Baby Driver, John Adams & Christmas TV

Caught about fifteen minutes of a programme on Channel 5 featuring Rustie Lee, Joe Pasquale, Richard Coles, and a woman I don’t recognise. All of them embarking on a trip to Lapland to ‘find’ Santa Claus.

Very low-rent. A sort of Real Marigold Hotel on Tour but without the retirement premise or the budget. Utterly absorbing. Had to stop myself from watching it live – wanted to save it for a bit of daytime viewing. Perfect Christmas TV ‘filler’.

For all the bleating about there not being enough to watch on television at Christmas, and the embarrassing hand-wringing some broadcast organisations do about viewing figures being down on previous years, I do wonder whether people overlook what the real joy of Christmas television has always been.

Flicking through the Radio Times at Christmas time was never about finding excellent programming which had to be watched. It was always about responding to the programme listings and seeing what could fill-up the hours of free time the school holidays afforded. That meant taking a risk on things, often seeing comparatively simpler offerings – some of it cheesy, most of it quite cheap. I wonder whether we’ve overlooked that original joy.

In the space of only a few years, we’ve all become incredibly fussy about what we watch, ranking big budget productions as a safer bet over lower-budget affairs.

I loved the first season of The Crown on Netflix and assumed I’d binge this Christmas on the second season. Two episodes into the second season and the shine has rubbed off a bit. The drama seems a little flabby. There’s an arrogance to the story arc in each episode as though someone somewhere is saying “This will do – all they want is nostalgia.” Big budget doesn’t necessarily mean better. So if there’s no guarantee of quality, why not stop being so precious about the need for ‘quality’ and take a risk? That way you’re managing your expectations and leaving yourself open to being surprised at the outcome.

Baby Driver: a two-hour film for a bitesize generation

Later, we watched Baby Driver on Sky. The direction, editing created a symphonic kind of storytelling. Efficient. Punchy.

A two-hour film for a generation brought-up on bitesize content.

Baby’s fascination with the rhythmic patterns of everyday speech, his curation of source material, and creative excursions made me think of Bela Bartok’s work traversing Eastern Europe collecting folk songs, and more recently John Adams’ work with tape loops.

In addition to the obvious musical references in the string of montages throughout the film, music was celebrated for the power it has to focus the mind and stoke the imagination.


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