Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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.


At 1:24 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

The problem with award shows is that they're just blatant marketing exercises.

It was probably ever thus, but even the illusion is gone now.

French and Saunder? Hey, why not. Granted, they've never made anyone laugh, but at least they're inoffensive.

As for all those other legendary double acts such as Richard and Judy, Ant and Dec, Phillip Schofield and Gordon the Gopher, may as well give them all a trophy too.

Fuck it, why not go the whole hog and hand them out free with the Daily Mail, then we could all have one?

I suppose I should have known that the ceremony was imminent but I really didn’t give a damn.That would be you, and any other right-thinking adult.

At 3:24 pm, Blogger Stephen Gallagher said...

I get to vote in the BAFTAS but don't blame me for this year's choices, because I had to abstain in most categories. Most of the nominations were for stuff I'd avoided watching.

At 6:27 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

There was a time that I was really excited by an awards ceremony like The Oscars, but then that was back in a time when great movies were being made. Now it’s all about driving a hard campaign for any old piece of crap, so it’s just utterly devalued, which is a shame. But....

There is one thing the Academy Awards still does well, and that’s not always having exactly five nominations for every category. They get the best there is and leave it at that, rather than go looking for table scraps to make up numbers. The Emmys do it as well in certain categories.

Frankly, I can’t be arsed to go back and look at the BAFTA film nominations, but the TV section has exactly four nominations apiece and a good number are there to make up the numbers. Even less than table scraps, they’re the equivalent of Armando Iannucci’s “room meat”.

In cases like that then yeah, fuck it, hand them out like Happy Meal toys.

In the case of the Fellowship, remembering that it’s supposed to be bestowed “in recognition of outstanding achievement in the art forms of the moving image”, that means someone who made a very real difference and transformed television and filmmaking, taking it a step further. There are instances, certainly in the case of French and Saunders, that I get the feeling it’s simply become the equivalent of the retirement watch.

I mentioned Troy Kennedy Martin because of the difference Diary of a Young Man made to television drama in the mid-1960s or the energy Z-Cars brought to police drama (much as his brother’s The Sweeney overhauled the genre nearly a decade later), and that’s even before the arrival of Edge of Darkness.

What the cock have those idiot women contributed exactly?


I applaud you for your integrity, sir.

At 10:22 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

Spot on, GB! A blistering blast in your best ranting style -- with a dose more in the mouthy comeback section! Splendid!

I can't bring my self to read about - let alone watch - these farragoes any more. But I did check-out the news report of this year's bash to see if June Brown managed to get her gong (which, of course, she didn't) and read Richard Curtis' citation for F&S which - if memory serves me - was actually for the “best ever BRITISH FEMALE double act.” It makes little difference, of course, because how many British female double acts can you name? I mean apart from Violet (Ena Sharples) Carson and Pat (Elsie Tanner) Phoenix?

I notice that David Jason and Bruce Forsyth have both been recent recipients (and with due respect to them both) it does seem that the award is now - on a fairly regular basis - being dished out to Survivors.

Maybe BAFTA should go back and look at the first decade of recipients to get a measure of what was intended when the award was instituted:

1971 Alfred Hitchcock
1972 Freddie Young OBE
1973 Grace Wyndham Goldie
1974 David Lean
1975 Jacques Cousteau
1976 Sir Charles Chaplin
1976 Lord Olivier
1977 Sir Denis Forman
1978 Fred Zinnemann
1979 Lord Grade
1979 Sir Huw Wheldon

At 7:50 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


After reading a few bits and pieces in the newspapers, I pulled it up on iPlayer to listen to the deathly silence that followed Graham Norton’s opening “jokes” then zipped through to see the acceptance speeches for the Wallander team only because I was trying to figure out why Branagh had his hand on a gong in a lot of their website. Of course I’d forgot that he’d been an executive producer. It seemed strange that he hadn’t been up for Best Actor because he did a great job of someone really coming apart and sinking into depression.

Then I ended up watching Michael McIntyre die a death on stage with his dreadfully misjudged material. There’s something about McIntyre that makes my skin crawl. It may be the not so casual racism in some of his jokes. Whenever he’s on a panel show, laughing at his own brilliance, it’s interesting to see the other panellists try to either distance themselves or shut him out.

Ah, they made it best ever BRITISH FEMALE double act. Yeah, that is a small, almost non-existent field. Sorry to say, I never saw Violet Carson and Pat Phoenix. But because you reminded us that she went “snap”, I’d prefer to watch Barbara Good and Margo Leadbetter playing off one another. Or, if they’re discounted, Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough. Or even Hinge and Bracket.

At 12:43 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

Yes! Good and Leadbetter every time!

WV: Another Bnak Holiday special - RESTRI


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