Regular readers of this blog may wonder why I’ve not blogged about two series on BBC television that ‘go behind the scenes’ of real life operations. I’m talking about ‘Inside the Factory‘, now into its second series on BBC2, and the new BBC 1 series ‘Amazing Hotels:Life Beyond the Lobby‘. Well, to be honest, I am somewhat equivocal about both of them – for two reasons.
First, they are heavily influenced by editorial decisions. The director wants to film what he regards as ‘televisual’ – hence in the first ‘Amazing Hotels’ documentary about the Marina Bay Sands Hotel there was a preoccupation with shots of the infinity pool on its rooftop. At the same time, the producer want to focus on ‘human interest stories’ – hence a highly superficial five minutes on the use of immigrant labour in the hotel. So to gain real insight into how these operations work you have to sit through a lot of dross.
Second, the secret to a good documentary is presenters who are passionate about their subject. That is what makes David Attenborough and Brian Cox so good. Unfortunately it is all too clear the the male presenters on these two series – Greg Wallace and Giles Coren – think that what makes the programme interesting is themselves. They have no interest in factories or hotels and no empathy with the people that work in them. Coren in particular is totally preoccupied with arsing around – driving too fast, having his shirt unbuttoned to look macho, and general treating the employees as an audience for his witty remarks. This partially made up for by Monica Galetti who does demonstrate a genuine interest in what is going on around her, but I will still have to watch the rest of the series through gritted teeth (if this is physiologically possible).