Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Normal Service Resumed

Ahh… The Holidays are now but a faded memory; they melted with the snow – the only proof they were here the continuing presence of presents I haven’t found a home for yet.

I am back working on Harry’s biography. Spending any free hours trawling through memories and press cuttings. Which explains my absence from the blog and why I’m back. One of the cuttings made me pause for thought…

In 1965 the fourth series of Steptoe went to the top of the TV ratings. Milton Shulman, the Evening Standard’s drama critic, wrote:

‘The unbelievable had happened. Monday’s episode of Coronation Street had not only been dislodged from its position as one of the most popular programmes of the week, but it was nowhere to be found in the Top Twenty…Could this mean that the TV soap opera, with its continuing characters forever blowing bubbles of petty, domestic strife has finally exhausted the patience and tolerance of its followers. One can only fervently hope so. Of course the giant killers who have brought about this much needed revelation of what the British public actually prefers in TV – as opposed to what they watch out of sheer inertia – are those unique rag-and-bone men, Steptoe and Son…. Just why the erratic doings of a dirty old man and his uneducated son should make the nation catch its breath with laughter is something that will long be argued about by analysts of humour. Almost devoid of the conventional gags and slapstick situations that dominate most TV comedy, these scripts by Galton and Simpson derive their appeal out of a meticulously observed and naturally plotted observation of character. Since the parent – child relationship is one that we all suffer or enjoy by turns, we can get some vicarious delight watching the alternating spasms of love-hate that grip 38-year-old Harold Steptoe as he tries to assert his independence of his wheedling, possessive, cunning crocodile of a father….It is indeed this endearing reflection of life – true enough to make us sigh as well as laugh – that, I believe, accounts for Steptoe’s phenomenal hold on the affection of the nation. And of course, the warm, sure, uninhibited, outrageous comic performances of Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell.’

It made me wonder what Milt would have made of today’s inertia offerings. If he was already cracking under the strain of Corrie in ’65, in his later years I expect his family kept him well away from Big Brother – it could have hastened his end.

And although, in his time, Harry tackled every aspect of show business from Shakespeare to summer season (ok, he wouldn’t have done Holiday on Ice or water ballet), he would have drawn the line at Celebrity/reality shows.

That is not to say he couldn’t have lasted the course. During the war he jumped ship in Australia and worked in the red light district before handing himself in to serve his time in clink, all excellent training for dealing with any cage fighter or closure seeking pneumatic model.

But as Harry repeatedly turned down the genteel ‘This is Your Life’ for fear of intrusion into his privacy, I can’t see him wilfully taking part in the reality genre. I can see him running for the hills in the opposite direction.

Mind you I’m in no place to comment on current reality television, I would have to actually watch it to earn that right. Visiting memory lane means that I rarely have time to watch any television and BB would not be at the top of the list.

Last weekend I did surface long enough to see Murray, the paranoid android, crack a smile in his defeat to Federer at the Australian Open; see enough of the premiership football to notice that Sky was showing matches in 3D (which makes me fear the return of the Long Ball will be encouraged as it would prove a better spectacle for the medium) and catch Ski Sunday’s highlights from Schladming. (Not long now before we see Chemmy Alcott going in the Olympics – though thanks to the British Ski and Snowboard Federation being on the skids, the collection box strapped to her ski poles may slow her down a bit.)

Ah…All that gives the erroneous impression that for me, as for so many others, sport is a religion. I have to say that only the tennis was my choice. The better half chose the football - the skiing was mutual.

Besides, most of the time the telly is tuned to the kids channels. Funnily enough sport is the one thing the sprogs will happily tolerate in lieu of Mickey Mouse, maybe because it is the ultimate in reality television.

Hmmm… Now if one could combine reality TV, sports and religion into one programme you could have a winner. Throw in some well built girls and it could go top of the ratings.

We present “Big Sister” –

Follow rugby playing nuns, The Sisters of Perpetual Conversion, as they take a break from ministering to fallen Hookers to compete for a professional contract with top Premiership team the Saints.

To vote for Sister Agnes call 0870 000 001
For Sister Derrick call……

You wait; it’ll be TV gold.

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