Thursday, 4 March 2010


"Hey, let's make a show about archaic manufacturing techniques! We could get Monty Don to present it! And let's show it on Friday night primetime!"

These are the words that must have escaped a BBC executive's mouth at some sort of meeting, presumably the same one where they decided to give Jonathon Ross several million pounds a year for one TV show and one radio show, and then smoked inside blatantly disregarding the new non-smoking laws, lighting up with £50 notes we gave them in our licence fee and complaining their daily champagne was rather too warm.

I jest. Forgive me.

Anyways, as I settled down in a typically student way to watch Monty Don talk to me about woodwork on a Friday, I reached for my Werther's Originals and put on my slippers, then complained in my head about the noise my raucous neighbours make, I realised two things. First of all, I am secretly a lonely 87 year old man, but more importantly, "Monty Don is talking to us about woodwork at NINE PM on a FRIDAY".

In all fairness, the show had me glued to it for an hour, ironic, because they were learning these woodworking skills so they would never have to use glue. We had three plucky newbies attempting to learn how to use green wood in a good manner. Since this was the BBC, these people all had a human element, and we learnt their back stories, we had the lovely single mum, the supply woodwork teacher who wanted to learn something new, and the creative designer/architect fellow who cheerfully showed us a basket he made back in the day, and noted it was still working, then told us a merry little tale about how he was throwing away his dad's things after he died, and realised he actually made the lamp that was beside him on his deathbed.


Anyways, we now had our assembled group. I didn't care enough to write their names, this is hardly a professional operation I run here, but for ease, the single mum is going to be called Jane (She looked like a Jane.), the woodwork supply teacher is going to be called Will (He looked like a Will.) and the designer is going to be called Archibald (He didn't look like an Archibald, I just didn't like him very much and am feeling childish). They also had a teacher who was equally cheery and depressing at the same time. Let's be devils and call him Geoffrey. We also had Monty Don keeping the whole thing in check. Joyously, we also had the single greatest character in television history, in the man who came along to judge their work, but more on him later.

So we've learnt about Jane, Will and Archibald. We're sitting anxiously, waiting to learn about them learning to make stuff out of wood. They start with a spatula, just to get to grips with the equipment. I feel a little cheated, I was rather optimistically expecting them to create more than a slightly smaller stick of wood from a stick of wood; Alas not. We learned of the greatest challenge our three heroes were to face, building their own chair!

Or at least, two of them would be making their own chair. Jane was pretty much condemned by Geoffrey (The teacher. Remember?) for being not particularly good at it. We had tears, we had drama (Dear BBC, tears =/= Good television.) and then we had resigned acceptance. She would make a stool while the boys made chairs. But from nowhere, Monty Don slides in from the right, boosts her confidence, and she changes to make a stick-chair using slightly different techniques (Geoffrey, morale boosting as always, opened with the line: "Some green wood-workers look down on stick-work as easier because, well, it is." I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist).

Joys abound, all three are making chairs! But it's a race against the clock for Archibald, who took three days to start, while Jane and Will were merrily carving away.

I don't want to ruin the tension of the event for you. But eventually, Jane and Will made chairs, Archibald succeeded in making some bits of a chair, but not finishing, and my favourite character, the judge, came along and tested them with a degree of vigour I enjoy watching people attempt to break things with. He even tested the incomplete chair by randomly picking bits and twisting them with horrendous eagerness. Archibald's face was a mask of pure horror diluted slightly with disbelief. "It's very firm, but this joint's all wrong." as he said, and we got a shot of the gaping abyss that was at least half an inch wide. That's like, 2 nautical miles in green wood-work.

I would say I'm looking forward to the future installments, but I'm not a liar, so I'll say I could have wasted that hour of my life in other, probably better ways, like writing an angry letter to Euroshopper about my Apple Juice. I'm still mad, I don't even want to talk about it.

Essentially, it was a fundamentally decent, vaguely entertaining show, which should never have been broadcast at 9pm on a Friday. It's more 9 till 10 or REALLY, 8 till 9 on a Wednesday kind of show. But then, when have the BBC been logical?

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