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Home > Media

Eastendorama: haz dumming down gon too far?

1 October 2004

This week a leaked briefing document from the BBC revealed a plan to dumb down the corporation's most famous documentary, Panorama. The programme is described as being 'too distant, demanding, difficult and didactic', a set of criticisms that seem to have been chosen because they alliterate, rather than because they describe the show with any accuracy.

Is Panorama really didactic? Surely any journalistic (as opposed to fly-on-the-wall) documentary makes a judgement about its subject matter at some level? Or should Jeremy Paxman be concluding: 'So is the economy overheating? Oh who cares, so long as you're able to buy a darling little pair of distressed denim hipsters from Jigsaw for just 11.95?'

Anyway, the briefing document suggests making Panorama 'warmer' and 'more accessible and enjoyable'. One way of doing this would be to use storylines from Eastenders as a peg on which to hang news analysis. Someone at the BBC obviously holds the general public in utter contempt. Can we only relate to issues if they're featured on Eastenders? And what would they be anyway? 'This week Panorama examines the growing problem of setting up a cab firm with your shit-for-brains family.'

Revamping Panorama also shows a certain inability to cope with basic facts of TV life. Populist entertainment telly will always have higher ratings than Panorama, in the same way that The Sun will always outsell The Guardian. Does that mean Panorama should be scrapped in favour of docu-soaps like Ibiza Dog People Piss Themselves 12, or the Guardian should fill 60 per cent of its pages with pictures of publicity-hungry 'celebs' flashing their tits/arses/vaginas at the paparazzi?

The point is that the sort of moron who spends hours posting illiterate messages on the Eastenders website, apparently believing the characters are real (these people exist, believe us), is not a natural Panorama viewer. If the BBC wants to make a populist documentary series that deals with Eastenders-type issues for John and Jane Whose-Turn-For-The-Brain-Cell, then make that programme. Call it 'Eastenders Matters'. Don't drag a solid documentary programme down to moron level.

The good news is that the BBC's dumbing down plans were apparently greeted with howls of derision, with the editor of Panorama confronting the BBC's head of current affairs and demanding the plans be scrapped. So maybe we won't be seeing Jeremy Paxman discussing incontinence with Dot Cotton. With computer graphics that enable the viewer to travel... No! Stop that thought!

The bad news is that the BBC seems to be obsessed with weird marketing-led ideas rather than just making decent TV. Take this absolute drivel from the leaked document:

'[Panorama] should move from a remote, pedestal position of 'lecturer' to a 'touch it, reach it, feel it' guide. It should enable people to feel and experience the truth, not simply observe or 'learn' it.'

This is exactly the sort of crap normally spouted by the more pretentious end of the marketing/PR industry: 'More than a product, Colgate is a way of life for the street-smart, lifestyle-conscious 16-35 consumer who knows their 'bling bling' from their I-Ching - and is prepared to use their spending power to actualise the personal reality they desire...' etc.

So it looks as though we can definitely expect more dumbed-down shite from the BBC, who, lest we forget, brought us such erudite debates as 'What's the best book ever? Noddy in Toyland, or Dune?'

Well, if this is the way the wind is blowing, TFT has a few suggestions:


- Dawkins' Creek. Richard Dawkins debates evolution vs. creationism with the cast of Dawson's Creek. This week: Why is nature, like, so totally awesome?

- New Age Horizon. The acclaimed science show is revamped with an 'alternative' slant. This week: How to beat cellulite using homeopathy, Wicca and the Bible Code.

- Yo! What Question Time Is It? David Dimbleby debates the week's news with a panel composed of entirely of UK rap/garage artists, including MC Tunes, Lisa Maffia, Dizzee Rascal and the Rebel MC. This week the panel discusses why there isn't no youth clubs or shit for young people, right, and so they is more likely to do crime, innit?



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