So lame, Naughton

Monday, August 21, 2006 by

And so, inevitably, to John Naughton’s appalling list of the worst 50 TV programmes of all time, compiled for, who else, Radio Times.

The problem with this sort of exercise is that they just always get bad television wrong. For me, bad television is a programme that has had time, money and publicity lavished on it, only for it to fall disastrously short in every single department. Like Friends and Crocodiles or Max and Paddy’s Road To Nowhere, to name two examples off the top of my head. Bad television is not an old episode of George and Mildred held under a microscope to sneer at the Ropers’ wallpaper.

Cheggers’ Naked Jungle, intended as nothing more than a shameless exercise by Channel 5 to get in the papers (like Naughton’s list, in fact) tops the list. And surprise surprise, here’s the Minipops, a programme that barely anyone has ever seen beyond the context of “crap TV” clip shows. But, y’know, it’s easy to rustle up a feverish bit of copy about paedophilia and Bob’s your uncle.

Indeed, it feels like half the list comes third-hand from BBC2′s TV Hell, a theme night which actually managed to be affectionate about bad old telly when that was still allowed. Triangle and The Borgias are here, while Origami and Heil Honey I’m Home come straight from Channel 4′s own list of top 100 worst TV shows. The presence of the latter, a BSB one-off comedy that surely nobody has ever seen outside the offices of Noel Gay Television, is inexplicable. Yes, it was a sitcom about Hitler, but that was the point. Like Mel Brooks turning up on Russell Harty and announcing “Hitler was Jewish!” You know, a joke.

Likewise, The Black and White Minstrel Show and Love Thy Neighbour turn up for some more easy copy about “racism”, because we’d never get crass racial stereotypes on primetime television now, would we … eh, Matt and David?

CrossroadsEldoradoThat’s LifeEurovision … practically no original thought has gone into this list whatsoever. WhyPopstars: The Rivals (which made Girls Aloud) but not Fame Academy (which made everyone bored)? Why LA Pool Party, a long-forgotten bit of fluff from a long-forgotten channel?

No, Clive Anderson All Talk or the Clive James Postcards weren’t their finest hours, but they don’t deserve to be lumped alongside Celebrity Wrestling.

Practically the only sacred cow that Naughton dares slaying is French and Saunders. Yes, for the last 12 years their shows have consisted of them sitting around pretending not to have any ideas (when they really were sitting around not having any ideas) and making Lulu references, but I can forgive them for their fantastic Abba parody when that was something approaching an original idea. F&S is no worse than the heroically over-rated Absolutely Fabulous.

It’s so lazy. And worse, there’s something slightly unpleasant about seeing popular successes that I’d never ever defend, like Heartbeat or The Good Old Days, being demolished en masse, as though Naughton is punching the air as he types, and shouting “right on!” as he fearlessly lays into The Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Congratulations.

I’m going to buy TV Times this week.


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