Tune in, switch off - Faith, hope and clarity

5th March 2010 at 00:00

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, once regarded as so dangerous that even his voice on television was dubbed by an actor, played truth seeker in The Bible: A History (Channel 4). As they couldn't get King Herod to present, I suppose he was next best choice.

He talked to experts about Jesus' core teachings from the cradle to the cross, beginning with a Bible scholar's view that Jesus was probably not born in Bethlehem or even in a manger. "You're ruining Christmas," muttered Adams in one of the few light moments.

This was Adams working again on the Irish peace process - but peace for Gerry, wanting forgiveness. He read his Bible aloud, including the injunctions to love your neighbour and not to kill. Did he agree? Well, it would depend on the day of the week and the cause itself. We would have got more truth from a Robert Mugabe documentary on Gandhi.

Did he have blood on his hands? Adams claimed to be just the leader of a struggle that had caused hurt to others. So it was all the fault of the movement. That is the kind of politician's dodge that gives the term dodgy a bad name (besides, we heard that at the Chilcot inquiry).

Some, whose relatives were murdered by the IRA, told Adams that the cause was not worth more than 3,000 lives lost. What about their forgiveness? They eloquently disappointed an unrepentant Adams: their suffering would never end.

New quiz show The Bubble (BBC Two), meanwhile, saw truth seeking of a lighter kind. Frank Skinner and Victoria Coren lived in a media-free vacuum for four days without even a mobile phone, so they wouldn't know if an election had been called or whether it was snowing. The aim? To sort real news from spoofs.

David Mitchell, the tweedy-twee quiz master, much mocked by third bubble member, louder-than-life Reginald D. Jones, sported his "women don't fancy me" persona, looking as if his hair had been parted by his mother, her lipstick hastily wiped from his cheek.

But the "true" stories he presented were so obscure that the panel could have skipped the bubble. Try this one: "What was found inside a tin this week? A cat's head, an image of the Virgin Mary or a chicken tikka masala?" Why go into hiding to miss that?

Well, it was a tin that got stuck on a cat's head. Proof was a photo from some obscure parish magazine. But before you ring the RSPCA, it was not so much Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Cat in a Spot The Tin Spoof (I made that punch-line up).

A year of Tune In: Switch Off has allowed me to watch TV in my own bubble while pretending I'm working. Now all that is left is to wipe the hard-drive of all those unviewed, unreviewed programmes. I'm pressing the delete button. Now.

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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