Monday 13 April 2015

So this started off as a blog about ideas for things that I am not going to do. Some of that has had to be cut to stop this becoming longer than a list of reasons why most serial killers are probably better people than Nigel Farage. Don’t worry, though, I will get back to some of my amazing ideas for Apps. Maybe even soon.

But the kernel, for what this turned into, was the idea that I would love to – but never would – do a podcast. And the thing that I would do a podcast about was Upstairs Downstairs, the 1970s ITV drama about the ongoings of the upper class residents and servants of a 1910-1930 house in London.

The podcast would need to be about something some people would be interested in – and wouldn’t be about something too popular. I’m hardly likely to set the world alight with my thoughts on football or The Simpsons.

Mainly it would have to be a podcast with me (and maybe others) talking about something we knew about. Podcasts, or radio shows, should not be about the listeners. Unless the listeners are interesting, just being about the audience per se, as is very popular, is dull as shit.

For example, the latest Kermode and Mayo film podcast had TWO emails read out by people (adult people) who’d had relationships end and were thanking the podcast for getting them through the last few months (in one case – the time elapsed since the other relationship had ended was not disclosed). I’m not interested in this. Are you interested in this?

I am not very interested in other people. But are people? Do people care? Sure, I can understand applying emotions to people who you share space with. Hell, I even do it myself sometimes. Caring about someone on the radio who you’ve never met AND is someone who emails a national radio show when they’re heartbroken. Aside: the English language is a wonderful thing, I love it, but it can lack the nuances of other languages: there is no single word that means ‘the public sharing of private sadness to gain attention’.

Upstairs Downstairs on the other hand….if only to shout into an electronic recording device how completely and utterly Downton Abbey ripped it off and got away with it – not only got away with it, but beat the 2009 revival of Upstairs Downstairs so heavily in the ratings that it got cancelled.

But an Upstairs Downstairs podcast could be so much more than that. Each episode is good enough to justify some conversations – apart from a couple that are a bit shit. And then there’s the cast, normally a guest star knocking about – such as Keith Baron being an Australian. The dodgy camera work is worth a nod. And…well, more than anything I WANTED A PODCAST ABOUT UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS to listen to as I watched it.

There was an episode in series five where the butler, Hudson, fell in love with the maid. He is about 90 and she is about 20. And all through the series he has been so prim and proper. He is fervent about the position of servants – it makes him physically ill to imagine he is equal to the upstairs people. Unless they are not noble but become noble through marriage – then he definitely believes they are not better than him (until they do something vile like have someone executed because the wrong combination of wine and cheese was served at an informal lunch).

And out of nowhere you find out Hudson has been going out on dates with this simple young girl. Though she doesn’t really think they are dates, she just wants company and then feels obliged to carry on going on clandestine outings with him. Brilliantly there is both (a) more sympathy towards her than him from the characters in the show and (b) a scene where she tells him what a weird old man he is who she has no desire towards at all, in fact she gets quite cruel about how old and attractive he is.

Hudson has been a fucking arsehole throughout the series. It’s not simply malice on my part. The way he behaved to some of the other staff during the war was appalling. We were meant to feel sorry for him because it was shown that he wanted to enlist and stab the hun through the face with cake slice. But he couldn’t because he is about 105 years old and his eyes don’t work.

And in a later episode he thinks that two visiting miners, union men visiting as part of the general strike, are scum for thinking to challenge the decision of their betters.

So forgive me for taking some mild pleasure in watching a timid woman, who was on the verge of marrying a man older than her great-grandfather because she felt obliged to repay a trip to sit on a bench in a park, shout abuse at said man.

And it made me cry.

I have no idea where I am emotionally when I am crying because a fictional character has committed suicide. I managed to contain a sob – but felt like doing one – as the character’s dad read out his suicide note. The note stated that James, the son of the family and master of the house since series 2*, had done it at a hotel so as not to mess up the room at the house. Then I felt myself questioning whether or not the character meant that or whether he felt that sorry for himself, and let’s face it he was about to kill himself, that he was illustrating his nobility with that information.

Yes, I spent some time thinking about this. 40 years after the TV show and 80 years after the FICTIONAL events, I thought about this. While it would be easy to use this information to question what I am doing with my life, I would also suggest that it must be quite a good – and doesn’t mean I am an emotional asthmatic.

And that there should be a podcast. So, if anyone wants to kickstart me £20,000 I will do one.


*His mum died on The Titanic don’t you know – yes Downton ripped off that as well; his wife died at the end of the first World War – she was the only real casualty the entire household suffered, men went away to fight and came back but the mistress of the house got flu and died.

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