Inside Television: A show of raw potential


Over the next two weeks the current series of Fresh Meat will come to a close, so please make sure you're watching. Not because it's particularly entertaining (although it is) or particularly important (it isn't), but because it will aid our communication in future. You see, Fresh Meat shows the potential to develop that most prized quality in a television series - referenceability.

A referenceable TV show is one which continues to come up in conversation, long after its initial run had ended, but rarely as the topic in its own right. Instead, the referenceable TV show is a treasure trove of iconic characters, memorable scenes and recycle-friendly one-liners which can be called upon to aid the flow of everyday communication. Want to describe the irritating qualities of your new boss? Mention David Brent. Hope to liven up the office Christmas party? Start dancing like Carlton. But whereas most popular series include one of two useful points, the truly referenceable TV show is a kind of compendium, to be dusted off and consulted whenever a standard analogy fails you. After, 25 seasons and 500+ episodes, is there a single shade of human experience which cannot be explained by reference to The Simpsons?

With the exception of The Simpsons, if there's TV show you find yourself referencing often, it can say a lot about where you are in life. If it's Fresh Meat, you're probably still at University, or wish you were; The Thick of It and IT Crowd both speak to people in certain professions, and if you find yourself quoting old lines from Sex and The City, it's probably just because you're a total Samantha. This week I have been mostly referencing The Fast Show a BBC sketch show which ran from 1994 to '97. It's a symptom of early-onset nostalgia and a sure sign that before long everything will go a bit Last Tango in Halifax.

So what makes a TV show referenceable? Firstly, it must be long-running and usually at least five seasons are necessary to accumulate the required range of storylines. So while the two-season Fawlty Towers is cult television, unless you regularly entertain German guests at dinner, it's of limited use. Secondly, your show has to be widely watched, and preferably regularly repeated too. And thirdly it should include a cast of characters who each represent different personality types, as an aid to categorising your own peer group - the Monica's among you will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Get TV referencing right and your conversation will sparkle while your friendship bonds are deepened by shared understanding. But beware: get TV referencing wrong and the group of people with whom you can communicate will gradually shrink, until eventually, it's just you, alone in front of the TV set, babbling like Joe Wicks from mid-nineties EastEnders. If you get the reference.

Ian McKellan vs. Damian Lewis

Fight! fight! fight! A thesp-fight is better that a fist-fight and one kicked off this week between Homeland star Damian Lewis and Vicious star, Sir Ian McKellan, aka Gandalf himself. Back in October, Lewis made reference in an interview to "these slightly over-the-top, fruity actors," who "then start playing wizards." Sir Ian waited till now to respond, because as any actor who has played Iago at the National knows, revenge is a dish best served cold (Have you played Iago at the National, Damien? No? Oh...)

In an interview with Radio Times, Sir Ian suggested Lewis might want to re-evaluate his own career arch, before casting aspersions on others: 'I wouldn't like to have been one of those actors who hit stardom quite early on...stuck doing scripts that I didn't particularly like just to keep the income up.' Touché

Catch up

Lucan, ITV Player

Rory Kinnear is a rather less glamorous Lord Lucan than the Errol Flynn-look-alike of tabloid remembrance, and all the better for it. Part one of this two-part ITV drama sets the 1974 murder of family nanny Sandra Rivett in the context of a dissipated set of 20th century aristocrats who gambled away fortunes at The Clermont in London. This provides the opportunity for a show-stealing supporting turn from Christopher Eccleston (doing posh, instead of Northern, for once) as The Clermont's proprietor John "Aspers" Aspinall. His amoral raconteur is the perfect foil for Kinnear's chillingly selfish dullard.

Heston's Great British Food, 4OD

Heston makes cookery shows for people who think Jamie is annoying, Gordon is rude and Great British Bake Off is unbearably twee. His secret is that he doesn't really make cookery shows at all. Instead it's a circus of food and you have the ring-side seat. In this first episode of his new series, for instance, Heston delves into the history of our humble national dish to produce a four-course fish 'n' chip supper, that's more fantasy than feast. That's not to say it wasn't also delicious; Heston's flavour combinations are explosive. Often, literally.

'There are two Americas': A speech from creator of The Wire, David Simon, YouTube

As befits the creator of the greatest television show ever made, David Simon has become something of a sage. He is invited on political panel shows, writes op-eds for national newspapers and even gives the occasional speech. In this one, delivered at The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Simon expands on some of the themes that underpinned The Wire: Two Americas, how the 'War on Drugs' became a war on poverty and what Capitalism should do next.

Nelson Mandela: A Nation Remembers

How should television mark the passing of a great man? This week we saw several examples of how not to. US channel CBS used 'Africa' by Toto to soundtrack their coverage of the Mandela memorial, but perhaps we should just be grateful it wasn't 'Hakuna Matata' from The Lion King? Meanwhile some British TV viewers apparently found the BBC's decisions to interrupt a scheduled episode of Mrs Brown's Boys more upsetting than the news itself. For a much-needed dose of historical perspective amid the madness, try this 1961 archive clip of Mandela's first TV interview. You might not guess it from this week's coverage, but it wasn't Mandela the cuddly grandfather who changed that world; it was Mandela the dedicated revolutionary.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing