I’ll be honest: pretty much any programme with helicopter shots of big cities will get my vote – especially if it’s also got Nassim “Black Swan” Taleb in it. Do they download the aerial shots off the Internet or something? It’s also got lovely Evan Davis riding a motorbike (quite slowly) and explaining derivatives and all those other exotic ways of managing risk that led us to this financial mess. Or did they? Solid explanatory TV with knobs on.
The once yawning gap between the peerless silliness of Reeves and Mortimer and their obvious antecedents Morecambe and Wise is closing fast: the first episode of Shooting Stars went out fifteen years ago, which is nearly half as long ago as the 28-million viewer everest of the 1977 Christmas Show (if you get a move on you might still catch Paul Merton’s excellent tribute to M&W here). And in those fifteen years they’ve got closer in other ways too.
Even this brand new show—which preserves the format of the original unchanged—now seems as innocent as an Ernie Wise play—in comparison, I suppose, to the rest of contemporary TV comedy—which needs to be ‘edgier’. In this rather melancholy documentary about Shooting Stars it’s clear that the BBC executives who commissioned the show back then really did hope they were investing in the new Eric and Ernie. It didn’t really work out – they’re still a minority taste (and half the population will never sit down to watch the same show ever again). I wonder if it still could.
Brooker takes a week off from putting the boot into TV inanity to interview five top TV writers—the writers of shows like Doctor Who, Shameless, Hustle, The IT Crowd and Peep Show—about writing. How they got into it, how they get going in the morning, how they come up with characters and names and so on.
Brooker’s respectful—even humble—with the writers and, in turn, they’re frank and disarmingly modest about the process: about the endless cups of tea and the fear and the drudgery of the first draft but also about the elation of seeing the finished product and the compulsion to write.
It’s really inspiring TV and, for anyone who’s ever attempted to write anything (and that’s, like, everyone now, right?), it’s really encouraging and of genuine practical use. I know for certain that professors of creative writing everywhere will be pirating this wholesale so they can put the video on and nip out for a smoke without feeling guilty. Absolutely superb TV.
What a lovely, fascinating, useful programme. Proper scholarship (from Mica Nava, a clever historian who was once, in the distant past, my boss for a short while), great stories and really interesting and relevant insights into the translation of Britain from 19th Century manufacturing powerhouse into 20th Century shopaholic paradise.
The two big names featured were both Americans but, between then, transformed Britain: FW Woolworth and Gordon Selfridge. The sad part is that Selfridge lost everything and died a bitter onlooker and Woolworth’s, already long gone in the US, looks like it’s about to do the same here, which makes me wonder what’s going to happen to the amazing Woolworth Archive featured in the programme (and to its passionate honorary archivist, Paul Seaton, who is an IT manager at the firm).
I’ve been thinking about this programme for a few days. I watched it with my wife and it left us literally speechless. I wasn’t at all sure I should put it up here, though, mostly because I didn’t think I’d be able to come up with anything to say about it. But really I think I actually feel an obligation to do so. It’s brilliant TV—formally beautiful and quite heart-breaking.
And it’s really a kind of war memorial, the kind of war memorial we make now in the television age. The programme’s got quite a lot in common with those older war memorials too. It’s a granite slab of a programme—over three hours long—and it records every single British death (so far) in Iraq and Afghanistan in a kind of mesmerising ribbon of grief and memory.
War memorials, of course, don’t expire after seven days so I find myself wondering if The Fallen will disappear along with all the other iPlayer shows in a few days, which would seem wrong.