Saturday, August 02, 2014

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: July 2014

Several weeks have passed since STV Glasgow hit our screens and I thought it was time for a progress report.  Well..I'm sad to say that things haven't really improved.  A new channel showing off life in Glasgow, timed perfectly for the beginning of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games - but what a wasted opportunity.  "THE RIVERSIDE SHOW" continues to be a parade of posh accents and a load of posh young people employed to do nothing but look at social media.  Like, wow.  The cooking sections ("tea for a tenner") are vaguely interesting, featuring chefs from local Glasgow restaurants, but these are spoiled by the embarrassing interaction between the presenters, David Farrell (who was top Radio Clyde evening DJ, 'Romeo' in a past life - not the best career move) and Jennifer Reoch.  I'm not feeling any charisma from, or between, these two.  They really need to lighten up if this show is to have any longevity. 

For me, the only worthwhile thing left on STV Glasgow is the Polish TV drama "CZAS HONORU" which strangely enough is now billed in the Sky EPG under its English title, "Days of Honour" - perhaps to encourage more foreign-language-title-averse people to watch?  I recently found out that there have been several series of this excellent and gripping World War II drama, so I only hope that STV Glasgow won't bail out after one series.  Please stay with it STV!

The combination of the World Cup, the Tour de France, and the recent and prolonged spell of hot weather means that I have built up an outrageous backlog of telly programmes.  Still hoping that one day I'll get organised enough to watch all of them.  I'll be doing a blogging/internet detox in August and early September, when I'm also planning some home improvements so hopefully will have some energy left to catch up with the telly backlog....

Last month I mentioned the lazy, depressing trend of demonising-documentaries, which give the wrong impression of life on benefits, and which feed off the paranoia of certain people within this country.  Never mind that the bankers got the country in a mess, when the government would like us to believe it's the people on benefits who are really to blame!  And if it's not them, then of course it's that other target beloved of the right wing - immigrants.

Documentaries about immigrants are like buses: you wait a while then two come along at once, this time in the same week and on the same channel.  One of these managed to go against the grain of a media-driven racist agenda, and the other one...well, didn't.  Firstly, "THE GREAT BIG ROMANIAN INVASION" (BBC1) which, despite its sensationalist title, turned out to be a rather warm-hearted and personal exploration by journalist Tim Samuels, himself descended from Romanian immigrants, about the much-hyped so-called tidal wave of Romanian immigrants to the UK on 01.01.2014 following the relaxation of rules on free movement.  As it turned out, only one actually arrived on the day: Victor, who became a media star.  Victor is now back in the UK, with his girlfriend in tow, and with big plans for cheese entrepreneurship.  As for the other immigrants interviewed, the grass was far from greener, and Samuels managed to put a human face on a shameful agenda which is increasingly apportioning blame for all society's wrongs on those of a different race/nationality. A very good programme which provided much food for thought. 

"NICK AND MARGARET: TOO MANY IMMIGRANTS?" (BBC1) presented by Lord Sugar's erstwhile sidekicks Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford, was more prime-time and populist than the last documentary, and had a major whiff of Channel 4's similar experiment "Make Bradford British" from a couple of years ago, which paired up opposites - this time round, we had immigrants matched up with immigrant-sceptics.  The big question: are immigrants a gain, or a drain?  Perhaps the real question which should be asked is - are documentaries like this a gain, or a drain?  On this evidence - most definitely a drain.

For anyone still on Mars and out of the loop, the 2014 Commonwealth Games are taking place in Glasgow - and despite my initial scepticism, I'm very much enjoying the TV coverage so far.  Prior to the event, BBC Scotland screened an excellent documentary, "BOYCOTTS AND BROKEN DREAMS" which took us back to 1986, the last time Scotland hosted the event, in Edinburgh.  That year was as much about what happened off the field as on it - notably the Thatcher government's support of the apartheid regime in South Africa resulted in a boycott by African nations.  By the way, if you missed it, it's due to be rebroadcast this week on BBC4.

Talking of Glasgow 2014, BBC Scotland attempted some comedy which for me completely missed the mark.  "DON'T DROP THE BATON" (BBC1) mixed comedy club stand-up with unfunny sketches about the Games.  It was so unfunny that I didn't even last the full half hour. 

I don't always mention it on here, but for anyone who's still watching it, a moment of appreciation please for "TOP OF THE POPS 1979" (BBC4).  Of course in this post-Yewtree era, only certain episodes are shown as long as they are not presented by certain DJs of course, so there's a significant number missing... Anyway watching TOTP 1979 again has just reminded me that there were some cracking disco, new wave and pop tunes in that year - some of which I remember very fondly indeed. Get in there while BBC4 is still showing them....

Having done a cruise last year, I was very keen to check out "THE CRUISE SHIP" (ITV) however it was all very shallow.  At only 30 minutes, shoved between the Friday night episodes of Corrie (and crucially, 'not available in Scotland' where we get the RSPCA documentary Animal 999 which I admittedly quite like, if only for the cutesy animal sightings) it's too short to achieve anything).  Sadly, the done thing these days is for bog standard dumbed-down documentaries, which don't really go into any depth but only scratch the surface and attempt to make 'personalities' out of people who, well, don't really have them.  Such was the case with this short series about the Royal Princess, which is way out of my price range :(

I can't go without mentioning a certain sporting event which has been taking place over the past week and a half, and which is due to finish tomorrow night.  I will write a separate post about the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, but purely from a TV point of view, there's been wall-to-wall TV coverage on BBC1/BBC2/BBC3 and also on the red button.  Every event has been covered from morning till night.  Well done BBC :)

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