One of the criteria we use to talk about a show, and how it makes us feel, is realism. Not truth to facts, but truth to life – a sense that what is taking place chimes with our experience of the world or our hunches about the way things work. It’s why I thought Political Animals felt realistic, even though I had little sense of what life might actually be like for party researchers in Westminster, or why so many people cite Yes Minister as if it was a documentary about the decision-making processes of the civil service.
All of which is a long lead-in for this week’s bit of snark about Twenty Twelve. Ahem. So, the fact that we don’t need to know how close to reality a fictional world comes in handy, because the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (known as LOCOG) is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. They’ve set it up as a private company, so this organization is under no obligation whatsoever to tell us anything about its internal workings. How will we know whether Twenty Twelve is devastatingly accurate, or just a reasonable sitcom with satirical pretensions?
I’d put a link here to the specific page on their website in which they explain their exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, but links to the Olympic website are banned if they portray LOCOG or any official Olympic organization in a negative light. I’d give you the link to the paragraph in which they detail this ban, but…well, you see the issue.
This week, the Olympic Deliverance Team, headed by Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville, the old charmer) are negotiating sponsorship for a giant manifestation of the spirit of the games (I’m sure “monument” is too mealy-mouthed a term) with an American firm called Juiced. Nothing to do with smoothies, despite the name, in fact they’re a manufacturer of prophylactics1. To help launch the association between Juiced and the Olympics2 they enlist a rapper (hence the title of the episode) called Mini Steppah (played by Osy Ikhile). I don’t know what that says to you, but to me it says that Tinchy Stryder is rather less desperate to appear on a BBC comedy show than, say, Lord Coe. Steppah duly comes up with a simulacrum of a vaguely garagey rap tune, and we are all treated to Siobhan Sharpe (played by Jessica Hynes and already attracting a worrying following at The Guardian) and her team doing excruciating “getting with it” moves and repeating the title – “Get It On” – in increasingly embarrassing inflections.
The Torch Relay is also being planned, or at least the route thereof. Having made a pledge that the torch will go within a certain number of miles of a certain percentage of the population, the team are finding that the resulting route involves the symbol of unity and co-operation doing laps round London and occasionally wandering a bit into the Midlands. Involvement, accessibility and aspiration are the keywords of this project (I don’t know if they are, I just made that up, but it sounds right, doesn’t it?), and a torch route which looks even more like London Sports Day (already the direction in which the Olympics are moving) is not going to fill the northern cities of Britain with a sense of belonging, stakeholding and part-taking. Two obvious solutions present themselves. Kay Hope (Amelia Bullmore) tries the first option by phoning up civic centres which might like a leg of the relay and trying to bribe them with minor celebrities, but it doesn’t work. So the only reasonably answer is to slightly finesse the map. Move a few cities around. Let’s call it urban migration, and the torch route looks a lot better if you let go of the limiting notion that places have to be actually where they are.
The campaign for Getting It On may have hit a snag, vis-a-vis the distribution of bags of flavoured barrier methods to athletes from Catholic countries. The team have no desire to run into another faith-based cul-de-sac3 after the Algerian debacle, so the campaign to get things onto other things is hastily rerouted into a suncream initiative after Fletcher’s new PA Daniel (Samuel Barnett) provides a link to another company looking to improve their profile. They can still use the same video, the same slogan, the same song. “Get In On”, geditt??!!?? As a bit of sniping at the way advertising seems to market just about any product with a one-size-fits-all4 double entendre, I thought this was quite funny. And Samuel Barnett is terribly watchable. More like this, please, Twenty Twelve.
1 Not that I’m judging, or anything. You do what you like in private, with whatever fruit you might find suits your needs. Or vegetables, I mean I’m not being dismissive or prescriptive here.
2 I forget whether it ends up being dealt with by Legacy or Sustainability. Though come to think of it, both of those are definite issues when considering intimate relationships, in their different ways.
3 You made that joke, not me. And I hope you’re ashamed of yourselves.
4 Oh, stop it.
Dr. Jem Bloomfield studied at the universities of Oxford and Exeter and is currently an Associate Lecturer in Drama at Oxford Brookes. His research covers the performance of Early Modern drama and the various ways it has been adapted and co-opted throughout the centuries. His own plays include “Bewick Gaudy”, which won the Cameron Mackintosh Award for New Writing, and he is working on a version of Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy “She Stoops To Conquer”. His writing on arts, culture, and politics have appeared in “California Literary Review”, “Strand Magazine” and “Liberal Conspiracy”. He blogs at “Quite Irregular” and can be found on Twitter @jembloomfield