AFTER weeks in lockdown and nothing on the television, the BBC promised the public a Big Night In – three hours of fun, hilarity and entertainment all in the name of charity (mostly NHS affiliated groups). As 7 o’clock approached, Tina (very reluctantly) and I settled down on the couch.
7pm: The show is opened by a very excitable Lenny Henry, Davina McCall and Matt Baker who tell us about the brilliant line-up for the evening. Ten Doctor Whos in one place, a pub quiz from the EastEnders cast and a special guest they won’t tell us about until near the end of the show. Everything is ‘brilliant’, ‘superb’, ‘amazing’, ‘hilarious’. We are in for a majestic evening, that’s for sure!
7.15pm: Only 15 minutes in and it’s already a struggle. David Walliams has just offered a prize to ‘one lucky winner’ – of course, if they donate to the various causes. The prize is being a character in his new children’s book, amongst other things, and is in no way a publicity stunt for said book. No, that would be very cynical indeed.
7.30pm: Rishi Sunak, dressed in his casuals (don’t they call that being ‘down’ with the kids?), informs the viewers that UK taxpayers, already dead on their feet and some with little hope of recovery, will match any donations made from the evening. Sorry, no, he said ‘government’. But we know what he meant. Thanks, Rishi, from all of us!
8pm: Ooooohhhh, get ready for it! It’s the clap-a-thon! Not only are we treated to the usual scenes from around the country and NHS workers clapping themselves (aren’t they supposed to be overworked?) but we have celebrities marking the occasion. Ten Doctor Whos, from Sylvester McCoy to Matt Smith, tell us that they aren’t real doctors (who knew?!) and that they want to pay tribute and thanks to the real doctors and nurses, the ‘heroes’ of the NHS. At this point, I pop out for a breath of fresh air and am thankful to see only a few neighbours clapping. One informs me, ‘We’re clapping for the health service’, to which I reply, ‘If you must.’ I step back inside and prepare myself for two . . . more . . . hours. Crikey, this is harder than I thought.
The BBC starts to talk about how hard the lockdown will be for Muslims at Ramadam. Tina, at this point, goes into full Father Ted bag lady mode:
Watch from 2mins, mute it and imagine what Tina might have said as she lamented the BBC’s lack of coverage or empathy for Christians at Easter.
8.30pm: Live Aid, Mark 2. We are ‘treated’ to an all-star version of the Foo Fighters hit, Times Like These:
Afterwards the BBC speaks to former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and chats about the good causes this will benefit, namely Grohl and the publicity-hungry celebrities who got involved.
8.55pm: Was Lenny Henry ever funny? He tells us how funny and entertaining the EastEnders bit was though I wonder whether it was a true reflection of what I see as the most depressing show on television.
Little Mix, like Walliams at the beginning of the show, have just offered the viewers a prize to see them when the lockdown ends. Woo hoo! scream the viewers.
Matt Lucas and the BBC orchestra have come on, singing a pre-school song about a baked potato:
Are kids usually up at this time? If so, they’re getting a real treat as Mr Baked Potato informs them about social distancing and not touching your face. Tina and I, though, are watching this through our fingers and wondering whether we’ll get through the last hour. Tina keeps looking around and I’m sure she’s looking for the remote control but I anticipated this and put it under my cushion about an hour in.
9.30pm: After being told for the last two hours to look forward to Joe Wicks (to which Tina and I exchange glances and exclaim, ‘who the f*** is Joe Wicks?!’), the man makes his long-awaited appearance. Apparently, he’s some fitness bloke who comes out with similar colloquialisms to Jamie Oliver – annoying as hell, then.
9.55pm: In the last 25 minutes, we’ve seen celebrities from Dame Judie Dench to the anti-Brexit poster boy, Benedict Cumbertwat, asking us whether we know how to wash our hands or social distance. I’m so glad they had this on because I never knew how to do any of those things. Now with the help of a few publicity-starved celebrities, I’m more savvy.
Five minutes before the end the BBC gives us ‘Comics on Lockdown’, featuring various ‘comedians’ sharing jokes from home. Tim Vine is the only funny one and Nish Kumar offers a blasphemous ‘joke’ about the way Christians see Jesus which makes me throw my pad, with all my notes, at the screen.
10pm: It’s over, it’s finally over! I’d do a lap of the room if I wasn’t so tired!
What did I learn from those three hours? Aside from the usual – the BBC can’t do comedy, celebs love publicity – I learned that a good majority of the nation can be sleepwalked into anything. They raised nearly £30million (by the time of writing) from that show, plus the £30million raised by Captain Tom Moore, plus the proceeds from his single, plus the proceeds from the single the Beeb put together with Dave Grohl. All to add to the various other fundraisers for the NHS. The BBC, along with politicians, has convinced many that the NHS is a benevolent charity worthy of the praise it receives. It is not an organisation with one and a half million employees who are paid to be part of it; it’s an ethereal body made up of angels.
If the Big Night In was part of the BBC’s drive to ensure we praise the NHS and stay indoors, the remaining weeks or months will be very bleak indeed. Meanwhile, not only will charities find it tough going but so will the many people sitting at home because they can’t go to work, who were asked on this warm April evening to put their hands in their pockets to help an organisation which already receives billions every year by celebrities who ‘gave up their time’ to ‘entertain’. While the health service receives top billing yet again, who is thinking about the threat to small and medium businesses as this lockdown continues, or the vast number of employees who work for them?
Not for the first time, the BBC missed the mark and proved once again that it does not represent the people.