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October 24, 2012

Have you noticed how documentaries are dumbing down, while dramas are revving up? I came home last night to find TL watching a BBC4 documentary about the birth of the computer. After watching for a while, I realised that the presenter was making the same points again and again – why? If your audience has got to this point in the show, and is watching BBC4 anyway, then they are going to be keeping up. They don’t need to be told the simplest fact several times in quick succession. Admittedly, TL was half asleep – but anyone would be, with this chap droning on about his hole-punched cards.

Of course, BBC4 is hardly the worst offender. Everyone seems to do it, from Don’t Tell the Bride upwards. Child Two and I love DTTB. For me, having recently been the B, watching someone else break down in tears is strangely theraputic. And Child Two just likes the weddings. With DTTB, there are frequent, interminable ad breaks, and programme makers seem to assume we have had our memories wiped during each one. So we have a ‘previously on DTTB’ – but it’s not the last programme, it’s the last segment, which we watched two minutes ago. There is barely time for a new segment before we are recapping the old one again.

The net result is that every documentary gives a strong feeling of deja vu – and I find them increasingly unwatchable. And so we turn to drama.

Drama seems to be the direct opposite of documentaries at the moment. The ‘previously on blah-blah’ recaps things I’m sure I’ve never seen, and which seem to add nothing to the show. Then the action starts, and strands of plot start to wrap around each other like convolvulus round a lamp post. Sometimes you need a flip chart and a who’s who to keep track.

Homeland is a case in point. I love Homeland and, for me, it’s the best thing on telly at the moment. But TL only tolerates it, and sometimes has no idea what’s going on. When Carrie almost went out in her pulling sequinned vest on Sunday, slipping on a wedding ring first, TL was confused. There was no explanation on screen – you had to have watched the first series to know that Carrie wears the ring in order to make sure she scares off nice men who might want a relationship, and attracts only those who are as mixed up as she is. Then, of course, she caught her own eye in the mirror, and self-disgust and despair almost led to her suicide. Again nothing was explained. I must say I love it, when TL turns to me as though I am a savant, and asks me what on earth is going on. There’s nothing like feeling a clever-clogs once in a while to cheer a girl up.

All in all, I definitely prefer drama at the moment. Come on, documentary makers. We’re people, not goldfish.

Haven't we met somewhere before?

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