|Porky, Perky and Pythagoras...what?|
However, from time to time I need to do something a bit brainless, like sewing or threading beads, and then I like to find something entertaining or interesting to watch or listen to while I work. This evening I chose the BBC's relatively new series Atlantis, thinking that as the series was several episodes in, I would have a number of hours of entertainment if I liked it.
I emphatically don't like it. It reminded me very, very strongly of Merlin, and I didn't need the Guardian's tv critic to tell me that the same fell hand that created the Medi-Dark ages-renaissance Hell that was the Merlin tosh, had been at the ancient world this time.
The world, it seems to me, is divided into those creators/writers/artists who care about authenticity, getting their period right, and making sure that if they ransack history or myth for a bit of an idea, they try very, very hard to make the period details right. That's not what this is.
The second group feel free to raid anything that might be slightly relevant and shoe-horn it into the story, no matter how mangled it may become. Thus, the Arthurian court of Merlin had all sorts of anachronisms, like tomatoes and glass windows, because this was a magic world in which there were dragons and spells, and in a world like that all effort at realism, trying to give a sense of period and place the story in time, is a waste. According to the creators.
I have been at virtual brainstorming meetings that follow the same lines. A general theme of ancienty, with some Greek myths thrown in? Let's have Atlantis! And Pythagoras! Mix it up! No one knows - no one cares! And make Hercules completely different! And two headed dragons? Everyone loves dragons, they're the kittens of the magical mythical world!
Thing is, the dialogue and the plot - like that of Merlin - is at Janet and John level. No six year old who has met his or her targets for reading would have a problem with the script. They have blockbuster music, and think that some spooky sounding crescendoes will substitute for real tension in script or plot. They wander through the storyline with no feeling for pace or characterization. I hate the misuse of the phrase "Dumbing Us Down" because what John Taylor Gatto wrote about was the dumbing down effect of having to stretch to interest yourself in something that you weren't interested in, and how much it affects your intellect when you aren't allowed even to think your own thoughts or do your own thing.
He didn't use the phrase in the way it is always used, to indicate that things have been simplified so much that they are understanding to stupid people. But this is what this is. It's dross of the lowest order. It insults the general public and assumes that they will lap it up because it looks ok and has dragons in it.
I love the BBC and would stand on the barricades to defend my beloved radio stations. But our licence money has funded this drivel. And I, for one, want my money back. I have been fooled twice into thinking that a series from these idiots must be worthwhile because of the presence of brilliant actors like John Hurt, Richard Wilson and now Juliet Stevenson. But, boy, I hope they were paid a lot of money to put their names to it. Because their presence is no indication of quality. It hums... it's really, really terrible. It's had money thrown at it, but it cannot be redeemed by money - it needs good scriptwriters, people who care about placing their work in space and time, and less disneyfication.
I cannot believe that some broadsheet newspapers gave it a good review. Or that the BBC commissioned it.