War & Peace Is Actually Just an Upmarket Downton Abbey

Andrew Davies’s superb adaptation for BBC1 understands this and was a blessing after the special time-travel edition of what everyone is now rightly calling Shitlock.

Gosh what a breath of fresh air was Andrew Davies’s War & Peace adaptation (BBC1, Sundays) after all the stale rubbish that was on over Christmas. There were times when the yuletide TV tedium got so bad that I considered preparing us all a Jonestown-style punchbowl. That way, we would never have had to endure Walliams and Friend nor the special time-travel edition of what everyone is now rightly calling Shitlock.

Sherlock has a terminal case of Doctor Who disease. That is, it has become so knowing, so self-referential, so — ugh! — meta that it no longer feels under any obligation to put in the hard yards needed to surprise and delight anyone who isn’t already a committed fanboi. If you’ve ever been to a Morrissey gig, you will recognise the problem: you go hoping for a couple of at least half-recognisable Smiths numbers and maybe something from Vauxhall and I, but he just can’t be arsed because he’s ‘Morrissey’.

In the same way, star screenwriters Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss no longer even pretend to be capturing the spirit of Conan Doyle’s ingenious storylines. Instead, they prefer to noodle about with wanky meditations on the torturedness of Holmes’s druggie psyche, the sublimated homoeroticism of his relationship with the ineffably dull Watson and the curious absence of the female perspective. It’s like doing a bad English course at one of those terrible ‘unis’ where Anglo-Saxon isn’t part of the syllabus.

Andrew Davies, on the other hand — now he’s the real deal. He pretends he’s a saucy vulgarian, forever spicing up dusty old classic texts to make them feel more relevant and now (Mr Darcy with his wet shirt clinging to his manly torso, etc.). But that’s just for the pre-publicity. Davies’s real dark secret is that he’s a reverential scholar in dirty old man’s clothing. Sure, for his latest ‘sexed up’ adaptation, he may have slipped in a cheeky incest scene between the Kuragin siblings. It wasn’t particularly obtrusive, though, and nor was it especially dishonest to the relationship they have in the original. You can’t imagine Tolstoy turning in his grave at it in the same way Conan Doyle most definitely is over the finale of this year’s Shitlock episode where Holmes reveals himself to be a massive fan of the Votes for Women campaign.

War & Peace has a terrible rep among readers as the literary equivalent of assaulting Everest without oxygen. Actually, though, as this hugely enjoyable, instantly accessible and gorgeous-to-look-at adaptation rightly understands, it’s actually just an upmarket Downton Abbey with more palatial houses, weirder characters and rather less interest in what happens below stairs.

Read the rest at the Spectator.

Cumberbatch: The Umbrage Police Claim Another Scalp

Benedict ‘Sherlock’ Cumberbatch has said he is “a complete fool”, an “idiot”, “thoughtless” and that he is “devastated” for having inadvertently used the term “coloured” to describe black people on a US talk show.

It’s depressing enough that he felt the obligation to apologise. But what’s worse is that he felt the need to do so so grovellingly, self-abasingly and profusely.

Yes, we all know why he did it. It’s Oscar nomination season coming up, Cumberbatch is a possible contender for his portrayal of fashionably autistic, gay code-breaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, and Hollywood is notoriously PC and squeamish about issues to do with race.

But if anyone who owes anyone an apology, here, it’s not poor put-upon Cumberbatch but the noisome professional offence-takers who by seeking to make political mileage out of such achingly trivial issues are creating a climate of linguistic fear in which good people suffer.

First, that word “coloured”. Yes, it may be a little old fashioned. As Sarah Vine rightly notes it’s “The kind of thing your granny might say and which might compel you to lean over and gently whisper in her ear: ‘No one says ‘coloured’ any more, gran. It’s not the done thing’. To which she might reply: ‘Really, dear? I had no idea.’”

What it definitely isn’t, though, is in any way malign or pejorative. Indeed, there was a time – back in the Seventies, when it was used pretty regularly and in the politest of company – when it would have been considered positively PC.

Second, the context. Cumberbatch was using the now-apparently verboten word in the course of a diatribe against the lack of job opportunities for ethnic actors in the UK film industry. In other words, he was making a point of almost toe-curling bien-pensant rectitude. That his reward for this should be to be taken to task by the Umbrage Police is almost as absurd as if a VC hero, having single-handedly taken an enemy machine-gun position, should then be disciplined for his cruel and unusual use of a bayonet.

Third, the hypocrisy. Are we to understand then, that from now on, the National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People will be changing its name to the National Association For The Advancement Of People Of Color? (Until such time, of course, when “People of Color” too becomes discredited and unfashionable, as no doubt it will eventually because that, unfortunately, seems to be the deal: today’s PC euphemism is tomorrow’s inexcusable racial slur).

This, though, unfortunately, is how the liberal-left rolls. As Alex Wickham pointed out here yesterday, it’s the liberals who are the new puritans that want to control your life.

One of the ways they are achieving this is in their vexatious and aggressive policing of the spoken word – on college campuses, in the media, on Twitter, on TV chat shows, in schools, in books. The purpose of this will be more than familiar to students of the Frankfurt school of Cultural Marxism and to readers of Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals or George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s about generating a cultural climate in which no one feels quite comfortable to express themselves freely for fear, as Cumberbatch did, of breaking some new unwritten rule of which they weren’t hitherto aware.

And it’s also, of course, about identity politics and power.

Read the rest at Breitbart London

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One thought on “Cumberbatch: the Umbrage Police claim another scalp”

  1. newholsem says:12th February 2015 at 9:16 amdont know how true this is but it is amusing:“There’s an annual contest at Bond University, Australia, calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term.

    This year’s chosen term was “political correctness”.

    The winning student wrote:

    “Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and promoted by mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end.”

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Yes **** Sherlock

A bit rubbish. . .

Not gay. No one ever thought they were. Really.

Here are the two best things about Sherlock.

1. The word clouds. Sherlock is, as far as I know, the first TV series to have done this and it works very well: it’s a quick, clever, post-modern way – the visual equivalent of the voice overs on Peep Show – to reveal Sherlock’s intricate thought processes and it’s often funny too.

2. Sherlock’s overcoat. It’s by Belstaff, in case you hadn’t noticed. I certainly did. In last night’s episode, they actually showed the label. Now I happen to like Belstaff – a classic English brand (it’s what Lawrence of Arabia wore when he had his fatal motorcycle accident) cannily bought by the Italians and turned into a global luxury phenomenon a la Burberry. But I do think such naked product placement in a prime time TV show is a trifle vulgar. Nor, I’m convinced, would a character as dull as John Watson wear that Haversack jacket with the patch on just the one shoulder. It’s way too fashion-forward for him.

Apart from that, though, we can surely all agree that it’s one of the most overrated things on TV and that last night’s comeback was no more than a meh.

Low points:

1. Benedict Cumberbatch. Not just an old Harrovian but, worse, a lefty old Harrovian. God it’s irritating, people who’ve benefited from one of the best educations in the world and then perpetually whinge about it, like it’s some sort of stigma.

2. (plot spoiler alert) The scene at the end where Sherlock pretends he doesn’t know how to defuse the bomb but he does all along – it just involves pressing the off switch on the alarm clock. I call this taking the mick. If the crisis point of the drama can be resolved that easily why bother hiring a scriptwriter?

3. The gay kiss with Moriarty. My prediction for 2014: homosexuality will be made compulsory on pain of death.

4. All the various explanations as to how Sherlock survived jumping off the roof of St Barts Hospital. They were rubbish. All of them. And very, very silly. I call this insulting the audience’s intelligence.

5. The general smug in-jokery and self-congratulation. It’s coming over all Doctor Who, innit?

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