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Thursday, March 26, 2009

All TV is kids TV

TV is obsessed with the time constraint. When there isn't one they make one up. When Anekka Rice used to build village halls it was always against some spurious clock. We grew to expect that. Though why in last night's Baroque! From St Peter's To St Paul's Waldemar Januszczak had to pretend that he was going to see how many Wren churches he could get round in fifteen minutes I'm not quite clear. They managed about five before he came puffing back into shot. Now none of the TV crews I've worked with could shoot that many locations in that time so they must have been a particularly swift team. I do hope they weren't indulging in exaggeration. I would have been just as happy if he'd stood there and said "there are twenty Wren churches within a mile of where I've standing". I think I could take that thought on board.

7 comments:

  1. good programme though I thought! he did the same trick in a show about talouse lautrec which did make the point about how constrained to a small area his life was. The strange thing I found about the programme was they obviously used alot of stock footage of pictures they couldn't afford to film, unfortunatley each shot seemed to have to contain attractive young woman looking thoughtful. After a while over the 3 shows it got quite funny and we were cheering each time one appeared.
    The most annoying time contraint must timeteam why 3 days to dig up a 1000 year old house.

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  2. I saw that and thought it was quite strange too. Particularly as it didn't even show him at each church. It just showed the churches and then him puffing back into shot.

    It would only really have made any sense if they'd done it in real time.

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  3. This seems to have become a theme in his work. The first time I noticed it was in his documentary on Van Gogh. Januszczak pointed out that when the painter lived in Brixton and was employed by his uncle’s art dealership in Bond Street, he walked to work every day in forty five minutes (or so). Januszczak then walked the route himself to show the pace that Van Gogh must have managed, which was almost a run. At least there was some point in this instance, as it illustrated the obsessive side of Van Gogh’s character.

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  4. It's competitive telly for competitive people, using the old sales trick of mimicking the potential buyer. Everyone is either running around or telling white lies about how they always are. There are two ways to be in the modern world: busy in the extreme, or idle. People who have time to watch telly might not be that busy, of course, but they'd like to think they are. Anyone who ever saw Kenneth Clark's Civilisation would find such artifice simply stupid.

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  5. I bet they considered worse titles before they settled on "Baroque!" - "Monsters Of Baroque", "For Those About To Baroque (We Salute You)", etc, etc.

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  6. Oh yes. "Fill Your Head With Baroque" for starters.

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  7. It sounds like they were just using the two limits you have to work with in drama - you either run out of time, or run out of possibilities. Using a ticking clock is much easier to construct, and you can lay it on your narrative very easily, whether it needs it or not. Running out of possibilities is equally dramatic, but much harder to weld onto a narrative. You have to go much deeper to make it work. And most people can't be arsed.

    If you think about it, it's meaningless to illustrate how you long it takes to run from one church to another - there is no real life scenario where that would happen. The point about there being so many churches is, what? Wren took commissions away from other architects because he had it all sown up? Building a church was a tax break? People were too afraid to try a new church? I've no idea, but there is something far more interesting going on that these programme makers didn't seem interesting in investigating.

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