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 dazeddigital.com.

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.

CATCH UP

Brandy & Coke, dazeddigital.com

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 dazeddigital.com 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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition