John Prescott is obsessed with class. So is the BBC. They deserve each other.
One basic assumption examined in Leaderswederserve is that leaders are shaped and created by society’s needs. The BBC programme on John Prescott [Monday Oct 27th 2008] is a case in point.
In a rare moment of exercising my democratic rights, I escaped the BBC’s latest grubby venture into celebrity television last night with another twenty minutes to go. If you count the second programme, I will have missed an hour and twenty minutes of vacuity.
Why did the programme get to me? Partly because I am increasingly intolerant of entertainment in which reality is filtered through the ghastly mechanisms which create the images of celebrity humiliation. The principle was anticipated in Andy Warhol’s phrase about pop culture and fifteen minutes of fame. That’s not quite accurate. Warhol was a bit of an irony-free zone. There is an uneasy overlay of knowing irony of the media professionals, alongside ingenuous performances of some of the wannabe celebs in the productions of Big Brother, Dragons Den, Strictly come Dentistry, The Apprentice, not to mention series in which clever people are filmed meeting ordinary people who have passed some criterion of admission into the performance.
Trying to avoid the genre is hard in a world of downloads, and multiple repeats. When that first fifteen minutes of fame has ended, those dumped are lined-up for more interviews, more fifteen minutes worth of fame.
That’s the general point. There is a collusion between those involved which is sometimes used to justify the programmes. ‘They know what they are getting in to’ is the start and nearly the end of one line of justification.
In the case of the Prescott performance, there was a grain of truth in this. John Prescott is developing his career towards celebrity status, bringing into the process the elements of the former Prescott brand of class warrior.
Unspoken in the bit of the show I watched, was further justification in that his departure from the centre of the political scene was souped up with a sleazy sexual episode. So he didn’t just know what he was getting in to, but he had it coming to him didn’t he? Especially as the show could also be a vehicle for introducing Pauline, the sparky and loyal wife.
All that being said, John and Pauline Prescott are a couple about whom an interesting programme could be made. Sadly, this was not it. There was even a story there to be teased out around class, but for such a story, a more imaginative touch was required.
The programme was a turn-off for me because it was never going anywhere new. It hinted at investigative journalism, but settled for something a lot more voyeuristic. It just wasn’t interesting.
Don’t do it, Pauline
Those professional critics who watched the show found the Prescotts rather endearing. Pauline, in particular caught their eye for her performance as the articulate working-class girl enjoying the novel experience of sharing the limelight with her larger than life husband.
Pauline Prescott is now likely to take her place in Andy Worhol territory as a celebrity wife. And yes, if she does, ‘she knows what’s she’s getting into’ so whatever happens, it’s perfectly OK in the world of instant celebrity.
Or is it?