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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Department Store: Milners, BBC4

Did we like it?
We loved Richard Macer's observational documentary for being more fly-in-the-ointment than fly-on-the-wall.

What was good about it?
• Macer (the man behind The Secret Life of the Shop and the Jordan trilogy) can always spot and develop a good story. Ostensibly, he was painting a portrait of an old-fashioned department store in the Yorkshire Dales. But beneath that was a psychological drama in which he uncovered tears, anger and the reality of why stubborn, old David, who was so set in his ways he should be living in concrete, refused to retire from the business he'd run for 40 years.
• The footage of the fashion show, with severe-looking pensioners with lacquered hair sitting in uncomfortable seats for two hours as the latest(!!!) trends passed before their rheumy eyes.
• Just when we were beginning to hate the pernickety, dogmatic David, Macer discovered he'd been through severe depression and underwent six weeks of electric shock treatment. Now we understood him and could begin to feel some sympathy.
• It wasn't as funny as the antics of horror couple Ann and John in that BBC2 doscusoap about a Midlands double glazing firm, but it was a lot more compassionate.
• It'll provide marvellous material for Harry Hill's TV Burp.

What was bad about it?
• The frustration and tensions within the family and with highly-strung new employee James were almost unbearable at times. Macer must have felt tempted to put down the camera and start knocking some stubborn, childish heads together. The Chair Argument featured some of the nastiest behaviour we've seen on TV this year outside The Tudors.
• Knowing that businesses like Milners will shortly be a thing of the past, crowded out by the high street juggernauts.
• We didn't find out why down-to-earth David and Linda's daughter had the rather exotic name of Leoni.
• It's a pity that the put-upon Leoni only let rip when she was alone with the cameras. "I don't fucking care if she fucks off because she fucking pisses me off," she moaned about her monstrous mother.

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