California Literary Review

Twenty Twelve Recap — Season 1, Episode 5


July 1st, 2012 at 12:06 pm

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Twenty Twelve BBC

When people hear the word ‘culture’, they reach for their remote. Anna Mitchell (Lucy Briers) applies to be Curator of the Cultural Olympiad.

“As usual, it’s Monday morning for London Twenty Twelve Head of Deliverance Ian Fletcher” says David Tennant. And there’s a profound truth somewhere in that apparent mistake. The life of Ian Fletcher (High Bonneville) does indeed seem to be a succession of Monday mornings. I suppose it is for everyone, in a sense. David Tennant excluded, of course – he can just hop about as he pleases. (I may be misunderstanding the concept of an actor here, I’ll grant you that.) But Ian Fletcher does seem to live through more than his fair share of Monday mornings.

On this particular Monday morning it has been suggested by “upstairs” that as many of the team as want to should enter the London Marathon under the London Olympics brand. Or rather, slightly more than that number, since as long as (no. of Olympics Deliverance Team in marathon) > 0, it seems fair to assume that (no. of ODT in marathon more than no. that would like to be) would also > 0. Siobhan Sharpe, the head of Brand, may be an exception. But who knows what Siobhan actually thinks about anything?

But that aside, they have to interview candidates for the post of Curator of the Cultural Olympiad, a programme that is so clearly a bolt-on to the whole business that even kulcha-luvvies like me find it difficult to get excited about. And the running joke about “I like guys in stilts as much as the next man” is quite chucklesome. One of the key questions they’ve agreed to ask the candidates is what exactly they think the Cultural Olympiad is. A silence falls over the table, before they all hurriedly agree what an excellent question that will be.

The possible curators come in various flavours of awful. Anna Mitchell (Lucy Briers) has a habit of getting totally onboard with what you’re saying absolutely totally before you’ve actually said it, and then beginning sentences “Oh, absolutely, I mean for me personally, if the Cultural Olympiad is about anything, and I have to say at the outset that I believe it is, what we’re actually talking about here is underwriting in young people a real commonality of creative purpose and shared awareness of diversity.” She’s very keen on cultural inreach, as well as cultural outreach. Roshanara Khan (Salima Saxton), whom the show has grafted onto the family tree of the Pakistani politician and cricketer Imran Khan as a “distant niece”, is a professionally well-connected person. Which is to say, her career seems to consist of being connected to people. David Tennant (as the voiceover) gets a line about her being “rumoured to have enjoyed a brief spell whilst at Oxford as younger sister to one of Boris Johnson’s girlfriends”. She appears to have no idea what the Cultural Olympiad is, which does not put her at a meaningful disadvantage compared to the other candidates, or indeed those on the interviewing panel. Fidel Wilson (Johann Myers) was (Tennant again) “originally from Coventry, but then trained as a successful choreographer”. His recent hits include an all-male stage version of Little Women which provoked a brawl at a theatre in Venice. He has a very powerful and secure sense of what the Cultural Olympiad is, though unfortunately he opts not to use words to articulate that sense1.

Ian Fletcher’s marriage is breaking down, possibly due to the fact that he and his wife appear to be talking to one another. Does this mean Olivia Colman’s character has deliberately withdrawn her firewall call-screening deliberately, because she believes the time has come for a gently induced crisis which might result in a divorce? I don’t think so, but it’s nice to imagine her with a slightly Machiavellian streak. Kay Hope’s marriage has already broken up, and she’s finding the process of training for the marathon very self-actualising and an opportunity to focus on what a self-sufficient and integrated whole person she is. Her sense of self is in no way tied up with the way that sense of self does not require her ex-husband to know about it, though if he happened to find out that would have absolutely no impact on it.

The decision on the curator is taken, then untaken when it becomes clear that it wasn’t the decision “upstairs” wanted, then retaken strategically in a number of intersecting directions. Fletcher is not in a good way. The marathon is affecting his digestive system and the version of communal responsibility practiced in the team seems to involve him taking all the flak. “For the second time today, Ian Fletcher is faced with the task of helping someone who think they’re happy to understand that they’re not.” Someone close to him might be on the brink of becoming happy, though. As the episode ends he asks his PA if she wants to go and have a drink and forget about the day they’ve had.


1 This section I found Not Very Funny Actually at some points, largely because when he posed a pompous rhetorical question about the intersection between arts and sport, the answer he provided was the same one I’d come up with. Which suggests it might have been an effective satire on self-important performance studies types. Ouch.

  • Ian Mac Eochagáin

    “Oh, absolutely, I mean for me personally, if the Cultural Olympiad is about anything, and I have to say at the outset that I believe it is, what we’re actually talking about here is underwriting in young people a real commonality of creative purpose and shared awareness of diversity.”

    I love this line! I think, though, that she actually said “a real commonality of creative purpose through a shared awareness of diversity”, not “and”.

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