This is really remarkable TV. Self-confident, imaginative, visually fascinating. An example of what you get when you apply the BBC’s stock of extraordinary talent and insight (and all those connections) to a really important story. Matt Frei, the BBC’s top man in the USA, presents a useful survey of the strangeness and drama of the presidential battle in the USA.
If Panorama was rubbish or just irrelevant nobody would care if it went out in primetime or not. The trouble is that the BBC’s current affairs flagship is excellent—so everybody cares about it. And for that reason it must stay in primetime and it must continue to attract the budget and the resource that it always did. Hooray for Panorama!
I didn’t want to put this one up. I was pretty sure one of the others would. And it’s quite difficult to express why it’s so interesting. I mean, it’s bloody Eurovision, right? A shocking, irrelevant Euro-pudding from the wrong end of the Seventies. How could it possibly be interesting?
And then when you try to list the factors that really do make it interesting it all gets very confusing. There’s the music, which is basically transatlantic pop filtered through… well, you know… all the stuff that’s been happening in the former Soviet bloc and in the Balkans for the last twenty years.
Then there’s the geopolitics, which is like, fucked up. Fringe moves to centre, centre to fringe. The economic and pop powers of the North are obviously finished. Or at least irrelevant. We can still produce the Ting Tings and tax credits and the Wombats. We may have Glastonbury and the world’s fourth largest economy but that’s all so much hermetic bourgeois bullshit when compared with the top-drawer weirdness coming from Georgia and Azerbaijan and Bosnia.
Anyway, this year’s is—if you ask me—the best yet. Really marvelous other-worldly entertainment. Ecstatic musical lunacy.
I’m all in favour of elected Mayors. They really brighten up a city’s politics. Last night’s Newsnight debate between the three top candidates was a democratic treat but also really good, knockabout entertainment. Paddick couldn’t have looked more like a copper if he’d been swinging a truncheon (it’s the ramrod back and shiny shoes) and could do with some charisma augmentation work. Ken’s got the lofty air of a man the job was invented for but his impatience with London’s apparent falling out of love with him diminishes him—he seems pettier, less in control. The big surprise, of course, is Boris who seems to have stopped being a buffoon almost completely and made such a good fist of the debate that I’d be surprised if he doesn’t walk it on 1st May.
Only mentioned because in some crazed tribute to Modern Review; the guest list for this weeks show is Jade Goody, Martin Amis and Simon Mayo. Goody, who does a fair stab at holding her own with Andrew Neil, is trying to convince us that binge drinking is very very bad. Amis, for some reason is an Obama fan boy and thinks he can save the planet. Simon Mayo has the John Sargeant irony slot reviewing the westminster week and he makes some jokes about Nick Clegg that aren’t as good as William Hagues.
Watch out for Diane Abbott, not entirely sure if she’s going to wave the Union Jack when in a Margaret Hodge dig, they play Land of Hope and Glory over the credits at the end.
There’s a really good bit towards the end of this episode of Film 2008 (did I ever tell you I knew someone who went to school with Barry Norman’s daughter?) about Hollywood’s involvement in the US presidential race (it would evidently be career suicide for a movie star to endorse a Republican). Nice bit of opportunistic journalism: the reporters are in place, the promotional interviews with movie stars booked – so why don’t we just work up a five minute insert about the primaries? I wish Film 2008 was a bit more magazine-y actually. I think I’d like it better.
Or how we all learned to love Portillo. Gradually he’s become the Brian Walden of his day. Shining on the Moral Maze, on the underrated This Week and making documentaries on seemingly anything he fancies. He was also the best thing in last years celebrity trial drama-doc; The Verdict keeping Archer in check.
And finally he gets a 90 minutes thesis on what might have been. If only, as he reveals, he’d held his nerve when Major resigned in 1995 or if he’d not lost by one vote in 2001. (Was Duncan Smith really Thatcher’s fault?) then he would have had his stab at being Cameron, who he clearly admires. He gets the best out of a fantastic cast; Hague, Lamont, Clarke, and an incredibly uncomfortable Michael Howard who refreshingly reveals that perhaps he didn’t have it in him to slay Thatcher’s ghost. And David Mellor is spectacularly rude. To everyone.
Worth it just for the anecdote about a cheap scottish hotel, the home secretary and the bastards.