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Random Thoughts 9: The Killing and The Hour

There is a bit of a TV theme to this collection of ‘Random Thoughts’.

I was pleased to see that BBC4 are repeating ‘The Killing’ (available on iPlayer here) which means that Dectective Sarah Lund and her extraordinary jumpers are back on our screens. This is not the US remake that Channel 4 have been showing, but the original Danish series where the hunt for the killer of a young girl gets mixed up with political intrigue, difficult personal relationships, and chunky scandanavian knitwear. Despite it being a thoroughly enjoyable drama I’ve not decided whether I want to rewatch the series, with 20 episodes it is a bit of a time commitment, but if you didn’t see it first time around it is well worth catching now, and not just for the jumpers.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Hour which finished it’s run on BBC Two last week. Apparently it received a rocky critical reception, including complaints about historical accuracy. It certainly wasn’t perfect. I thought the plot relied a little too much on coincidence and unlikely connections between the characters. It also may have suffered from it’s description as “the British Mad Men”, which it wasn’t. Still it looked good, had interesting things to say, and brought us into a world, TV news in the 1950s, that was both new and familiar at the same time. I thought that world was evocatively realised.

Thinking about it, the plot was in some ways curiously old fashioned. Given our current preoccupations with the role and behaviour of the media it was a reminder that in some stories journalists can be brave seekers after truth confronting a secretive establishment.

As to the historical accuracy of that world – well a bit of research told me how it was inspired by real life. The late 50s are an interesting time in the history of British news broadcasting. It saw the beginning of the change from the deferential “London calling the Empire” era to a style of reporting we are much more familiar with today. This changed would be typified by the beginning of Panorama and the rise of Richard Dimbleby to the role of national icon. It seems the character of Bel is partly based on Grace Wyndham Goldie who sounds like a fascinating and formidable pioneering woman and was at the centre of those changes.

The restrictions imposed on reporting the Suez crisis depicted in the series are also solidly based on fact. The history of Panorama on the BBC website has this;

“At the time, the BBC was working under a 14-day rule which meant that nothing due for debate in Parliament in the next fortnight could be discussed on television.

Dimbleby and the team got around this by broadcasting the reaction to the crisis from around the world, omitting Britain. The programme came under attack from politicians in favour of the invasion, but a BBC investigation found in favour of Panorama and the 14-day rule was suspended for a trial period by Parliament. It was never applied again.”

The Hour also had some fantastic performances from a great cast. I did like the brief appearances of Hetty Baynes who was perfect as Bel’s blonde bombshell mother. But the stand out one was Oona Chaplin as the wronged society wife.

Talking of great TV performances I was a few days ago, for reasons I now no longer remember, searching for information on Victoria Wood’s classic series “as seen on TV” and was reminded of the fantastic Susie Blake’s role as the announcer. Sadly her famous apology to “viewers in the North” is not on YouTube but I did find this which is almost as good:

Now, for some politics.

Good news as Liberal England reports on the promotion of two of the new intake of Liberal Democrat MPs. Particularly pleased for my good friend Simon Wright who becomes PPS to Children’s Minister Sarah Teather. Simon is a former teacher so he will bring real experience of the ‘chalkface’ to the governments’ education policy.

Also very pleasing was Nick Clegg’s clear statement on his approach to the human rights last week. In his article in the Guardian he gave a strong defence of the Human Rights Act. This was a realistic and sensible defence. After all “There is no human right to fried chicken”. But it was a clear single to the more rabid parts of the Conservative party that the Liberal Democrats will work to ensure that the proper rights of the British people will remain protected. If you want to know why, despite its difficulties and uncomfortableness, I continue to support the Liberal Democrats role in the coalition government then it is for things like this.

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