Television Review of the year: Nice shows, shame about the phone-in scandals
'Blue Peter' fined 50,000 for fakery? Ouch. It can't have been much fun inside TV in 2007 but the view from my sofa was just dandy
Sunday 30 December 2007
This year they burned effigies of Celebrity Big Brother producers in New Delhi. This year Blue Peter Blue Peter! was fined 50,000 by Ofcom for faking a competition winner. This year every major channel was caught up in a phone-in competition scandal, and most ended up donating huge sums to charity (you know things have gone badly wrong when they have to do that). This year the BBC had 2bn cut from its budget. Oh, and this year, the Queen didn't throw a hissy fit, and two telly chiefs Peter Fincham of BBC1 and Stephen Lambert of RDF resigned as a consequence. Inside-out, TV must have looked pretty horrible, but from where I was sitting, things were dandy.
Firstly, documentaries. Louis Theroux's eye was off the ball, and Paul Watson was embroiled in a distasteful was-he-or-wasn't-he row about when his interviewee died of Alzheimer's, so it was left to Molly Dineen to seize the glory for her documentary The Lie of the Land (Channel 4), a profile of farmers in Cornwall that showed an industry on the brink: cash-starved and brutal. "We've become unreal about animals," warned one of its interviewees, as he shot a glossy, healthy day-old calf in the head because letting it live was too expensive. It was deeply affecting, a countryside cri de coeur.
Next, presenters. Sadly, for every Lauren Laverne (witty, chic, intelligent) there are 10 Alan Titchmarshes (vain and platitudinous). And yet it's Titch who gets an epic series. The campaign "Please Can Someone Female Present a Landmark Show Before the Year 3000?" starts here. Andrew Marr took his History of Modern Britain at a cracking pace, scattering nuggets of tasty trivia, but his partisan approach began to tell (Macmillan deserved more than mockery) and he can feel hectoring. Matthew Collings's This is Civilisation was erudite, but he lacks charm. Jonathan Meades (Abroad Again, BBC4) is the only one who has it all: thrillingly baroque vocabulary, stern, motionless onscreen presence, a manner that's confidential but never chummy... He' s the anti-Titchmarsh of my dreams.
Best homegrown drama? A tie between Channel 4's gawky but fresh teenage drama Skins, BBC1's gentle, droll Cranford, and Channel 4's It's a Free World, by Ken Loach an involving story of how an ordinary woman became a people trafficker. The second series of The Street by Jimmy McGovern was also exceptional, culminating in a shattering episode about what happens when a juvenile murderer (Toby Kebbell) grows up. It knocked Channel 4's film about the same topic, Boy A, into a cocked hat, or whatever rhetorical shape we knock things into these days.
Lots of gaudy US imports, this year, from the camp knockabout of Channel 4's Ugly Betty (she's wearing a hideous jumper, and then, like, she falls over! Perfect for, erm, gay, male six-year-olds) to BBC2's tiresomely fantastical Heroes (will a comic-book baddie destroy the world? Or will the vacuous voiceovers do it first?). Even the initially brilliant Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip became tiringly formulaic, as there's only so many times a satirical US TV show can nearly get shut down... and once an episode is too often.
The Dodgy Boomerang Award for the most dubious career comeback goes to Danielle Lloyd, who disgraced herself on Celebrity Big Brother but is now insidiously regaining a media toehold, appearing on Katie and Peter Unleashed boasting about how ethnically diverse her friends are.
The Wrongheaded Old Man Award goes to Sir Patrick Moore, for this outburst: "The trouble is that the BBC is run by women and it shows: soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays..." (Damn that Look Back in Anger nothing but washing-up tips!)
And, finally, the hotly contested Worst Wig in a Period Drama Award goes to Victoria Wood's mophead in Ballet Shoes. Till next year, goodbye!
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