Monday, September 16, 2019

Buried Madness

'Sugg from Madness digs up a World War Two tank from a field in Surrey' - that must have been one Hell of a pitch for a TV series.  But it got made, (you can see it on Blaze tonight).  To be absolutely fair, Suggs doesn't spend the entire series, (World War Two Treasure Hunters), digging up a tank - in other episodes he digs up crashed German bombers and other wartime relics.  Of course, it all begs the question of why it is that most people wandering around with metal detectors never manage to dig up more than a few bottle tops and the odd fifty pence piece, while the onetime front man of Madness can apparently find tanks, planes, bombs and the like.  Perhaps there is an episode where he detects and digs up a complete World War Two aircraft carrier, buried sixty miles inland.  Anyway, to get to the point, such as it is, there was a time when, had you described a TV show where a pop singer dug up buried war relics, everyone would have treated it as a joke.  But in today's world of multichannel digital TV, it seems that you can pitch just about any format for a factual programme and, provided that it is cheap to produce, it will get made. 

Channels like Blaze and Quest are full of faux archeological programmes with various unlikely celebrities excavating all manner of things.  Or restoring them.  Or prorammes about people just doing their jobs, be it fishing for tuna, driving trucks in Australia or trains in Alaska.  (Actually, Quest and DMAX - both part of the Discovery group - have quite an obsession with Alaska, between them showing a plethora of shows covering just about every aspect of living there).  But it is the true crime programmes which seem the weirdest to me.  In fact, with their obsession with murder, the more horrible the better, is downright sinister.  The titles are bad enough - Fear Thy Neighbour, for instance.  I suspected that this might be an edgier remake of racist seventies sitcom Love Thy Neighbour, where the Jack Smethurst character goes beyond just being the local bigot to putting a pillowcase on his head and planting blazing crosses on his black neighbour's lawn.  But no, it's a 'factual' show about having murderous next door neighbours.  These show cover every aspect of murder, often approaching it in terms of 'themes' - there's one that documents murders committed at British seaside resorts, for instance.  What next, Vicars that KillHomicidal HousewivesBarbecue MassacresKindergarten Killings?  I'm going to have to start pitching some of these...

(For what it is worth, the tank dug up on the Suggs programme was a Covenantor, a British cruiser tank with so many design flaws that it was only ever used for training and never deployed on active service.  It had been buried, for unknown reasons, on a farm in Surrey which subsequently became a vineyard.  Interestingly, it is the second Covenantor to be dug up from this site, another having been excavated in the seventies, when it was still a farm.  This tank was restored and is now on display at Bovington tank museum.  The Covenantor dug up on the TV show is currently being restored in Manchester.  Apart from a couple of wrecks on a former Army firing range in Norfolk and two examples converted into bridgelayers in Australia, these are the only two Covenantors known to survive).



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