Having watched Margaret last night on BBC 2 – well, having watched the first minute before switching to ER on More4 and switching back to Margaret during the ad breaks for an update, then watching the final hour uninterrupted – I have this to say.
People have worked for months, if not years, putting that BBC 2 drama together. What did it mean to me and the 2.6m other viewers watching last night? It was quite good, though I fail to see why we need another drama about the final days of a political leader who fell from power more than 18 years ago, even if she was one of the most influential figures of our time.
The main interest, it seemed to me, was in judging how the stellar cast carried off impressions of the politicos we still know so well, most of whom are still alive. The best at it were John Sessions as Geoffrey Howe and Michael Maloney as John Major. I noted we didn’t get to see Roy Hattersley; just to hear an impression of his distinctive voice. I wasn’t moved by the drama. I, like most people over 30, can remember distinctly where I was when I heard Thatcher had resigned (in my student bedroom in York) and the drama of the occasion, history in the making, is still clear in my mind. I don’t need TV to rehash it, however good Lindsay Duncan‘s performance was. And by the way, what a great Denis Ian McDiarmid made. I was in the cut crystal tumbler with him. It will, of course, win lots of awards even though it was on BBC 2 and got a relatively small audience (12% of viewers, which is good for BBC 2 but as usual most people were elsewhere in the TV universe).
So who am I to sit and critique something that writer Richard Cottan (Wallander and BBC 4’s Hancock & Joan), director James Kent, producer Sanne Wohlenberg plus all the actors and crew have sweated blood putting together?
I’m a viewer and to the average viewer TV drama is just that: drama on TV which might distract them for a couple of hours, if they can be bothered to watch for that long and if they’re not watching or doing something else.
It’s wonderful that we have so much good stuff on TV that Margaret can pass, for me, as ‘also ran’ rather than a gem. But it is just TV and that’s worth bearing in mind while people talk of seismic change and thinking the unthinkable. A little perspective will help. Just as it’s worth bearing in mind that Lloyds bank‘s worst ever results, with profits down a colossal 80%, have still left it with a profit of £807m. I’d say a business with profits of £807m was OK, wouldn’t you?
My point is: the world hasn’t changed radically and won’t unless large numbers of people stop watching TV altogether or stop using banks altogether. Come to think of it, cash-in-hand work sounds like a great idea right now. Who’s with me?