03 January, 2012

London's Burning (Channel 4, 22/12/11)


This drama, with new clips interspersed with news footage from the summer looting, seemed to be Channel 4's answer to a 'reflection' of the year. Whilst I initially feared that a drama had been too hastily put-together to have a chance to say anything meaningful about the events of the summer, I reserved judgement. Then I watched this ridiculous programme.


The news footage jarred with the kitsch and cheery images of real life. Zooming from place to place through fake computer-animated streets made the hour feel like an extended episode of Balamory, rather than a drama focusing on real-life events. The quaint and cartoon-like depiction of shops and salons did nothing to show the extent of the damage to real life people. A comical depiction of the hairdresser who became a spokesperson during the actual riots showed just how lazy this drama was in terms of doing anything beyond representing the summer's events.



The characters were piss-poor, making jokes about 'Twatter' as if the programme were made in 2008, and saying lines such as 'oh my son better not be in there' about a BURNING BUILDING. One redeeming feature of the episode were the middle-class Clapham couple, who showed how the riots affected the average joe. However, this promise was soon ruined by the 'We-made-artichoke-heart-sandwiches-to-show-our-class' line. The hour-long torture ran to a close wherein some gas canisters almost exploded, but didn't, and noone died. The last scene, in which Channel 4 seemed to ignore reasons for rioting, or to show ANY long-term damage of the violence, seemed offensive. The problems highlighted and causing the 'summer troubles' are not over. The only attempt at 'social commentary' was the 'you're too late' scream at the police, which seemed to be a biased approach to policing, when there was quite literally no blame put on the rioters themselves.

In all, the episode failed to say anything of worth about the riots, the rioters or society. There was no mention at all of the reasons for the violence, from anyone. Comments by the girl being treated in the hair salon were awkward and vague, and the policeman-civilian interchange about tear gas was the most ridiculous and stilted scene to have made it to screen. Do we really need a dramatisation of the summer riots, a reward to the rioters of more screen-time and a full-on tv programme? 'London's Burning' was a hastily thrown-together, poorly-acted and worthless piece of television and was, I would suggest, detrimental to society. You can do better Channel 4, we've seen you can.

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