So here’s the story: Drum ‘n’ bass star Goldie, Blur bassist Alex James, actors Jane Asher and David Soul, Newsreaders Peter Snow and Katie Derham and comedians Sue Perkins and Bradley Walsh are all learning over the next six weeks how to conduct an orchestra. Each week, one of them is voted off by the judges and the winner gets to conduct at The Last Night of the Proms.
This latest BBC2 reality show perfectly illustrates the Corporation’s ongoing dilemma. They’re required to fulfill the Reithian ideals to inform educate and entertain us in a responsible manner. But they also want a juicy slice of the giant reality TV pie. How can they do both without seeming opportunistic?
PRODUCER: Why don’t we just do the same shit as C4 – but y’know, with posh stuff like orchestras an’ that?
COMMISSIONING EDITOR: Brilliant.
At the start of this first episode, the contestants were all immediately thrown in at the deep end and asked to conduct one of the popular classics, Strauss’ Blue Danube, Bizet’s Carmen etc…
As conducting seems primarily to involve waving your hands about in the air and grimacing enthusiastically, Peter Snow was the obvious favourite after all those years of gesticulating away at the Swingometer on Election Night Special. But it wasn’t to be. Peter is virtually deaf and has absolutely no sense of rhythm. I’m not even sure he knew where he was half the time. I think they’d perhaps told him the whole thing was some sort of new election gimmick – Newsnight set entirely to music. ‘Keep waving your arms about Peter. That’s the way, old chap. The results from Wolverhampton are just coming in now.’
The still very beautiful and graceful Jane Asher and the demure Katie Derham both fared much better with the task, being naturally musical and both having learned instruments as a child. Similarly with the ubiquitous Sue Perkins. Comedian Bradley Walsh started off with gags and when that didn’t work, eventually settled on a conducting technique which appeared to be an homage to Norman Wisdom from his epileptic Mr Grimsdale period. The always likeable Goldie breezed through the exercise with his natural unaffected charm and instinctive musicality. A clear favourite from the start.
What to say about Alex James. He appears to be one of those chaps who begins each day by gazing lovingly into the mirror to check that he has just the right casual floppy-haired scruffbag look before leaving the house. No doubt in the miniscule world of art college, such attention to detail would have marked him out as some sort of deep and sensitive artiste. Unfortunately for Alex, evidence collated elsewhere, (i.e. that he was once the bassist in Blur and now makes cheese) tells another story. His irritating faux-modesty act got on my tits as usual, and not just because the posh twat’s shagged more girls than me. Though that obviously doesn’t help.
As for David Soul, the last time he held a stick in his hand, it made the tabloids. Luckily those hard-drinking days are behind him and he made a promising and impassioned first attempt with the baton. Soul also helped to get the emotional journey off to a much-needed start by mentioning his difficult relationship with his father within the first 30 seconds of being interviewed. I get the feeling, however, that he mentions this when ordering food in restaurants, dealing with cold-callers and waiting in supermarket checkout queues. So maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised. For me though, he’ll forever be the blonde one out of classic 70s cop show Starsky & Hutch. So best of luck to the grizzled old dog.
As part of the training, they were each assigned a personal mentor to teach them musical theory, taken out with a marching band to help with their rhythm and then spent time with a choreographer to loosen up their posture. This was all leading up to their first public performance with a full orchestra at the end of the week, after which one of them would get fired.
Guess who that was? Beloved old Uncle Peter, of course. But remember, it’s just a bit of fun.
I wouldn’t really bother watching this, to be honest. There were hardly enough thrills to sustain this first 90-minute opener, never mind another five episodes. I always used to imagine there was nothing much to conducting. That it was just waving your arms about in time and hoping you could bluff it through to the end. Turns out I was right. So unless David Soul goes back on the sauce and decides to drown Alex James in a giant vat of his own cheese, there’s nothing much happening here.