Thursday’s “second time lucky?” news

Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate


Canadian TV

  • CBC orders pilot for Great Scott


Question of the week: what do you think of the state of TV documentaries?

Bit of a blanket question this one, but let’s look around at the state of the TV documentary, both in the UK and the US. How are you finding them? Informative? Useful? Cheaply made?

Now TV has obviously changed since Civilization could be bunged on BBC2 at primetime, back when David Attenborough was controller in 1969. So has society and the assumptions about what an audience would already know – and should know – in the 42 years since.

But even watching the History Channel (particularly the US one) and the Discovery Channel, I’m getting the increasing feeling that in an attempt to make documentaries more watchable or ‘accessible’, a lot of the time spent telling people new things has been replaced with telling people things they already knew while trying to entertain them with strange metaphors and whizzy graphics. Laudable aims in one sense, but I’m coming out of a lot of documentaries with the feeling that I haven’t actually learnt anything, an hour of my time has been wasted and someone’s got to go on some very nice holidays (Professor Brian Cox – I’m glaring at you here).

Now this rule isn’t universal and you can normally rely on Bettany Hughes and certain other broadcasters to make sure there’s a reasonable ratio between information and flash (although if you ever go and see a Bettany Hughes talk, ask her about how her producer on Helen of Troy forced her to try to recreate Bronze Age chariot races in Turkey, but neglected to book any horses, as an example of the influence of producers).

Certainly, Adam Curtis, whose BBC2 series of documentaries, All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, has just started, can usually be guaranteed to tell you something you don’t know while still entertaining enormously, although he veers more towards the polemic than true documentary.

But if you take something like Atlantis – an example of the baleful drama-documentary genre that also included the likes of Egypt – where there’s a good basic documentary submerged under a drama that has little to no merits, you can see where it would be infinitely preferable just to watch a regular documentary like Bettany Hughes’ The Minoans instead. Arguably, even the worst documentary will impart more information than an average docu-drama on the same subject.

But your mileage may vary. So this week’s question is:

Are documentaries getting stupider? Is too much time being spent making things accessible than actually imparting useful information? And apart from a few notable exceptions, such as Shoot To Kill and Lifestory, are drama-documentaries a complete waste of space?

Answers below or on your own blog.

Wednesday’s Vikings news

British TV

Canadian TV

  • CBC orders pilot of police procedural Cracked
  • The Tudors/Camelot‘s Michael Hirst working on Vikings


Sitting Tennant

Tuesday’s Sitting Tennant (week 19, 2011)

Sister Chastity's Sitting Tennant

Today, it’s Sister Chastity serving up a popular request for fans of Sitting Tennant – David Tennant sitting down but also licking. I’m assuming it’s because you all want to know his ice cream technique or something. Anyone, get your caption hats on and get down to work!

  1. Hebbie: 120
  2. Sister Chastity: 95
  3. Rullsenberg: 55
  4. Erin C: 55
  5. Janice: 15
  6. esgaril: 10
  7. theriverlady: 5

It’s Electric Dragon who won last week’s caption competition (incidentally, I never noticed how hairy the backs of David Tennant’s hands were until now) so Mr Dragon gets the 10 points, 5 points to everyone else who submitted a caption. Good luck this week!

  1. Marie: 120
  2. Rullsenberg: 95
  3. Electric Dragon: 70
  4. Toby, SK: 60
  5. Lisa G: 45
  6. Jane Henry: 40
  7. theriverlady: 35
  8. Virpi, Joe B: 15
  9. whoficwriter, Hebbie: 10
  10. kallan: 5

Got a picture of David Tennant sitting, lying down or in some indeterminate state in between? Then leave a link to it below or email me and if it’s judged suitable, it will appear in the Sitting Tennant gallery. Don’t forget to include your name in the filename so I don’t get mixed up about who sent it to me.

The best pic in the stash each week will appear on Tuesday and get ten points; the runners up will appear on Friday (one per person who sends one in) and get five points.

You can also enter the witty and amusing captions league table by commenting on Tuesday’s Sitting Tennant photo, the best caption getting 10 points, everyone who contributes getting five points.