9pm Thursday night. A dilemma. What to watch? There’s How I Met Your Mother, Happy Endings and Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy all on E4. There’s The Good Wife and The Big C on More4. There’s the Karen Gillan drama We’ll Take Manhattan on BBC4. There are also other options: Mad Dogs on Sky1, American Idol on ITV2.
In the end, I went for the one without adverts, as I can watch the others when they’re not live and skip the adverts. So I decided to watch the one and half hour drama about the photographer David Bailey and his model Jean Shrimpton. A drama I first heard about as an answer to a pub quiz back in July.
Of course the main question and focus is on Karen Gillan. Can she act or be anyone other than Amelia Pond? First things first, Shrimpton is not Scottish. She’s a country girl from Bucks and speaks RP. There’s a lot of ‘Gosh’ in the dialogue. Although Gillan does the accent, it all seems like she’s playing a role. It’s Amy Pond caught in 1962 before the introduction of ‘youth culture’ (as the opening tells us), pretending to be a young, inexperienced model who is taken under David Bailey’s wing. Who sleeps with the married David Bailey and is thrown out of her family farm by her father, Robert Glenister. Who is despised by Lady Clare Rendlesham, the Vogue fashion editor. Although she tries to maintain an English persona, when she laughs it’s just Gillan/Pond laughing. She’s best when she’s posing for photos and doesn’t say anything. And I mean that in the nicest possible way – the best bits are the stills of the photos.
I’ll be honest. We’ll Take Manhattan is not very good. I don’t recommend catching it on the iplayer. It’s a typical old-school TV movie. The plot meanders, there’s no real urgency. Bailey is commissioned to go to Manhattan to do a photo shoot for Vogue. He insists on taking his muse Jean Shrimpton. He takes daring photos in front of iron fences, dog poo signs, through shop windows. Lady C gets increasingly annoyed, but then the Vogue editor-in-chief says that Shrimpton is beautiful and that Bailey is the future of photography.
There are appearances from Duckface and Madame Kovarian. Helen McCrory is Lady C. Aneurin Barnard as David Bailey is quite good. But they all deserve better.
Anyway Thursday nights are just a lead-in for the main event: Question Time. In Plymouth with Melanie Phillips from the Daily Mail, Jeremy Browne the Lib Dem MP, David Lammy the Labour MP, Elizabeth Truss a Tory MP, and the comedian and Independent columnist Mark Steel. The best thing about Question Time is that it allows me to get very angry about the government and the opposition and this was no exception.
No questions about the lack of economic growth or Nick Clegg’s positioning in the coalition government. The first question was about the proposal to cap benefits to £26,000. Followed by a question about executive bonuses in light of the RBS chief, Stephen Hester’s, £963,000 bonus on top of his £1.2 million salary from a company that is 82% public-owned. Jeremy Browne is the worst kind of LibDem – a “Tory” LibDem. Although apparently his answer saying that Hester has a public duty to refuse the bonus may earn some traction. Mark Steel had some good things to say about the whole hypocrisy of economic policy when social inequality is increasing all the time and the top % have been getting wealthier during the last few years while everyone else is squabbling over relatively small amounts. How many people on benefits actually receive more than £26,000 – only about 67,000 households. Turning on so-called ‘benefit scroungers’ isn’t going to rescue the economy. Yes, it might solve some inefficiency but just cutting benefits alone is not an incentive to work anyway.
Anyway Question Time makes you aware of some of the debates but when was the last time it actually had any effect. Either on public opinion or on public policy? The debate about legalising drug use, for example, isn’t going to affect the Select Committee. Question Time was always a vociferous critic of the war in Iraq, but that didn’t change anything. I enjoy having a focused debate to let me get angry for an hour, but after that, I’m back to laughing at Max and Penny on E4.