We’ve all been very keenly watching the election haven’t we?
And if we (and by we, I mean YOU and ME and EVERYONE ELSE (even though the main debate got only 4 million viewers, but I assume everyone else iplayered it or whatever the ITV version is…) didn’t all see it, then here’s the whole damn election, summed up for you.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a nerdy fan of the politics shows for a while. The writers are not always on-point with Newsnight and the acting in Question Time is sporadic at best. So, when they had the array of will-they-won’t-theys for the election season pre-hype have led to a season of television events that really need more scrutiny, so bare with me as I muddle through it satirically at first and then constructively at a second glance.
Channel 4 / Sky News: The Battle for Number 10
In what was originally supposed to be a mash-up of a debate chaired by Jeremy Paxman and err… Kay Burley, Channel 4 and Sky ultimately gave up in their threat to empty-chair the Prime Minister and created a perculiar 90 minute special where we basically admitted all political journalism and interviewing is pre-amble if its not Paxman-led. The exact point of this programme was understood by no-one other than the general premise of it being the ‘kick-off’ for the election.
First up was human-shaped David Cameron to permit Paxman to define the entirety of the election with the opening question about the number of food banks in the country. Human-Cameron was most confused by this line of questioning, no doubt expecting his chum to merely toy with him and it took them quite some time to permit any number-babble-based confusion attacks. Even then, Jeremy’s awakening from his slumber showed how much power he had stored up, pointing out that David Cameron has defended lots of people who turned out to be posh, evil, criminal, or all three of these things and accused Cameron of having too many friends of that nature, which David was a bit flustered over.
Luckily for David, Kay Burley was ‘moderating’ a strange Question Time rip-off for part two of the show, where David had to look at humans and tell them why he’s great. He managed to say the phrase ‘long-term economic plan’ enough times to legally need a tattoo of his catchphrase and Kay Burley took sometime to moderate the repetition of the phrase.
Rather than be willing to debate Ed, like a well behaved schoolboy, David let Ed take the next turn in the absurd exercise. Every aspect of the lines prepared by both sides were so carefully rehearsed and designed to be one-question-fits all it shocked the audience to see Ed Miliband say something that resembled what a human might say, that his relationship with David Miliband ‘is tough.’
Part four saw a very exciting character development in which Roboband decided to stop answering Jeremy Paxman’s questions to tempt Jeremy to ask him questions about his toughness. Credit where credit’s due and Militron did give some examples that worked well for him about being ‘tuss enuts’, the nerdy version of ‘tough enough’, and daringly told Jeremy that he was fine and looked eager to do more.
Predictably, the polling was almost literally 50/50 for the pair, with a couple more giving a ‘win’ to Cameron than Miliband. One must question the point of two interviews and a mini-town hall scenario and how either can win with no measurable standards by which to judge these… events? The subdued Question Time audience had no idea what to say either.
Luckily, round two was only a week away.
THE ITV LEADERS DEBATE
Thankfully, Jesus, or David Cameron as he is trying to brand himself after the whole ‘I’m doing Jesus’ work’ thing didn’t work out, gave his good graces to agree to one ‘debate’, and by debate, I mean soundbyte contest.
These debates would be fine and really substantial if they really had a debate aspect to them. Julie Etchingham actually did a fine job with her moderation, especially compared with Kay Burley’s job the previous week. Obviously, having seven leaders up there was going to be a challenge in making this watchable or viable.
However, the issue arose not in the number of people up there repeating policies, but in the format: two hours, four questions, and each requiring one-minute responses and five minutes where they were permitted to actually interrupt each-other. The one-minute response times-seven took at least eight minutes with the intercutting and then
THE BBC OPPOSITION DEBATE
For reasons unknown to the majority of the population, David Cameron believes that debating is wrong and results in confusion and its definitely nothing to do with his decreasing personal poll ratings that he doesn’t want to do more debates. The BBC’s compromise was the creation of a leaders debate that does not include the government. Not even Nick Clegg. Apparently he’s been in government. Who knew?
Hence, the five less powerful of the avengers, Milibro, Faringdon, Binnit to winnit, Woody Lee, and Opinion-Polls-Surg’em decided to get together with David Dimbleby to take it in turns to declare what they don’t like.
Nigel decided that having the BBC News channel dedicated to his every comment was a form of bias and accused the left-wing BBC of rigging the audience. Oh the drama, and then Dimbleby daringly used facts to point out that the accusation was madly incorrect. Natalie Bennett attempted to get a word in again, but was less effective than the lovable kitten character, Leanne. Ed Miliband had just had enough of Farage’s shit by this point, and summoned up a lovely but unnoticed sassy pose. The question that threw him off the most was Nicola Sturgeon’s offer of a government to rid of the Tories, which he had no time to fit a line around, it seems.
At least the production values and the meta nature of the election was observed on this occasion. Mr Dimbleby nearly explained to Miliband that ‘want doesn’t get’, but he wants a majority, so that’s fine.
For those who really need even more of this madness, fear not, the black hole in the BBC’s own spending definitely is not going on the Daily Politics which continues to blast out the lowest-budget-looking political television in the world, and that’s from someone who has watched Aljazeera for more than an hour. On the Daily Politics an array of ministers and shadow ministers are fighting to pretend that the video footage of them declaring random numbers is the key part of this election.
Still not satisfied? What about some tasty Evan Davis interviews? Evan Davis charms the party leaders to trick them into comfort to try and make them want to say things beyond the party line. Militron did not fall for this and put up his defences to a near-unreasonable degree. Davis’ interview style is less effective but a very nice contrast to Paxman’s, and it is a downright shame that the party leaders cannot fathom saying original things. As upsetting for me to say as it is, at least Nigel Farage was interesting in his, even if his usual illogical thoughts made no sense and his equivalent ‘I am different from the rest and speak my mind’ based lines seem as robotic. Evan Davis is also daring enough to show clips to the leaders that make a striking point, but sadly, the party leaders are immune to these attacks and reverted to their usual lines, with only minor traces of character development appearing in Clegg and Cameron as they got ‘angry’ about things. Bless.
Question Time Special
With the remainder of the season seen out by what may as well be the series finale of Question Time (no doubt to be followed by post-finale-rot in the weeks following the formation of a new government that will no doubt upset the nation as not-everyone will be happy with the concept of people other than themselves being represented; this is what the writers did with the show in the 2010 series), which actually replicated the 2005 special more than anything done in ‘modern’ times: Clegg, Cameron and Miliband did do straight answering and questioning moderated by Bio-Dimbleby. The questions were daring, and the answers were wonderfully well-scripted.
The best thing that the writers incorporated was Ed Miliband’s perilous attempt at getting off the stage: he nearly fell over. The world was shocked. That was the only ‘hlghlight’ to speak of, genuinely; every single answer to every single question fitted the narrative of the scripting to a tee. Clegg had to explain tuition fees, again. Cameron had to express sadness about food banks. Miliband had to work out which of his five answers would best fit a question about trust in economic stability. It was a really strange compilation show.
All that remains is a battle of quality television on election night itself. Will Channel 4’s combinations of comedians and Paxman outdo the BBC? Will anyone watch Sky News? Will ITV even bother and just pretend that they did some coverage afterwards?
We will likely learn nothing; it will be a hung parliament. If we don’t get this anti-climax, the whole election will be an anti-climax, and the really exciting stuff is going to be saved for coalition deal negotiations and all that.
But that’s another TV show entirely, isn’t it?