Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Family

The first 15 minutes of The Family (C4) were surely amongst the most boring introductions to a series ever shown. I wonder how many people switched off at the first commercial break.

This is supposed to be a 21st century version of Paul Watson's ground-breaking fly-on-the-wall documentary of the same name. But Paul Watson is a brilliant documentary maker - more specifically, a brilliant editor of documentaries and a documentary stands or falls by the editing.
Last night's episode had little narrative, plot or tension. It consisted almost entirely of tedious arguments between one of the teenage children and her parents.

There are some very odd elements in this documentary. The lush orchestral music that is used on some scenes is quite bizarrely inappropriate. And there's an occasional voice-over by one of the family.
At one point, the 14 year old boy told us his mother was depressed because she had reached the age of forty. But this wasn't to camera. It sounded as though he'd gone into the editing suite and read it from a script. It doesn't seem at all like an observational documentary and some of the scenes feel staged, regardless of whether they are or not. At times, it almost feels like a 'mock-doc' but without the laughs.

We're told this is a 'typical family'. What the hell is that?
The Guardian's Sam Wollaston says today that they are "quite posh". Don't know how he works that out. They're reasonably affluent but eating roast duck for dinner and sitting round a dining table doesn't make you posh. They're more like ersatz chavs with enough money to shop at Ikea rather than Argos. I don't mean that as an insult because I like chavs. Real, honest, proud-to-be-chavs, chavs, that is.

The main question this series prompts is Why?
For those who like a voyeuristic peep into other people's lives, there's Wife Swap. That's getting a bit tired now but at least it has a structure to it which provides entertaining conflict, forces you to take sides and sometimes changes people's attitudes for the better.

Both Wife Swap and The Family do have a value for the millions of us who live alone: they make us count our blessings.
You suddenly notice the total absence of conflict and shouting in your own home. I sometimes call myself a stupid prat when I've brewed the tea and forgotten to put teabags in the pot. But it's said affectionately and never provokes a bad-tempered response.
I never have to wait to use the bathroom, I'm never kept awake by someone's snoring, I can watch what TV programmes I like and I can eat what I like at a time of my own choosing. I forget what bliss it is until I watch films of families fighting like ferrets in a sack.
It's a miracle there aren't more cases of familicide.


At 1:36 PM, Blogger Vicus Scurra said...

I have a very content family life, although the family consists only of the long suffering Mrs S and me.
The existence of this contentment is due to not watching the kind of television programme that you describe.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger cello said...

Yes, we both thought that the 14 year old's comments sounded scripted. Not one of the medium's triumphs, sadly.

I have just got back from hearing and shaking hands with Prof Cox. I was far too overwhelmed to ask him anything sensible and just wanted to look at him from a corner, smiling inanely to myself. But I wanted to reassure you that he is miles more charismatic, clever, articulate, funny and handsome than on telly. And to make you viciously envious, of course.

He said some amazingly thoughtful things about the planet and religion and humanity that I can't do justice to.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

vicus: it's a touching picture of domestic contentment, undermined only by your description of Mrs S as "long suffering".
And how do you know in advance which programmes to avoid? 'The Family' might have been one of the best documentaries in history. I couldn't know until I'd watched it.

cello: damn you, woman, do you have to keep rubbing my nose in it, knowing me to be marooned in this Middle England cul-de-sac?

I think the Lancashire accent (Oldham) adds to the Prof's appeal. And he's looking remarkably good for someone who is 40.

I think he should do a stint in Coronation Street. They could run a science-based story line. Maybe Chesney could win a science prize at school and invite Prof Cox back for tea, where the Prof could explain sub-atomic physics to Kirk.

There are rumours that he might present a new version of Tomorrow's World.

Has he displaced old Bacon Rhind in your affections?!

At 3:05 PM, Blogger cello said...

Mmm, I think that honour might be going to Hugh Bonneville. You'll see that there is no consistent physical pattern, but I do think there's a voice thing going on.

As for Prof. Cox that is an excellent idea and I shall mention to someone who might just be in a position to act on it.


Post a Comment

<< Home