Jonathan Meades Abroad Again

· culture ·

I've been getting increasingly irritated by TV documentaries. Even if they are factually sound and reasonably balanced (unlike this week's Panorama programme), they frequently repeat things pointlessly, particularly on commercial channels where adverts break the programme up. For some reason, the documentary makers seem to assume that my working memory decays irretrievably after about two minutes, so they are constantly reminding me what they've just said. After a while this drives me crazy, and I end up yelling at the presenter that I am capable of retaining simple information for more than a few minutes, thank you very much. If you add that annoyance to the dumbed-down explanations and language often employed, documentaries are seldom worth watching.

Which is why I've been enjoying Jonanthan Meades' latest architecture documentary, Abroad Again. He's a very unconventional presenter in many ways, but he creates a wonderful line of argument, sustained over the length of the entire programme, putting his particular point of view. He uses rich language and long words, and if you don't understand a particular reference, well then -- you can just go and look it up. You have to concentrate a bit to keep up with him.

You could argue that this is elitist. It's true that there is a middle way between these two approaches; it is possible to produce an informative programme on a difficult topic without either losing your audience or insulting their intelligence, but it is difficult to do. Personally, I'm enjoying being mentally stretched for a change.