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Saturday, July 30, 2011

I've had it with the "pudding first" school of TV documentary

Started The First World War From Above on the iPlayer. After five minutes I turned it off. It seemed to have all the things that drive me mad about today's factual programmes:

* A script machine assembled from a Scrabble set of clich├ęs: "bird's eye view", "like a lunar landscape", "today's state of the art technology", "those brave pilots", "from the intimate to the truly epic" and so on;
* More shots of the noble presenter, Fergal Keane, looking at the things which are supposed to be interesting than of the things themselves;
* Swelling music to reassure us that the programme will be emotional as well as informative;
* The insistence that the programme will "uncover one of World War One's secrets"' - a "secret" being anything that's not been in this time-slot before
* A three-minute opening section desperate to shoehorn in a taster of everything that's coming up in the next hour, up to and including "the extraordinary encounter at the end of my journey when I meet the daughter of the airship pilot of ninety years ago" and the obligatory shot of somebody crying when they see some film of their father.

There's nothing wrong with making factual programmes entertaining but techniques like these seem to be rooted in a growing belief that we won't eat our greens unless we're first assured that there will be pudding. After a while we lose our appetite.