TALES OF TELEVISION CENTRE: Thursday 17th May, BBC4, 9pm
It seems awfully big headed of the BBC to broadcast an hour and a half long documentary about itself, complete with fawning talking head interviews from the likes of Andi Peters. Surely itâs like if Bono were to compose a song highlighting the importance of U2 or if Dan Brown were write a book about the mystery of Dan Brown. Obviously those two examples sound entirely plausible, now that I think about it, but my point remains.
The documentary in question focuses on the wonder that is Television Centre, a historic building of great cultural significance, weâre told. Andi Peters, for example, describes his first visit there as a religious one, although itâs unclear where Ed the Duck fits into this profound experience. Peters is not alone, of course. Other interviewees happy to share their favourite Television Centre memories include Sir David Attenborough, Joan Bakewell, Jeremy Paxman, Sir Terry Wogan, Griff Rhys Jones and Brian Blessed.
According to television executive Sir Paul Fox, the place absolutely reeks of television history. In fact, the stench is so unbearably historic, that the musk left from such programmes as Dadâs Army, Top of the Pops and Doctor Who refuses to dissipate even to this day. But itâs not just the buildingâs potent history that makes Esther Rantzen eyes run; itâs the buildingâs design too.
It looks like Tracy Island from Thunderbirds, weâre told, its design is so powerfully unique and wonderful that, over the years, itâs even been plagiarised. Jeremy Paxman knows this because heâs seen a very similar looking building in âZimbabwe or somewhere like thatâ?. You know, one of those foreign countries that are notorious for ripping off British architecture. Zimbabwe or France or something.
There are moments in the documentary that are surprisingly quite touching. Thereâs a story, for instance, about the one-armed man who used to man the entrance gate, and itâs a shame that we donât get to hear more about unique, behind the scenes characters like this. Instead, much of the programme is made up of mostly uninteresting memories that merely distract from whatâs made the building such a fascinating place.
Television Centre obviously means a great deal to television veterans like Sir David Attenborough and Sir Terry Wogan, and its history is indeed impressive. But the anecdotes shared here just arenât particularly insightful. It all just seems terribly exclusive. Thatâs not to say that the documentary is particularly bad; it just all too often crosses the fine line between relevant and shamelessly self-congratulatory.