I vividly remember the moment when I saw my first black person. It was December in either ’68 or ’69, so I would have been three or four at the time, and my father’s works had arranged some kind of coach outing to meet Father Christmas. Seated near me was a black child a bit older than me, and I recall gazing fascinated at the blackness of his skin and noticing that it had white blotches on it like a mirror image of the dark freckles and moles on my skin. ‘Daddy, what are those white things?’ I asked, pointing at the boy’s skin. ‘Pigment,’ my father explained.
It’s not the sort of detail you could make up, is it? And I’m sure most Englishmen of my generation or older will have had similar experiences. It’s not a racist observation, merely a statement of fact, that in our youth Britain was much, much whiter than it is now. So white that unless you ventured into the inner cities, it was quite possible not to see a ‘coloured’ person at all.
Suppose, then, you wanted to create a cosy, long-running TV series which would have especial appeal to the group of people who most watch TV. No, not students and the long-term unemployed: they’ve got Countdown and Shameless. I mean all those oldsters who don’t do Facebook and Call of Duty (Black Ops), who know the words to the ‘Beer at Home means Davenports’ ad, whose schooling included being taught how to add up and write in joined-up handwriting, who think Britain isn’t what it was and that nobody has any manners or respect any more. If you were designing a show just for them, how would it look?
Here, I would suggest, are some of the key ingredients: chocolate-boxy, unspoilt English villages with honey-coloured stone; a total absence of wind farms; a solid, reliable, if slightly dull detective of a certain age — ideally played by that wonderful chap who used to be Jim Bergerac, ah, remember Bergerac, happy days; plot lines involving country-house mysteries of the kind that greats like Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple used to solve; sly, shifty old rustics, blimpish colonels and bluff Mine Hosts; churches and churchyards and churchgoers; extremely limited use of iPods, iPads, Xboxes and PS3s; no ethnic characters.
You’ll have noticed that the series I’ve described, more or less, is Midsomer Murders.
Read the rest at the Spectator.
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