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A Topic FOR Inquiry HERE: Mockumentaries – When did they begin, and will the invasion of the ubiquitous TV format end?
I’d trace the origins of the movie This Is Spinal Tap from 1984. The cameras followed a heavy metal band on tour, their triumphs and tragedies, but mostly their daily bouts of embarrassment, including getting lost on the way to the stage, in Rob Reiner’s classic comedy, written by Christopher Guest, Reiner (also starring), Michael McKean and Harry Shearer,
The popularity was such that imitators were not long in coming, and it turned out that television had a lot to ridicule, from shows about office life (The Office) and the BBC (W1A) to urban pirate radio (W1A), with its penchant for cheap fly-on-the-wall shows (People Just Do Nothing). Viewers had already seen enough conventional takes on organizations to fall into the joke quickly, and the style worked all over the place.
The documentaries and their cheeky twins, the mockumentaries, were especially fertile ground for cop shows. So it was only a matter of time before Scot Squad (BBC Scotland, Thursday) burst onto the scene in a pilot in 2012, followed two years later by a full season.
The sixth season of the production of Joe Hullait sees the return of several familiar faces, including Chief Superintendent Cameron Miekelson, McKirdy and Singh traffic cops, Jane and Charlie country cops, not to mention Office Karen, sergeant of the long-suffering desk, and Bobby, the citizen who worships her over a preternaturally high counter.
In the sixth season, there is one notable new face, but I will have to say “no comment” on any other aspect in order not to ruin the surprise.
Scot Squad works so well because it adheres to tried-and-true characters, but is not afraid to add new ones (for example, Archie Pepper as a tech cop who can navigate the Internet) and create others (we’ve seen Ken Beattie go from volunteer cop to deputy sergeant, making all kinds of errors along the way).
Long may Ken and his colleagues continue to defend and support (so to speak) (in a way). If you missed out on Scot Squad’s wacky delights somehow, there are plenty of past episodes and iPlayer mini-specials.
Christopher Guest, author of “This is Spinal Tap” wrote, directed and starred in “Best in Show,” a documentary on show dogs and their competitive humans. A talent competition for dog groomers, Pooch Perfect (BBC1, Thursday), seems to be a program along the lines of Best in Show at first glance, but I assure you, it’s completely serious. Uh. Wonder.
Pooch Perfect sort of comes from the same house as The Great British Bake Off/Sewing Bee, etc., hosted by Sheridan Smith and Stanley the puppy, It brings together 16 dog groomers who, by impressing the judges, all compete to earn the “Golden Stanley” award. There are two obstacles facing each contestant: a conventional makeover for the breed and a more free-form trim.
To ensure they enjoy being treated, participating dogs have gone through a screening process. I certainly know an American cocker spaniel would not have passed the test. Like a Tasmanian devil, he goes to the barber and only after much coaxing and cooing does he give in to the haircut.
Unless the format goes niche, there definitely can’t be any other activities or occupations that qualify for the “Great British” title. Or “The Great British Window Clean?” perhaps? How about “Britain’s Best Traffic Warden,”
Gordon Buchanan has one of the world’s best careers, and he works so hard that for a minute you wouldn’t blame him. To better observe them, the Scotsman’s skill is to live as near and politely as possible with animals. Cheetah Family and Me (BBC2, Tuesday) finds him in South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari Reserve.
There were 100,000 wild cheetahs there at the beginning of the 20th century; it is feared today that there are only 7000 remaining. Buchanan follows two mothers and their cubs in search of the tale behind these sad numbers. He does so not with the convenience and safety of a four-wheel drive vehicle or remote cameras, but with his gear on Shanks’ pony. On the reservation, walking is rarely permitted, but he has received special permission.
It hardly seems like a joy as he walks through the reservation nervously, searching for