Thursday, October 05, 2006

“I make it better”

Herculean tasks yesterday meant I didn’t trot out similar thoughts as Alex on the not-very-amazing Mrs Pritchard.

I like the idea of an unlikely political candidate getting past the hurdles by just being a bit nice, and am keen on utopia generally. But, as Alex says, Mrs Pritchard is not actually very nice. She’s dismissive of people around her – her husband in particular – and lacks anything new to say.

There was no attempt to engage with the sorts of concerns we have politicians for – economics, communities, health, education, the environment… She can merely repeat, again and again, that’s she better than her sorry rivals. Which is hardly better than the silly bickering staged between the other candidates.

It’s consumer politics, more about the packaging than any real difference. Note that her qualifications for being Prime Minister are how officiously she ran her supermarket, abusing the public address system to ensure that her staff all look tidy.

I can see that there’s space for the series to develop and that she’s set up for dramatic falls (her husband walking out, her daughter being naughty with someone else’s chap, etc.). One commentator on Alex’s post says Meera Syal is in it next week, and I assume she’ll be more than a token.

But that’s not enough, and the series feels terribly naïve. Alex says its gender politics are 30 years out of date, while its comedy-villain Tories are from at least a decade ago. (See also the movie version of V For Vendetta).

That said, I note Dave Balloon’s speech yesterday was modelled on riffs and slogans T. Blair came up with 10 years ago – how biting his riposte to education³ were it made in ’96.

Like the all-fur-coat Mrs Pritchard, Dave’s not big on how he’ll do anything. We don’t yet have any idea how he will sort out the NHS, but I’m guessing he won’t abolish spoils to the private sector.

It’s also interesting that his support for civil partnerships – which earned some sour looks from his crowd – is based on marriage being “something special”. That’s the argument that in 2004 I heard Tory Lords use for why civil partnerships were an abhorrence.

In all, this speech to party faithful was hailed as something new and funky and exciting (which is not, you know, very “conservative”) and not even they seemed convinced. The same old reactionary bollocks with some late-20th-century spin. In fact, “Plus ça change…” could be the motto of Dave’s “new” party.

To get back to the telly, my real dissatisfaction with Mrs Pritchard is that despite all her promises, she’s just as amorphous as the “real” politicians she finds so dispiriting herself. Defenders of the programme say it’s meant to be an “ideal” and just a bit of fun. But that’s a feeble excuse.

It really could be amazing if it dared brave the issues it raises – a popular tea-time utopia with gags that might make you think. At the moment, it’s got all the sophistication and girl-empowerment of ads which sell household cleaner and gravy on the basis of how Dad’s A Bit Rubbish.

As things are, Mrs P is only “amazing” because a few people who ought to know better tell us so. I found the fawning cameos from the BBC’s news teams really embarrassing. Where were the awkward questions about her actual policies, or her business relationship with her chief sponsor, or how her support seems entirely from white, middle-England women of a little-above middle-age? Would Paxman have been so deferent?

As it happens, we saw Robert McCrum interviewing Paxman last night about his new book, On Royalty. A staunch Republican, Paxman admitted that in researching and testing his assumptions for the book, he came to believe something new. All sorts of things to think about:

How would abolishing the monarchy make things any better? Isn’t it good to have a rank to which the ambitious can never reach? A written constitution might be a Good Thing, but who is it as gets to write it? Why is the Queen a bit scary?

Paxman was teased for being “co-opted”, but I felt there was something more profound going on to do with asking awkward questions (on which more posts to follow). Am keen to read the book as soon as the Dr can stop licking it.

It was funny how different the audience were to the recent Gaiman gig. Gaiman’s audience was geekier, freakier and more devoted to his works, while last night’s groupies seemed more respectably ordinary. Paxman is also a lot more intimidating. And yet those asking questions were much more informal and chatty with Paxman, as if they were all old mates. Guess this is ‘cos he’s on telly – and so frequently a guest in their living rooms.

Incidentally, the bloke I bought the book from recognised my name and asked if I’d written for Telos. Fraid not, they didn’t like what I sent them.

The Dr is of course appalled at my appeal to young, handsome and geeky fellas, but she gets recognised all the time for her history and educative things. Being the subject of enthusiasm can be a bit odd, and in her case it’s not just geeky blokes who approach her.

“It’s weird when they’re fanny,” she said. It took a moment to get what she meant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At least you weren't watching 'The Outsiders' (I'd forgotten about 'Mrs Pritchard').

That truly was something I think I might have been ashamed to put my name to. Is that saying a lot? Probably (as I am a hungry proto-fictionist).

But I am doing the 'Men are from Mars' bit and saying 'that's interesting. Here's a story about me' rather than the Venus thing of saying 'gosh, that must have been interesting watching Mrs Pritchard. I wish I had'. So, um...

That must have been interesting watching Mrs Pritchard. I wish I had.