Which I was yesterday, sort of, I hear The Bill is staggering toward a long overdue finale; I’m also pretty sure I read somewhere that Inspector Barnaby is retiring from Midsomer Police Station - so that’s the coming Sun Hill unemployment problem solved. Heaven knows they need a decent police force down in Midsomer – how many years is it and how many murders?
I also read that ITV are going to put the money they will save from The Bill into a whole lot of new drama. This interested me as here in Australia, when we are not improving our linguistic skills with Danish murder mysteries in preparation for the coming of our future Queen Mary (see earlier post ‘Learning Danish’), we do watch quite a few UK imports (and be warned anyone hoping to escape the winsome Richard Hammond – he appears depressingly regularly on our screens too).
Consequently, I’ve been trying to imagine the sorts of things we’ll be watching once ITV gets its act together and then flogs the stuff to us. So far I’ve come up with nothing except a vague wish that that Irish git who was first in Cold Feet and has since become ubiquitous (and yes I know I should do my research and Google his name, but I’m not sure even Google is sophisticated enough to be able to find an answer to ‘what is the name of that Irish actor I hate?) is not part of anything we get.
If it were the BBC making the programmes, it would be much easier to work out what might be in store. Ticking multi-cultural boxes seems to be the main thing they aim for in drama these days (and I am baffled, by the way, to understand how Miranda Hart ever got her sit-com up and running, given its shocking lack of ethnic diversity [and Shappi Khorsandi, nice though she is, pretty though she is, is not really that funny, unless you’re looking at her from the point of view of a producer who needs to fill
If the BBC was going in for a new drama, it would probably give us a heart-warming Sunday night series centred on a banker who, having missed out on his bonus, has to sell his place in wherever bankers live (somewhere they can find a plentiful supply of deserving poor with upturned faces to grind their heels on each morning) and move to Tulse Hill. Once there he finds the railway timetable too complicated to understand (cunning comment on intelligence and mathematical know-how of bankers) and decides to stay at home and grow vegetables instead.
Soon he is bonding with the cheerful West Indian family next door (if they’re very lucky the BBC might be able to secure the services of that titan of talent, Mr L Henry, for one or possibly all the parts here) who teach him how to grow and cook yam and plantains and who, it turns out, are sheltering their son’s girlfriend, who is a Muslim, because her family want to murder – sorry, ‘honour kill’ – her as she is not complying with their desire to marry her to her 76-year-old incontinent uncle.
Eventually, via a sequence of scenes highlighting the richness of immigrant tradition and the overseas newcomers’ deep bonding sense of community - which shines out especially brightly in our vilely shallow, wealth-obsessed, consumerist wasteland - we come to realise that, just like the West Indian neighbours, the Muslim girl’s family are actually good, kind people and only blind prejudice has hidden this fact from us. Our civilisation, it turns out, is worthless and exploitative and has brought every type of horror down on their poor innocent heads over generations. Their culture is not actually oppressive and woman-hating but vibrant and overflowing with a resonance and vigour we can only dream of.
We witness huge family gatherings, which involve tables piled high with food, plus much laughter, dancing, music and not a few shared tears, and gradually (but firmly) we are edged towards a renewed perception of these people’s impulses and intentions, which are so much more understandable when seen within the context of both the fundamental spirituality of their beliefs and the many years they spent under our imperialist
The series ends with the entire cast making chapattis together in a celebration of multicultural harmony. The daughter has already died from shame, having understood the full consequences of her transgression, and her erstwhile boyfriend has converted to Islam and entered a madrassa in Pakistan, with the aim of dedicating his life to peace (hem hem). The incontinent uncle, broken-hearted but philosophical, spends his remaining days sitting under a lemon tree that the erstwhile banker has planted in his back garden. As the credits roll on the final scene we see him there, propped up beneath the tree’s flourishing branches. Beside him is a basket piled high with the tree’s first harvest. The camera lingers on the heap of bitter yellow fruit as the strains of a distant call to prayer drift through the evening air.
6 March 2015: Ivor Indyk on The Stella Prize - If I were a novelist longlisted, or shortlisted, for the Stella Prize, and I lost out to a historian, I would wonder at the criteria that had been at wor...
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