In my head, the idea for the first episode, The National Anthem, was a cross between when Gordon Brown had to go and apologise to Gillian Duffy and I’m A Celebrity, in an odd way. That was effectively the starting point. With Gordon Brown we saw it was like “Go and say sorry, you fucker, because we caught you out.” Essentially, it was like a prank had been played and he now had to go and apologise for speaking his mind in private. An odd spectacle.
Something else that was in my head, kinda, was the year of the London Mayoral Elections and Brian Paddick was up as the Lib Dem candidate. One month he’s on Newsnight alongside Boris Johnson and Ken Livingston. He doesn’t win and then, a few months later, he’s in the jungle, standing alongside Timmy Mallet, trying to drink a pint of liquidised kangaroo penis.
Then, earlier this year, he was back on the news, commenting on the phone hacking thing. You kind of forget that happened, you sort of erase it from your memory. I remember when George Galloway got down on all fours and pretended to be a cat. I thought “This has ruined him” and it kind of didn’t. I remember listening to his radio show and he was using Top Cat as a piece of jingle music so he was sort of revelling in it. It’s impossible to really shame yourself in modern society, I guess.
Not only did I not realise that the British Communist Party was still active, but I didn’t realise that they had begun commissioning TV programs for Channel 4. There are plenty of arguments for a socialist revolution, and plenty of compelling reasons to join a left-wing political organisation. But none as compelling as 42 minutes of Channel 4 television in which the most privileged, stupid and laughable members of society ponce around in their little bubble, spending three figures on champagne and five figures on clothes.
Watching an episode of Made in Chelsea has been the final nail in the coffin of the upper class as far as I’m concerned. It’s the final piece that, for me, surely speeds the destruction of the British class system in its entirety, and the creation of a society based on the trinity of liberty, equality and fraternity. But it doesn’t seem to. People just watch it.
So that makes me genuinely curious. Avid followers of this blog will know that I spent some time in a tent with Britain’s young elite. And that I hated everything they stood for, and that it almost certainly made me more left-wing as a result.
But what I want to know is how people feel watching Made in Chelsea?
Are the viewers angry at the inequality of a society where the poorest are suffering, and the richest just laugh and buy another bottle of champagne? Is Made in Chelsea not the modern, televised equivalent of ‘Let them eat brioche!’?
It strikes me that Big Brother is at once the realisation of the nightmares of two of the greatest dystopian writers of the 20th century; Huxley [Brave New World] and Orwell [Nineteen Eighty-Four].
So the obvious side of this, I suppose, is the realisation of Orwell’s nightmare witihin in the Big Brother studio itself (I loathe to call it a house - what does it say about Western civilisation that the word reality can now be appended to the word television?). So I don’t even need to explain the element of fear that the Big Brother studio employs or the level of surveillance that the contestants are under. But in a much broader way, Big Brother is the realisation of Huxley’s fear.
What Big Brother has become is a news story; whilst Orwell feared that there would need to be a Ministry of Truth to lie to us, to cover up the past mistakes of the regime, Huxley feared there would be no need for mass censorship - he believed we would simply lose the truth in a sea of irrelevance. For almost every year since it’s conception, Big Brother has dominated newspaper headlines, blogs, news websites and sometimes even TV news. It’s utterly irrelevant, and yet so much of the population is transfixed by it - reduced to passivity as Huxley feared.
Ultimately TV shows like Big Brother distance us from our sense of reality, and ultimately vindicate Huxley - there isn’t a ministry of Truth in this country - we wouldn’t even need one; ‘Big Brother is watching’ is no longer a warning from one of the best and more foresighted writers, but the catchphrase of a popular TV show.
So, the Hour has now reached its penultimate episode, and I have to say that I’m still utterly gripped. Luckily it finishes soon, and I won’t have to forgo Ruby Tuesdays in order to get my fill of almost perfect British television. Apparently the telephones they use are from the 1960s, but I honestly couldn’t give a fuck.
It just has everything that State of Play had (which I must urge to check out), but with far better clothing. For me, the Hour is at once a stark exposition of the frustratingly conservative, pro-establishment and MI5 riddled nature of the BBC, and a testament to the quality of what the BBC can produce. It’s well scripted, well cast and ultimately, well acted - thankfully old Etonian Dominic West isn’t forcing a working class Baltimore accent.
To be honest I don’t want to judge a thriller like the Hour until the very end - all thrillers live or die on their conclusion. On what they do with the tension. From the ‘Next Time’ thing at the end (which really annoys me - does such good TV really need a spoiler?) it looks like the Hour might just pull off the nigh impossible task of holding it all together until the very end.