Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Twin Studies

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is the ITV show Long Lost Family.

During the advert break of The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher, as I wondered whether Paddy Considine was actually a real policeman, (seriously, what he's picked up from playing an officer of the law in Hot Fuzz, Red Riding and now Mr Whicher must leave him qualified to tackle some minor crimes at least) I saw a trail for a show called Long Lost Family, in which people are reunited with lost family members by the two obvious choices: Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall.

I tweeted: 'The 2 people I'd least want breaking the news of the discovery of my lost relatives: Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall http://t.co/wOdzf7k.' I thought Davina would leave ridiculous pauses at inappropriately sensitive moments. 'We have found your long lost brother..............................James!' By the end of the pause you'd have forgotten the context in which Davina was shouting at you and just assumed that James had been evicted. And Nicky Campbell would insist on spinning a giant wheel, I guess. I shouldn't have been watching ITV in the first place, but Peter Capaldi was in this Mr Whicher adaptation and he's always brilliant, plus I enjoy waiting to see if he forgets he's not playing Malcolm Tucker and starts shouting elaborate expletives. I went to bed and thought no more of it, but the next day I checked Twitter to find that Nicky Campbell had replied to my tweet: 'did you see it?'

I was surprised, mainly because I hadn't tweeted @ him. So how had he seen it? Had he searched his own name? I was worried I'd offended Nicky Campbell, and felt guilty because I have nothing but respect for the man. Literally, nothing but respect. Respect is all I have for Nicky Campbell. That's it. I replied: 'Nope, I'll catch up online' which I immediately regretted, because it meant I'd then have to, because as we know from his time on Watchdog, you do not lie to Nicky Campbell.

The show was actually sensitively done, if in a hyper-emotive, schmaltzy kind of ITV way. But it all felt horribly uncomfortable. I'm not sure if the public should actually be watching the intimate, life-changing moments of these people. As Lucy Mangan asks in The Guardian, 'Does the bringing together of two families justify the potential intrusion, exploitation, raising and dashing of hopes seen and unseen involved in making a programme that primarily serves a voyeuristic, self-indulgent desire to witness other people's misery and joy?'

At times it's painful watching people who've just had news of a long lost twin being found being poked and prodded to provide a sentimental soundbite. The presence of the cameras forces them to say the kind of things people never ever say in real life. Things like: 'I feel like I could tackle the world today.'

They've been told something incredibly emotional, and their immediate response is, understandably, to cry and not say anything. Through tears, one of them said something like, 'I don't know what to say,' but the camera stayed on them, as if saying 'well fucking think of what to say. Oh boo hoo, look how emotional I am! Say something stupid! Go on!' So they just say, 'wow...gosh...' Let them fucking come to terms with it!

People are also made to read letters from long lost relatives aloud. It's the first time they've read it, so obviously they're crying, but they have to read aloud for the cameras, which just seems cruel. The letter is written to the individual, not to ITV.

As I predicted, Davina does leave stupid Big Brother style pauses. To build up tension, she says, 'there are obviously different ways that it can go...' well that's ominous, '...but I have come here today with some news...' yeah clearly, '...and it's good news...' you could have said it was good news when you said you had news '...your sister has been found,' what was that sorry? I fell asleep. I mean for fuck's sake, she's waiting to hear the most important news of her life, she's not on The Million Pound Drop Live.

And actually, Nicky (I call him Nicky, we're practically pen pals now) was almost as guilty when it came to inappropriate pauses. 'Would you like to see a photograph?' he asked, without moving, even when she said she did, he just sat there, smiling. In fact, his presence was particularly awkward. He's definitely not the warmest man on TV. Whenever he put his hand on the shoulder of an elderly person, I was worried they'd think it was the chilly grip of the Grim Reaper, come to take them. I don't know which is better, his 'almost pathological lack of charisma' (as Lucy Mangan excellently puts it) or Davina's patronising gurning, which, as Michael Deacon says in the Telegraph, is reminiscent of a 'proud mother, waving them off at the school gate.'

Overall, the intrusive nature of the show, combined with the mawkish soundtrack and awkwardly lingering shots of people crying, as well as bizarre bits where Davina and Nicky would walk towards a fixed camera until their faces were creepily close, made it utterly uncomfortable.

But if you're reading this because you've googled yourself and trawled to page 57 Nicky, we'll meet up for a pint soon.

Thanks for reading, I'll leave you with the song that this blog is named after, which is by the rapping evolutionist Baba Brinkman, enjoy!