The Blog

The Social Barometer of the BBC

Long live the BBC. Not merely a producer of sexily shot documentaries and gripping dramas, it also serves as a handy national barometer for public emotion. Through the (admittedly short-lived) summer there is something abound in the spirit of Britain.


The belief that, perhaps this Bank Holiday Monday, we won't be sulking over beer inside pubs with rain-sodden windows, but basking in evening sunshine after a day of barbecues, picnics and rounders, flushed pink and brown and looking pretty damn pleased with ourselves. Cue The Great British Bake Off. Only in summer would we so cheerfully embrace a bunch of amateurs kneading dough in a tent as a gripping form of entertainment. They're nice to each other, there's icing, bun-related puns, cups of tea, all infused with little grains of glorious hopefulness.

Around this time of year, the mood starts to shift with the turning of the leaves. Nudges on the underground become a little sharper, including elbows rather than shoulders, the prospect of six months of endless rain and darkness start to grate on even the sunniest of dispositions. The BBC, sensing the impending malevolence and despair, bring us The Apprentice.

Here, no kindness will dare to show its face. Dropping one's utensils on the floor will be met with nothing other than a gleeful sneer at the regrettable loss of a wooden spoon. For now the nights draw in, and we want nothing more than to pour scorn on some jumped-up idiot boasting about his sales expertise and that he's a great 'closer.' Pretentious arseholes that use phrases like 'moving forward' without a trace of irony, securing us all in the comfortable knowledge that while it might be cold outside, we are far superior to some fawning sycophant wearing an oversized knot in his tie.

Imagine if they were reversed. A bunch of dark-suited businesspeople open doors for one another and offer friendly advice around the meeting table, before having a big hug when someone is knocked out, Alan Sugar looking terribly apologetic about the whole thing. Meanwhile in the tent, freezers are unplugged, snide comments are thrown over the mixing bowl and Paul Hollywood spouts a tirade of abuse at the state of someone's puff pastry before forcibly ejecting them from a bunting-strewn tent.

Sociology claims that we are influenced by the things that we surround ourselves with. That our moods and social interactions can fluctuate, irrespective of our actual personal situation. If this is indeed the case, could it be the fault of dreary shows that encourage us to point and laugh at our fellow human beings that the we are all headed for global misery? Perhaps that's a bit of a stretch. Maybe a slight chicken or egg situation, where we can't distinguish between the looming grey clouds and the strident music and people with wheely suitcases.

Either way, you can be assured that your TV licence is providing you with a truly seasonal service. Soon we'll start to feel all cosy and festive, so Kirstie Allsopp will start telling us how to make decorations out of old curtains, followed by the bleak despair of January and February, populated with Charlie Brooker sneering at everything that has ever happened, and a gritty police drama about a a child serial killer. Trust the BBC to reflect our internal moods with its changing schedules. Long may it continue.

For more articles, reviews and fiction visit Sarah's blog