That’s after your own programmes

Sunday, March 12, 2006 by

As Steve pointed out before ChristmasNationwide, or something like it, is due for an experimental return to BBC1 this summer.

Of course, the main implication of this is a load of badly-written broadsheet features about the original programme, featuring, naturally, the magic words “skateboarding duck”, and the searing revelation that “Frank Bough will not be involved”. Well, thanks for that.

The problem that clueless media journalists always have when seeking to paint Nationwide as a 1970s joke (Clunky sets! Cheesy news agenda!) is that sooner or later, the name Diana Gould rears its head. That nice lady from Cheltenham who put Margaret Thatcher on the spot over the legitimacy of the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War.

That a programme where the public could question the political leaders of the day can be written off so lazily by so many is a crying shame. Nobody ever mentions “Down and Out”, the feature in which Tony Wilkinson slept rough for a month to expose the nightmare of homelessness. Exactly where does that fit into a “cheesy news agenda”? Of course, there was Richard Stilgoe’s “Pigeonhole” and Bob Wellings looking at follies, but that’s what made Nationwide great – 25 minutes of British life, both serious and trivial. Like a newspaper.

I’m not sure that it’s necessarily right for today, though. This exercise seems like a desperate attempt to find something to fill BBC1′s troublesome 7pm slot. And who really needs 90 minutes of news, regional news and current affairs in the early evening? Imagine George Alagiah reading the news, handing to Natasha Kaplinsky in the Nationwide studio, then to “your own programmes”, then back to Natasha again. It could be Sixty Minutes all over again. And there’s the very real prospect of endless irritating Breakfast-style stilted banter.

But still, it’ll be interesting to see how it works out. Especially if they decide to update some of those old Nationwidestaples. For “Pigeonhole” with Stilgoe, read “Inbox” with Bill Turnbull?


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