Thursday, 4 October 2012

Revised Pompous Post 2 - Milking History on TV

the Muse, Clio, by Boucher
Clio has made herself more important than her story. Now she shows off by treading the boards and singing broadside ballads. The line between showing off and fun-filled, full-bloodied identification with the past has been crossed. 
Everyone nowadays thinks they're a natural performer. The culprits used to be male historians who obviously had been coached to keep their hands busy, and over-compensated by constantly cupping invisible breasts, but now....
This protest against TV historians becoming the story was written a year and a half ago, when I still had faith in a lively pixie presenter, but she's lost me with her latest series in which she acts melodrama and sings ballads with brazen amateur conceit, as bad as other documentaries' useless dramatizations.

The intelligentsia is continuing its media popularity challenge with increasingly over-emphatic performances by historians on TV, hammering us with their boastful posits, rhetorical questions and gushingly over-acted confidences in close-up to the audience. 

The culprits used to be male historians who had obviously been coached to keep their hands busy, and over-compensated by constantly cupping invisible breasts, but now some of the women are being equally irritating with their gurning. Their faces are thrust so closely into ours that, distracted from the interesting theories they may be promulgating, I stop listening and have to turn away, just as after watching the weather forecast performed with screen-splitting smiles and air-sawing gestures, I'm none the wiser whether there's going to be rain or shine.

It wouldn't matter so much if these men and women weren't brilliant scholars with engaging lecturing skills and sincere enthusiasm for their subject, misled by their producers into thinking they can act, and subsumed by indiscriminating personality cults, usually accompanied by a Hollywood film score, birds of prey and crashing waves. I know why they've been told to talk down to us as if we were toddlers, but don't any of them remember what it was like to be a child instinctively repelled by over-ingratiating phonies? 

Currently, I can think of two exceptions on the production line, a robust, straightforward medievalist and a naturally cute TV performer whose programmes are packed with the right mix of solid fact and whimsical presentation, and who gets away with dressing-up and bouncing around, but the others should be told that less is more, and to cut out the over-paid Oxbridge drama society histrionics.