Really, it isn’t me who decides what TV programmes to review. It’s my wife. Like, the other night I’d started watching Ricky J. Dyer’s fascinating documentary I Love Being…HIV+ (BBC3, Monday) about pozzing up, the disgusting gay underworld perversion of deliberately getting yourself infected with the HIV virus by seeking unprotected sex with known carriers, and the wife came in and said, ‘Oh God! We’re not watching this, surely? Huh, this is just the sort of stuff you’d watch, because we know you’re gay really…’
So to shut her up I had to dig out some art programmes I’d ordered up instead. The first, The Private Life of an Easter Masterpiece (BBC2, Thursday), began with an assumption depressingly common these days in programmes with vaguely highbrow subjects viz — unless we bend over backwards to assert how terribly, terribly important this thing is, our viewers are going to turn over and watch SpongeBob SquarePants instead.
Leonardo’s ‘The Last Supper’, Sam West’s voiceover informed us (in tones no less solemnly portentous than the ones he has previously used to describe the annihilation of the 6th army at Stalingrad and the creation of the Nazi death camps), was to ‘revolutionise Western art’ and was very nearly as revered as Christ himself. ‘More than half a millennium after its creation,’ he added, ‘the shockwaves from the painting’s artistic explosion are still resonating as loud as bombs.’ Furthermore, another talking head popped up to inform us, ‘“The Last Supper” constitutes who we are.’ Indeed, it marked ‘the beginning of modern consciousness’.
At this point, unfortunately, we got so cross we switched the programme off. I mean, maybe Leonardo’s daub was considered quite the thing in its time, but it’s not much cop now, is it? The paint’s so faded that the only reason you know it’s a masterpiece is that art historians keep telling you it is.