Dock You Meant Aries

So there’s this thing that’s been on the television for a while, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but the kids are calling it “Reality Television“.

Anyway it’s this thing where you get real people in real life situations and follow them around or see them in fish-out-of-water scenarios like the mother from one family going to live with a different family for a couple of weeks.

It reminds me a lot of this thing they used to have on television called “documentaries“. Do you remember those? They were fantastic. We’d learn all about the world as people showed us the lives of ants or, if they were on SBS, the lives of Hitler’s ants.

Well, hold on to your seat because documentaries are back, baby, they just look a little different.

Because people have such low attention spans and trust issues, these programmes need to have famous British people:

And of course, they can pretty much only be on the ABC for them to have any credibility whatsoever.

This week we’ve got the premier of two of these documentary things*.

The first is on Sunday night on ABC1. Stephen Fry, who you might remember from Blackadder, driving through the US and telling us about local customs in a way that is different to Louis Theroux or Ruby Wax.

Then on Tuesday there’s Tony Robinson, who you might remember from Blackadder, presenting the history of Crime and Punishment.

Apparently, this is not as you would expect – a 5 minute piece saying:

Dostoyevsky had an idea for a book, sat down with pen and paper for a few months and then got a publishing deal.

No, instead it’s about laws and criminals and punitive measures.

I don’t know who else from Blackadder is making documentaries but they seem to be the most trusted people in the world.

* Be aware that this was written to go to air on 7 August so time references might have no bearing to the actual time you’re reading this, if you are reading this, and if you’re not, I’m not talking to you so turn around and face the wall.

6 Comments

  1. domromeo says:

    I read a piece similar to this in The Word recently. I agree, it's a weird that comedians are the new face of light entertainment. Then again, they were the old face. I totally buy Tony Robinson as the host of Time Team. It works. Even if his entre into doco was dubious, being 'the history guy' in religious doco because of his 'history' connection via Blackadder. The thing to remember about Tony Robinson is that he was a light entertainment guy before he broke through on Who Dares Wins, and even that was a lucky break for someone a half-generation older than that period's graduating class of the OxBridge Mafia. And he wasn't of the OxBridge Mafia.

    I love Michael Palin hosting travelogues. Partly because he took the piss out of them so well, being Brian Norris in the Brian Norris's Ford Popular sketch, was Reg Pither in Reg Pither's Cycling Holiday sketch, was Scott of the Sahara in the Scott of the Sahara sketch? and everyone took the piss out of Alan Whicker in the Whicker Island sketch. But I also think he has the right mix of intelligence and humour. And yes, I think it's important in such a role of discovery and revelation. It's akin to the 'innocent abroad' genre so prevalent in stand-up and written comedy.

    As for Stephen Fry – a polyglot and the closest thing to a renaissance man in modern media – I criticise the Fry in America series for everything other than Fry. It packs too much into too few episodes. It doesn't always reveal the kind of stuff you'd expect from someone as clever and knowledgeable as Fry. Still. What if it were hosted by some Big Brother reject? Or a talentless pop star? (A talented pop star I'd have hosting any day.)

    So. I'd agree that it'd be a shame to employ career-fallow aging comedians if they weren't good at what they do. But I actually like what these guys do – in the case of Fry, a bit more than I like the forum for doing it.

  2. Yet to watch “Fry In America”, but regarding the taxi he's driving – he actually owns his own London cab, and drives it in London, so it isn't so unnatural a construct for Mr Fry.

  3. murrayNE says:

    Reality television rates better than documentaries because it has such a moral edge:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/08/13/2

  4. ianboxcutter says:

    I agree with the Fry in America documentary. He spent several weeks or months going around all of the states in America, and got only six hours of show out of it? It would have been brief at twice as long!

    Then again, I have the book, and even there, he spents only a few pages on each state. It strikes me as a grudging way of making his trip tax-deductible.

    On another subject, May I Recommend.

    There's a new space opera that's becoming quite watchable. Keep an eye out on the interwebs for Defying Gravity.

  5. Reality television rates better than documentaries because it has such a moral edge:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/08/13/2

  6. ianboxcutter says:

    I agree with the Fry in America documentary. He spent several weeks or months going around all of the states in America, and got only six hours of show out of it? It would have been brief at twice as long!

    Then again, I have the book, and even there, he spents only a few pages on each state. It strikes me as a grudging way of making his trip tax-deductible.

    On another subject, May I Recommend.

    There's a new space opera that's becoming quite watchable. Keep an eye out on the interwebs for Defying Gravity.

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