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Sunday night on the Beeb was an orgy of virtue-signalling

Plus: why a cultish New Zealand horror-comedy fly-on-the-wall mockumentary about vampire housemates is worth your time

25 May 2019

9:00 AM

25 May 2019

9:00 AM

After its new costume drama You Go, Girl! (Sundays) about how amazing, empowered and better-than-men women are, especially if they are lesbians, the BBC ran its first ever Nike ad. At least that’s what I thought initially: rap music, moody shots of athletes, very high production values. Then I saw they were all grim-faced women and the word ‘RISE’ in flames and I thought: ‘Big new drama series? About girls who’ve been sucked into this very strict Christian cult, a bit like the Handmaid’s Tale, maybe?’ Then I noticed they were all wearing football kit and kicking balls around, and went back to my original Nike idea. Finally came the big reveal. It said: ‘#CHANGE THE GAME. FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2019.’

If you go to the BBC website, you’ll see a feature headlined ‘Women’s World Cup: 10 things about the BBC trailer’. But it doesn’t contain the one fact that might conceivably have been interesting about this monumental waste of licence-fee payer’s money: exactly how much the BBC spunked up against the wall on this orgy of virtue-signalling, identity politics and third-rate sport.

I don’t mean to be uncharitable here — no wait, I do. But let’s put this pretend ‘world cup’, which will be sold to us as if it were the real world cup, in perspective. In 2016, the Australian women’s national team — then ranked fifth in the world — were beaten 7–0 by the Newcastle Jets under-15 boys. In 2017, the USA suffered a similar fate — 5–2 down — against FC Dallas’s U15 boys. Last month, Chelsea — for the semi-finals of the Women’s Champion’s League — drew crowds of 4,670. The reason people don’t want to watch women’s football is not that they need the BBC’s wise guidance to liberate them from their unconscious sexism. It’s because women’s football is a waste of space.


Back to You Go, Girl! whose real name, I now recall, is Gentleman Jack. The best thing about it is the lilting theme song — endlessly reiterated at intervals throughout the show, so it’s just as well it’s good — by Yorkshire folk duo O’Hooley & Tidow. Also most excellent is Suranne Jones — lusty, roistering, mugging to the camera in the manner of Fleabag — as the heroine, Anne Lister, billed as ‘the first modern lesbian’.

That said, I am about as likely to watch the rest of the series as I am to watch the women’s play-offs between Azerbaijan and Turks & Caicos. Apart from the sex scenes — which I may watch at some stage, on my own, after someone has put them together in compilation form — I’m just not interested in how marvellously jaunty and feisty and pioneering it was to be a rich, landowning proto-lesbian in early 19th-century Yorkshire. Still less am I interested in sitting there congratulating myself for appreciating it, much in the manner of audiences applauding left-wing comedians not for being funny, but for rehearsing the correct sociopolitical pieties.

The reason I don’t feel embarrassed to say this is that a) I don’t think it’s my fault and b) a lot of people feel as I do. I’ve nothing against lesbians. I think the production and performances are first rate. And if this had been on 15 years ago, I might have given it more of a chance. Not, though, in a world where the BBC imposes its woke values on viewers and listeners so relentlessly that the only sane response is to go: ‘Sod this. I’m not going to bother any more.’

What We Do in the Shadows (BBC2, Sunday) is the spin-off series from a cultish New Zealand horror-comedy fly-on-the-wall mockumentary about vampire housemates, now relocated from Wellington to Staten Island in New York. The very funny running joke is that while these vampires are properly evil and powerful (they can turn into bats, float up the sides of buildings, communicate telepathically, and, of course, they drink human blood), they are also utterly crap in the manner of Viz magazine’s ‘Pathetic Sharks’.

In the second episode, for example, the vampire known as Nandor the Relentless (‘because I just never relent’) decides to take control of Staten Island council by using one of the up-and-coming councillors as his vessel. ‘They laugh at me. But they will not be laughing at me when I unleash my hell hound — Doug Peterson!’ Nandor exults from the public seating area in the council chamber. What Nandor hasn’t quite mastered, though, is tone — as Peterson demonstrates when his turn comes in the dreary council minutes to deliver the winning speech Nandor has prepared for him. Peterson [to the council leader]: ‘I will rip your head from your body and I will hang your entrails from the traffic light on Highland Boulevard so our new masters will see that only those who submit will survive!’ Exit Peterson, carted off by security…


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