Stealing a little from the title of the Smashing Telly blog, the start of 2008 has done little to convince me that the arrival of satellite, then digital television, with its profusion of channels, has done little (if anything) to advance the quality of television programme available, and has in all likelihood done nothing other than to hasten its decline. This is not to suggest that there is nothing of quality buried in the morass of drivel served up today, driven more by the attraction of the advertising or sponsor dollar, but a sad realisation that if the annual production of good programmes numbered a few dozen each year of the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s – when there were still innovative producers and productions – then while the number of channels and productions has multiplied by hundreds as we move into the 2000s, the number of good programmes has remained at a few dozen each year, lost in the mire of sponsored advertising fodder, aimed at attracting the mindless millions with the possibility of the glimpse of a ‘Celebrity’.
Enough of that though, or we’ll never get to the real subject…
UKTV History has been kind enough to bring us Secret Army over the past few weeks, an award winning series which topped the viewing figures for the BBC in the late 1970s. Showing all three seasons that made up the entire series is a particularly memorable way to view the production, allowing one to maintain continuity and compare the different ‘feel’ that each portrayed, taking place at different stages of the war, and with each following a different overall storyline, meaning that each season was not simply a repeat of its predecessor.
Unlike more modern productions, Secret Army undoubtedly benefited from being able to be shot in realistic locations, and use props such as steam trains and period carriages. Clothing, uniforms, furniture, fashions, make-up, hairstyles and the like also benefit from the days when actors did what they were paid to, and were not preened and polished in the way the are today. It’s a joke trying to watch some similar dramas, and difficult to take them in any way that can be called serious; the actors are all made up so they look good for the camera, are all to clean and well-fed to play the part of any sort of oppressed victim; the sets all suffer from being modern reproductions or prosps, or borrowed from authentic locations, but which now look completely artificial as they have to have all evidence of their modern location hidden or obscured, or have been restored and look better than they did when they were new.
As the third, and final, series moves towards its conclusion, it is interesting to see the authenticity and realism (yes, albeit within a drama production) which the series is praised for, especially when we can compare the interrogation and intelligence gathering methods employed by the Germans, and compare it with how the same objectives would be pursued today, with our supposedly advanced technology. It may have advanced, but so have the countermeasures – no net change?
It will be a pity when it comes to an end soon, as it must, and its absence will leave an empty hour in the day, which was just right to settle down with the coffee and chocolate biscuits, and escape from reality for a little while (even if the advertisers tried their best to waste it).
Coincidentally, the Christmas TV ‘offering’ included a few episodes from for the sitcom ’Allo ’Allo!, which the series inspired, and it was interesting to see the two series almost back to back, and how close the modelling was in some instances.
The series i s described in Wikipedia, and also on the BBC’s h2g2 site (which I have found should be referred to with care, the content being subject to less review and control than Wikipedia’s).
I see that another classic of the time, Survivors, has just been announced as the lucky recipient of a remake opportunity. You won’t be surprised to hear me say that I don’t expect this to be a patch on the original, and starts of with the immediate disadvantage of being set in the present. This will lead to an extremely short series if they portray it with any sort of realism given the approach of your typical UK resident nowadays. They’re all soft, glued to their cars, centrally heated homes, and hooked on junk fast food. It’s alarming to look at the ‘modern’ family, with its obese offspring that thinks ‘REAL’ food only comes in boxes or packets, and has no idea that their chicken nuggets and hamburgers have got anything to do with those feathery things they’ve seen on farms, or that cows equal hamburgers. I’ve seen kids sit and stare at raw vegetables and fruit, unable to identify what they are, and starve rather then eat “That dirty stuff”, while they wait for someone to bring them ‘real’ food, like pizzas or burgers.
The ‘new’ Survivors’ series will indeed make interesting, if I suspect unrealistic, viewing.