I Predict A Riot, Bravo

by | Feb 7, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

With an unfussy host and a willingness to explore the root cause of the disturbances documented rather than focus exclusively on the ultraviolence it provided a thought-provoking view of notorious riots throughout history, starting with the Poll Tax riots of 1990.

What was good about it?

• Former Loaded editor James Brown was a decent host. Like all good presenters, he was passionate, or at least gave such an illusion, about conveying the story to the viewer, in this case the Poll Tax Riots of March 1990. This resulted in an economic script which Brown used simply to link the episodes together, rarely allowing his own dislike of the police to interfere with his soliloquy. Although his naivety as a presenter was occasionally evident such as in his penchant to accentuate each syllable in a sentence with a dagger-thrust motion with his left hand, while the right looked awkward and erect as if charred, and stabbing down with both hands to emphasise the very crucial points.

• The riot was appraised by elements from both sides of the conflict (although most were either rioters or protesters). Richard Cullen, an ex-superintendent in the Metropolitan Police, recalled how the police gradually lost control of the situation; Steve Nally, once of the Anti-Poll Tax Federation, described the way in which the police tactics antagonised the passive protestors causing them to riot too; and juvenile Martin Deeson, whose hair is prostrate across his head as if still reeling from the hilarity of the jolly jape, recounted how it was all big laugh and how much he enjoyed throwing missiles at the police.

• The insight into the Met’s tactics for dealing with a large protest that were based on the writings of a 19th century French philosopher about the nature and behaviour of a crowd, which was exposed as badly flawed and utterly out of date.

• The lonely old man amid the carnage as rioters and police clashed meekly holding up his little homemade fluorescent sign that read: “I exist on £47 a week. How can I pay the Poll Tax?”

• The risible hypocrisy of Britain’s former despot Margaret Thatcher, who resigned eight months later, dictatorially stating, “These people (the protestors) are totally against democracy.”

• The story of the little old lady who found a younger protestor and said: “You look like you’ve got a strong arm” before handing him a scaffolding joint to lob at the thin blue line.

What was bad about it?

• The tendency for TV channels to now advertise future programmes during other shows, as during IPAR a banner was crudely plastered in the corner of the screen like obscene graffiti for Dog The Bounty Hunter. At first such onerous advertising occurred between shows, then it spread to the end credits, and now it’s finally infected the very fabric shows. It’s off-putting and insulting to the show being broadcast. What next? Dialogue manipulated to advertise the following programme, such as DI Mason and Reg Hollis discuss how excited they will be to watch that evening’s episode of Coronation Street, idly dropping into the conversation that viewers could win a luxury holiday in Miami if they can identify how many rollers Gail has in her hair and that they should text their answers in to a particular number.

• The thumping heart beat of manufactured tension that blighted the introduction to each new chapter of the riot’s course through London’s streets.

• The demonising of the police through a piecemeal of films spread over a decade was not convincing enough, especially as in half of the films the police seemed to be merely trying to keep order against aggressive thugs. It didn’t sway the viewers’ perceptions against the police, and actually damned the actions of oppressed protestors throughout the 80s as that of mindless hooligans.

• Martin Deeson’s smug remark about how builders’ huts were set ablaze in the centre of London. “The hardcore anarchists did what anarchists do and set fire to the sheds.” Anarchists, hardcore or otherwise, do not act through some chaotic primal instinct; they had the individual freewill not to set fire to the huts but chose to do so out of a sense of purposeless spite.

• There was no archive footage of the injured rioters talking about the injuries they sustained, but film was shown of a press conference staged by policeman who got his mouth bashed up outside Stringfellows

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

07/02/2006

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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