Oliver’s Ofcom Army

by Stephen Arnell

‘It’s a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that, without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.’

Hurrah for Olly, some might say, as the Culture Secretary and Matthew Cottle lookalike prepares to wield the ‘simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play’ in his passionate Cri de Coeur for the accurate depiction of real folk in streaming services.

I’m sure Quentin Tarantino is hurriedly rewriting the scripts and reassembling the cast for reshoots of Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), both currently playing on Netflix in the UK.

Likewise the team behind Aardman’s animated comedy The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012), where the late Queen Victoria comes in for a fair amount of stick, as she is portrayed as a member of exclusive club that feasts on endangered species.

And don’t get me started on Blackadder, or more recently, The Queen’s Corgi (2019), where ‘Beloved hound Rex deals with a jealous frenemy and Donald Trump before winding up in a pound and embarking on an adventure back to Buckingham Palace.’

I also must draw your attention to the classic James Bond motion picture Moonraker (1979), where the final scene presents the very real possibility of Her Majesty accidentally witnessing Roger Moore’s 007 enthusiastic copulating (‘attempting re-entry’ according to Q) – in space.

See where I’m going with this?

Any who, to demonstrate a sense of public service and a belief in the suitability of Ofcom to stick their collective oar into streaming services, a few suggestions:

1) Any factual show that includes footage of Boris Johnson should highlighted with the warning ‘features a compulsive liar’

2) Derek (2012-14) – Ricky Gervais’s alleged comedy is not to be taken as a totally accurate portrayal of the caring profession

3) After Life (2019-) – another Gervais production wrongly billed as a comedy

4) Poldark (2015-19) – Cornwall is not like this anymore, if indeed it ever was

5) Gogglebox (2013-) – the attention-seeking participants are real people. Apparently.

6) White Lines (2020) – this now cancelled cocaine-themed Hispanic mystery thriller boasts a cast including the gormless leader of the Reclaim Party (London Mayoral candidate 202 – lost deposit)

7) Safe (2018) – stars the bloke from Dexter attempting a laughably unconvincing English regional (indeterminate locale) accent

8) Shows starring the former Top Gear trio of Messrs Clarkson, May and Hammond.

Yes, these three rapidly aging enfants terribles are allowed to indulge their middle-aged (non-sexual, thank God) fantasies. And yes, Amazon Prime really pay (very) good money for their boorish antics. A charmless version of Last of the Summer Wine’s clapped-out trio of Compo, Clegg and Foggy, if you will. Show titles such as ‘Seamen,’ ‘Lochdown’ and ‘A Massive Hunt’ are indicative of the general level of intelligence on display.

9) Spitting Image revival (2020-) – puppet show mistakenly classified as satire

10) Van der Valk (2020) – lead actor obviously not Dutch, doesn’t even have a go at the accent. Classic theme tune ruined by updated use as a minimalist tinkling piano refrain – sans the stomping horns of the original.

You get the idea.

Still, a nice long-running gig for the Ofcom employee tasked with casting a critical eye over the historical (and otherwise) veracity of streaming shows.

And, on an entirely different note, whatever happened to pooch-screwing fantasy-adventure The Watch? (BBC i-Player) A trifecta of terrible reviews, blow-back from the Pratchett family and lousy viewing figures (from 274,000 for ep 1 to 130,00 to 8th and final show) in the US meant this once touted series was swiftly booted through the Doors of Night and into The Void of notorious fantasy TV flops (see also Gormenghast, Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Jekyll and Hyde etc).

So why in the name of Great Caesar’s Ghost did BBC America bother adapting Pratchett if they junked much of his work?

A potential long-running fantasy hit with brand recognition- but with a funkier, edgier vibe than the books?

Beats me.

Stephen Arnell

By Stephen Arnell