Pure spun gold
Various problems here. For a start off, Campbell is most famous for being a spin-doctor so how can we be expected to take any of his memoirs at face value? Secondly it’s clear that Campbell and Blair enjoyed a close relationship, they were mates – worryingly close mates if you pick up some of the subtext - so any insights that may come out about the departed premier are bound to be tainted by that. Thirdly, the stuff we all really want to know about now, the stuff about our new fearless leader Gordon Brown, has purposely been omitted.
As Brown was such a central figure in the Blair years, it does seem like a glaring omission and to state that those omissions are to avoid giving ammunition to David Cameron, well... surely the fact he’s had to leave things out does exactly that?
All that said, it did make a fascinating piece of television. Well that’s not strictly true, it made for a fascinating piece of radio because the pictures and images that accompanied Campbell’s readings were largely superfluous. The bits about Princess Diana were fascinating but the entries I really wanted to take an interest in were those around the Hutton report and here the televised version disappointed.
Campbell’s furious row with the BBC over the dodgy dossier had a tragic outcome and completely changed those running the BBC. Greg Dyke barely got a mention. Odd as Dyke has plenty to say about Campbell in his book Inside Story.
As interesting as the three parter was, I can’t help feeling that a more warts and all version would be far better and we may have to wait a bit of a while for that.
What really became clear is that Campbell’s partner Fiona seemed to be blessed with a lot of common sense and I couldn’t help thinking how differently things may have turned out if he’d paid more heed to her when he was at the heart of government.
Newsnight Review really came into its own with some illuminating discussion and debate from the likes of Michael Portillo and Michael White, though Andrew Gilligan was strangely ineffective considering he’d been at the heart of dodgy dossier affair.
Kirsty Wark got to face the diarist head on and asked all the right questions but seasoned campaigner Campbell was well prepared with all the "right" answers. I had it down as a score draw.
World of Sport
The most shocking moment of the week came during Setanta’s athletics coverage on Friday night when a wayward javelin throw managed to impale a long jumper.
I’ve not been a Setanta viewer long but it certainly seems to be a slick operation, though I view it as an expensive companion to - rather than replacement for - Sky Sports. Certainly the fact that Racing UK comes as part of the package is a major plus because in terms of presentation style and the quality of the racing on offer, it scores highly over rival At The Races.
ITV meanwhile continue to struggle to popularise boxing and weren’t helped by yet another turgid domestic heavyweight bout. This time it was Matt Skelton and Michael Sprott who delivered a fight so dull that even the ref had to intervene and tell them to get on with it.
Amir Khan provided a bit of excitement by hitting the canvas before getting back up to restore his reputation but the days when this sport could command big television audiences are clearly in the past.
Bernard Manning From Beyond The Grave may have been a morbid idea but it did provide an insight into the mindset of a style comedy that will eventually be buried with those that continue to purvey it.
Manning was unapologetic for what he was and was forthright about his views and opinions. When he was in his pomp in the seventies the views he held were far more commonplace, appeared all over the television schedules and barely if ever registered complaint. These were the days remember when Manning regularly appeared on Tiswas alongside a Lenny Henry who was also appearing in The Black and White Minstrel Show and the biggest hit comedy was Love Thy Neighbour.
Times and attitudes may have changed for the better and part of the reason that Bernard made people feel uncomfortable in his latter years was that his refusal or inability to change with the times reminded many of us just how intolerant we used to be as a society.
The fact that those of Manning’s view are so little heard on television has in a way created a subculture that is rarely challenged simply because it isn’t given publicity any more. Just because views aren’t expressed on television, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It’s interesting just how much walking on eggshells must have taken place when reflecting the world in which Manning was a major star when scripts for Life on Mars were put together.
To watch most television these days, you’d think that those shocking attitudes had died out decades ago. They haven’t and perhaps TV has a duty to expose them.
The Manning obituary may have been controversial but it was also important that it was shown.
Jekyll gets better by the episode. While James Nesbitt’s central performance is key, it’s great that the supporting characters are being a decent innings with Denis Lawson particularly creepy as Jackman’s so called “friend”. Gina Bellman gets better the more she gets to do while Meera Syal’s sarcastic private eye is worthy of a spinoff show all of her own.
Even better is that Steven Moffat’s wicked sense of humour is starting to come through with some darkly comic lines providing much needed relief to some of the more shocking scenes.
Another plus is the structure of the piece, with the constant jumping timelines expertly executed to ensure that pace of the narrative is never allowed to drop while pulling off the impressive trick of still being easy to follow.
This really is the sort of treat that we’d never have got in summers of old. I’ve already ordered the DVD.
Tantrums and Tiaras
Prepublicity for the BBC’s documentary about The Queen has landed the corporation into all sorts of trouble. It seems that some tinkering with the ordering of events had led to our beloved monarch being in a bad light.
The point is that television does this all the time. They take so called reality footage and reorder it to tell the story they want to tell. If you watch any reality shows at all, you’ll have been exposed to this practice.
I suppose this manipulation of the truth is fair game when it only affects us plebs but take on the Head of State and you are just asking for trouble.
The intention of whoever doctored the footage must have been to bring in as much publicity as possible to the show. Sounds like a job well done to me.
Bits n Bobs
I really wanted to like Dexter but it just seems so dark that I’m not sure I’ve got the stomach to stay with it. It’s certainly on morally dubious ground.
Dirt is far better than I thought it would be. I really hope it makes a star of Ian Hart, one of our finest actors. Courteney Cox is very good in it too.
I got over my Doctor Who withdrawal symptoms with a fix of Tom Baker in The Deadly Assassin, part of a whole day of the time lord on UKTV Drama. It stood up really well, surprisingly.
It’s great to have Mock the Week back. I love the show’s lack of slickness and it’s the ideal vehicle for Frankie Boyle who seems strangely restricted on News Knight with Trevor McDonald.
If The One Show gets any lighter and frothier it’ll disappear from view completely. Perhaps they should show the production team some tapes of That’s Life to see how this should be done. Or just get Esther Rantzen in to oversee the thing.