This is going to sound like an old person complaining about how new stuff is rubbish and old stuff was better, but I hope to make it sound more rational and reasoned than all that. First, I’ll talk about my interaction with the old thing before talking about the new thing, because that’s what I do on my blog.
I grew up watching Barry Norman (no relation) – as I chatted about before – and it defined the idea of a film review programme to me: an expert in the area, passionate about the field, sharing views on films, with occasional informative chats with film-makers. I never got the same vibe from Jonathan Ross because he was a slave to multiple masters (he had his chat show, so he had to be nice to everyone), so it was more about him than the films. I know it’s old-fashioned – intelligent discourse on the subject of interest from people who know what they’re doing – but it’s what I want from a television programme, especially on BBC1.
I understand that things have to change, and I’m impressed that the BBC decided to do something new with the Film programme. I was surprised at the choice of Claudia Winkleman, but she’s an experienced presenter so it makes sense of sorts. It was also sensible to have co-presenter in the form of film journalist Danny Leigh, someone to bounce against instead of the old format. I also don’t mind a team of contributors with a different viewpoint, to add some dimension to proceedings. I just didn’t expect what we got on Wednesday night.
My girlfriend described it best when she said that it was ‘a visual blog’ – it was like watching the internet done as a mainstream television programme, and not in a good way. (Zoe Margolis had the other best description: ‘They’ve BBC3-ed it‘.) First things first – there is no need for it to be live: the stupid need for ‘interactivity’ is a ridiculous modern development, reading out people’s texts/emails (I don’t care what stupid people think about things, thanks very much), and it cheapens the programme. I was cringing with the most exquisite embarrassment when Chris Hewitt was interviewing Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield at the London Film Festival; it was awful and there was no need for it.
An aside: I like Chris Hewitt. I had a week’s work experience at Empire magazine in 2003, which was a fantastic time, and Hewitt was there; I remember him doing word-perfect renditions of Father Ted one day and that meant he was good in my books. His support of geeky films in Empire has been good, and his Videoblogisode Man web videos from San Diego Comic-Con have been fantastic. I was really happy when I heard he would be contributing; I thought he did a good job, although I didn’t think that he needed to be painted as the total geek with the Darth Vader trainers – was it necessary? Anyway, well done on not swearing live on television, Chris (I loved the line from today’s Empire newsletter: ‘We now know, however, that icing “Don’t say fuck” on a cake is an effective means of ensuring that Chris Hewitt doesn’t swear on live TV’).
Winkleman looked nervous doing the show (as she tweeted before: So I’m not nervous at all then. *vomits into bucket*); I don’t know if this was because she couldn’t read the autocue because of too much eye make-up (another thing she tweeted about: I have so much eyeliner on I can’t open my eyes. SHITTING IT.). She talked a little too fast, which might be her usual style, and ‘loved’ too many things to compensate for her nervousness, and had a strange habit of not including certain people’s first names when describing them (‘the Ishiguro novel’). She didn’t seem at all comfortable, and she and Leigh didn’t really connect. Leigh was fine, sounding like his columns I’ve read at The Guardian, although he does wave his hands around too much, and the two of them didn’t seem to listen to each other when they were making a point about a film, just trying to get out what they had to say.
The real low point was the Top Five section. Not only was this the epitome of the ‘visual blog’ – Top Fives, or Top Tens, are the staple of the blog world and it is where it should stay because it is cheap and silly – but it was amateur and pointless and stupid. The best thing about it was the fact that it was in voice-over, so you didn’t have to see the face of Charlie Lyne – the ‘blogger’ contributor who doesn’t deserve to be on telly (and that’s not jealousy; he looks like a school kid on Newsround who’s been given a few minutes on screen for no reason). I couldn’t believe that I was watching a programme that was on BBC1 in the late evening when I saw his face appear on screen, nor believe the sound of his voice. It was mind-boggling.
I love film and I love good programmes about film; this wasn’t one. I wanted to enjoy the new Film 2010, but I didn’t. I know that I’m probably not the target audience for the show any more, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyable for everyone. I hope that it was first night wobbles and that it needs time to settle in, but I’m not sure. I felt myself realising how old I was as I watched the show, but that doesn’t make my reaction any less valid.