James May: The Reassembler (BBC4)
I’ve come to accept that virtually any TV personality under the age of 40 will speak every single sentence as if it’s a question. Some people blame the influence of Australian soap operas, others say it’s the classic Valley Girl accent of California and all the telly programmes hailing from there.
What, though, lies behind all the people who no longer cook but “cuik”? The same goes for books and looks, so that you might well encounter a modern person on the television luiking at a cuik-buik. My irritation is not just confined to the passing fads of the young though.
I watched James May: The Reassembler (BBC4) last night but nearly didn’t, due to his habit of saying “wuzz” instead of was. Words like was, moreover, featured quite a lot, since this is at heart, screwdrivers and strange pronunciations notwithstanding, an off-beat little social history show.
In each instalment, the former Top Gear presenter stands in his shed, dismantles and puts together famous mechanical things from the recent past.
As he does so, he chunters amiably yet knowledgeably about the changes that this particular product both caused and was caused by.
It has all the hallmarks of “slow TV”, somebody patiently doing a manual task, ideally a rather forgotten one, while talking about it, and an absence of bells and whistles, unless they’re real bells and whistles of course.
It is, however, not that slow. Mr Mays’ dissection and reassembly of the Dansette Bermuda record player took, he told us, eight hours and 46 minutes (and who knows, perhaps there are corners of the internet where full, uncut versions of the whole thing are furtively swapped by men in sheds).
Twenty-nine of those minutes was enough for us, along with a commentary that, without trying too hard, put this charming little box in its proper context.
The Dansette Bermuda was not, it has to be said, a very portable record player but it was more portable than any player before it.
This meant that a generation could play their own music in their bedrooms, aiding and abetting the rise of a youth culture different to, and separate from, the culture of the old folks. There aren’t such easy divides these days.
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The Best TV to watch out for in 2017 including Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland & The Voice UK
Even old, grey fat men like myself wear hooded tops and download music. Yet the urge to dress and talk and live differently to one’s parents is as strong as it was for those pioneer delinquents with their Dansettes.
Maybe that’s why the kids have come up with their own way of talking. Language was certainly creating a barrier in Hospital (BBC2), where Sister Alice Markay was struggling to explain things to a homeless Polish man.
Rather surprisingly, for a very over-stretched hospital in West London, she had to ask a lot of people before she found someone who could help interpret. Less surprising, if you’ve been following this ob-doc show, was the amount of energy she put into it.
It was her professional duty to make sure that her patient knew what was going on and she was determined to fulfil it, even if there was, ultimately, not much else she could do for him. Watching surgeons battling over bed space and cancelling life-saving procedures, you could see why keeping up the standards seemed so important.