Tune in, switch off - Slime and punishment

20th March 2009 at 00:00

This week a colleague found a six-minute video clip of me discussing a long-dead innovation on Teachers TV.

It set me thinking: who watches this stuff? I'd never seen it. And if it's a choice between watching me on the small screen and Desperate Housewives, I know where I'll be every time.

Perhaps the Government could consider creating a TV station for a profession with greater training needs than ours. Imagine what similar training might do for the financiers. Bankers' TV has a nice ring to it. Just think of the dramas about economics they could screen. We've heard a lot of fiction from the banks recently.

There are even ready-made titles for this toxic television channel, such as The Bill, Damages or Mad Men. And Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? might get them tuning in for pensions advice. They could have their own Crimewatch series, starring some of the more notorious City fat cats for a small price. They would have to cut those final bedtime words of comfort, "Don't have nightmares" that assure those crimes won't happen to us, because we all know they just did.

There was also plenty of crime in the highly-hyped Channel 4 drama, Red Riding. You know it's going to be complicated when you see that the cast list in the Radio Times has an accompanying labelled photograph to make sure you can do your own piece of detective work - identifying them all. The first episode was set in 1974. We deduced that by the lime green swirly wallpaper and the long sideburns on our chain-smoking, leather-jacketed journalist hero, Eddie, played by Andrew Garfield. How's that for detective work?

It was a bizarre world of extreme police brutality: savage, rabid, frothing at the mouth brutality, with distorted faces and hands squeezing personal bits that made me wince. And that was before Eddie's fingers were smashed with handcuffs. Why didn't he sue or at least run for cover every time he saw a blue siren coming towards him? Those truncheon blows looked painful. Naked and hooded in a dark cell ("Is he bleeding yet?"), this could have been a Guantanamo Bay documentary. There was even a mock execution. Z-Cars was never like this.

Mouths dripping with blood and full-vowelled northern accents, it reminded me of the Scottish play. All the grotesques in it, and there were lots, looked like those photographs of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. No wonder the North is a foreign country - and I was brought up there.

In the year this was set, the school where I taught was closed because the corrupt police and headteacher were running a prostitution racket with the Year 11 girls. The boys rioted. No, it wasn't Bradford, but an African state and a great start to my teaching career.

But given what writer David Peace believes the West Yorkshire police were up to back then, perhaps I had a lucky escape.

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

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