Millwall’s TV louts reviewed; Stamp of Greatness previewed.
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‘You get a letter through the post. and you see this face on the stamp and you know the name. but you think “Who the hell was he?" ‘
Producer Robin Crichton explains the premise of Stump of(irvatnes.s‘. a new Channel Four series which attempts to supply the answers in half-hour biographies of famous historical figures. each of whom has been gummed to the top right-hand
corner of letters and postcards. Subjects range from Arthur Conan Doyle to Bedrich Smetana. founder ()szech romantic music.
The programmes use documentary and archive footage from all over the world. interspersed with dramatic reconstructions ofepisodes from the subjects‘ lives. ‘We pick characters where the name is familiar. but people don‘t know much about the guy.‘ explains Crichton. who also directed and scripted the series. ‘We do their whole life in half an hour. which is going some. I must say. lt‘sa kindofCecil B. De Mille production condensed into thirty minutes.‘
Stamp ofGrealncss is the latest completed project from the Edinburgh Film and Video production company. with help from Eastern Europe. The expense involved in producing this kind ofprogramme (around £1 10,000 for halfan hour) made a co-producer necessary. ‘It‘s the sort of thing nobody can afford to do on a national basis any more.‘ says Crichton. ‘So the Commissioning Editor at Channel Four sent me off. as a sort of ambassador to investigate the whole Eastern Europe thing. to find out which countries we could work with more readily. This was before recent events. obviously.”
The trip was a mixed success. The Czechs proved to be most enthusiastic. producing programmes on Dvorak and Smetana. In contrast. says Crichton. ‘the Poles were a complete disaster. which is why we had to scrap the Copernicus programme. Poland is so poor that it‘s become an excuse for laziness and everyone just shrugs and says ‘that‘ll do‘. They couldn‘t get their act together and the programme they produced just wasn‘t up to scratch. We just had to say ‘Sorry we aren‘t going
to show that — into the bucket with it'. which was a shame really.‘
Edinburgh Film and Video is in its 25th year. making it one ofthe oldest independents. A cooperative based on a nucleus ofsix regular members expanding in number according to workload. it has been a regular contributor to Channel Four. Recently the company produced Silent Mouse. shown on Christmas Day. telling the true story of the hymn ‘Silent Night‘. Despite the increased opportunities for programme-makers offered by (‘hannel Four. they are still having to fight offcompetition for work. ‘The amount of work available doubled when Channel Four started. but the amount of producers increased by ten times.‘ explains Robin Crichton. ‘So there are all these people chasing the work and we‘re at a big disadvantage by being in Scotland. It's the old story ofthe whole business being controlled from London. and people working outside the capital suffering for it. We might just as well be based in Paris as Edinburgh.‘
Despite the whinge. the company is busy. working on a five country co-production. a futuristic drama serial called Torch. ‘It's a kind of modern Arthurian-type quest. based on the Olympic torch and the ideals behind it.‘ In the meantime Robin Crichton is hoping fora good reception for Stamp ()fUrt’alnt’sx and contemplating another series. ‘lt is a logistical nightmare. because the more countries you get the more difficult it is to put together. but we are very pleased with the format. and it would be nice ifit could go on.‘ (Tom Lappin).
Stamp ()f(heartless: ( 'liunm'l Four W t'dnesrluys 6—6.30pm.
‘I get a strange swell of pride when I hear of our hooligans causing some trouble abroad,‘ claimed Joe Strummer in one of his less considered recent pronouncements. Perhaps Joe would have derived some enjoyment from Arrivederci Millwall (BBC2), but I’d defy anyone else to.
The idea seems promising. Millwall hooligans set off for the World Cup in Spain (where the ‘arrivederci’ comes from is a mystery), bent on keeping up their hard image and causing mayhem, againstthe backdrop of the Falklands War. Plenty of opportunities for some hard-hitting themes there, you would have thought; Brits beating up a few foreigners and going off to war, state xenophobia and personalised racism. Know whatl mean?
Instead we were served up a mish-mash of shallow stereotypes seemingly drawn from the pages of
tabloid newspapers, in a woefully directionless tale that resorted to arbitrary violence wheneverthe preposterous plot llagged. Billy was the central characterwith emotions ranging from viciousness to er. . . extreme viciousness. I thought I detected a tiny chink of conscience when he mumbled his ‘fuckings’ in church but everyone else did too, so it was obviously stipulated by those who’d allowed the film crew into the
What amusement there was came from moments like this, and the hack
than an indictment.
Sergio Leoneisms of the climax as Billy stalked the streets brandishing a stolen pistol. More offensive was the depiction of the Spanish police, pulled straight off the shelf reserved for Nazi Gestapo officers. The most telling image of the play was the lads stripped to the waist in their cell, defiantly singing Rule Britannia; it came across far more a glorification of jingoism
Everything thatArrivederci Millwall didn’t say about the nature of the football supporter was more than adequately covered by No One Likes Us -We Don‘t Care (Working Pictures for Channel Four), a piece of pop sociology that did the genre proud. By talking to three generations of Millwall supporters, presenting archive footage and past newspaper coverage, if placed the club’s daunting image in
The most pertinent message was that hooliganism is nothing new. Fights, pitch invasions and bottle-throwing were not uncommon in the Twenties and Thirties, although treated rather
more leniently by judges who attributed them to ‘over-excitement'. In a persuasive way, the programme showed how football hooligans became just another ‘folk devil' of the Sixties, whose activities were exaggerated and distorted until they became a self-fulfilling prophecy. One fan pointed out that previous generations had learnt how to behave at football matches from their elders, now they read about it in the newspapers.
No One Likes Us told of a continued rift between supporters and directors, financial mismanagement, and appalling ground conditions. But above all it was the story of a community's passion for its football club, and the club’s importance to the predominantly working-class area. It was a pointed appeal for football supporters to be treated like human beings, and a welcome voice added to the hooliganism debate. It also pointed out that last year Millwall were Community Football Club of 1989. Funny old game, innit. (Tom Lappin)
50 The List 12 — 25 January 1990