Julia McLean expresses her opinion about changes over the decades in television programming.
Did you see the youth of Britain at its best? Rioting and raiding. S***, if that’s all you have to do to get Gucci jeans – I’m off to Paris/Milan/Rome/wherever for a quick dip into luxury stores. Some of those so-called dis-possessed crashed into stores and carried off flat screen televisions. I wonder why they bothered. Having just acquired a TV for the first time in 12 years, I can tell them it is not worth the candle nor the criminal record.
We had had French TV years ago but it was really dreadful. Although not quite as bad as Egyptian or Syrian TV, which seem to spend a lot of time broadcasting some Imam chanting the Koran, French TV didn’t appear very professional. There were a lot of game shows and old films but nothing mind-stretching, challenging or even educational. Television news was appalling before the European Union – very inward-looking, referring to France’s glorious past, and the presentation sounding very bombastic and De Gaulle-ish in its patriotic fervour. Christine Ockrent, one of the best news presenters, disappeared one evening after the elections because her point of view was not that of the government. The French were only being presented with government propaganda; certain films which criticised the French attitude during the war (most notable ‘Le Chagrin et la Pitie’) were not shown on television until 20 years later; documentaries about the Algerian War have only been shown very recently.
However, the French were mostly united in a common culture. Nowadays, Sarko and the TV pundits are worrying that British and American programmes get better ratings than French. I asked several French friends why they watched British imports and the reply was that they were better scripted and that historical/period pieces were outstandingly well dramatised and beautifully filmed, making use of wonderful sets and gorgeous scenery.
So we got a British satellite dish.
It was from television, at 10 years old, that I learnt most of my botany: I saw flowers growing in time lapse photography and all sorts of weird and wonderful plant life. I gleaned most of my knowledge of chemistry, biology and mathematics from excellently presented programmes by top science gurus. Probably most of my practical geography was the fruit of travelogues by some member of the Attenborough family or Whicker’s World. The theatrical tradition has always been strong in the UK so gritty drama was very much on screen: Cathy Come Home, Look Back in Anger and adaptations of Alan Sillitoe; writers such as Dennis Potter, Alan Bennett, David Mercer made significant contributions; directors like Ken Loach, Alan Clarke and Mike Leigh made our TV dramas worth staying home for.
Benny Hill, The Goodies, The Two Ronnies, Dad’s Army, Morecambe and Wise, Monty Python, Only Fools and Horses, The Likely Lads were all well-scripted comic shows which kept us doubled up with laughter. Monty Python’s Flying Circus brought oddball humour to the fore; Pop culture was covered by Juke Box Jury, Saturday Night Live and political satire was covered by That was the Week That Was and by The Frost Report. Television was an educational experience and a window on the world.
Our 5 channel world was enough to educate and amuse but most of all to bind us together in a common culture with common linguistic references such as ‘This time next year we’ll be millionaires’ or ‘Listen carefully, I will say this only once’ ‘Sausages!’ .’Nice to see you, Nice’ ‘That’ll be nice’.
The ‘Window on the World’ that was offered to us from the 50’s to the 70’s, no longer exists. The 200 or so channels available, mostly amuse, thrill and, in many cases, disgust; mindless quiz shows, talent shows, cooking shows by the inept, dimwit dinner shows with ill-mannered ignorant people, celebrity shows and too much sport.
We are no longer a nation united by our love of knowledge, our sense of humour and our sense of right and wrong. We have not inculturated our incomers, so they do not share our values and aspirations. The world we are presented with is one in which most people are on welfare and have every expectation of obtaining their ‘human rights’ but no real knowledge of their duties to the society they live in and depend on.
We Brits and you Canooks, have the ultimate WYSIWYG television. What you get is half-hearted do-gooders with half-baked opinions, no backbone from self-seeking politicians, appeasement from councils and a dis-affected, disconnected populace. ‘The Little Mosque on the Prairie’ is not going to change that. Come back John Wayne!
“Televsion.” Flickr Creative Commons. All rights reserved by stevetaylor.fivefour
“Benny Hill.” Flickr Creative Commons. All rights reserved by pietschreuders
“Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Flickr Creative Commons. All rights reserved by Claytonium