Sunday, 29 November 2020

BECAUSE YOU'RE WORTH IT


“We have a product that’s different from the competition, that invites you to be young, that invites you to be brave. If you’re brave, you’re free, I think.”

In 1988, General Augusto Pinochet had ruled over Chile for fifteen years, after heading a military coup. Under international pressure to legitimise his dictatorship, as if such a thing really can be done, a referendum was held to decide if the people would let Pincohet continue in power, “Si” or “No.” For the twenty-seven days of the campaign, each side had fifteen minutes of airtime on all TV networks to make their case, one side after the other – the “No” side went first.

This is a bit of a heavy subject for a comedy, but it works – the absurdity of the situation is clear, the stakes are set absurdly high, the battleground is set inside people’s homes, and the choice of weaponry is advertising. What is more, in charge of the campaigns are two people who work at the same agency: working for the “No” side is René Saavedra, played by Gael Garcia Bernal of “Amores Perros” and “Y Tu Mamá También,” who is portrayed as having done rather well out of the material wealth that the Pinochet regime helped create, a toy train set taking centre stage among VHS tapes, microwaves and a Renault Fuego coupé, but because his father was among those tortured by that regime, taking this assignment is worth the risk.

Some of the advertising created for the “No” campaign is very similar to the Coca-Cola and Pepsi campaigns you would see in the 1980s – all young types with white teeth, living life to the max, free to live according to their conscience, and free to say “no,” as evoked by the theme song. This is evoked by the real ad that begins the film, for the appropriately-named Free Cola, also a real product. A criticism of the film “No” was that it ignored the grass-roots support for the campaign in favour for concentrating on semiotics and symbology, and indeed the fight between highlighting past atrocities, against promoting the idea of a joyous future, is an early tension, mainly resulting in the old telling the young to go fuck themselves. However, the approaches of the advertising shown in the film, all archive footage from 1988 that is inserted into the story, shows the “Si” campaign forced into a literally reactionary position, attempting to use parody in a backfiring attempt to expose the other side.

“No” is not shot on film, but on U-Matic video tape, a format often used by television programmes in the 1970s and 80s, particularly in news reports. The lightly smudged colours create nan impressionistic look to the whole film, while allowing the reconstructions to blend seamlessly into archive footage. These large tapes also become a plot device, as all the “No” campaign leave their base with tapes in their hands, to prevent their latest ads from being intercepted – enough parked cars and shakedowns appear to confirm this is more than just a game.

“No” is worth seeking out, if you are looking for a story feels both true and out of nowhere – it makes you imagine what kind of film could be made of the gay marriage vote in Ireland, or of the Brexit referendum in the UK. When your future is at stake, and feelings are running high, comedy will be found.



Sunday, 22 November 2020

CAUSE YOU’RE NOT HERE [270]


The CBS radio network, just before 9pm on Sunday 30th October 1938:

“This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of The Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night... so we did the best next thing...”

Apparently, an executive at the network did not want Welles to add a disclaimer at the end of his theatre company’s radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel “The War of the Worlds,” just in case they could be held liable for anything, like causing mass panic. As the hour-long play ended, anyone still in the broadcaster’s studios were commandeered to answer phone calls from members of the public for reassurance the broadcast wasn’t serious, in what must be the first instance of a call centre. At 10.30pm, 11.30pm and midnight, CBS broadcast messages confirming that all they did was broadcast a modernised play of a fictional Victorian novel, swapping English place names for American ones. The following morning, a haggard Orson Welles appeared in front of reporters and newsreel cameras, saying none of his company thought it was going to cause mobs in the streets, block telephone lines and cause traffic jams. The people that chose instead to listen to the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen on NBC were none the wiser.

The recounting of this incident portrays Americans as having overreacted to a radio drama. Less remarked upon is how live radio news reports, of the type parodied by “The War of the Worlds,” really only began being heard regularly on US radio in 1938. Like the first cinema audience ducking from the Lumière brothers’ oncoming train in 1895, people were only just getting used to the concept, just as the gravity of world events increased their need, and demand, for breaking news.

“...We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the C.B.S. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business...”

Radio in the United States was originally seen by newspapers as a way of promoting themselves through a new medium, but once it became more established, newspapers saw how they could threaten their existence – the CBS and NBC radio networks established their own news divisions once wire services, like the Associated Press, stopped their work from being used for broadcasting. The Biltmore Agreement, named after the New York hotel where it was signed in 1933, restricted networks to two five-minute news bulletins a day, after 9.30am and after 9pm, to protect morning and evening newspapers – these bulletins could only use information supplied by newspapers, and no story could last more than thirty words. Because the agreement did not cover independent stations, or programmes featuring news commentators, this weird state of affairs died within two years, by which point newspapers started opening their own radio stations.

What proved the power of “live” radio news was Herbert Morrison exclaiming “oh the humanity” as he saw the Hindenburg zeppelin disaster unfold in May 1937. Chicago station WLS had no ability to complete outside broadcasts, but Morrison’s commentary, recorded onto disc at the scene of the disaster and played out later the same night, demonstrated the urgency of radio reporting, if not the immediacy. The first episode of “CBS World News Roundup,” broadcast on 13th March 1938, was a one-off live broadcast reporting of the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany the previous day. The broadcast experiment was repeated the next day, and once again later in the year before the deepening pre-war conflict in Europe created turned “Roundup” into a daily show.

In this light, it is curious that NBC were meanwhile broadcasting a weekly radio newsreel dramatisation of events into short sketches. “The March of Time,” started by and named after the news magazine, once featured Orson Welles on its staff of actors, portraying himself in 1936 when a production of “Macbeth” he directed opened in Harlem. The show began in 1931 as one of the first regular news programmes, but by the time it ended in 1945, regular news bulletins outmoded it entirely.

Orson Welles is reported as having said the approach of his company’s dramatization came from a British radio production. “Broadcasting the Barricades” was a 1926 talk by the Reverend Father Ronald Knox, was broadcast to all BBC stations from Edinburgh on Saturday 16th January 1926 at 7.40pm - the listing in the “Radio Times” has no description for the programme itself, but Knox was well-known as a detective novelist. The surviving script for the programme started with a BBC announcer interrupting an academic lecture from Oxford to announce that Communists had invaded London, followed by news that the Savoy hotel, next door to the BBC’s then headquarters, had been set on fire; Big Ben had been blown up; and the transport minister had been hung from a lamppost.

After twenty minutes, the show was over, and it was time for variety, probably from the Savoy Hotel. The BBC received 249 written complaints, and 2,307 written appreciations of the programme. This hoax did cause a minor panic, reported by newspapers in the United States, but if radio was still too new a technology to play with in 1938, it certainly was if regular broadcasts in Britain had only been running for three years.

With the expectation that live reporting was one hundred percent reliable was what made the approach used by Welles in “The War of the Worlds” work too well, especially if a listener tuned in after the drama began – to an audience only expecting to hear this type of radio in only one context, it could be argued that attempting to change or play with that context while the form was still, well, forming, has to be approached very carefully. It should therefore be taken that Welles, his theatre company, and CBS had assumed the intelligence of their audience when it decided to start playing.

“...So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian... It's Hallowe'en.”

Sunday, 15 November 2020

AND HERE ON THE THRESHOLD WE STAND [269]


Liminality is a concept associated with thresholds and rites of passage. As I understand it, a “liminal space” is a kind of transitional space: you have left one area, and you have not reached your destination, and you don’t know how to feel about where you are – even more, the destination may itself be unknown. Others may feel safe there, and you may come to feel safe with time, but until then, something feels a bit “off” about your experience.

I usually try to avoid places where I may feel unwelcome, but I have come to realise that one place I often walked through was, before it was demolished, almost a textbook definition of a liminal space, if not by design, then definitely in execution.

The Tricorn Centre was a shopping and entertainment complex opened in Portsmouth in 1965. It stood as a prime example of Brutalist architecture, and one of the first privately-built examples of its type built in Europe. Driving into Portsmouth city centre, it always came across as a grey carnival of living concrete, but its imposition on the landscape was not what prevented you from ultimately looking inside.

Looking closer exposed decades of neglect and missed chances, caused by missed opportunities that could have made it Portsmouth’s ultimate destination, and by unintentional difficulty to actually get to the place. The centre was ultimately demolished in 2005, the culmination of a city’s reckoning with itself over whether to keep and renovate a part of its landscape, or push away what had been left to become one of the ugliest buildings in Britain.

Designed by Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon - they of Trinity Square, Gateshead and Eros House, Catford - the Tricorn, standing on its triangular plot of land, was intended to incorporate a department store, a supermarket, a bazaar of smaller shops incorporated into a market square, a pub, a nightclub, warehouse units, and eight luxury apartments with views across Portsmouth.

HOWEVER – and this is a very large “however” – the department store, most likely Marks & Spencer, chose not to move in, leading to the space being used as a covered market for smaller vendors, and other big names choosing not to move to the other shops; the existing Charlotte Street market largely stayed outside; the apartments leaked and whistled with the wind, ultimately boarded up by 1980; some warehouse units were never leased, although lorries would have found navigating the spiral road to the rooftop car park extremely difficult; lack of revenue led to decay in the concrete, from rusted metal struts to the formation of stalactites; and the bazaar-type layout proving ideal for muggers.

Most of all, the road layout had not been changed to provide easy entrance to the Tricorn, and no thoroughfare was made to the centre from Commercial Road, the traditional shopping street in Portsmouth – even if it was a location for an early Virgin Megastore, you had to go out of your way to get there. When a thoroughfare finally appeared, in 1989, it was through the Cascades, a more modern, more traditionally-designed shopping centre built alongside one already deemed to have failed.

Most of the memories I have of the Tricorn were from its perimeter – “Charlotte’s Superstore,” the name given to the indoor market; Mr Clive, a suede and leatherware shop; a very large Laser Quest; and a covered area that I walked through as it was the quickest way to get from a nearby Sainsbury’s back to Commercial Road. Some of this last section still survives, as it forms a shop’s fire escape, but before the Tricorn was demolished in 2005, it was much darker and foreboding, flanked by a spiral car park ramp and a petrol station, creating a literal threshold between one area of Portsmouth and the other. If I ever walked through the centre of the complex, it must have been quickly, and with someone.

The Tricorn was demolished in 2005, by which time the liminality of the boarded-up, neglected but still (because of the car park) fully accessible centre was unfortunately associated with suicide. To this day, the levelled triangle plot has remained a car park while successive attempts to regenerate the area have been announced, reformulated, postponed, and thrown out, while Commercial Road is in danger of becoming a liminal space itself through the loss of retail – the only decision already made is to change the road layout.

However, nothing could be bolder than what stood there before, and perhaps, like the new Elephant & Castle development, what may be built in its place will not generate as strong an opinion – although the intent of avoiding offence may cause its own alienation.


Saturday, 7 November 2020

SPANK THE PANK WHO TRY TO DRIVE YOU NUTS [268]


Joe Biden has been elected President of the United States of America, and the world can breathe again. The extraordinary scenes of a country biding its time for five days, agonising as it awaits the outcome of an exercise in both democracy and due process, won’t be seen again for decades. The American people won’t allow their national character to be decided by ballot ever again, and has elected a President that has regard both for himself and the people. With Biden having won both the popular vote and the Electoral College, the victory is that bit sweeter, and that bit more legitimate.

This is a victory for all those made to feel unwelcome in their own country by their leader: the black people brutalised by their police, the immigrants demonised for their otherness, the LGBT people nearly legislated out of existence, and the women objectified and abused by the people that think they are there for the taking. Kamala Harris is, symbolically and in reality, a more qualified Vice President than the moralising ignorance of Mike Pence, let alone a President that flouted and ridiculed his own administration’s advice on coronavirus, only to get it himself.

The vote counters in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada and Alaska deserve applause for their days of hard work in the light of the largest turnout in over a century, and the increased absentee ballots due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I once helped count the votes in a UK general election, for the Gosport constituency in 2005, which chose my Member of Parliament. I remember being told that you don’t have to answer the poll observers’ questions, as they stood over you, trying to tally who voted for their side, because your job is to make sure the count is done correctly – we recounted some batches of ballots if any inconsistency was found. Six hours later, and with over forty-three thousand votes counted, we could go home. If I’ve lost sleep just watching the US elections this time around, I couldn’t imagine having to wake up to go back to the convention centre to continue counting, but it just underscores how important the whole exercise of democracy is to be treated.

Joe Biden conducted himself the best following election day, guiding the tone for the country as it waited for the time when the result becomes final, and when he could legitimately claim to be the winner. I don’t know too much about Biden, apart from his serving as Barack Obama’s vice president, and for making occasional gaffes that reveal the regular guy under the politician exterior, but he proved himself as Vice President, and actually appears be human, which is enough. Living in the United Kingdom is no excuse for not following the US General Election results, especially when your country’s post-Brexit future may depend in part on what the winner is prepared to accept or offer, but I am assured that Joe Biden will consider what is best for everyone before making a deal with the UK, not only what is best for him personally.


Elsewhere Donald Trump, a man that makes gold look cheap, while looking and sounding like a drag queen version of his younger self, sequestered himself in the White House to feed from the conspiracy theories concocted about the count, attempting to convert them to fact by writing them out on Twitter, breaking their terms of service one more time. Perhaps his repeated claims of “fraud,” that Biden “stole” the election, votes being counted “illegally,” and the media deciding the election ahead of time, is all the nuance he can muster. With Twitter having decided to remove his “newsworthy individual” privileges the moment he stops being President, expect Trump's malicious and indiscriminate account to disappear very quickly, as he faces the world without Presidential immunity.

In November 2016 [link], I said that the holder of the office of President “cannot afford to be given the benefit of the doubt, especially when Trump has never appeared to need it before. He will be given the opportunity to govern in the way he sees fit, but he will be under constant scrutiny, for every single decision, for every public utterance, for the rest of his life.”

For Donald John Trump, that scrutiny will only intensify. What I had not expected is how half-arsed a leader he turned out to be. “Let’s Make America Great Again” was Ronald Reagan’s campaign slogan in 1980, and later used in speeches by Bill Clinton in 1992, so it doesn’t take much imagination for the real estate heir, taking advantage of Reaganomics and tax breaks, to copy the words, remove the inclusivity of “let’s,” and make it into a catch-all dog whistle. Trusting only his decisions, there is no history to learn, no precedent to observe, no dignity worth honouring.

Meanwhile, the politicians and White House staff that aided and abetted him have been a revolving door of “Dick Tracy” villains that either ended up in jail or wrote a memoir. Perhaps your experience of life is tainted when the only people that come close to you will eventually sell you out for profit, but when you define your life by the deals you make, you can’t reasonably expect fealty from anyone.

Posted to the telephone cabinet at the end of my street in 2018... in the UK...

What I am most wary about, despite Biden’s victory, is that over seventy million Americans still voted for Trump. This has already been indicated as meaning that neither Trump, or Trumpism, is going away, and that his political conduct over the previous four years has effectively been endorsed - his associates, acolytes, or even his family, may try to replicate the same disregard for America’s institutions and rules, with the expectation of a similar level of success. Talk of the United States being as divided as during the Civil War may subside, but it may leave a new Confederacy-style grievance in place, if Trump's die-hard followers try to turn "America First" and "Make America Great Again" into a new "lost cause." The next four years will be difficult, but Joe Biden already knew that.

Between now and 20th January 2021, Trump and his staff will most likely continue to obfuscate the election results, spread disinformation, and use all the tricks they can to pull off the win that exists in his head. But there is a word for that, a Middle English word derived from the Old French “tromper” (“deceive”), and meaning either attractive articles of little value or use, or something that is showy or worthless: “trumpery.”

The news cycle will not quiet down yet, but it’s nice to know it could. But for now, Joe Biden won, and a lot of people are saying the big stupid low-energy bully Donald Trump (never met him) is a loser, and a nasty, terrible person, the likes of which you’ve never seen before - everybody’s talking about it, that’s just what I had heard, a lot of people tell me. It’s very sad - he just took no responsibility at all.

...and in 2020.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

SOME DUCKS AND SOME SWANS [267]

 


While I ready myself to write about the 2020 US Presidential Election (which will mainly be about Donald Trump, but what isn’t these days), please accept a video of some ducks and some swans, filmed a couple of weeks ago.


Saturday, 24 October 2020

PLAYING PING PONG ALL NIGHT LONG [266]


For what is both an exercise in nostalgia, and a way to continue exploiting old intellectual property, it is remarkable that the Atari Flashback series of games consoles, begun in 2003 by Atari themselves and continued under license by AtGames, has now lasted longer than the original production run of the Atari Video Computer System, later renamed the Atari 2600, on which it is based.

The original console was in production for a mere fifteen years (1977-92), withstanding numerous redesigns and cost-cutting, competition from far more advanced machines, an insatiable public demand for more complex and involved games, and the bankruptcy of its parent company.

But the games are amazing. Atari’s catalogue, along with games made for the console by other publishers – Pong, Breakout, Adventure, Battlezone, Centipede, Yars’ Revenge, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Pitfall! – form a canon that proved the viability of an industry. The Fairchild Channel F may have been the first games console with interchangeable cartridges, but the 2600’s games had the playability to put the technology under televisions in millions of living rooms.

I have previously written about the Atari 2600, and how difficult it is to program [link], and I have walked through my reasons for buying the Nintendo NES Classic Mini, recreating a console I never played before [link]. I also used the Nintendo GameBoy to explain how something cannot be “retro” if you never experienced it before [link]. But the 2600? We never had one at home, but we had something similar.

“Pong console” is a generic name for the glut of clones of Atari’s original Pong home console, moving elements around the screen to recreate different sports. We had one at home in the 1980s, probably imported into the UK under the Binatone or Grandstand name,  playing all games onto a green background, using orange joysticks hard-wired into a wood-laminated unit. The games were basic, but addictive. You did not require your imagination to get past the blocky screen resolution and rudimentary graphics – you are controlling only a short line on screen – because you have a clear objective: to get your pixel of a ball past your opponent’s line. A good game doesn’t need brilliant graphics.

The Atari Flashback X, the tenth in the line, is the first console in the series to closely replicate the original 2600 “Heavy Sixer” in miniature, previous versions being only similar in shape, their yellow buttons now replaced by more authentic silver switches for game select, game reset and difficulty levels – these options are on the control pads of newer consoles, but the Flashback uses that space on its player 1 joystick for further menu and game save features. The previous flashback model had an SD card slot to play extra games beyond the built-in games – a similar slot could have utilised the space replicating the 2600’s cartridge slot, but it is possible to update the firmware and play extra games via USB, if you’ve played through the 110 built-in games.

The games included speak for themselves – they have been endlessly released on every console going, even the latest PlayStation, X-Box and the Nintendo Switch, hilariously using high-power processors to recreate its “primitive” blocky graphics perfectly; they have been shoehorned into many hand-held and plug-and-play machines, and are baked into popular culture – even if you have never played “Adventure,” seeing the film “Ready Player One” knows you are playing a dot in a maze, sometimes carrying a key bigger than yourself. “Pong” is rote as far as video game history is concerned, although the 2600’s “Video Olympics” game, providing fifty-seven different variations on a theme, is played against a very pleasing Seventies brown background. However, the version of "Space Invaders" more closely resembles Taito's original arcade version than the 2600 version, thereby making it easier on the eyes, as the trickery required to produce the necessary bank of aliens on the 2600 produced an awful flicker on the screen.

Before spending £70 on my Flashback X, I had considered trying to emulate the games on my PC – the basic graphics should be very easy to replicate – but I realised that emulation throws everything into the ether. Unless you have something to touch that is identifiable as having come from the original, you are not playing the game as intended. The satisfaction of flipping the “Reset Game” switch on the Flashback X, ready to play again, won’t have been the same if I had to select a key on my keyboard, or use my mouse to select “Reset” from a menu. Apart from the modern menu to select the game, I am playing a 2600, and the inclusion of two classic joysticks completes the effect...

...but the original 2600 also came with two paddles, essential for games like “Pong,” “Atari Circus” and “Breakout.” Because the latter game is my favourite so far, I decided to buy a pair of paddles – the Flashback series is compatible with original 1970s and 80s Atari controllers. I attempted to play “Breakout” with the joystick, but you can only go left a bit, right a bit – it isn’t easy to get your line where you need it to bounce the pixel ball away. The paddles, however, are perfect – you can nudge yourself along very slowly, or swipe your line along in one jolt.

As someone that rarely played video games, before finding that the type I like were the shorter, simpler games that were made for the 2600, I find that Atari’s paddles are the best game controllers I have used, and something I wish could have been used more widely on other consoles – if I knew about this as a child, I might have played video games more often. Like the volume control knob on a radio, the paddle houses a potentiometer. The effect on voltage produced by the paddle is registered in the console as a value that happens to also be used for controlling the horizontal position of an on-screen sprite, so game programmers can simply copy that value onto the screen to move your game piece along the screen, without any extra code to interpret what is coming from the joystick. I feel more connected to the game than when using a joystick, or a D-pad.

In short, I like the Atari Flashback X, I enjoy playing the games, but definitely buy some paddles for it.



Sunday, 18 October 2020

HEAR ME, I’M GRAPHICALLY YOURS [265]


Once upon a time, staged plays were a staple of British television – plays originally performed on the stage, and plays written to be staged on television. A famous example is “Dial M for Murder,” first staged by the BBC in 1952, then in the West End the following year, and filmed by Alfred Hitchcock the year after that. An even more famous example is Nigel Kneale’s 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” whose violent visions of a fascist Britain prompted questions in Parliament, before the Duke of Edinburgh said he watched it with the Queen, and enjoyed it. At this time, plays were normally performed twice, and performed live – the distinguished audience of the first performance of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is the only reason a telerecording was made of the second performance, preserving Peter Cushing as Winston Smith for posterity.

The history of British television plays is normally centred on socially conscious strands like BBC One’s “The Wednesday Play” and “Play for Today,” with famous productions like “Up the Junction,” “Cathy Come Home,” “Scum,” and “Abigail’s Party.” Meanwhile, in July 1968, on the more niche BBC Two, Nigel Kneale presented a polemical original story that was “sooner than you think,” an opening line that could easily now say, “I told you so.”

“The Year of the Sex Olympics,” starring Leonard Rossiter and Brian Cox, is like a counterculture version of “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” befitting its production in psychedelic colour, for Europe’s only colour TV channel – unfortunately, it only exists as a black and white telerecording, the colour tape long gone, but the intention is clear that “the future” in science fiction is another version of “now.” This time, the masses are sated by giving them exactly what they want to watch on TV, all the time, to the point where they will not want to do anything else but continue to watch. TV programmes with titles such as "Foodshow," "Sportsex" and "Artsex," the last two being qualifying events for the Sex Olympics themselves, are deliberately as coarse in their intention as they sound, targeting the Freudian id of the audience. That everyone is seen taking their food-drink from a container looking not unlike a baby's pacifier dummy hits the message home.


To be clear, this is not like showing pornography to stimulate: this is showing pornography as a substitute for having sex, to the point where the drive to have sex is satisfied. As the play puts it, this is TV made by "high-drives" for an audience of "low-drives," observed for their every reaction, steering them towards the right sort of complacency. Lack of drive means no wars, no tension, and peace for all. The English spoken in "The Year of the Sex Olympics," a 1960s hippie-ish parade of stunted slogans, devoid of prepositions, is like the Newspeak of "Nineteen Eighty-Four," but instead of reducing the language by design, words instead lose their meaning when what they describe no longer exists - it's all aiming for the top, "big king style." The LSD-laced psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, and the hopes of expanding consciousness, are used to inevitably cynical ends to separate the elite from the rest.

However, standing behind the backdrop of the Arctic, as two high-drives do in one scene, doesn't mean you feel cold. All the above is failing, due to boredom - everything has now all been seen before, on the TV screen. The shrieks and laughs and joys when a protestor falls to their death at the Sex Olympics, trying to show their deliberately horrible art - anything for a reaction – prompts the creation of "The Live Life Show," showing a family attempting to survive on a remote island, climaxing when a psychopath is introduced to island and kills the family. "Something got to happen," apparently.

I had wondered whether the dividing line between the sociopathic high-drives and mollified low-drives had followed an inciting incident, like a war, that rearranged society, as in “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” but the degeneration from our current standpoint is what “The Year of the Sex Olympics” is designed to warn. When “The Live Life Show” started to appear on real-life television in 2000, as “Big Brother” on Channel 4, and the BBC’s own “Castaway 2000,” it initially appeared that the most we were going to get was rowdy behaviour, and Ben Fogle. What we should have looked out for was when the pressure of appearing on television leads to suicide after the cameras have stopped, as with ITV’s “Love Island” and “The Jeremy Kyle Show.”

Eventually, drama series and TV movies replaced the staged play, just as captive audiences for plays about potentially difficult subjects on one of only three British TV channels have now been scattered across hundreds of channels and streaming services - one-off plays are now either rare treats, or usually found on radio. Then again, there are the occasional stories on TV that implore you to just go outside and get a life.