To anyone like me who can’t abide sport, the mere prospect of nothing but sport on BBC1 made us want to wear balaclavas and hitch-hike in the Urals for a fortnight, sleeping on twigs and making porridge from leaves. I find team sports unbearable. I can’t even be in the same room when a team sport is on telly – I don’t care what it is, from lacrosse to rugby league, it makes me demented with boredom.
But, crucially, I’m a sucker for anything where sturdy individuals triumph, where their spirits soar, powering them to mighty achievements. I love a good back-story of hope over adversity, or of talented people plucking glory from the cinders. If I can have a good cry too, so much the better. On Super Saturday, I was awash and, in the Paralympics, the magnificent Ellie Simmonds became my heroine.
DISASTER OF THE YEAR
Thames River Pageant
People who actually went to watch this watery celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee said it was lovely and so memorable. For those of us who stayed at home with the BBC’s coverage, it was a watershed of awfulness, a big, sopping, pitiful blanket of the utterly inane, like a wet One Show that went on for what seemed like ten years. We paced our living rooms yelling, “Someone should be SACKED for this, SACKED!”’ as the commentary died of ignorance and shame. (“I haven’t got a clue!” said someone, a supposed expert, when asked to translate a bit of riverside semaphore).
At his later inevitable hot-plating in front of the Government’s Culture Media and Sport Committee, then BBC director-general Mark Thompson admitted “one or two inaccuracies” in the reporting. It was so much bigger than that – it was a massive misjudgement of the national mood, not to mention the national IQ.
It arrived early in the year and destroyed everything in its path. Heidi Thomas’s reworking of real-life East End midwife Jennifer Worth’s memoirs was BBC1’s most successful drama launch in years. Audiences loved its mix of babies, nuns, urchins, poverty and more babies. Its Christmas special is a torpedo of tears, so brace yourselves.
This low-key BBC2 police drama became a huge weekly talking point as an enthralled audience was pitched into the murky waters of police corruption. It had its faults, including glaring plot holes, but the audacity of the story more than made up for any minor niggles.
It could have been crippled from the outset by the cheap title that was too much of a reminder of Footballers’ Wives. But this clever and very assured BBC1 drama about, yes, a clutch of prisoners’ wives, is one of my highlights.
SHOCK OF THE YEAR
The ITV1 documentary unmasked Jimmy Savile, a man who fashioned an entire career on abusing vulnerable youngsters, and led to seismic ructions at the BBC. But never mind the bureaucrats – Savile destroyed young lives and tainted childhoods. There are no words left to describe any of this, so let’s just leave it there as the dirty epitaph to a man who was rotten to his soul.