A masterpiece of one-upmanship (or should that be one-downmanship?)
A couple of nights ago, my friend, Lou, sent me a link via Facebook to this Guardian article regarding the complaints the BBC have so far received about children’s television presenter Cerrie Burnell, who was born with only one hand. At the time of writing, the article reports, the BBC had so far received nine official complaints from parents claiming that they cannot let their children watch because such a sight could “possibly cause sleep problems”, that toddlers find her scary and that — shock, horror! — they are being forced to discuss “disability” with their children before they are ready.
My immediate response was to shrug and say to myself, “Yeah, well, that’s stupid people for you.” My experience of disability (I have Type II Spinal Muscular Atrophy) has, generally speaking, been pretty good. I have always found people on the whole considerate and understanding, but, yes, there are idiots with prejudices and insecurities of their own. The relatively small number of complaints, however disturbing it may be, speaks volumes. The vast majority of parents watching this show, I’m sure, handled their children’s questions ably and got on with enjoying the show.
Which took me in a slightly different direction than some might expect. The Guardian article is entitled “It Is Parents Who Can’t Face Disability on TV” [italics mine]. Parents. Not some parents, it would seem, but if not all of them, a fair few, at least. Nine, in other words.
Now don’t misunderstand me, Lucy Mangan makes some excellent points — and the article is definitely worth reading — but there are a couple generalisations/inaccuracies that I feel need to be addressed.
Firstly, to reiterate the point I’ve already made, this was a very small number of parents. Lucy mentions that there were “many more blog postings” regarding the story, none of which she provides links to, and none of which I’ve read. Knowing the blogosphere as I do, however, I’m quite certain that those complaining about this television presenter will have been in a very small minority. There will be plenty of people shouting them down.
Secondly, on the point of parents not being able to “face disability on [children's] TV”… well, frankly, this is actually quite inaccurate. In the early 1980s I, in my electric wheelchair, wearing my Milwaukee spinal brace, appeared for eight weeks on the Yorkshire television children’s programme Book Tower. I was very visibly disabled, and the spinal brace in particular will no doubt have raised a few questions in some households. Yet, as far as I know, there were no complaints.
More to the point, the producer of Book Tower at the time was a very talented lady called Anne Wood. Anne went on to form her own production company — Ragdoll Productions, the company behind, amongst other things, the Teletubbies. Anne’s work in the intervening years has quite often focused on preschool children’s television, with programmes such as Rosie and Jim, Brum and others, and a number of times that I know of (and, not having kids of my own, I’m not exactly an avid watcher of her programmes… no, really!) children with disabilities have featured.
Disability is not something that is new to children’s television. In fact it seems to me that disability is featured more on children’s television than any other area. Even many non-Ragdoll Productions shows for children have and do feature people with disabilities (Balamory springs to mind.)
So, in conclusion, yes — there are stupid people who will try to inflict their stupidity, bigotry and insecurities on others. The best thing we can do is shame them, talk about the ridiculous statements they make and, even, I would suggest, heap ridicule upon them. But when we respond to such comments/complaints we really need to be careful that we don’t inadvertently alienate the very people who are on our “side”. The vast majority of parents are intelligent and responsible, and whilst television could do a much better job with regard its representation of disability, children’s television has been at the forefront for a number of years, without a complaining parent to be heard.
It was inevitable, really, wasn’t it? Obama orders Guantánamo to be closed, knife robberies and burglaries are up in the UK, Gaza smugglers get back to work – and the story that everybody seems to be talking about most is Jonathan Ross’s return to television after his three-month ban for making lewd calls with Russell Brand to the actor Andrew Sachs.
And, of course, it’s just as inevitable that I feel I have to say something further on this quite ridiculous state of affairs.
Initially, because of the involvement of Andrew Sachs, I considered this “prank”, or whatever you want to call it, a joke too far. His granddaughter, in my opinion, was fair game, but to involve him in that way… it just left a rather bad taste (as the “dancer” said to the “comedian”). In the intervening months, however, with the BBC continually being pushed to monitor and restrict more rigidly what their presenters say, I find my more usual stance coming to the fore on this matter.
It is time to take a step back, yet again, ladies and gentlemen, and survey this whole episode — and all similar episodes — more rationally, without the knee-jerk response of “that’s offensive!”
What really made me sit up and take notice today was a reference that some guy made on BBC News 24 to an earlier comment Jonathan Ross had made to David Cameron — Ross asking Cameron whether he had fantasised about Margaret Thatcher. This was given as evidence of Jonathan Ross’s recidivistic tendencies. He’s a bad boy now and he’s always been a bad boy. Why? Because he makes jokes about people in positions of power/authority? Because the jokes push the boundaries of good taste? I’m sorry, but this kind of joke is very different to the mistakes he would later make — and the very suggestion that such humour should be somehow eradicated, or even edited, is, frankly, unacceptable and deeply disturbing.
As Kurt Vonnegut said “The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.”
Such humour plays a vitally important role in our society. Its purpose is to challenge, to say the things that we feel we cannot say ourselves. To impose restrictions, to pander to the simpering, politically correct idiots who are scared to offend anyone and everyone, is a further imposition — a further dilution of our right to express an opinion, however unorthodox.
Jonathan Ross made an error of judgement. Speaking for myself, I’d much rather live in a world where such mistakes can occur than one where the censorship of the imagined masses removes all possibility of their ever happening.
I stopped watching Doctor Who halfway through David Tennant’s first series — finding it all incredibly tedious.
Nevertheless, I have been interested in who they would select as the doctors next incarnation, Tennant’s replacement. Would it be someone who might actually bring something multi-dimensional to the role, I wondered.
After seeing the wee bairn who has been cast in the role, however, let it suffice to say that I certainly won’t be watching this series, either.
Young, cute (I’m reliably informed) and not a beer-belly in sight! Talk about playing safe. Bring back the days when the Doctor was old and crusty… the days when you were completely certain he would never, ever get a shag.
Stephen Fry would have been my pick.
It would seem that Virgin Media — UK supplier of broadband, telephone services (landline and cellphone) and cable television — is finally getting its finger out and beginning the process of providing a better, more competitive package of services.
‘Speaking at the launch of Virgin’s 50Mbps broadband service [yesterday], Berkett [Virgin Media chief executive] said that four linear high definition channels would join the digital cable lineup “over the next three months”.
‘Berkett said that “getting access to HD was problematic” because a platform operator and broadcaster – alluding to Sky – had “locked HD away for a period of time”. He said that the situation “has changed over the last 18 months” and that “a lot of non-platform providers” now have content to offer in high definition.’
Today it has also been announced that their 10Mb and 20Mb broadband services will be migrated over to its new DOCSIS 3 platform.
‘The new version of DOCSIS – the specification for data over cable – permits channels to be “bonded” to allow more efficient use of the available spectrum. Virgin has built the new version 3 infrastructure for its new 50Mbps service, launched yesterday, but will migrate its mid and high tier customers to the platform.
‘Chief technology officer Howard Watson likened the move to “adding lanes to the M25″ and then ensuring that all Virgin Media customers could benefit from the new capacity. The original DOCSIS 1 network will be retained for the entry tier 2Mbps service.
‘”In time, the upgrade to DOCSIS 3.0 means Virgin Media will be able to handle more than three times the data currently handled by the cable network,” the company said.’
With the rumoured possibility of the rolling out of an ISPTV television platform in the not too distant/distant future, could it be possible that they may actually be working at establishing themselves as a real competitor to Sky?
It doesn’t seem all that is feasible. But we can hope, right?
I’m feeling rather tired today after a busy couple of days writing, but two things have just occurred to me whilst eating my tea and watching the adverts on television:
- Eighteen bottles of beer for only seven pounds. Am I the only one who finds it a little absurd that we are then encouraged to “enjoy alcohol responsibly”?
- The adverts that aren’t encouraging us to pickle our livers inexpensively at this time of day seem to have a common theme. Glide up to Heaven on your Stannah stairlift. Make sure you’ve got life insurance. What’s going to happen to your pampered pooch when you pop your clogs? Each and every one of them, in short, yells “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!“, insuitably disguised tones of concern. A cheerful accompaniment to the eating of my M&S trifle.
If you were expecting a punchline at this point, or a philosophical analysis and witty conclusion… come back in a week or two when I’m on my anti-Christmas holidays and, possibly, not feeling quite so written-out. ;)
According to academics at Aberdeen University a “3D television system which would display holographic images floating in mid air – reminiscent of a famous scene from Star Wars – could be a reality in households within the next decade“.
Always excited by technological developments of this kind, I, naturally, immediately started playing with the possibilities. For example, imagine how much more entertaining it would have been watching a holographic representation of John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing! The National Geographic channels would spring to life in a whole new way. Lions would disembowel zebras on your living room carpet and gorillas would groom the family labrador. In the summer, the rain during the Wimbledon tennis championships would seem all the more rainy — and then there’s those dodgy pay-per-view channels that I never ever subscribe to (honest.) The possibilities are endless.
And then something else occurred to me. Wait a minute, I thought as the Virgin Media van pulled up outside, I have enough trouble with my relatively ordinary V+ box as it is!
Conclusion: I’m only interested in this technology if Virgin Media has nothing at all to do with it!
For some time, cultural commentator, author, poet, television presenter, etc, Clive James has hosted his own online interview show, creatively titled Clive James Talking in the Library (in case you haven’t quite managed to work it out for yourself, it features Clive in a library — his, I believe — talking to various people.) I heard about it a good while ago and, as is often the way, promptly forgot all about it.
Last night, however, I managed to catch an episode that happened to be showing on one of the Sky Arts channels — an interview with the novelist Nick Hornby. I enjoyed its conversational tone so much that this morning, once I’d finished reading through last week’s work and making notes about what I plan to write this coming week, I tootled along to YouTube and, delight of delights, found an episode featuring that driver of London taxis and all-round sagacious wit Stephen Fry (okay, so he’s a Mac user — but we can’t all be perfect, right?)
Naturally, given my generous nature, I felt it was my duty to share this discovery with you. I simply wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night knowing that you (yes, you!) had missed out on such charms and witticisms. Feel free to thank me if you must, in whichever way seems most appropriate. But please bear in mind that I’m a delicate chap, and whilst I would encourage you to be creative in how you choose to show your gratitude, please allow me a few moments to get my breath back every once in a while.
The new incarnation of the Triffids with their fatal sting will be shown in High Definition for the first time.
John Wyndham’s science-fiction classic The Day of the Triffids is to get another reworking by the BBC in a production due to be screened next year.
And I for one am certainly looking forward to watching it.
Today I allowed myself a short between-chapters break, happy with what I’ve achieved this week. I therefore spent the morning away from the computer and… oh, okay, I didn’t spend the morning away from the computer. I sorted a few notes and then had my customary look around the web, seeing what was new and hoping to annoy a few people.
Whilst I failed miserably on the latter (I must be getting old), I did find something on YouTube definitely worth sharing.
After being ripped off for three years by YouTubers, the Monty Python team has finally, with fanfare, crapulent mutterings and slightly dazed expressions, dothered into the 21st century and set up their own YouTube channel.
And about time too!