Large amounts of my time out this week have been spent watching 'Brideshead Revisited' through the ITV website, courtesy of the Silverlight software downloaded onto the Macbook by my daughter during her half term holiday. What a joy to escape from the tedious reality TV and so-called 'edgy' (as in the unoriginal and puerile Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross variety) shows of the mainstream present into a golden age of past glories. 'Drowing in honey', as Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) puts it in episode 2.
When I first watched Brideshead on TV, it was during its first airing in 1981, when I was myself an undergraduate in London, though with plenty of friends (and consequent week ends) up amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford and the slightly more puritanical cloisters of Cambridge (always the more radical of the two). That fey, floppy hair and languid manner of the 'boys' irritated me then, and still does now, although I now see the series (and indeed the novel) less as a nostalgia trip about toffs than as an excellent narrative study about the disintegration of a character-type and his place in a changing world, represented by Sebastian Flyte, a deserving BAFTA-winning role for Anthony Andrews. (What has he done since? Has he ended up like Flyte through playing Flyte?). Brideshead, though slightly fading round the edges, is a sumptuous production, redolent of Eighties excess, although, curiously, it was almost stymied by the strikes of 1979, which interfered with its shooting. There are, of course, too many undeserving 'haves' in it, and too many hapless, forleock-tugging 'have-nots'; but to get fixated on a Marxist-socialist reading of the drama is to miss the point - not to mention the fun. Anyway, at my age (middle age...), I'd far rather watch old re-runs of intelligent dramas like this - even less intelligent, but hardly less entertaining ones, such as Upstairs Downstairs (which makes the class divide into family viewing) than the disjointed programmes we get today in which narrative continuity seems a forgotten art.
In The Telegraph last Saturday, Charles Moore challenged the BBC's latest mess-up (the Brand-Ross-Sachs-Sachs's granddaughter affair) by refusing to pay his TV licence until Jonathan Ross is sacked, rather than simply penalised to the tune of a million quidsworth of licence-payers' money during his period of suspension. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I am seriously thinking of not renewing my TV set when the switch to digital goes through in Cornwall next year. Why pay to watch broadcasts of crap-TV (I put it in lumpen and vulgar terms because it IS lumpen and vulgar..) when quality 'old' TV is freely available via the internet? Looking forward now to a week end of Jewel in the Crown, Cracker, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, to name but a few, not to mention the eight episodes or so of Brideshead still to go. Just the thing on a November evening with nothing much going on outside here either!