As I write this there is still no further news on the hostage Ken Bigley. Like everyone I am sure, my heart goes out to him and his family. I really cannot imagine the horror they all must be going through. I hope that no news is good news. It is important at this time for people to also say that we cannot and shall not give in to Terrorism, and that is quite right, but there is one minor way in which the Terrorists have forced a change.
On Friday night, on ITV1, I was about to watch “A Touch Of Frost” when the announcer said there was a change of schedule due to recent events, and instead they would be showing an episode of “Inspector Morse”. I took this to mean that something in the episode of “Frost” echoed Ken Bigley’s situation, and so it had been pulled.
Does this matter? Probably not. Personally, I have often thought there have been many over reactions in the past when this sort of thing has happened; one thinks of “Massive Attack” being renamed “Massive” during the 1991 Gulf War, and Top of the Pops skipping over any reference to Robert Miles’ tune “Children” in the week following the Dunblane tragedy. However, the world will not stop turning just because ITV have not shown a repeat of “Frost”, and I prefer “Morse” anyway.
But the episode of “Morse” had one character, played by Anna Massey, who gave birth to a still born baby; later on she was fooled into thinking that another character, played by Charlotte Coleman, was the baby who had died all those years ago, which ultimately led to the tragic climax where the girl stabbed to death the person she thought of as her Mother.
This struck me very personally; I had just returned from a wake, as a friend of mine had earlier buried his own Mother. Meanwhile, I have another friend in Hospital with complications during her pregnancy. For them, the TV programme rescheduled in order to avoid distress was far more likely to upset them. There must be hundreds of people in the country who feel the same.
What am I trying to say? I am not really sure, but I suppose I think that art and drama should be about moving us and engaging with us, and this may run the risk of offending us. But if we always try to avoid anything that may upset people then TV will ultimately be ever more timid and bland, and all we will be watching is programmes on pink kittens and sugar drops, with warnings beforehand for diabetic dog-lovers.
ITV will say they were just showing sensitivity under the current circumstances. Fair enough I suppose, and they are probably right. But I also reckon the Bigley family couldn’t care less which episode of which TV Detective was shown on Friday. No fictional drama could be worse, or could worsen, the real-life pain they must be going through.