Inside Television: Channel 4's Music Nation replays the soundtracks of our young lives


BBC Director General Lord Tony Hall cares about the arts. He really cares. And to prove it, this week he announced a raft of new culture programming for the BBC. There will be a history of the classical voice presented by the Music Director of the Royal Opera House, and a performance of Jacobean play The Duchess of Malfi broadcast live on BBC4. “Today we are announcing the biggest push we have made in the arts for a generation,” he said - but which generation was he talking about?

Not anyone under 40, obviously, since the cultural interests of the young, the young-ish and the young at heart, were all conspicuously absent from this ‘exciting’ offering. Even the worthy promise to make 470 BBC Shakespeare productions available to teachers is hardly likely to set young hearts racing. In the context of the closure of BBC3, Hall’s message is clear: Youth culture - if indeed it counts as ‘culture’ - is no longer the business of a public service broadcaster. 

Hall might be forgiven for thinking that the non-classical arts are already well served by commercial television, awash as it is with chart videos and reality shows. But popular culture and youth culture are not the same. These days on TV, the innovative creators who provide the ideas that mainstream feeds on are all but invisible. How do you make exciting TV about youth culture when - to be blunt - everyone with commissioning power is old? Faced with this conundrum, it appears most broadcasters have just given up. 

Most, but not all. Next week, in collaboration with multi-platform magazine Dazed, Channel 4 will begin airing Music Nation, a new five-part documentary series about Britain’s youth music scenes. I should declare an interest here, because the first episode, ‘Brandy & Coke’ happens to be about Garage, the soundtrack to my own Lambrini-soaked youth in late-90s East London. Future episodes include ‘Berkshire Goes Balearic’ (House) , ‘Bristol Bass Oddity’ (electronic music) and ‘Soap The Stamps’ (80s hardcore). What a thrill it will be to see the players in these movements treated with the same reverence TV usually reserves for titled grandees from the Royal Opera House. 

By now all the old scensters are mums and dads with mortgages, of course, but that’s part of the point, too. It proves that even as the original participants move on, the excitement and sense of community which is unique to youth culture movements remains in tact. That’s why personalised, passion-led arts programming like Danny Baker’s Rockin’ Decades: The Seventies on BBC4 and Northern Soul - Keep The Faith fronted by former BBC economics editor Paul Mason made for great TV, whatever decade you call your own. Youth culture isn’t just for the young - it’s for everyone who ever was young. A group which presumably excludes Lord Hall.   

Music Nation’ starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday April 2 at 12.05am and from April 10 on

Life imitating Breaking Bad

They’re calling it the ‘real-life Breaking Bad’. Last week it was reported that a cocaine lab worth £900,000 had been found in the home of a teacher in Cardiff. The police described the situation as “totally unusual”, but we know better than that. Other ‘Breaking Bad’ cases have included a middle-aged Maths teacher in Boston arrested with two bags of meth, a meth cook called Walter White on trial in Alabama, and a Meth dealer with the same name jailed for eleven years in Montana.

These news items all referenced the hit Netflix show in their headlines, but like most art-imitating-life scenarios, they had their cause-and-effect all wrong. Sad to say, stressed-out teachers, draconian drug laws and men called ‘Walter’ were a problem long before Vince Gilligan ever put pen to paper.


Brandy & Coke,

Can’t wait till Wednesday to get a taste of the Channel 4/Dazed documentary series? Fortunately, you don’t have to. The original 8-minute short which inspired the series is available on now. Directed by scene photographer Ewen Spencer and produced by Somesuch & Co, it features interviews with DJ Sticky and MC Creed. 

Salting The Battlefield, BBC iPlayer

A glimpse of life inside the i paper and Independent offices comes courtesy of writer/director David Hare in the final part of his classy, clever spy drama. Hare would never admit whether his characters are based on real people, but that intelligent, glamorous, dark-haired journalist seems familiar doesn’t she?

RuPaul Drives...John Waters

If you find Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee a bit square, then RuPaul Drives... is the motoring-based interview series for you. After several meh interviewees, it came into its own last week when John Waters sat down in the passenger seat. The director of Cry Baby and Pink Flamingos might be 67, but he still knows what’s up: “I always say I want a hacker boyfriend, except they have bad posture.”

Missing, 4oD

This one-off documentary follows three families as they grapple with the uncertainty of a missing loved one. Such unexplained absences are much more common than you might think and this touching documentary raises relationship issues that affect us all.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • 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.

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England