Birdsong BBC 1 Sundays in January




A more ponderous, pretentious and ultimately vapid drama is hard to imagine unless one dared contemplate an adaptation of Barbara Cartland’s “Love Under Fire” directed by Tony Scott and starring, say, that little pillock from Muse.

Nothing in this lavishly ill-conceived dross was even remotely credible. The enigmatically mumbled dialogue was vacuous, the performances monstrously vain, the direction risibly portentous and criminally derivative. Even the score was crass, repetitive and smug.

Essentially a non-stop sequence of face-achingly drawn out close-ups of a freckly shampoo model with girly lips, the whole production resembled an absurd three hour advert for some dreadful bottled stench called, perhaps, Trenchfoot (by Givenchy). In its desperation to milk cheap reactions from the TV audience, Birdsong played every low trick in the manual – gore, guts and cardboard heroics cut with bucolic idylls shot through diaphanous silks and wafting foliage – resulting in nothing less than hardcore emotional pornography. You can hear the war dead groaning in their mass graves still – that great calamity reduced to the service of milking tears from the middle-class, the middlebrow and the merely brain-dead.

Its production values alone will probably win it industry baubles – if not, the BBC will look enormously stupid to have wasted so much on so little. Such a mammoth mistake as this becomes more significant when one cares to remember that in the past the BBC commissioned or adapted a great many plays from new writers that were not only original or shocking or in some cases culture-shaking but cheap to produce and popular with mass audiences. But the patronising morons that make the big decisions at the UK’s public broadcasting behemoth have such titanic egos that they seem to believe that they are in the movie business. Television is not about scale, it is about relevance.

Ultimately, Birdsong was about nothing in the same way that a fireworks display, big and bright and gaudy, is about nothing. In contrast, Shane Meadows’ This Is England ’88 went out around Christmas quietly unheralded filled with warmth, wit and pathos and featuring a heart-stopping depiction of hell that this World War Heritage Wank could only fantasise about.