I was going to preface this by saying “At the risk of being boring…” but let’s not worry about that and see how it goes. From 1989-1995 on BBC2 weeknights after Newsnight there was a programme called The Late Show and it was magnificent. You want a 40 minute programme about French philosopher Michel Foucault, director Josef von Sternberg or US crime writer Elmore Leonard? No problem (these are ones I’ve picked more or less at random from the BFI listing). There’s no point making an arts programme if you’re going to be self-conscious about it or worry about coming across as pretentious and among the memorable there were some less than successful episodes. There’s very little on TV nowadays now that takes an in-depth approach allied with an ability to engage the viewer in unlikely subject matter. This intriguing Culture Show special on rockers Metallica is as close as you’re likely to get.
At 12’32 you’ll find Turner prize winning artist Steve McQueen talking with Mark “Max Headroom” Kermode about his new work Queen and Country, postage stamps commemorating those who have died in the Iraq conflict. They’re not real stamps but he’s working on getting the Royal Mail to take them on. He also talks about his new film Hunger which is about the last days of Irish Republican hunger striker Bobby Sands and won an award at Cannes. Both are powerful provocative items.
What I wanted to post here was the quite amazing edition of Classic Albums I saw last night about Jay-Z’s first album Reasonable Doubt, what with it being all topical and everything. But I can’t do that because somebody—most likely the record label’s Senior Vice President for Stupid—has forbidden the BBC from putting the show on the Internet.
So, instead, I’ll post a Culture Show special from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The Exhibition is well over 200 years old but, against all the odds, seems to be perfectly relevant and up-to-the-minute: actually quite sexy. When I was an art student (which was also well over 200 years ago) the Summer Exhibition was the definition of fusty and forgotten: there’s obviously been some fairly clever re-branding done at Burlington House.
The best bit of this show is when the academicians take a break from picking works for the exhibition and are served the traditional beef tea with sherry. If I had a tradition like that I’d definitely observe it. In fact, I’m thinking of starting one…