Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Time and motion

I was talking to Tom Whitwell yesterday. Tom runs the community sites for The Times now but he used to be in magazines. He reckons he couldn't do magazines anymore because they're not instant enough. Certainly you're struck by the fact that in magazines you spend much of your time processing material that you're not actually going to use. They don't call it editing for nothing. However the other day I was reminded that when it comes to time spent unproductively, nothing can compare with television. Particularly prime time television.

I took part in an item about LP covers for BBC's "The One Show" which involved me turning up at Sister Ray in Soho to deliver the so-called expert's view of the development of album art from the 50s to the present day. My old pal Clare Grogan, to whom I am legally married in Memphis, Tennessee but that's another story, was fronting the item. The people doing the job were very professional but what with cutaways, noddies, different angles, close-ups of hands flicking through the racks and the rest of the palaver that inevitably accompanies even the simplest filming, there was no time to talk about the fifties, the eighties or the nineties. And that wasn't because I was talking too much. I avoided that because the director told me that the finished item was expected to run just two and half minutes. Because I was keen to avoid that conversationus interruptus that afflicts most TV nowadays, in which nobody is allowed to actually finish a sentence, I kept it snappy, believe me.

Nowadays there seems something rather old fashioned about an activity which takes days of people's time and is then gone in 150 seconds - never to return.


  1. I saw the show last night actually and was getting into the piece about the album covers and whoosh! it was over. Saying that at the start of the show last night they introduced their guest, Robert Plant, played a bit of his latest video (with Alison Krauss) and went straight to an item about ballroom dancing injuries. Planty must have thought that he was imagining it!

  2. Anonymous3:23 pm

    Sorry David. Never heard a word you said, I was just paying attention to Clare Grogan.

  3. I was in Manchester in December when Simon Armitage and Mike Joyce were filmed in conversation with Paul Morley for Pop, What is It Good For. It was great listening in - all parties contributing heartily, eloquently, knowledgably, humourously. Mike Joyce was fantastic, both on camera and off - generous and genial and informative. Yet when it came to the broadcast, all Joyce got was a quick one-liner seen over his shoulder. The poor guy had been there for three hours at least. The didn't even pick his best joke!
    Isn't there a case in these days of iPlayers and their like that a longer, more satisfying version of the programme should be made available online? Keep the version broadcast on TV nice and tight, by all means, but online why not let us luxuriate in all that was said.

  4. It just proves what I've always thought - that the people who make TV aren't paying the slightest attention to what anybody says. They see the item purely as a succession of images in a window in time.