The Idiot’s Lantern . . .

By | February 19

Michael WoodWe are coming to the end of a wonderful weekly series of programmes about China in which the narrator is Michael Wood. His knowledge of China and its history is encyclopaedic, his presentational manner is that of a man fascinated by what he is talking about, but not at all over the top. True, he gets a bit excited sometimes, but usually it is because there truly is something to get excited about. Many contributors have been rounded up – and most of them are themselves, Chinese. Some speak English very well, some need to be subtitled but all of them have been knowledgeable and lucid.

Hairy BikersIn this BBC China season, or what ever they are pleased to call it, there has also been a series, running on consecutive nights, about the Chinese New Year. There was evidently plenty of material available, but the BBC chose to have multiple “presenters” none of whom (apart from one occasionally appearing Chinese looking lady) knew anything about China whatsoever, but that did not stop them shouting and gesturing. One gained the impression that they had been put on an aeroplane and stepped off when it stopped. They postured, and shoved their faces at the camera, they didn’t get occasionally excited but lived in a permanent state of hysteria, and frequently occupied most of the frame while China and the Chinese got on with it in the background round the edges. I felt sorry for the locals who obligingly and politely made room for these embarrassing people in their families or lives. A good example of how not to make a programme, but one to which the BBC is addicted. Hopefully the Chinese will not think that we are all like this.

Simon ReeveAway from China we have also had Simon Reeve in a two parter on Greece. This also tended towards being a Simon-Reeve-fest at times, but mostly his appearances and interjections were reasonable and to the point. And I do not remember his ever getting overly excited. Disturbed, worried, nearly assaulted, yes, but mainly pretty phlegmatic in the face of some extraordinary scenes. Not the Greece seen by the holiday makers (who are badly needed as a source of income as many of the Greeks themselves said) but a “behind the scenes” Greece struggling with a busted economy (much of the bust being their own fault it seems) and still very rural in some places.