Sunday, 4 March 2012

Come back, Downton, you are (almost) forgiven...

because I've seen the ghastly spectre that is Upstairs, Downstairs....
IF DOWNTON ABBEY WAS MCDONALDS anti-drama that should be engraved on the BBC's heart at the same time that the threatened cuts to BBC4's foreign and original drama output are going ahead as sacrifices to the licensing fee freeze. I sneered at ITV's Downton Abbey getting awarded prizes for drama, but at least it succeeds as cheesy escapist entertainment while the only use for Upstairs, Downstairs' lumpen demonstration of dreary wartime props by pallid characters is as a sedative. A lifelong insomniac, I was asleep within 10 minutes. Even the camera seems to cringe at what it's seeing, furtively filming everything from below.

It is embarrassing to witness the debasement of BBC1 drama after BBC4 introduced us to Forbrydelsen and Borgen, classic Nordic tragedies with humanity, humour and gunshots thrown in, and the shatteringly amoral French cynicism of Spiral.

Far better, when on the hunt for profound insights into social history entertainingly presented with wit and cute charm, to reject the fake cosiness of insipid period soaps, and watch reruns of Lucy Worsley's If Walls Could Talk documentaries - and then groan and curse that BBC4's history programming is being cut, too.

It looks suspiciously petulant of our august public broadcaster, having lost the argument to get more money out of us, to spitefully take away the channel for the only really good cultural programming it's given us in years.