#oneaday 35: Cooking the classes

I have not done my homework for weeks, just look at my #oneaday performance – we are on day 62 of 2011 and I am posting my 35th blog – so I am almost 50% behind the curve.  I think the phrase would be ‘could try harder’. Maybe I need to go back to school, in seach of further learning and inspiration.

Maybe though there is more than one  major crisis in the TV production industry. Or at least there seems to be. Whoever decided to try and fuse a popular chef who happens to have a very deep a social conscience, some famous people with brains or sporting prowess, some drop out 16 year olds without any GCSE’s and an allegedly failing teaching system probably thought the result would be enlightening,  a good idea even.  Certainly whoever green lit the concept at Channel 4 was either suffering from delusion or hubris or a bit of both.

Jamie Oliver has done many, many great things and I have the utmost respect for him. He is a one man force of nature. Whether it’s creating fast proper food, training 16 year old drop outs to be chefs or indeed putting some magic into the gastronomic production in schools and communities trying to help stop some becoming 16 year old drop outs, he has always fought against the endemic status quo.

However, last night ‘Jamie’s Dream School’ was the equivalent of cold cuts with your Frosties. The concept was simple, in more ways than one.

Take a heap of kids from various backgrounds, but mainly working class, who had left school at 16 without any qualifications. Then take a variety of well known and it has to be said purveyors of excellence in their respective fields and ask them to inspire said kids, and sort of teach them at the same time. Good concept eh? In the process prove that all students need inspiration and if they get that inspiration from teachers, they may well actually engage and learn and then get some qualifications and be good citizens.

Seems fair enough. From my own childhood I experienced good, bad and ugly teachers and one or two excellent ones who genuinely inspired me to learn and achieve. Indeed I still keep in touch with one such excellent teacher today, 30 years after leaving school.

But this is TV. It feels like teaching and learning don’t really make great TV, a bit like video games, i.e you have to be in it to get it, so to speak. So the producers have to use all sorts of visual aids and stunts to keep the viewer interested or at least they think they are keeping the viewer interested.

So we see a bit of indiscipline, sparked by David Starkey adopting a quasi 1950’s approach to teaching. More Jimmy Edwards than Robert Donat and all frankly contrived and somewhat embarrassing all round.  Cue ‘the kids’ leaving class and cries of ‘disrespec’ it’s rank out of orda’. Rolf Harris is there to teach art, and unsurprisingly got mashed by the sheer weight of numbers. Robert Winston, a trained surgeon, but advocate of science (good man) tries to get the interest of his class first by dissecting large mice or rats and then goes for the jugular by dissecting a pig complete with guts and entrails being chucked around hastened by a circular saw. Cue ‘the kids’ leaving class again and this time chucking their own guts up. Dame Ellen Macarthur stuck to her core subject, and got kids aboard her yacht and got their concentration, which one must assume is down to their being no signal for their mobile phones and it being somewhat dangerous in the Solent.

All in all the whole programme was predictable and frankly trite. Celebrity culture seems to allow for citizens to get some kind of warped kudos from being trite and often stupid. I would like to know what the budget for this series actually was, but whilst I do feel that Channel 4’s output has been getting steadily worse, let’s say lacking in inspiration, I would urge all of you to seek out and invest 5 hours of your life to watch ‘The Promise’ also broadcast and commissioned by Channel 4. That really was truly inspirational work of televisual art touching both my heart and mind in a profound way whilst also educating me on the issues surrounding the Middle East.

Check out The Promise on 4OD

Maybe Jamie could buy a ticket to Hebron or Gaza and use his considerable talents and diplomatic nature to help solve that little problem. They have tried everything else, so what have they or we got to lose?

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