Sunday, 7 August 2011
Hooptedoodle #32 - The Blue Peter Effect
There is a high probability that any non-UK readers may not understand this post, though I am sure you can change the names of the shows and find parallels on your own domestic TV channels. For so long that I cannot remember its beginning, there has been a kids' programme on BBC TV called "Blue Peter". It is a hugely successful programme - it has had countless millions of devoted fans over the years. Yet it was always notable as a very soft target for a send-up by undergraduate comedy shows, TV skits and so on - particularly for the very odd way in which groups of presenters, their numbers carefully balanced as regards gender and ethnic origin, took it in turns to read (very unnaturally) from the autocue, smiling uncomfortably at a spot some feet from the camera when it was not their turn to speak. Oh, how we larfed - it was a national tradition. Growing up, apart from the appearance of pimples, and of hair in previously bald places, was identifiable as the time when one began to find Blue Peter hilariously stilted.
Well, we needn't have laughed. The Blue Peter presentation style won hands down in the end, and it has taken over - it is everywhere. Breakfast TV, news programmes of every known sort, nature reports, popular music shows - it is everywhere. Couches loaded with matched pairs of grinning gits are inescapable - presenter B attempting to pull an appropriately regretful face, nodding absently, while presenter A reports a plane crash in Indonesia. Switch on your TV, skip a few channels - there they are - any number of the beggars. Is it compulsory? Has someone passed some equal opportunities law which requires multiple presenters at all times? Does someone, somewhere, believe that we are going to find the news more acceptable, less threatening, more readily understood, if it is presented to us by some sincere but terminally uninteresting couple, the like of which you could find in the bar of any provincial golf club?
Is it designed to help with some attention span disorder I have? - and how did they know, anyway? Yet again, I am saddened that I am so far from the mainstream. There must be a really big point here and, as ever, I am missing it - I honestly do not want the people on breakfast TV to be my friends, or part of my family. I do not even particularly wish them to have personalities - it doesn't add anything. Robert Dougal never had a personality. This is just radio with pictures, after all.
How much of BBC's burden on the licence-payer could be lightened by halving the number of presenters (and thus, presumably, quartering the number of makeup people and dressers)? Anybody care to guess just how big a team the BBC are planning to deploy for the flaming London Olympics?