The BBC has come under fire for its coverage of the Jubilee river pageant with accusations that it was "lamentable" and "lacked gravitas".
Gravitas? Did the occasion call for it? It is certainly annoying that broadcasters these days need to lead the audience by the nose through any event going; the Jubilee concert this weekend was a case in point with a series of excruciating comedic interludes and the legend that is Rolf Harris doing an impromptu version of Two little boys. Clearly they had lots to do on stage between acts and required something to fill the time but a few old films of the Queen visiting Malaysia would have been less painful. The less said about the actual concert the better if you ask me.
But the pageant seemed just as deserving of the BBC 'celebrity' fest that it became. I have said it before but the nation these days appears incapable of enjoying (or enduring) anything that isn't presented by ex-Blue Peter hosts, tits and tan regional accents and the latest 'hot' presenter. It is no good whining about it just because the Monarch was involved. These events (Royal Wedding included) are designed for the feel good factor; when everything is collapsing around us we Brits can always find solace in celebrating something to do with The Royal Family. They are not going to allow the process to be sullied by 'gravitas'. If you recall, the overwhelmingly prominent media memory of the Royal Wedding last year was an ass; the ass of the sister of the bride. And the public haven't yet stopped talking about it. So who is to blame?
The BBC treated the river pageant like the London Marathon which is another procession of the bizarre through the capital. That is why they put Paul Dickenson, their regular marathon commentator on it. Like the marathon, there is a need to have as many presenters as possible up and down the course to interview the weird and wonderful collection of characters and who better than Tess Daly to bring insight and depth to proceedings in Battersea Park?
I couldn't see anything about the pageant that deserved 'gravitas'. It was a decent idea taken to ludicrous levels, aimed to create an image for the media; a gazillion boats on the river. One has to praise the remarkable precision with which it was executed, but watching two gondolas from Venice struggling to make headway in one of the strongest tidal rivers in the world would have been comedy gold if it hadn't been so farcical.
The barge that carried the Queen herself was literally comedy gold, with a bulging, glittering prow and deck decorations created by a film set designer. And it looked like something from Carry on up the Nile mixed with Trumpton. There wasn't a slither of dignity or gravitas in the entire thing so I can't blame the BBC for rolling out every has-been and wannabe from here to Hexham as they tried to match the maritime mood.
The beeb has to capitalise on recent successes so the Strictly team where out in force, just as The Voice team were as prominent as possible during the Jubilee concert. John Sargeant, completing his journey from respected political newsman to assistant to vacuous hotties half his age attempted to bring us a moment of seriousness by getting Richard E Grant to read a poem from a Union Jack clad iPad. To accompany this the (I think, 16 year old director) treated us to a montage of river shots to coincide with the verse. And then the small crowd, dressed in obligatory silly costumes cheered and whooped appreciatively. "And now back to Tess in Battersea Park who is with someone who was born just after the Queen ascended the throne".
You see, the awful truth is that the problem wasn't really the BBC's coverage. It was the event itself. The beeb got it spot on and served the nation in the way it appears to need serving for just about any event in our cultural life. The pageant and what it appeared to want to achieve is precisely how Simon Cowell would have run it; for effect, for the photos that would appear in the paper and a half arsed representation of what it is that people assume made (and makes) Britain Great. And the Jubilee concert was more of the same. Cliff Richard, Elton John, Macca and Rolf Harris? And an American soprano when there are quite a few British or Commonwealth singers to choose from. Do you remember the British segment at the end of the Beijing Olympics? I rest my case.
Gravitas? Wait for a funeral. The Brits do good funerals.