Archive for Friday, March 9, 2007

British show lost in translation

March 9, 2007


Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley of "Absolutely Fabulous" fame team up again in "Clatterford" (8 p.m., BBC America). Written and created by Saunders, "Clatterford" is set in a women's club in a provincial British town.

Lumley, who played the decadent, over-the-hill party girl on "Fabulous," is cast here as an eccentric old lady. Saunders plays a busy mother, social organizer and horseback rider.

I'm fairly well disposed to British humor and British television, but "Clatterford" is not merely unfunny, it's frequently incomprehensible. Like Marmite and cricket, some U.K. staples just don't translate.

¢ For those who missed it on Wednesday, Fox repeats the pilot episode of "The Wedding Bells" (8 p.m., Fox,) in its regular timeslot. The drama-comedy, created by David E. Kelley ("Ally McBeal," "Boston Legal") takes a quirky look at the operation of a wedding chapel. Every episode will follow the story of three sisters, Annie (KaDee Strickland), Jane (Teri Polo) and Sammy (Sarah Jones), as they focus on the bride of the week.

As I wrote last week, this show has many problems, not the least of which is its Friday-night timeslot. With the exception of the CBS lineup, Friday nights have become the Bermuda Triangle of network programming, particularly Fox. The network either hopes that Kelley will return them to winning form or sees Friday nights as a convenient place to bury an unfunny comedy that takes a shrill and unromantic look at weddings.

¢ Speaking of bona fide disasters and Fox, Fox News has earned an interesting distinction. According to several reports, on March 2, Fox News spent 12 times as much attention on the Anna Nicole Smith story as they did the scandal at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. According to, Fox mentioned the Smith story 121 times and Walter Reed only 10 times.

That's interesting coming from a network always first to remind us of its patriotism. Apparently, the treatment of returning wounded soldiers doesn't matter. Fox News correspondent (and "War on Christmas" crusader) John Gibson has accused reporters, including CNN's Anderson Cooper, of engaging in "news-guy snobbery" for reporting on Iraq instead of obsessing about Smith.

Fox News has shown its true colors here - and they aren't red, white and blue. By ridiculing journalism as elitist while categorizing the much-loathed saturation of Smith coverage as "what people might want," Gibson and Fox show their contempt for their viewers.

Fox also demonstrates how distraction is a powerful facet of propaganda. Fox News was front and center in selling the invasion of Iraq - back when it was popular. But now that many people have soured on the war, Fox wants to change the subject.

Even worse, they ridicule those who do their professional duty to report on the conflict. How can you be fair and balanced and then ignore a story costing a fortune in blood and treasure? Unlike so many other fiascos promoted by Rupert Murdoch, the war in Iraq isn't a TV show that can be canceled.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ A cyclist collapses after doping on "House" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ Danny goes into action to save a friend from peril on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.