And so for the first dissection of the great economic event of our time.
The Love of Money, BBC2's interpretation of that crash of 2008. First up, The Bank That Bust The World, which accounted for Lehman Brothers' demise. It's clear from the outset that virtually everyone is looking to blame someone – or, more specifically, Dick "the Gorilla" Fuld, Lehman Brothers' snarling chief executive, virtually the only relevant person not interviewed in this remarkably comprehensive documentary of the doomed bank's last days. It's an easy cop-out but, probably, a logical one. He does, after all, sound like a bit of a berk. In one bit of old footage, he is asked about his competitors. "I want to reach in, rip out their heart, and eat it before they die," came the entirely normal, balanced reply of a chief executive. Sorry, did I say entirely normal, balanced reply of a chief executive? I meant the entirely bizarre rantings of a madman. Would you trust him with your money?
Unfortunately, plenty did, and so the morality tale began. Fuld and co began investing in construction. Soon, they were handing out mortgages left, right and centre, including the notorious ninja loans (so named, not, disappointingly, because they're given to highly trained, Far Eastern assassins, but to people with no income, job or assets). They borrowed more and more, with Fuld encouraging staff to take big risks in return for big rewards. By 2008, for every dollar they owned, they had borrowed 40.
Worse, of course, are allegations that staff at Lehman somehow cooked the books. As to whether or not these amount to anything, only time will tell, though certainly there appears to have been a considerable amount of erroneous accounting. By the time Bank of America took a look, they were in such a poor state as to scare the potential buyers straight off (and into the arms of the not untroubled Merrill Lynch). Barclays' involvement followed a similar pattern. What began as a confident approach rapidly turned into a retreat, Hank Paulson's calls to Alistair Darling not withstanding.
Last night brought us little by way of new information, but plenty by way of consolidation. The 24-style run down of Lehman's death throes made for riveting viewing: the pizza-fuelled bailout negotiations, first with the Fed, then with Wall Street's other titans, and then, finally, with Barclays and the UK's Financial Services Authority. There was a particularly striking interview with Gordon Brown, too; notable, primarily, for its being just about the best interview he's given since becoming Prime Minister. How refreshing to see him without the peculiar smiles and naff pop-cultural references so favoured by his advisers. Staring down, throughout it all, was Fuld, holed up in his 30th-floor office, hidden from the mass of TV cameras and protesters. It confirmed what many have suspected ever since the financial crisis kicked in: that the banks had begun to behave in such a loony way as to be quite obviously mad to any ordinary, ouside observer. Except that there weren't really any outside observers – at least none from outside Wall Street's own desensitised clique – and so things continued, in their bizarre, calamitous way until it all became too too late.
Quite a shift of gear turning over to BBC3 for their brand new university-themed sitcom, Off the Hook, aimed, presumably, at those school leavers about to start their first year of academia. It's offered as part of the Corporation's youthful "Switch" brand, though in reality has little in common with its other vibrant radio and TV offerings, which owe most of their success to the individual talent of the presenters. It's amusing enough – there are plenty of references sure to raise a smile (the posh gap-year kid, the noisy neighbour, the nightmare flatmate) – though probably not as amusing as the local pub's student happy hour. A little too tame, too written-by-adults, to tempt the Skins generation, I suspect. But we'll see.
Not so, as it turns out, Katy Brand's Big Ass Show on ITV2. I've always given this the steer on the basis that it was, as one unnamed colleague put it, "possibly the worst thing on TV... ever", but, recommissioned for its third series, it tempted me. It's not, as it happens, the worst thing on TV, far from it, in fact, though judging by a few YouTube clips it has improved considerably. Juvenile the opening Lady Gaga pastiche may have been but I couldn't help but giggle at bits of it ("you keep on asking how/ this lady's so big/ then you remember it's because I'm wearing no pants/ when I'm on the bus"). Ditto, the Queen's motivational speech to the other royals ("I always give it 110 per cent – that's why I'm on top"), and the east London kid preparing for the Olympics by eating Olympic fries. It may not be Monty Python, but it ain't that bad.