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Soon dumbing down will be dumbed down

I am ever aware of the twenty seven years that I have weathered on this earth. Sometimes I feel exceedingly old, sometimes I'm aware of how young I still am. I often marvel at the world I live in, wondering where it will be by the time I've passed another twenty seven years.

I have reached a point now, where I have opinions on everything (as the rest of this website will probably indicate). I have a strong idea of what is right and wrong and what is good and bad. My favourite radio station is Radio 2 and I reserve a lot of respect for BBC television; I have almost the exact opposite feeling towards ITV.

If ITV truly reflects the nature of this country, I need to get a new nationality before the decade is out. Sure, there are some reasonable programs on the channel; I'll confess to watching Coronation Street from time to time (though I actually watch it more frequently), and I have enjoyed Midsomer Murders and Morse, but the majority of their output is shocking. It's around this time of year, when Cilla Black's latest extravaganza starts up on Saturday prime time, that I start to get depressed. Do people really watch this rubbish?

The reason for this article is to take a look at a scary televisual future. I refer to the recent showing of Britain's Top Ten Murderers. Much of the recent fuss about Christopher Morris's Brass Eye program was from people who has missed the point it was trying to make. The entirety of the Brass Eye series was about how the popular media presents factual programs. Britain's Top Ten Murderers might well have been an edition of Mr Morris's show, it was so bad. While apparently treating its subject seriously, its low-brow approach made fools out of everyone, program makers and viewers alike.

Looking at the title alone, you might realise how poor the program would be. Its angle, if it had one, was to revisit some old, unsolved murder cases and attempt to get public help to solve them. A little like BBC's crimewatch, but only a little. The two presenters, one man, one woman, appeared in a studio with glossy enlargements of murder victims' photographs around them. With call-centre behind, they romped through well over ten murders. They used every cliche they could to attempt to keep their audience. In evidence was that special style of speaking, reserved for programs that trivialise serious subject - you start of in a light flowing tone and then inject a dark and moody element for the serious bit:

e.g. It was just like any other day in Weston Super Mare... BUT DANGER WAS LURKING AROUND THE CORNER

The ubiquitous, pointless reconstruction was in force. The script appeared to have been written by some teenager as part of his GCSE English project:

e.g. Edinburgh, 1973. Flares were in style. This pub...

To set the scene, we were reminded of flares, as though the script writer thought that it would help jog people's memories, or that that one statement alone would sum up a decade. Yet, of all the stupidity, on display throughout the entire program, one single thing made me laugh the most. In an attempt to find a murderer, whom police believe came from a particular place and had left DNA evidence at the crime scene (over 20 years ago), they wanted people to come forward for DNA screening - to help the police out. Of course! The murderer will OBVIOUSLY put himself forward. Or, perhaps they're hoping to arrest everyone who doesn't put themselves forward for screening. Maybe they've worked out everyone who lived in the area in that particular year... Rubbish!

So, I sat through this program, amazed at how crass TV has become, but thankful that I was at least not watching Hear'Say it's Saturday.

27 August 2001
Ashley Frieze