The Culture Show, BBC2

New review fails to see bigger picture
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The Independent Online

The Culture Show , the new weekly magazine on BBC2, is designed to silence the grumblers that the BBC had all but killed off its arts programming .

Last night's edition - broadcast at 7pm and repeated, in a kind of hommage to The Late Show , at 11.20 - was a mildly discouraging start. Verity Sharp, known to millions or at least several Radio 3 listeners as one of the voices of the eclectic music show Late Junction , presented a bewildering variety of items - a new arts centre in West Bromwich, the decline of hand-drawn animation, efforts to stop the Macclesfield Psalter leaving Britain, an interview with David Hockney, a preview of the Whitbread Book Awards, and an item on the Army's departure from hills above Belfast. These were interspersed with frequent "Coming up... but first..." announcements, and a hasty round-up of news - the most puzzling item was a curt notice that Sunday is Remembrance Day, illustrated by footage of choirboys at the Cenotaph: was this included as an act of public piety, or because Remembrance Day services are just another kind of performance?

Moments of intelligence did break through: Andrew Marr - whose presence in all programmes, regardless of genre, is to be made mandatory in the renewed BBC charter - proved a sympathetic interviewer for Hockney, and Glenn Patterson's meditation on the relationship between Belfast and the countryside around felt like the start of something original.

But the item on Will Alsop's bizarre public building in West Bromwich managed to reduce things to a stereotyped "architects vs Philistines" conflict, while the Whitbread item was oppressive in its stupidity. Five former judges were asked to read through the shortlists at breakneck speed and say who should win - worse, Lawrence Pollard tried to persuade them to guess what the books might be like by looking at the covers.

More seriously, the bittiness made it hard to dig out deeper themes. Mark Kermode's report on the dominance of computer-generated cartoons should have gained force from Hockney's strictures on the limitations of the camera, as against the pencil: but Sharp didn't get the chance to make the connection. But these are early days: BBC2 is reportedly committed for two years - plenty of time for the culture to mature.