Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A nostalgic plunge

Elizabeth Sladen's untimely death has prompted BBC 4 to repeat the last Dr Who series in which she appeared as the Doctor's assistant, Sarah Jane. This was broadcast in 1976 when the Doctor was played by the delightfully eccentric actor, Tom Baker. 

It was a compulsive journey back into nostalgia. I was reminded of all those early Saturday evenings when it was a need to watch the latest episode. Each story was delivered in four separate parts of half an hour each, each episode ended on a point of suspense except the last. Both the sets and the special effects offered in imagination and enthusiasm what they lacked in sophistication. It was a weft around which one's childhood was woven.

Only the ubiquitous Blue Peter has a deeper hold on an English child's collective experience (if you are under 60)!

It was at a time when there was only three channels of television - and there was no possibility of recording (video taping had only just appeared, was exotic and too expensive for my family)!

I was struck by the production quality and the pace, so much slower than now, and was reminded of absorbing so much television as a child and yet because there were only three channels absorbing such quality (by default as much as by choice)!

We have contested conversations about 'dumbing down' but for me the arguments are unanswerable. When I was in my late teens, the BBC ran a series of Luis Bunuel films - ten in all - one each Friday evening on BBC 2 from 9pm. A film, in a foreign language, on one of three channels: an introduction to an extraordinary artist that I watched with often uncomprehending fascination - culture by default or accident.

Now, sadly, you would be hard pressed to find a foreign language film except on BBC4 - avoidable and now offered within the framework of 'choice' rather than from within a mission to educate.

A sad depletion.


2 comments:

  1. I don't really agree that the broadcasters lack a mission to educate, because I find it difficult to accept that was ever really a prioroty for them. Rather, there was an early generation of television execs who had their own strong explorative curiosity and an instinct to share it with others - perhaps that is less strong now - and there is far more commercial pressure on the television companies now.

    Ratings keep jobs safe, and advertising incomes and grants strong, and Bunuel films are unlikely to achieve ratings.

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  2. I will have to disagree. If you read the commentary of film makers from 40s and 50s: the mission to educate was a strong strand throughout that gave them the permission to explore as readily as they did.

    We collectively have decided to abandon that for the world of 'choice' and 'commercial drive' that makes ratings THE primary goal and so films in foreign languages (amongst much else) are pushed aside, sadly.

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