More4’s first night

by | Oct 10, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

A noble, venerable gentleman of a TV channel, bedecked in the finest silken dramas, trousered with blooming pantaloons of insightful documentaries, sipping glasses of vintage bottled wit and treading daintily in satin slippers of satire.

Miscellaneous observations

• The wearying politicisation of the entire channel. More4 is apparently aimed at people over 30; to that they should add: and who have a complacent leaning towards left-wing politics.

• Using the White Stripes’ Blue Orchid as the evening’s theme music was inadvertently apposite, as, like More4 mirrors Channel 4, that song exemplifies middle-age indulgence and complacency from a once-exciting rock band who now don’t even qualify as a parody of themselves.

• A swarm of those once-endearing, but now insufferably smug “branding” sequences in which stars of Channel 4 shows answer irrelevant questions that aren’t even used in those emergency situations of an awkward silence at a dinner party.

• Martin Sheen confiding how he determinedly refuses to pander to that middle-aged, middle-class preserve of joining an exclusive golf club after spending time as a dogsbody caddie in his youth. Next week, he reveals how he stakes himself out in the sun to ensure he is only using solar energy to fuel his body rather than stuffing his gut full of exhaustible energy like food and water.

• The political stance of most of the shows was so resolutely left-wing it could broadcast in North Korea without “poisoning” the populace with Western capitalist ways.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

What was good about it?

• Jon Stewart is a witty host, imagine Jonathan Ross if he dropped the levity and took up satire.

• Canadian comic author David Rakoff was a good guest – his best moment came when he explained his application for US citizenship entailed agreeing to bear arms for the nation – but he couldn’t foresee a conflict that would require the conscription of “40something homos”.

What was bad about it?

• The audience seem to be one of those resident rabble who turn up for each and every show; and they all seem to be frustrated left-wingers of the sort who sorrowfully scrutinise appalling reportage of third world orphanages from their plush apartments and give $3.50 to disaster pleas.

• The way the audience whoops and hollers after each of Stewart’s barbs against the incumbent administration gives the impression that they attend as a way to vent their liberal frustration in much the same way as peasants once went, and sometimes joined in with, public stonings as an exhaust to their anger.

• While we’re sure Americans find it very funny, many of the references were too obscure for a British audience, it was only when Stewart moved on to vilify Bush for his tardiness over Hurricane Katrina that his humour connected.

A Very Social Secretary

What was good about it?

• An excellent cast ensured, that despite all its other faults, the drama was superbly acted. Bernard Hill was a convincing David Blunkett, while Robert Lindsay’s Tony Blair mimicked all of his nervous tics.

• The way in which Blunkett’s two advisers Ashley and Keith reflected where he had come from – steadfastly working class Labour with a social conscience – and where he was going – callous fascism.

• Robert Lindsay’s Tony Blair relishing the duplicitous deployment of tanks at Heathrow to prevent a suspected terrorist atrocity when, in reality, the aim was to cow the populace from turning out on an anti-war march. This was typical of the petulant editorial rage of the whole drama, and was especially timely in a week when more “terrorists” were rounded up in the same week as the police demanded more resources to deal with “terrorism”.

• The carnival music used to give the drama the feel of Carry On Up The Cabinet.

• Lots of sharp dialogue by writer Alastair Beaton. For example:

Blunkett – “David is supposed to be a sad, lonely, old, blind bastard. David’s not meant to have fun or go to nice restaurants or – heaven forbid – have sex.”

Blair’ – “Yes, but she’s a married woman with close connections to the right-wing press.”

Blunkett – “We have close connections to the right-wing press!”

• The hilarious but surely untrue deiction of Blunkett’s MP’s surgery when he told a sick woman she’d be well if she wasn’t so fat (his aide had to reluctantly confirm his suspicion).

• Blunkett’s bored bodyguards who are envious that he has a sex life, despite his beard

What was bad about it?

• Rather than a drama, the whole episode seemed like a vengeful diatribe from Labour supporters who feel betrayed by Blair’s descent from champion of the common people to acolyte of a global tyrant. The grotesque characterisation of all the main players weakened any satirical authority the tale may have had, and distilled it into little more than a futile rant about the manner in which a left-wing government has betrayed its core support and sold its soul to American neo-conservatives.• David Blunkett was shown as a two-dimensional right-wing Home Secretary who was unwavering in his wish to force through anti-immigration laws in the Trojan Horse of anti-terror legislation. On a fire started in a detention centre for asylum seekers he complained: “You take the bastards out of prison and give them decent facilities.” There was no sense of why he warped from a man of the people to the amateur despot he was shown to be in this semi-factual drama.

• When Ashley composed a considerate intelligent speech for him, Blunkett dismissed it claiming the most important element was “to appeal to Sun readers”. And when Blunkett was applauded for his stringent anti-asylum laws by a tattooed ape, he made his excuses and left rather than attempted to argue his case.

• The patronising examples of old and New Labour supporters. The old Labour supporter was clothed in the guise of one of Blunkett’s most loyal constituency aides who applauded his attendance of local surgeries, but by the end she was little more than a conduit for all the compounded wrath of her political genus bursting in on Blunkett and decrying him as a “reactionary bastard” and being a figurehead in a party which was now as “plastic as my membership card”.

• Choice snippets of actual newsreel which endorsed the left-wing perspective on the War in Iraq, such as Donald Rumsfeld asserting the existence of WMDs.

• Blair was painted as a superficial, flimsy Prime Minister who while not sitting in Bush’s lap, he was being given his walkies by Alastair Campbell and seemed more concerned with residing in 15th century chateaus than running the country.

• Cherie Blair (played by Doon Mackichan), and her friend Carole Caplin, were sketched as a pair of superficial non-entities, who only worried about trivial matters such as Blunkett’s guide dog shedding hair on the sofa. Kimberly Quinn was also seen to be as superficial as Cherie after she became apoplectic when Blunkett’s dog gnawed on her £11,000 handbag.

• Boris Johnson was even more of a bumbling caricature than he himself projects on Have I Got News For You.

The Last Word

• A discussion show stuck on the end of the schedules in much the same way as God gave baboons bright red arses as he had some a few pots of red paint left over from colouring in the faces of old whiskey drinkers. But it did have the highlight of the evening as the cantankerous historian David Starkey and a media lawyer got involved in very personal disagreements over certain ideological perspectives such as the best way to curb juvenile vandalism. Starkey wanted to be able to clip under 10s around the ear, while the lawyer saw peurile recalcitrance as simply a part of growing up. Starkey kept bragging about his superior intellect while host Mark Dolan struggled to maintain order and the Sunday Express’s Julia Hartley- Brewer chipped in with incongruent facile remarks.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

10/10/2005

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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