Monday 2 December 2013

Making glee compulsory

Clive James's delightful TV reviews at the Telegraph are too little read, so here's an extract from his his latest essay - an essay which begins: 
The BBC spent a whole week celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Programmes without number were devoted to his continuing fame.
Here, however, is the essay's closing section - dealing with the celebration's closing extravaganza. Enjoy!:
To rub the triumph in, there was a follow-up show on BBC Three called Doctor Who: The Afterparty. There is a long history of fizzling disaster to suggest that parties held in a TV studio never work, but the BBC, rather than learning from a mistake, always prefers to repeat it. So here everybody was, all the surviving veterans of Doctor Who since the beginning, ready to be quizzed and jollied along by Rick Edwards and Zoë Ball. Rick’s main task for this event was to be keen, but to be outshone by Zoë. He accomplished this with ease. When fronting It Takes Two, the satellite show for Strictly Come Dancing, Zoë’s role is to shower the Strictly contestants with sparkling encouragement at the very time when they are suffering agonies in the boot-camp phase of their training. There is no one like her for effervescence, but here, at the Afterparty, she excelled herself. Her default phrase was “Very exciting”. She would say it even in the middle of saying something else. You could imagine her saying it even if the building had caught fire. “Would everyone proceed calmly to the very exciting exit area.”
The assembled veterans looked a bit subdued but Zoë wasn’t about to let them get away with that. “Are you happy? Did you enjoy that episode? Is everybody happy?” Rick essayed a general statement about how the atmosphere “couldn’t get any more exciting” but Zoë was ahead of him. She marched into a bunch of veteran girl companions and asked one of them, “Did you enjoy it?” The veteran girl companion said, “I’m exhausted.”
This response, if it meant anything, meant “No”, but Zoë and Rick weren’t really after answers. They were after injecting an air of conviviality into a funeral. Most of the veterans generously played along but you couldn’t miss the air of regret: having once been in a show about the conquest of time, here they were in a show which reminded them all over again that time does the conquering. Doctor Who gets regenerated as a character but the rest of us will fade out. Still, there were a few laughs; and there was always Zoë, making glee compulsory even in the face of the intractable fact that the super-episode had been strictly for the fans.

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