The Fellowship Of The Wrong
Apparently this year’s BAFTA television awards are going to be doled out on Sunday evening. I suppose I should have known that the ceremony was imminent but I really didn’t give a damn. Given its current, deplorable state, I can’t figure out why this celebration of British television is once again drawn out over the evening when it shouldn’t really last more than a couple of minutes.
If ITV, rather than the BBC, held the broadcast rights for the ceremony, instead of stretching it out over the course of the evening I’d imagine they could fit it in the gap between Heartbeat and Hell’s Kitchen and still have time left over to flog the odd breakfast cereal or washing detergent. With Doctor Who still laughingly being nominated for the Best Drama award and The Friday/Sunday Night Project up for the Entertainment Programme BAFTA, given in honour of Lew Grade, who really gives a shit who the various gongs get hurled at.
Worse than these two terrifying examples is the news of who will be this year’s recipients of the Academy Fellowship. Since it’s inception in 1971, when the first of its kind was presented to Sir Alfred Hitchcock, the BAFTA Fellowship has been awarded “in recognition of outstanding achievement in the art forms of the moving image.” Which begs the question, why the fucking-fuckity-fuck is it being awarded to Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders? I mean, that would be as ludicrous as the Nobel Committee deciding to hand out the Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger... SHIT!!
While French and Saunders haven’t done anything as deplorable as instigating the bombing of Cambodia (although that could be debateable), when it comes to outstanding achievement in the art forms of the moving image, how the fuck did their names get on the list let alone right at the top? Looking back over their 22-year career in comedy, which is what the award is supposed to be recognising, the question is not when did they stop being funny but when were they ever funny? Looking back at the days of “alternative comedy” you realise it was simply an alternative to comedy.
French has always been under the misapprehension that if fat is funny, morbid obesity must then be fucking hilarious, while Saunders seems to think that disappearing into character can make up for an increasing absence of jokes. Apart, The Vicar of Dibley was simply vomit and while Absolutely Fabulous was amusing to begin with, thanks to Joanna Lumley and June Whitfield, it said all it had to say in the first couple of episodes then retrod the same ground over the next nine years, devaluing whatever currency it had. Together they took the easy option of increasingly lame movie parodies.
While I thought they had already promised to give up their double act they managed to ooze back onto television in the recent Comic Relief. Luckily I missed it, but from reliable sources it appeared that their chuckle-free take on Mamma Mia was the definition of execrable. Maybe these “comedy icons” are only getting the award on the understanding that they now fuck the fuck off and never darken our screens again.
In the meantime, news of the BAFTA honour pointed out that they were only the second comedy duo to receive the Fellowship after Morecambe and Wise had been the well-deserved recipients of the award back in 1999. Obviously this little nugget bypassed Richard Curtis who recently went on the record to describe French and Saunders as the UK's “best ever double act.” Really? Better than Morecambe and Wise? Hell, I wouldn’t even put them ahead of Cannon and Ball. Then again, why listen to the word of someone who, like a cheap supermarket’s own-brand yoghurt, only gets worse with age having repeated blotted his copybook since co-writing Blackadder.
If not French and Saunders, then who should be this year’s recipient? I suppose many, equally misguided fools would say Russell T Davies, although they might simply be putting their hands up not to vote but because they simply need to have their nappies changed. No doubt he’ll be put forward next year after he’s finished corroding Saturday evening television with his laughable rather than laudable take on Doctor Who.
Since Andrew Davies, acclaimed for his adaptations of classic novels for television, was the deserved recipient in 2002, I’d say it was time for a writer of original drama. Obviously it’s too late for Dennis Potter, even though Eric Morecambe’s award came posthumously, so my pick would be Troy Kennedy Martin or his brother Ian, or the pair of them, making a far better double act than the one presented.
Then again, in 1997 the Fellowship went to Steven Bochco. So if the television award can go outside the UK, much like the Fellowships to film professionals, then there’s only one name I can think of who deserves the recognition. If you’re expecting me to say David Simon as the obvious choice, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Instead, my pick, just for ER and The West Wing alone in a long and distinguished career, would be John Wells.