Friday, October 31, 2008

Aiming all the way up to “average”

Not that any one show is or could be the paragon of all that is holy, good, refulgent and right with the world, but... WTF is happening to people’s standards?

Doctor Who really isn’t very good (sorry folks, repeatedly shouting that it is won’t change physical reality), Spooks has fallen teeth-first into the kerb, and there’s precious little entertainment on the box that isn’t a fluff-based product (Strictly, Britain Has NO Fucking Talent, Big Brother Evisceration Special, et al.). Now, I’m not terribly likely to complain about the fluff, as it isn’t competing against drama. At least not in my head, it isn’t - I can happily gawk at the delightfully bonkers Claudia Winkleman for hours on end, in much the same way as some people see no need to behead Davina McCall, I suppose. Any human who calls their budgerigar “Claudia Winkleman’s Budgie” is alright by me.

This is in no way an intimation that we are somehow facing the End Times™ of all TeeVee and that, hereafter, we shall all be reduced to staring vacantly at old broken televisions, flickering fires within, until the Terminators come to get us. Nope, the Beeb are making a good fist of costume drama in the shapely, toned and often pert and muscular Little Dorrit (please don’t bring up Lark Shite to Candelabra in my presence) and ITV, well, you never know, they might do something good soon... ;-)

Having known and worked with some truly excellent people at the BBC, I have to say that they aren’t in the majority. By a country light-year. Institutionalised arrogance, placing greater value on ‘executives’ (with all their endless fucking meetings and inability make decisions) than anyone who can actually do anything, a smugness of behaviour and an ingrained (and entirely unjustified) contempt of anyone working for an independent company have finally caused the lumbering behemoth to strip off and run straight at a wall made of piss-covered spikes. See GD’s excellent (and often poetic) post on, among other things, the ‘joys’ of sharing a nationality with some very misguided presenters.

With the controllers of the publicly-funded channels having been promoted to the levels of their incompetence from the verdant pasture of BBC executive-land, how is anything of any value likely to be commissioned? In fact, I posit that it’s unlikely that programmes of quality are even being searched for. The contracts I’ve had to deal with that have appeared from within the ‘hallowed halls’ are usually couched in terminally soporific drivel concerning ‘brand values’ and ‘market share’, featuring empty terminology: ‘aspirational’, ‘inclusive’, ‘synergistic’, and the deathless ‘beyond imagination’. In fact, a recent set of guidelines issued on behalf of the Beeb contained so many typos (‘routed’ instead of ‘rooted’, ‘banter’ instead of ‘barter’ and the smirk-worthy ‘colour caste’), technical inaccuracies (the assumption that HDV is the only type of HD on the market) and a general level of implied comprehension of the process that made it sound like it had partly been written in the 1950s. By someone who’d had a crack at their Home Trepanning Kit. Other instructions in it were comedically patronising (‘the BBC’s result will be better’ in a section about grading, for example).

The assumption that the best technical people in the world wouldn’t want to work as freelancers for ludicrous sums of money, but would prefer to spend their days being suffocated in beauracracy and nonsensical working practices is jaw-droppingly worrying.

Again, I return to my assertion that there are some terrific people working at the Beeb. Trouble is, I’d really love to see them spread their wings and fly, see what they’re capable of out in the real world where they can drop their shoulders and charge.

As a brief aside, and because it needs as many outings as possible, here is the absolutely honest truth about TV, courtesy of the incomparable Sir Charles of Brooker:

Ever since the BBC outsourced creativity and original thinking to the lowest bidder, I’m afraid that this is only likely to get worse. And the BBC will become known as the place that the talentless go to die.