Friday, 29 July 2011

Crane Jib

Now. This is a really difficult post to write. Because I like Nicholas Crane very much, whose new BBC2 series Town started last night with Ludlow. And I had to turn it off. OK, I did need an early night after a particularly concentrated early doors, but I really did want to sit back and enjoy it. The problem is twofold. Nicholas came to our attention with his trademark umbrella sticking out of his knapsack in the beautifully informative series Map Man. And then he appeared striding around clifftops and harbours in Coast, or at least when that nighthawk Neil Oliver wasn't glowering at us over his shoulder and flicking his raven hair out of his eyes. But something had changed, and I'd like to bet it wasn't Nick's fault. He vocal delivery altered. Suddenly he was talking in a fashion perfected by sports journalist Gary Newbon on 70s Midlands television, and currently irritatingly employed by that girl who does trailers on Radio 2. A sentence that starts, rises up and then dramatically falls back down again. Everytime. It's difficult to put into words, but I hope you know what I'm going on about. The thing is, this isn't how Nick talks. I've met him, and he talks perfectly normally. (Certainly better than me on this particular occasion.) And he was on Front Row with Mark Lawson the other night, and was very enjoyable to listen to. So what happens? It has to be the producers / directors, the ones with headsets and stopwatches saying "Nick darling, we need it like Gary Newbon" as they flick hair out of their eyes. That's the onefold. Number two was the music so thumpingly overlaid. Why? As Nick reluctantly admitted to Mr.Lawson, what was really needed was the natural recorded sound of the townscape. Not the Ride of the Valkeries (again) just because Nick was giving us a nervous grin from a helicopter. Come on BBC, put down your clipboards and puffa jackets a minute and look at how Aubrey Manning did it. And if you haven't heard of him get a DVD of Betjeman out of the archive. Sorry Nick, but don't let them do it to you.

27 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

Oh lord, I'll have to watch this now, just to see if I agree with you. But don't get me started on music in TV programmes. Always these obvious and irrelevant choices: if it's a helicopter, it's the Ride of the Valkyries (I'm not a fan of the Beast of Bayreuth); if it's a cathedral it's Fauré's Requiem; and so on. It might help if they tried to match the historical period with music from the same era, instead of playing Beethoven when talking about the Tudors, for example. Or if that doesn't work, some English music for the English countryside (and there's bags of stuff to choose form, it doesn't have to be a track from Elgar's Greatest Hits. Too much to hope for I suppose.

Jon Dudley said...

I tell you who his delivery reminded me of a bit...jolly, old building buff Dan Cruickshank. Am I being a bit mean-spirited in thinking the Ludlow market ever-so-slightly, well, small? From the air it looked like about four tents, whilst the livestock affair was much more 'proper'. The helicopter/autogyro towed in on a trailer is a new touch and will doubtless be copied by all those presenters with the flying bug.

Peter Ashley said...

Ludlow market is small- but perfectly formed. Sunday's best if you like odd things like Penguin books and old Dinky Toys. But I am worried about the new must-have presenter gimmicks. Give me the late great Richard Holmes everytime, with the only essential accessories a stout pair of bench made brogues and a well-worn book in the pocket of a tweed overcoat.

Bucks Retronaut said...

James May and Oz Clarke versus Rene Cutforth and Denis Mitchell ?
I know where my money would go.
O tempora! O Mores!

Jon Dudley said...

Fyffe Robertson. Monty Modlin...just add a name...

Peter Ashley said...

Blimey, Rene Cutforth. Only talking about him the other day. He did a TV trip across France with Mitchell in a black Morris Minor. I think.

Bucks Retronaut said...

Yep,Philip.the very same !
The programme was called European Journey.(I just checked it on the Wikithingy where I found a lovely description of him by Clive James to wit: "A front man with background.Fitzrovia and Soho weigh heavily on his eyelids.His voice sounds like tea-chests of old books being shifted about.") Lovely Stuff!
And not wishing to be too much of a smart-arse,but I reckon the intrepid duo were in an "Auntie" Rover.....which seemed about right for a BBC programme !

Bucks Retronaut said...

Sorry,Should have said "Peter".
Smart Arse can't keep his eye on the ball !

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else remember Alec Clifton-Taylor's series of programmes in the 70s about English towns?

Ludlow was one of his featured places. No helicopters for ACT as far as I remember!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes I remember Alec Clifton-Taylor: good stuff. And he did three books to go with his series, six towns in each. I still read them admiringly.

Jon: I'm sure the market in Ludlow is bigger on some days. There is not just the Thursday 'produce market' that was shown on the programme, but other markets on other days.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Oh, and while we're on people zooming around in old Morris Minors and commenting on the townscape, what about Ian Nairn?

ChrisP said...

Parliament should ban the following in any documentary:
Shots of presenter at wheel of car;
Shots of presenter in train;
Shots of presenter striding purposefully down street;
Shots of presenter talking about something that you can't see because the bloody presenter is standing in front of it.
Action now!

Peter Ashley said...

I was about to say Ian Nairn, but you gorrin there fust Phil. Now there was a blokey bloke. The first edition of Nairn's London has got him driving a Routemaster on the front cover. (CUV 217C Ron.)

Martin H. said...

Well, we did see the programme and we were irritated by the music ( I can imagine a producer saying, "Gosh, lets use 'The Ride of the Valkyrie', I bet no-one's thought of that before..."). And the Other Half immediately said, 'Why is he sounding like Dan Cruickshank?" (known as 'Whispering Dan' in our household).

It does seem as if television producers now can resist everything except a completely obvious cliché. Why do we have to have, before each episode, a five minute 'mission statement', accompanied by images lifted from the programme itself? Why does the presenter have to get involved, in a patently superficial way, in the activities he or she is reporting? Why do we have to have 'soundbite' comments from 'ordinary' people which add nothing to the commentary? And so on.

There seems to be a template which lazy programme makers are only too glad to use.

On the subject of television, did anyone else watch the 'British Masters' series on BBC4 (about British painting in the 20th century)? It was presented by Dr. James Fox, who I thought was rather good, even if there were some glaring omissions in the programmes.

Gilbert said...

How about the part where he's extolling the architects marketing-speak about the ugly and out of context Tesco building?

Peter Ashley said...

I couldn't agree more Martin, and will hold forth on this at length soon. I did see some of the British Masters series, once I'd realised it wasn't golf. Enjoyed it.

Diplomate said...

stopwatching crap on television ............

Peter Ashley said...

Ah Diplo. Welcome back. I know, I know. I'm going to take up macrame and listen to old tapes of Jennings at School.

Sue said...

I started watching and was going to give him the benefit of the doubt until that gushing about Tescos...it is a shame as I can believe that, left to his own devices, he'd do a much better job.

Diplomate said...

sue - so true. I can think of many a poor soul who has entered the TV world (television) thinking he'd come across as himself,only to be morphed by the dumming-down, homogenising production "targets" into some gibbering idiot children's presenter. Take a look at poor old Guy Martin's "The Boat That Guy Built" - I don't think he'll be doing telly again.... MORE REAL STUFF !

Diplomate said...

aha - and JD how funny not to have realised the connection with sideblog - love your tales of wartime motosickling japes

TIW said...

Richard Holmes is dead? That is a tragedy. I had no idea. 'War Walks' was one of the best programmes ever made by the BBC.

Peter Ashley said...

Sadly, and very unexpectedly, Richard Holmes left us for that great battlefield in the sky on the 30th April this year. He was a truly great presenter because he knew absolutely what he was talking about, instead of being fed facts from a researcher.

Jon Dudley said...

Loved those bits when Brigadier Richard Holmes climbed aboard a horse and proceeded to give a perfectly resolved lecture from the saddle. What a top bloke...just check his Wkipedia entry.

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