HELICOPTERS have become such an accepted part of the television news landscape they barely merit mention any more.
If a story needs an aerial shot to capture the extent of flooding, say, the size of a protest march, or any live event, up go the choppers. Did you ever wonder, though, who first had the idea?
Whirlybird: Live Above LA (BBC4, Monday, 9pm) has the answer, and what a story it is. Matt Yoka’s film for the Storyville documentary strand is a tale of changing fortunes; for the City of Angels in which it is set, for the news business, and above all for the couple at its core.
Marika Gerrard and Bob Tur met at university in Los Angeles. She remembers that he always had a video camera with him. For their first date they went to take pictures of the latest victim of the Skid Row Slasher. Other evenings were spent visiting the scenes of car crashes, air accidents, and fires. It was never just a movie or dinner with Tur. She found him exciting, “irresistible”. Gerrard had fallen for a news junkie.
The two turned their interest into a business, the Los Angeles News Service. Equipped with a radio scanner, a fast car and a truck load of chutzpah, they chased stories in the city the way some go after storms, selling the footage on to the ever growing number of news shows. After a while, Tur started to grow exasperated with the hellish LA traffic. He had an idea, and the rest was TV news history.
Over the course of an award-winning, 20 years-plus career, Gerrard and Tur captured the LA riots, were the first on the scene for OJ Simpson’s white Bronco flight, and notched up many other scoops.
Professionally and financially they were a success. Personally was something else, for Tur in particular.
Tur’s tendency to shoot everything, from inside the chopper as well as outside, means there is no shortage of footage with which to tell the story. You may have seen some of it before (notably in a couple of 1996 episodes of Police Camera Action!) but not all, and not in such detail.
There are contemporary interviews too, with the couple, their family, and those who worked with them.
Just as fascinating as watching the progress of the couple’s marriage is seeing how television news changed, particularly in the US. The desperate desire to be first on scene and capture a story live meant running up against ethical boundaries. In the riots that followed the acquittal of the police officers who beat up Rodney King, for instance, should Tur and the rest of the helicopter pack have tried to somehow help the victims of car-jackings and assaults instead of just filming the attacks?
Tur, as we see, had a tendency to put himself into a story as well as observe it from the air. The film also asks what a diet of constantly breaking news, most of it on crime, does to a society.
It makes for a thrilling 90 minutes, even if the film does rush the ending and leaves several questions spinning through the air. Fellow news junkies queue here.
I knew I was in trouble when I thought about watching Schitt’s Creek (Netflix) for the third time.
You know what it’s like. It has been another long lockdown week, you want something light, amusing, uncomplicated, where there is no such thing as a plot to follow.
Readers, I have found it. Superstore (Netflix) is the name and there are five seasons of it. Apparently a sixth and final one is out there somewhere as well.
The Netflix blurb describes it as set in a megastore in St. Louis where “a group of employees with larger-than-life personalities put up with customers, day-to-day duties and each other”, but don’t let that put you off.
It’s no Frasier (what is?), or Schitt’s Creek, but it is home to a large cast of solid characters (my favourite has to be Dina, the assistant manager/drill sergeant), sharp writing, and it’s great to see a shop again. Any shop.
The Repair Shop continues its bid for TV domination with new DIY show Jay and Dom’s Home Fix (BBC1, Monday-Friday, 3.45pm).
It is another show based on repeats, in this case excerpts from the likes of Money for Nothing, Real Rooms and Gardeners’ World. In Monday’s show, for instance, viewers are shown how to bring a tired chest of drawers back to life, make a herb garden, and upholster a box to create an ottoman. Jay and Dom have tips of their own, and in each episode set themselves a challenge, such as making shelving.
Although viewers are assured all the tasks are achievable some seem to require more skills, and tools, than others.
My toolbox, the contents of which amount to an assortment of rusty screwdrivers and a hammer, would be no match for that bookcase made out of scaffolding poles. Think I’m going to need a bigger toolbox.