Every now and then comes a televisual event so incredibly fantastic that is It talked about for years to come. Brideshead Revisited. The Ascent of Man. Life on Mars.
Alas, ITV’s Flood was not one of those programmes. In fact, this laugh-a-minute four-hour drama chronicling the watery destruction of London and 200,000 civilian deaths went right through “So bad it’s brilliant” and out into the rolling vistas of “Bugger me, I’m going to write a blog about this” territory.
If you missed this feast for the eyes over the weekend - and frankly, I wish I had watched Raiders of the Lost Ark on the other side as well - you really don’t know what you missed. Really. Canadian readers: This was a co-production with Canadian TV. Your turn soon. Miss at your peril.
Someone, somewhere at ITV Centre commissioned an effects-heavy disaster movie, and budgets being what they are in independent television these days, they - let’s be charitable here - rather cut corners on other aspects of the production. The flood itself looked great. The rest sucked. And blowed. A remarkable achievement.
In fact, I can guess what happened on the first day’s shooting:
“Right. Where’s the script?”
“The script. You know. The big book of words the actors read.”
“Ah. Let’s just improv, shall we?”
Christ onna bike. A plot you could drive the QE2 through. Every single disaster movie cliché in the book. Hilarious factual errors. Characters so awful, you find yourself rooting for the flood waters just to finish the whining bastards off for once and for all. Maverick genius coming to terms with his father. Maverick genius forced to work - and eventually make up - with his ex-wife. And David fucking Suchet.
In fact, the cliché Everyman Trying To Reunite His Family character and his dreadful, whinging daughter did nothing but sit around looking damp to the point that you really, really wanted them to die rather horribly.
This was, truth be told, what is known as Event Television. The event being waking up in the middle of the night with the words:
“Wait a minute… how did Neal from the Young Ones manage to be in the Met Office in Exeter and the Cabinet Office in London in three consecutive scenes?”If anybody from ITV’s reading this: Do Attack of the 500-foot Ann Widdecombe next. Suchet’s available. Ant and Dec sadly drowned in the deluge.
“Four, actually. Wait a minute… you mean EVERYBODY in this production‘s related to each other?”
“Wait a minute… how come they were up to their arses in water outside the chemist’s shop, yet it was dry inside?”
“Wait a minute… how come they were swimming about in freezing water for a WHOLE NIGHT yet nobody got cold?”
“Wait a minute… how come the Whinging Daughter’s mum got from a completely destroyed town in the North of Scotland, all the way down to Greenwich Park whilst wrapped in a blanket in a time of unprecedented national crisis, to find her family within 30 seconds of arriving?”
“You’re just being picky. Wait a minute… how come that famous Scottish actor Robert Carlyle’s got a dreadful Cockney accent. More to the point - what’s he doing in this shit?”
“Wait a minute… why didn't they just tell people to go into the large number of really tall buildings they have in London?”
“Wait a minute… the government COBRA committee consists of TWO PEOPLE? What DOES COBRA stand for, anyway?”
“Cabinet Office Briefing Room”
“What about the ‘A’?”
Note to Channel Four: Grand Designs Live. Not even a lightly-oiled Beany and/or Allsop can save this from being truly, utterly fucking awful. That is all.