Thursday, 5 May 2011

A weekly shot of sense

I have a PVR which enables me to record TV programmes for watching at convenient times (for example, when I am not dozing, or eating, or training for the pole-vault in 2012). Most of the time there are a couple of dozen items waiting to be watched and inevitably when starting to work through them I find that in many cases I had been unjustifiably optimistic in thinking they might be interesting. So I have watched only the first five minutes of many programmes which looked promising but turned out to be rotten; this often happens with old films which I remembered with affection but which, when viewed with a more mature (or blasé) eye, are unutterably tedious.

I said rotten, not rubbish: one of the pleasures of advanced age is being able to watch rubbish without feeling guilty; I do a lot of that. I will not, therefore, list the items of which I am currently watching a series, but there are some which I can recommend without incurring contempt.

One is Dateline London, a round table discussion between media correspondents based in London, some British but mostly foreign (12.30 on Saturdays, BBC News 24). They talk about any issues of the day in a relaxed and non-adversarial way, often disagreeing but often reaching a consensus. None of them ever expresses any opinion which makes me want to punch him, or her, in the mouth. Hard-ass journalists they may be, but they argue as if they actually like and respect each other, a refreshing thing; Gavin Essler chairs admirably

And, of course, most of them know something of which they speak, having studied and reported on it. After I watch this programme I am often still confused about the matters which have been discussed, but confused in a much better-informed way, if you see what I mean.

Their discussion on April 30th was typically rewarding. They talked with appropriate gravitas about the situation in Syria, the West's attitude to dictators, and the alternative voting system, but before that with an equally appropriate lightheartedness about the previous day's royal wedding.  

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of the Independent had spent the day in a deserted Epping Forest and then at a (very small) republican party, Brian O'Connell of the Irish RTE said that they had given it three hours on TV, up to the balcony kisses, Dr Vincent Magombe of Africa Inform International said that he doubted whether anybody in Uganda had watched it because the situation there is so dire, and the splendidly named Stryker McGuire of Newsweek said that most of his compatriots had thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent spectacle, knowing that they didn't have to pay for it.

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