TV

Up the Auntie?

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While we do not know yet who will win the May election, it is already clear that among the biggest losers will surely be the BBC. Whatever government we have, it is certain that the BBC will be mangled and probably dismembered. When a disease-carrying rat like Jeremy Clarkson abandons the Good Ship BBC (and please do not tell me that the “fracas” was anything but a stage-managed exit strategy), it is clear that we are in a Titanic and iceberg moment.

Real detectives?

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The format of the TV police procedural has always been a good vehicle for writers to express criticism of society. Its basic principle is that agents of the state, usually cynical and damaged detectives, are the only ones capable of getting at "the truth", but only if they challenge the system, and its many interests, in pursuit of it.

Dr Who: Resistance is eternal

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In this, his 50th anniversary year, Doctor Who has become a contested figure. The right think he's one of them. The Daily Mail, for example, sees him as an embodiment of "traditional values".

"What finer example of a man - brave, reflective, with a keen sense of heroic duty - is there than Doctor Who?" it writes. And it's true that there are aspects of the character the right are happy with.

The Doctor is an aristocrat from a fantasy super-Britain. His home planet, Gallifrey, is a combination of Eton, Oxbridge and parliament on steroids.

Winter is coming

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The US cable channel HBO has acquired a reputation for developing television shows that are both intelligent and compulsive viewing. The best of these programmes, such as The Wire and The Sopranos, were able to shine a light on contemporary society in innovative ways.

So it might seem a bit unusual that the latest in this run of culturally relevant TV shows is based not in the streets of New Jersey or Baltimore, but in the mythical realm of Westeros in which kings and queens vie for power using sword-bearing armies, dragons and magic. Yet Game of Thrones is notable not simply for its echoes of medieval Europe but also for its parallels with the world we live in today.

Don't make me laugh

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What's going on? It seems like every time I switch on my TV, so-called comedians and panel show celebrities are telling racist and other offensive jokes.

Only the other day, Jimmy Carr was on a quiz panel spouting a tirade of racist jokes about Travellers and their protest at Dale Farm. Two days later Jeremy Clarkson was on the BBC's One Show saying that strikers should be shot in front of their families.

His excuse? It was only a joke. I don't recall the same leniency being applied to the two young men who jokingly called on people to riot on facebook over the summer.

Boardwalk Empire

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At the stroke of midnight on 16 January 1920 the US went dry. For the next 13 years Prohibition made it illegal to buy or sell alcohol.

Yet rather than discouraging drinking, it had quite the opposite effect. Thousands of illegal drinking dens opened. The "Roaring Twenties" had begun. The capital of all this hedonism was Atlantic City in New Jersey - a Las Vegas before Vegas was even invented.

Prohibition had another spin-off: it provided a bonanza for Italian, Irish and Jewish street gangs who came to control the supply and distribution of alcohol. It became a multimillion-dollar business and gave birth to the modern Mafia.

From Buffy to Bella - has vampire fiction lost its teeth?

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From teenage romances to adult drama, vampires are currently popular in film, television and books. Recent news that a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer film is in the pipeline should have overjoyed fans, but it was revealed that the show's creator, Joss Whedon, would not be involved.

In the original, Whedon set out to change the constant representation of women in the horror genre as victims being attacked in dark alleys. He posed the possibility of them being strong and fighting back, and created a show that dealt with real life topics, including school shootings, bullying, low paid work and date rape.

The move to "reboot" Buffy looks like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of recent books and films like Twilight, which generate huge revenues.

Casting off stereotypes

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Channel 4's new series, Cast Offs, proved to be a breath of fresh air in the world of media and disability.

In the fake reality show mockumentary, six disabled characters (all played by disabled actors) are stranded on an island.

Its writers hope it will do for disability what Queer as Folk did for gays, and certainly you couldn't imagine it being made ten years ago, let alone when I was growing up.

Back in my early teens everyone thought that my hero must be Douglas Bader. Bader had lost both legs in the Second World War and yet continued to go on flying missions, got taken prisoner of war, escaped, was recaptured and emerged from it all as a national hero.

Throw the costumes to the moths

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There was a time when the BBC produced some of the finest drama series. Not so now. US channels such as HBO have been leaving them standing.

From this I exclude costume drama, which people still say the BBC does better than anyone else, maybe, but frankly dear readers, who gives a damn?

While watching Mad Men recently it occurred to me just how superior the Americans are. Contrast it with, for instance, Life on Mars, one of the BBC's critically acclaimed and successful shows which is about to embark on a third series.

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