Friday, 27 November 2009
About this time on a Friday I catch Andrew Marr's 'The Making of Modern Britain' on TV. The archive footage is good and there is a broad narrative that seems reasonable most of the time, albeit deeply bent by retrospective wisdom.
Retrospective wisdom is annoying because it reads the future into the past when it wasn't there. Chamberlain was, it seems, a dolt for believing Hitler and everyone who cheered him was a minor insignificant dolt for believing there'd be no war. Dolts, the lot of them. We know there was a war so we know exactly what dolts they were. That's TV history. The next moment the British are shown preparing for war. No particular reason given, just a change of tone. No explanation. That's also TV history.
Mustn't bore them, you know. Not for a second.
What the combination of retrospective wisdom, the desperate desire to not bore us, and the fatal love affair with celebrity results in is less the Making of Modern Britain than the Making of Faces. Marr's face.
Marr's programme consists of Marr gurning in between clips of film. He gurns as himself and he gurns in costume. He gurns in funny voices, meaning he puts on silly voices for those who were wrong. And he does it all the time, every five minutes or less. Nothing is possible without a gurn and a silly voice. In today's programme alone we had Marr gurning as a Greenshirt, as a Butlin's camper, as a thirties bather and a great many other things. Silly voices all round even when not in costume. He has ridden a merry-go-round and he has gone round in dodgems. He is a ham actor. He hams it up leaving no minute unhammed. I fully expect to see him hamming it up in a concentration camp, doing funny Jew or funny German,
No, I don't fully expect that. But it's just round the corner, Andrew, if you want a go at it.
Genteel readers please close your eyes now. The fact is, every time he goes into a gurn or a silly voice I just wish he would fuck off.
Marr is not the star of history. He is not even an original interpreter of it. He is an intelligent man who knows perfectly well he is being a prat. I doubt it is even his fault. There is some producer prodding and daring him: Go on Andrew! G'wan! Terrific!
Much the best thing was the footage of the battle of Cable Street. At least he didn't pretend to be Mosley or an East Ender. How tempting that must have been.
I have practically stopped watching television. It fills me with despair even to think of it most of the time.