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Blown it, mostly

Right then. Comics Britannia.

Speaking as someone writing a series of documentaries along similar lines (although directed at a different sector of the viewing audience) I was intrigued, and interested to see what the BBC did with the opportunity to discuss the history of (British) comics for three hours. They had a decent budget, a complementary graphics style, and a strong selection of interviewees.

The first part, dealing with the Beano, the Dandy and early incarnations of the ‘funnies’ was fine. Leo Baxendale was wry, and whimsical, and the archive was interesting. The second part, assessing the rise of more serious subject matters, was eclipsed in the same week by the far more interesting and much better produced “In Search of Steve Ditko“, which I’ve talked about ealier, and won’t revisit now.

And part three. “Anarchy in the UK“. On the one hand, I want to like this, as it dealt with comics as they were when I was growing up, and made some serious ground by discussing V for Vendetta, Watchmen and Alice in Sunderland.

And then I want to really, really dislike it. Twenty-five minutes of Viz. That’s half the programme, and the insightful analysis we got was Frank Skinner simpering about swearing, Stuart Lee not saying very much (because the impression I got from the whole content was that the production team had no questions to ask – something Jonathan Ross wasn’t guilty of last week), and then a smattering of content celebrating 2000AD and Alan Moore. Which achieved the impossible. How on earth can you have Alan Moore talk for approaching ten minutes of screen time and not get anything out of him? Having Alan read dialogue from V isn’t good television, and it’s not good documentary. Even worse when you repeat the mistake with Watchmen. At least they didn’t get him to read from Lost Girls.

There was much to love about this series, not the least of which was a genuinely decent job done with the research. But a lot of squandered opportunities too. Nothing about the intersection between British Comics and Science Fiction (No Luther Arkwright, no mention of Moorcock), very little sense of any questions being asked, and frankly, Armando Iannuuci is a very fine writer, but he’s not adding anything to this at all.


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