ TV audience.
I Have A Confession…
At the weekend we stumbled on a repeat of the 1980′s game show 3-2-1 (on ftn). Yes the one with Ted Rogers, Dusty Bin, naff guests and sometimes unintelligible clues. I can remember catching a few shows back in the day but generally the clues messed with my mind and predictably I wandered off and did something more meaningless (no really!). My partner has heard me talk of the show whenever one of those top-100-mind numbing-TV-programs-of-all-time type things come on and references it. Yet again I’ll attempt Ted Rogers 3-2-1 thing he used to do with his hand though I always end up looking like I’m just waving my hand about rather than an accurate re-creation of his digit gymnastics.
Oooh I’m Looking For Clues
The worrying thing was that I actually worked out 2 of the clues (21 years later and I finally get it. There’s no way I’m more clever now than I was in 1986 so that freaked me out) which I had always assumed years ago were more like a Nostradamusquatrain in that they could easily apply to any of the prizes and the producers always knew what they wanted the couple to have at the end and would be shouting into Ted’s earpiece ‘make this one the holiday’. Spookier still I confidently predicted that our 1986 couple would blaze a trail of glory and end up with Dusty Bin (the booby prize) instead of the star prize . Please tell me that I hadn’t seen the show first time around and remembered the outcome.
Icing On The Cake
Of course 3-2-1 was nothing without the guests and for ultimate cheese it would have been hard to top this show. Keith Harris and Orville and Black Lace (who did neither Superman or Agadoo and so this was the first time I heard another Black Lace number, one that presumably sank without a trace until this repeat). I even think one of them was not an original member (Musical differences?). The main guy wore a fluorescent yellow jump suit. My eyes were very offended.
Forgive me for my sin of reappraising tat TV. It was wrong of me and it was not gratifying. In future I will just say no (unless of course I sneak one more peak).
John Hurt is to return to his 1975 TV play The Naked Civil Servant which was loosely based on the memoirs of Quentin Crisp, the self declared ‘Stately Homo of England’. The updated play will concentrate on Crisp’s life living in New York, his adopted home, in the 1990′s and will be based on his diaries from that period. It’s as good an excuse as any for a handful of Quentin Crisp quotes:
If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.
A lifetime of listening to disco music is a high price to pay for one’s sexual preference.
Never try to keep up with the Joneses…drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper!
Life was a funny thing that happened to me on the way to the grave.
If I have any talent at all, it is not for doing but for being.
My partner loves to watch University Challenge on the box and despite the fact that we can only answer a few questions (if that) it’s sometimes fun when populist questions appear which we know but which the contestants do not (so we can feel momentarily less inferior). So apart from the fact that I do remember when Bamber Gascoigne (preserve me in amber now for heavens sake) was the asker of questions rather than Paxo I was also made to feel unbelievable old as they played a section of Led Zeppelin’s‘Whole lotta love’ (the old Top Of the Pops Theme) and then were asked who the guitarist would have been playing on that track. *Buzz*
“Er…Jeff Plant” ( A wonderful stab in the dark that combines Robert Plant and Jeff Beck no doubt).
Oh we laughed.
Then someone else got closer…”Robert Plant”. Right band at least.
Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman has been giving his views on the current state of Television whilst in Edinburgh and a battle royal between the Today programme’s John Humphrys and Paxo has ensued as he is forced to account for his own views as he dares to question the current direction of the industry. He asks as to how can the BBC be making so many cutbacks with a £3.5 billion revenue and (oddly) questioning the license fee itself when he said:
“The idea of a tax on the ownership of television belongs in the 1950s. Why not tax people for owning a washing machine to fund the manufacture of Persil?”
In his talk aimed at the medium he works in he also asks:
“Is there something rotten in the state of television, some systemic sickness that renders it inherently dishonest but the question behind that question is simply…what is television for?”
Hear some of Humphreys vs Paxman here (ability to play real audio required)
So you can no doubt surmise that I actually engaged in the rare pastime (for me anyway) of watching television last night (ooh nice a bit of telly, nice cuppa tea and an uncomfortable sofa, lovely init). We both watched the second and final part of Richard Dawkin’sEnemies of Reason where the well known (perhaps now too well known) advocate of science over religion turned his sceptical gaze onto the growth in alternative therapies and belief systems. Water divining, psychic fayres, homoeopathy on the NHS, light therapy, astrology and the like (even Wikipedia was criticised) were all glanced at through Mr Dawkins incredulous eyes.
As always he has some valid points to make regarding the lack of controlled testing of alternative therapies particularly when they are paid for via the tax system and offered on the NHS.
My favourite quote from the last two programmes is “We always need to have an open mind, but not so open that our brains fall out”.
For myself I would have liked to have seen a bit more of a nod to peoples need to believe in something , irrational and sometimes dangerous though that is. I’m probably more in the Dawkins camp when it comes to religion though I often say I have a respect for personal faith but very little respect for religion. I feel that Dawkins needed to speculate more as to why there is such a loss of faith(!) in established science and medicine for such alternative therapies and belief systems to flourish.