BBC puts its faith in 'hymn videos'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

WE HAVE had God the Father and God the Son; make way for God the Muesli Commercial. The BBC is to show a series of 'hymn videos' to replace Songs of Praise; these will be interspersed with interviews in a format similar to Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. But the videos will be marketed separately, as will a compact disc.

The first six videos are wrapped around an interview with Geoffrey Smith, described as a celebrity gardener. He reminisces about his past, 'That was really exciting television - well, really exciting gardening television,' while being interviewed on a wooden bench by a cuddly man in a sweater. Among the songs used is 'Morning has Broken', written by the Muslim Yusuf Islam.

The videos illustrating Mr Smith's reverence for nature seem to be offcuts from commercials. 'Morning has Broken' appears to be for breakfast cereal with plenty of roughage: lambs frolic, dales are green, the sky is blue.

'How Great thou Art' backs a car advert indistinguishable from every other car advert, except that in this one the shots of grandeur and desolation never give way to a close-up of gleaming metal. Another hymn could sell life insurance: Mum and children visit Gran in an old people's home.

This makes the second film of the series all the more shocking. It is really very moving. The video here concentrates on urban miseries: homeless young people, beggars, and drunks have their faces transformed into an icon of Jesus drawn by a pavement artist; in the last sequence, crowds walk over his work.

The other two programmes will feature the choices of Emma Nicholson MP, who is deaf, and the rock musician Rick Wakeman.