Great news, guys. Thanks to Live Earth (BBC1 and BBC2, most of last Saturday), recycling is up by almost 6,000 per cent, the icecaps are regenerating, Kilimanjaro has got its snow back and polar bear experts are reporting that the latest batch of cubs are whiter, cuter and fluffier than at any time since records began. Furthermore, no fewer than 98.8 per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds now agree with the statement: ‘Man-made global warming is the greatest threat to humanity ever and if my parents disagree I promise to chop them to pieces with sharp knives like the fascist, Gaia-raping pigs they are.’
Actually, I can think of two encouraging things that came out of all that nonsense over the weekend. The first is what it revealed about public attitudes to global warming: that, despite all the propaganda, we’re not nearly as panic-stricken as Al Gore feels we ought to be. As became swiftly clear whenever one of the rock acts tried to steer the entertainment in a more overtly eco-conscious direction, the punters were mainly there for the music, not the right to have another 30 quid added to the price of their cheap flights to Alicante.
Equally heartening were the BBC’s attempts to adopt a politically neutral position. You might argue that this battle was already lost the moment it decided to broadcast the event virtually non-stop from midday on Saturday till the small hours of Sunday morning. You might be right. But I thought it was terribly sweet the way, stung by the recent report lambasting its slavish endorsement of Live 8, the BBC instructed its presenters to strike a more sceptical note.
Not that Jonathan Ross needed much encouraging. His tone, throughout, was like the one Terry Wogan adopts towards the Eurovision Song Contest: delighted, japesome contempt. He took especial pleasure in goading his comedy guests into being rude. ‘You know Madonna’s written a special song for the occasion?’ he asked Stephen Merchant. ‘Let’s hope she doesn’t play it,’ said Merchant.
Better still was the response he got from Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock. ‘I pray that this event ends global warming the same way Live 8 ended world hunger,’ said Rock mock-solemnly to much hyena cackling from Gervais. ‘And I hope it ends it like "Ebony and Ivory" ended racism,’ added Gervais. These men are the two most popular comedians on the planet. If they think this way, doesn’t that give hope to us all?
Having used up a whole column on Doctor Who the other day, I apologise for returning to it so soon. But I felt I had to draw to your attention a new group I’ve just joined on Facebook (note to techno-illiterate readers: Facebook is a trendy internet thingummyjig where people gather to waste one another’s time). It’s called: ‘I hate Catherine Tate and she shouldn’t be in the new series of Doctor Who.’
Now to Rome (BBC2, Sunday, Monday). The general view seems to be that to like it is to demonstrate that you have no critical faculties or indeed brain cells, which is why up until now I’ve been keeping my continuing enthusiasm for it a bit of a guilty secret. But the other day I happened to mention it to top people’s actor William Chubb, on the lines of ‘I know it’s rubbish but...’, and he exclaimed, ‘What do you mean it’s rubbish? Rome is brilliant!’
There are more of us than you’d think. One of Willliam’s chums is a professor of Classical architecture and he says the way it has captured the look of Ancient Rome is absolutely dead-on — much more realistic than the Armani-style version presented in Gladiator.
And the acting, of course, is superb. Despite being an American-financed production (HBO), almost all the cast are top-notch British thesps, such as you’d find speaking your actual iambic pentameters with the rhythm in all the right places at the RSC: James Purefoy; Ciaran Hinds; Kenneth Cranham; and, best of all, Polly Walker and Lindsay Duncan as the two scheming bitches Atia and Servilia. The script may not be Shakespeare, but they give it their all.
Mind you, let’s not knock the script. The other week, there was an episode including the funniest scene I’ve seen on TV all year. It went something like this:
An atrium in Atia’s house. Octavia (Atia’s daughter) and her friend Jocasta are burning something on hot coals and chasing the dragon through a straw.
Atia: What are you doing?
Octavia: Inhaling hemp.
Atia: I can see that. You’re stinking out the whole house. In future you’ll do it outside. (Suddenly curious) Is it any good?
Jocasta (in trendy, spoilt, Chelsea-girl way): I bought back two sacks from Macedonia. Soooo much better than the Italian stuff.
See how amazingly like us the Romans were? They should make this series compulsory in all British schools. It’ll do so much more for our children’s education than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.