Saturday 16 December 2017

Television review - Silly season 2016: sillier than all of the rest put together

* Brexit (all channels)
* Red Rock (BBC1)

A scene from TV3 crime drama 'Red Rock'
A scene from TV3 crime drama 'Red Rock'
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Nobody has mentioned the silly season yet. It is one of the great errors of journalism that 'the silly season' is the term used to describe what happens when the politicians leave town for a while, implying that, for the rest of the time, we're looking at these serious people doing serious things on our behalf.

The long-running Brexit show should finally kill that one, though I realise I'm being optimistic there. And it has been a show, a television show essentially, in which almost all of the members of the political class of Britain have done just about everything to demonstrate the astonishing levels of silliness within them, all the while hinting at even more amazing levels of silliness yet to come.

Yes this is what happens when they stick around during 'the silly season' - they make the more traditionally silly stories look like readings from the Book of Deuteronomy. So much so that when Theresa May eventually emerged from the wreckage, it was stated by political correspondents that her main attribute was that she was 'a grown-up'.

Or at least she gave the appearance of being one, a perception which no doubt will soon be regarded as silly, perhaps even sillier than anything else we used to think, before these people went on the rampage.

I blame the media - really, I do.

I blame television in particular for facilitating this freak-show for too long, for what are Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage but TV personalities, who, appropriately enough, just walked away when it seemed that the show was over?

I had argued long into the journalistic night that it was wrong to be putting these deeply damaged people in front of us all the time, diminishing the quality of our culture. I suppose I didn't realise just how wrong it was, the destruction that these characters can cause when they are given a constant supply of the attention that they crave, when television starts to need them as much as they need television.

Last week in this column I wrote of the addiction of politics, how so many of its practitioners are clearly inhabiting a shrunken universe not unlike that of the person who can't get out of bed without a shot of whatever happens to be their poison.

Who now could doubt that analysis? Moreover, on the morning after our general election, as our political class tried to cope with their devastation at the fact that the game seemed to be over for them for a while, I warned that they would be seething with envy over their British counterparts who had the whole Brexit campaign still ahead of them.

They responded simply by pretending that it wasn't over, going straight out again for another 50 days of government-formation, which last week, maddened perhaps by the excitement around Westminster, they sought to unravel - I've only been able to see the vague outlines of it through the haze of Brexit, but it seemed as though they were calling on Enda Kenny to go, or something, and some of them were sure he would go, but then they were equally sure that he wouldn't go, that he would stay.

They too have been watching their Sky breaking news and their Channel 4 News and their Newsnight, craving a piece of the action for themselves, finally getting it for reasons which probably seemed quite important last Tuesday, but which will barely be remembered by the time you read this, because by now they will be off on some other skite.

But something did happen in the world last week that involved serious human beings - Red Rock started to be shown on the BBC in the afternoons, a highly significant moment in our history, involving as it does a reversal of the ancient pattern whereby Britain provided us with much of our living culture.

When Red Rock started on TV3, I suggested here that it felt 'English' in its confidence, its energy, and in this particular field there is no higher compliment - they've been doing that stuff for so long, and doing it so right, you could say that the Englishness of any such production is the mark of distinction.

Of course there was an England then, before the silly season.

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