Shiny Shelf


A Very Social Secretary

By Jim Smith on 12 October 2005

Inhabiting the exact middle-ground between such worthy failures as ‘The Deal’ and successful satires as ‘Jeffrey Archer – The Truth’, More 4’s launch night special ‘A Very Social Secretary’ sadly never managed to rise above derisory.

Unfunny, clichéd, often offensive and clearly made without any ambition other than to sneer, involvement in this was a waste of precious life for all concerned with it, from those at the channel itself down to every single last viewer. (In fact, expect a neologism concerning the squandering of vast amounts of acting talent to be coined in reference to it any minute now.)

I’ll admit to being staggered by the positive coverage this tripe has received in the mainstream press; have we now gone so far down the ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ route that we’ll cheer something that’s manifestly utterly dreadful because it might hurt someone we don’t like? Well, quite possibly, yes, it appears that we have. How very, very sad that is.

Do I like David Blunkett? No? Do I approve of policies he was responsible for when in the Home Office? No. Do I really have any sympathy for his exit from front line politics as a result of an extra-marital affair with a woman from the right-wing press? Not really, no; but none of these things are remotely relevant when dealing with such a creakingly unfunny, tawdry and pointless thing as ‘A Very Social Secretary’.

Okay, so satire is meant to open the powerful up to scrutiny and ridicule and, yes, I suppose that you could say that this production managed that in so much as it was unendingly silly and unceasingly fatuous and made light of important things, but really… If David Blunkett is to be attacked lets have it be for policy reasons or because there’s something to say about him; let’s not have it be via jokes about the fact that he can’t see to help someone find their handbag or how amusing the idea of a blind person having sex is.

Channel 4 have made a lot of (punning) mileage out of the idea of ‘More 4’ as ‘adult entertainment’ but this puerile, sixth form nonsense was anything but. At the same time as ‘More 4’ showed this tat another cable channel was re-broadcasting ‘Helped Into Power’, the second episode of Ian Kershaw and Laurence Rees’ ‘The Nazis – A Warning From History’.

Not only is this everything that ‘A Very Social Secretary’ is not in terms of being inherently adult it is also a penetrating look at the deceits and self-deceits of a paranoid government obsessed with a shadow enemy and helped by sinister allies on the right. It is also, without being needlessly glib, far more use in trying to understand current political trends than poor Bernard Hill rolling his eyes and shouting/lisping ‘Nipples!’ is ever going to be.


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