Everyone loves a good panto... don't they?
The BBC loves Dickens. Why wouldn't they? He was a big propagandist against laissez-faire capitalism, just like the BBC.
Still, for many years the BBC did used to serve up excellent Dickens adaptations for the nation's children, at teatime on Sundays. Jolly good they were too- given there were no computer games or digital footie to compete, and the shops were all closed.
The trouble is, these days things aren't so simple. The BBC is going through an identity crisis. As the excellent Janet D reminded us yesterday, it's finally been forced to abandon all those Reithian certainties about serving up the castor oil it knows the plebs must have. Yet it's also dimly aware that £3.2bn pa taxfunding needs at least some sketchy rationale. So it's desperately casting round for a some new role, beyond merely aping the commercial broadcasters in a quest for Big Brother ratings.
Maybe reshaping British society? No, don't titter- that's apparently what Chairman Lyons believes.
So what better than an improving Dickens adaptation for Christmas?
Thus it was, this very evening, with our chestnuts roasting on a open fire, and fully seized of the festive spirit, Mr and Mrs T settled down to watch the first episode of BBC1's brand new serialisation of Oliver Twist. Complete with Timothy Spall as Fagin. What joy!
But what's this?
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
An unredeemed pile of dush dush pop video, pantomime rubbish. We lasted just 15 minutes, and I doubt we were alone.
Yet however dire the reality, we know for certain this will be touted as an example of the Corporation's public service mandate in action. A reason for continued taxpayer support.
It will be fascinating to see the viewing figures. And the cost.
PS You may well object, saying that the classic David Lean film (above) was also pantomime. You may well say Dickens himself was pantomime too. And you may well be right. But there is of course one important difference from the BBC- neither Dickens nor Lean was tax-funded.
PPS On the subject of the festive BBC, a concerned citizen has contacted us with cost details of a BBC staff Xmas bunfight at Battersea Park. 2000 guests @ £38 per head = £76,000. And that was quite possibly just the catering. Who paid? You did, my friend. You did.