The floodwaters of the South West got into the works at Channel Four News,
which has recently been very good on the tough subjects. But on the subject
of the heavy rain the programme suddenly took leave of its senses.
Basing himself outdoors in the inundated areas, the
otherwise quite sane Jon Snow screamed “this country has never
experienced anything like this before!” Since the very programme he was
supposed to be anchoring had only just got through showing footage of how
this country experienced something exactly like this in 1953, with the loss
of more than 300 lives, his hysteria made you wonder if he had actually been
watching his own show.
Probably not: instead of watching, he had been wading. It’s a danger easily
courted when anchor persons get out in the field: without a studio wrapped
around them, they can’t take an overview. Snow had got himself into a
position where his lieutenant Krishnan
Guru-Murthy was asking the guests better questions. Krishnan was
likewise out there in the swirling waters, but at some point he had managed
to get some homework done, and had realised that any policies inspired by
the theory of climate change, while conceivably useful for avoiding a
planetary crisis in the future, were useless for dealing with a local
disaster in the present.
the floods have changed Britain: climate change
While Snow was raving on about how Britain was the only European country ever
to face something like this – had he never heard of the Low Countries? –
Krishnan was putting a succession of roped-in experts on the spot by asking
how more action to stave off climate change could possibly be relevant to
helping the flood victims now.
It was the right question, and there was a whole queue of the wrong people to
answer it, headed by the Secretary
of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey, who managed to
suggest by his manner that he had learned nothing since Andrew Neil worked
him over on The Sunday Politics (BBC One) a few weeks back. When Krishnan
asked the hapless Ed whether the Government would be spending more on flood
defences, Ed said “I’d like to pay tribute to the people on the ground.” He
means well, but what we need in his post right now is someone from the
Anyone who saw Jon Snow interviewing the frantically posturing Russell Brand –
the subject of climate change was well to the fore – might have thought that
our precious Western civilisation was indeed coming to an end. If our older
generation of presenters show signs of going nuts under the pressure, where
is the next generation to come from? The sneaking thought that there might
not be a next generation was put to rest by an instalment of the usually
unspeakable Generation Sex (BBC Three). Called Secrets of South America, the
show was fronted by a young spark who calls herself Billie JD Porter. She
went to Buenos Aires to investigate what the city’s population does in the
The wrong thing, usually. Among the poor, young girls get pregnant at such a
rate that there are a half million abortions per year, all of them illegal.
Billie JD, who has an impressive range of language over and above the
standard youthful obscenities, knew exactly how to ask about the actual
methods of abortion. The answers were horrifying but she stayed on the case.
With fast learners like her on the way up, factual television might have a
future after all.
As if to prove that Belgium is not in Scandinavia, the
Belgian crime series Salamander (BBC Four) is turning out to be a
bit of a bust. Pantomime villains, a matinee-idol hero and his bird-brain of
a wife: The Killing or The Bridge it definitely isn’t. Time to remind
ourselves, perhaps, that some of the best stuff on our little screens needs
end of The Bridge? I might die of despair
Clear proof of that, the new season of The
Good Wife (More4) is more absorbing than a truck-load of facial tissues.
Diane, the elegant top woman of our favourite law firm, is leaving to become
a judge, but on her way out she has double-crossed Alicia. Simultaneously,
the elegant Alicia is about to double-cross the firm by leading a breakaway
group of its younger lawyers. Meanwhile Alicia’s husband Peter might be
getting set to double-cross her by establishing intimacy with his elegant
new advisor. All the women are elegant except for Alicia’s mother, whose
character is an opportunity for Stockard Channing to adopt a knowing smile
bigger than her head while camping it up like Crazy Horse in a tepee.
But the writing is good in a way that we can hardly do, although the second
season of Line
of Duty (BBC Two) isn’t a bad try. I had to blink for some minutes
after Keeley Hawes, playing a cop, smacked an innocent civilian with a
bottle. Then I had to blink for some minutes all over again after Jessica
Raine, playing another cop, got shoved out of a high window just when I was
starting to relish the idea of watching her for the next few weeks, if only
to check up on the amount she drank. Come to think of it, the first season
had been equally prodigal with its female characters: Gina McKee went
missing and stayed missing. The Yanks occasionally kill off attractive
characters early on (House
of Cards, Game
of Thrones), but usually they wouldn’t dream of such profligacy.
Perhaps they should, in order to be realistic, like us.
of Duty, series two, BBC Two
In The Brits Who Built the Modern World (BBC Four), five of our post-war
architects, headed by Lords Foster and Rogers, took turns to praise each
other’s genius. Reluctantly I had to admit they might be right, although I
was a long time learning to like the Pompidou Centre. But the young loved
it, and eventually they decide everything, damn them.
In Russia, the
Winter Olympics (BBC One and BBC Two) faded away into the pretty
skittering of the ice dancers, always my favourite thing, although some
elements in my family professed themselves interested in the new range of
aerobatics performed by the slipstyle skiiers and snowboard riders as they
zoomed up and off the “kicker” (you can see how I have already mastered the
new technical talk) and turned themselves inside out while they were framed
against the sky.
Closer to the ground, it was pleasant to see Britain’s
Elizabeth Yarnold win on her speeding skeleton, and even more
to find out afterwards that she was so well spoken, even while still half mad
with excitement. Considering what the Beeb’s experts are like when helping
us to watch, say, the ice-hockey (“And he scores!” “Oh ho! Wow!”), Lizzy’s
future in the commentary box looked cut and dried.
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