Sex, lies and a very British scapegoat: TV review

December 23, 2013

Fifty years ago, and the British establishment is rocked by a sleazy political story …

An ITV Documentary [22nd December, 2013] presented the so-called Profumo affair of the 1960s with interviews with remaining personalities. Its thrust was that the society osteopath Stephen Ward had been scapegoated by more significant establishment figures, on largely false immorality charges.

Wards’s suicide as his court case was reaching an end served as a convenient but temporary pause before the story built up to its place as a footnote to contemporary British history.

Fifty years on

Fifty years on, and the two young women at the heart of the case remain culturally potent. Christine Keeler lives in drab obscurity in sheltered accommodation in South London. A remarkably vibrant Mandy Rice-Davies is very much alive and in the public eye, and her recollections dominated the programme. As had her court appearance half a century ago, part a Pygmalion figure, part Becky Sharpe. Her cheerful absence of remorse or guilt was one of the few upbeat aspects of the bizarre tale neatly captured in the title Sex, lies and a very British scapegoat.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

It was fitting that its anchorman was none other than Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. His musical about Stephen Ward is running to less than rave reviews in the West End at present. His marginal involvement with some of the main players at the time has turned the affair into a serious cause for him. He has raised the matter of Ward’s innocence in The House of Lords.

A bit of a turkey

The musical seems likely to be deemed a bit of a turkey. The ITV programme may have been an attempt to rescue it. In any event it offered an interesting revisiting of the sex and security scandal of the 1960s.

Martin Clunes, Horsepower and Leaders we deserve

August 23, 2010
In thanks for her encouragement to write the b...

Image via Wikipedia

ITV 1 Review by Tudor Rickards

Martin Clunes and a lot of horses share top-billing in ITV’s Horsepower mini-series. The first hour left me wondering what Richard Dawkins or David Attenborough might have made of it all.

They would undoubtedly have admired the beauty of the creatures on display, including the greater Clunes, an apparently gentle beast with a capacity to love  horses great and small, and a natural and endearing manner when confronted by humans.  Dawkins Attenborough and Clunes are high priests of an ancient cult, members of which worship the majesty of nature.  Dawkins and Attenborough are on the scientific wing, Clunes more towards the scientology end.

Mysteries of the horse-human bond

In the programme, Martin gets to visit a lot of locations scattered around the world to witness to marvels and neo-religious mysteries of the horse-human bond. He meets other high-priests, including the incomparable Monty Roberts, the original horse-whisperer, and another charismatic whose work with horses has also charmed millions of humans including, according to legend, the Queen and The Queen Mother, some years ago.

The mysterious capacity of large potentially dangerous animals to charm shone through the programme.   Ismene Brown of the artsdesk perceptively noted this by combining her review of Horsepower with one of a programme of mountain gorillas.

I’ve been charmed by horses, and by the possibility that the horse-human relationship can teach us about human-human relationships.  Monty Roberts, and his English associate Kelly Marks have both made contributions to the idea of trust-based leadership.  The horse, they argue, is a flight animal, and needs a leader to reduce the anxiety genetically inbred to escape predators.  The language of leadership is beyond rational communication and speaks to that deep need.  Which is maybe how charismatics have such a hold over their human followers, who get the leaders they need (if not deserve).

Love yourself first

So charmed I was, to have been witness to the programme. I particularly liked the scene in which Martin plus psychologically damaged horse was penned up and scrutinised by a group of apparently friendly psychoanalysts outside the railings.  The message: the horse won’t love you more until you love yourself more.  Translate to human/human relationships as you wish. I may have mistranslated a bit, as I missed the start of the scene for a comfort break.

Which reminds me. None of the horses in the programme peed or dumped steaming loads of uknownwhat.  Now that’s interesting.

Match of the day: Branson-Murdoch Round three

October 3, 2007

The battles between BSkyB and Virgin Media continue. This round goes to Richard Branson, as the competition commission rules that the Murdoch move which acquired a stake in ITV was anti-competitive.

According to The Guardian

Sky could be forced to sell its 17.9% stake in ITV at a substantial loss after the Competition Commission said this morning that the holding restricts competition and is against the public interest … It is likely to please Sir Richard Branson, who last year attacked Sky’s “reckless and cynical attempts to stifle competition, and secure creeping control of the British media”.

In a provisional ruling, the commission said that the shareholding, which has been fiercely criticised by rivals, would allow the satellite broadcaster to weaken ITV or prevent it competing fully with BSkyB.

In an earlier post I noted that

Both companies have a capacity to damage the other’s competitive position. As a complete victory for one side seems unlikely, the organizations will have to find ways of co-existing and collaborating, as well of competing

That has not stopped a bitter feud deepening between both organizations.

Earlier in the year Virgin’s TV subscribers were caught in the crossfire. Virgin lost an estimated 40,000 of its 3 million-plus subscribers when BSkyB pulled the plug (or at least, the dispute resulted in loss of BSkyB content to Virgin subscribers.

Both parties have continued to react energetically in the fast-changing media market-place.

This week Richard Branson launched the new TV channel Virgin 1, which even if planned otherwise will now fill the gap left by the loss of the Sky channels.

A day before the competition ruling, BSkyB yesterday unveiled Picnic, a new subscription service for Freeview digital TV, which initially will offer three channels (Sky One, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Movies).

Setanta Sports, originally positioned as viewing for Irish ex-pats, has muscled itself into a more visible position in its advertising campaign for cheap monthly subsriptions. In the UK, the most recent sale of transmission rights of Football matches has illustrated how what’s right for the Competition Commission may not be right for viewers wanting to follow their favorite team, and who now have mind-boggling calculations to make in view of the multiple bundling possibilities on offer.

What’s going on?

Here we have a developing story of some appeal to wannabe leaders. Is it a war-game? Are there rival teams of grand-masters planning move and counter-move?

While my favorite notion of Chess as a source of strategy insights offers a starting insight to the complexities, maybe a deeper study is required. One colleague suggested the various theories of Industrial Organization economics. These are even more complicated than the Branson Murdoch battle. A nice introduction can be found in the review by Kathleen Conner. Although not covering more recent work, it explores various theories, with particular attention to the Resource Based View of the firm. This remains a way of understanding how a firm’s competitive position may defined by a “bundling” of unique resources.