Did we like it?
Imagine a team of gruff, overweight, unshaven men sitting in pointlessly huge machines and swinging a wrecking ball at your skull for half an hour, while simultaneously stripping away the shattered bone with a mechanical claw.
What was good about it?
• The hairdresser in the Irish town where the power station was to be demolished. In the only successful attempt to engender a sense of human interest in the three tales of destruction, she remembered how she “used to think the smoke [from the power station] made the clouds.” And she later welcomed the excitement in the area because “you wouldn’t believe how boring this town can be.”
• All the men involved seemed likeable and professional, and had a passion for their jobs.
• The unintentional macho bravado that has allusions to the destructive machines merely penis extensions such as Moose’s paean. “The best thing about my job is using the bigger machines. You can feel the power coming through the back, especially when you’ve got an attachment like this (a huge phallic claw) on the end of it!”
• In Ireland, anyone travelling with explosives has to be accompanied by an armed guard.
• At the very climax of the episode, the power station failed to collapse after detonation, and this was given an even more farcical tone when the man counting down seemed to have his voice finally break on “one”. What was more puzzling was why the eventual destruction was hurriedly shown as the end credits rolled just before the next episode preview.
What was bad about it?
• The awful acting of the Irish barman as he and a patron supposedly chewed the fat on the imminent destruction of the power station when such was his rigidity the spectre of the BBC producer could almost be seen hanging over the pair.
• The dreadful jaunty Irish folk music to signify that the action had switched back to the power station. It was only a wonder they hadn’t hired horses to run wild in the streets, leprechauns to cast jinxes over passing tourists and scowling one-eyed gypsies to tell the fortunes of bemused passers-by as a bunch of men in wide-brimmed hats stood outside a betting shop supping pints of Guinness incessantly talking about “the craic”.
• Even the laconic tones of the usually wonderful Arthur Smith couldn’t disguise an abysmal narrative. “This monster is driven by Darren Jeffries – a big man with a big name: ‘Moose’.” Or: “This historic clock tower has to be protected because it’s historic.” And “The art of reducing a building to rubble can be strangely addictive” seemed almost to sense the growing sense of disinterest around the country and was aimed as a last desperate attempt to convince a sceptical audience that demolition can be sexy. Honest.
• And on Wayne’s machine: “It may not be able to dance like a butterfly, but it can certainly sting like a bee.” A quotation that evokes memories of the viper-quick Muhammad Ali in his prime jabbing opponents before darting nimbly away, not a cumbersome mechanical leviathan stripping metal from the outer casing of a defunct building with all the grace and precision of a comet thudding into the Moon.
• Paul was a pleasant enough chap, but the fact that Demolition had to include such stultifying anecdotes as his tale of how he got into the demolition trade exemplified the paucity of material available. “Someone knocked on my door someday years ago and said: ‘Do you want a job?’ ‘Doin’ what?’ ‘Demolition.’ ‘I wouldn’t mind, yeah.’”
• There were efforts to include the history in which the demolitions were taking place such as Devonport dockyard in Plymouth and Loughborough University’s derelict swimming pool, but on both occasions the chronicles were sparse and half-hearted, leaving you believing you really should want to know more about them but actually intensified your apathy. The swimming pool history was made worse by Commonwealth champion swimmer James Gibson’s mumbled tribute to the swimming pool as he surveyed the rubble in a hard-hat.