The Weekend's Television: The Osbourne Family Adrenaline Junkie, Sun, ITV1
Garrow's Law: Tales from the Old Bailey, Sun, BBC1
Adrenaline rush goes missing
Monday 23 November 2009
"You only live once," someone said at the beginning of The Osbourne Family Adrenaline Junkie, a spectacularly pointless spin-off of Jack's I'll-get-the-thrills-while-you-get-to-watch series.
Sadly, it doesn't feel like you only live once when you watch programmes like this, with their Groundhog Day repetitions of every salient bit of footage. If it's worth watching Ozzy Osbourne fall off a dogsled once, the thinking seems to go, then it's worth watching him off at least four or five times to the accompaniment of a blokey voiceover rasping away at your sensibilities with a series of dogsled-related puns. Add to that the apparent belief that the entire audience disappears during the ad break to be replaced by people who need telling all over again what the programme's about and you have a perfect instance of goldfish television. Cut out the laborious repetitions and we could have been on our way to somewhere far more worthwhile inside a quarter of an hour.
The idea is that Jack is introducing the entire family to the kind of expensively calibrated thrills that have provided him with such an effective (and lucrative) substitute for drugs and alcohol. He started by taking them rock-crawling in Nevada, an activity that involves driving highly sprung jeeps over giant boulders. Sharon promptly overturned hers, causing Kelly to have a hissy fit and stalk out: "She's a 57-year-old woman who does not need to be doing this shit!" she shouted at her brother. Sharon herself, who's a bit of a trouper, only lost her composure when Kelly described her on camera as being "nearly 60". After that, the remaining family members went up to experience zero gravity ("I've been high before but nothing like this!" enthused Ozzy as he floated past the camera) and then flew to Patagonia to go dogsledding – a location so remote that they actually had to take a flight with no first class. Now that might be interesting adrenaline telly. The Osbournes go Economy. Get the entire family to live on a south London council estate for a couple of weeks. It would be, as Sharon said at the beginning of this programme, "a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to go and do something we wouldn't normally do", and it might be a lot more instructive than their holiday movies.
Apparently, before writing Garrow's Law: Tales from the Old Bailey, Tony Marchant was required to do undergo online BBC training that included a warning against dividing characters into simple "goodies and baddies". I wish he'd paid more attention because, although his 18th-century legal drama is full of good intentions and good things, it's undermined by the fact that you could never be in the slightest doubt as to which was which. To be fair to him, he's fighting with history here. Garrow pioneered all kinds of judicial rights that we now take for granted, so he's bound to look good against a background of rotten-borough MPs and sneering toff reactionaries. But even taking that into account, there's something a little unconvincing about Garrow's rectitude and the silky condescension of the men opposed to him.
In last night's episode, Garrow was offered the bribe of a plum job to soft-pedal the defence of a shoe-maker on trial for sedition, and there wasn't a moment when you believed he might take it, or that his impassioned speech for British liberties would fall on deaf ears. The contemporary trial material is great (I take it that the case involving erotic strangulation had come out of the archives) and the hints at contemporary connections are intriguing ("be aware that powers ceded to government in time of fear are rarely removed from statute", Garrow warned at one point), but you know the verdict is fixed from the beginning.
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