My husband wasn’t allowed to watch ITV as a boy slash teenager in the 80s. And he’s not from the poshest of families (no offence). But I understand this. I watched Blue Peter not Magpie. And I watched Swap Shop not Tiswas. But occasionally I would have a peek on the Other Side. A guilty pleasure.
No one can forget the anguish when Morecambe and Wise were lured away from the Beeb….
However. There were actually some gems that only now I can see as I emerge from the arms of Auntie, arms that are not as innocent, secure or loving as any of us once believed.
I used to watch the sitcom Agony (1979-1981) on a Sunday evening (always the worst evening with the prospect of a long week of school ahead). I was only a young teenager but I was really drawn to the characters and this other world that was quite unlike mine in Devon. It was about an agony aunt (Maureen Lipman) and two of the main characters were her gay neighbours. It was witty, sophisticated and intelligent (three attributes I would love to be able to give to myself, in my dreams). Looking back it was quite a trailblazer. Only now do I see that maybe ITV had more going right than the BBC.
Everyone knows how I feel about M & W and Brucie. So this is saying something. Bear with me.
Comedy and drama. Are the BBC really doing their best? Where are the successors to Our Friends in the North, Blackadder, House of Cards, The Office? Other than programmes with bonnets or Miranda Hart (and I do love MH) and Twenty Twelve, the Hollow Crown and Last Tango in Halifax … but … other than those … I think the ones to watch may actually be on … ITV. Think Broadchurch. This is the only drama to ‘get’ me in a way I haven’t been ‘got’ in a one time. And it had Olivia Colman.
Scott and Bailey, Coronation Street, The Last Weekend, Mrs Biggs, Leaving, Bletchley Circle, and if you want bonnets, Downton. And the true successors to Morecambe and Wise, Ant and Dec. OK, OK, I’m not saying ITV has got it all right. But I have to say, I am no longer a snob. And I don’t think I have ever been. I am just ‘out’.
And talking of ‘out’ and going back to Agony, I have been so happy to watch the new sitcom Vicious. Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Derek Jacobi and the iconic ITV sitcommer Frances de la Tour. I love it. I love its campness. But most of all I love its nod to the fact that these men have been an item for almost 50 years. And ‘Mother’ still doesn’t know… They are horrible to each other but they love each other.
And The Job Lot. I love it too. I worked briefly in Greenwich dole office and so I really appreciated this. Reminded me a bit of The Office and the US sitcom mockumentary Parks and Recreation.
So I am impressed, ITV. I might not like a lot of what you do, I might be a bit fed up of BGT and the X Factor but I appreciate the striving for better comedy and drama on our televisions screens.
Come on, BBC. Clean up your act and up your game. You can do it.