Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The A-Z of TV Hell.

TV Back when BBC Two was any good, before, to be fair, BBC Four came along and stole its thunder, every other week it would have a theme night often curated by the Arena strand and one of the best was TV Hell, which included a rerun of Triangle, a documentary about the Eurovision Song Contest, something called Disastermind which was a kind of pre-internet supercut interspersed with talking heads from the victims and the first broadcast of the pilot episode of "Mainly for Men" a late night men's lifestyle magazine programme made in 1969 which looked forward to the lad mag boom of the 1980s, coming across as a kind of televisual GQ. The night opened with The A-Z of TV Hell, most which like everything else from that night has illicitly been uploaded to YouTube. A clip show in a very traditional sense, some of the material has become achingly familiar because of its subsequent appearance on lesser clip shows who sometimes look like they've merely borrowed the VT. It's Bio-Dimbleby sitting at a desk fidgeting with his pen during a live broadcast of Panorama in which all the film and video has gone. There's Desmond Leslie punching Bernard Levin. The Sex Pistols on Windy. But there's also plenty which is still under the radar like Churchill's People, the twenty-six part fictionalisation of British history all videotaped in a studio with no budget, or Open Door which gave alternative voices half an hour of television to do what they wanted with and ended up one week with a man in a gorilla costume holding a placard and Club X, a weekly late-night live slot broadcast on Channel Four from a real night club which included performance art and music so loud none of the microphones would work, along with Minipops which in the light of recent revelations/confirmations is even more uncomfortable to watch.  All televisual horror stories to be sure, but as you continue watching twenty years later something else becomes apparent.  Apart from actually wanting to watch some of this television now, especially Churchill's People which looks glorious, it's the sheer diversity of programming which was on offer at the time, a diversity so broad that it was capable of producing some of this stuff on top of the classics and the devil may care attitude to try new things and to risk failure.  The twelve-year-old version of Mark Lawson who appears as expert witness here might be cynical about Sin on Sunday, but there was always the possibility it might have worked and in hindsight you can't even imagine someone at ITV now not only having the creativity to even think of that, let alone put it out in a slot which is currently occupied by a rerun of The X-Factor from the night before.  Plus, say what you like about Triangle but it's a hundred times more inventive than running Casualty and not-Casualty in weekly slots across the entire year.

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