Ab Fab, Olympic Gold?

Posted: July 25, 2012 in life
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This onslaught of Olympic-related programming won’t last. The bad news is it’ll be replaced with the real thing

Absolutely Fabulous 2012 Special

Last night’s Absolutely Fabulous Olympics special was notable for a couple of reasons. First, it managed to round up the single most annoying studio audience in recent memory, full of the sort of people who applaud jokes instead of laughing. And second – thanks to a directionless five-minute section lazily bolted on to the end – it was the probably the most tenuous Olympics special that we’ve seen so far.


And that’s saying something, because God knows we’ve had enough of them. The next couple of days were meant to be a golden oasis before the madness began – the last refuge of normal telly before BBC1 relents and hands over 18 hours of each day to the Olympics. If you’re not a fan of athletics, this week should have been your last gulp of clean air before you hold your breath and begrudgingly make friends with ITV for a fortnight.


That obviously hasn’t happened. They might still be a few days away, but already the Olympics have reached a dizzying fever pitch on TV. We’ve had – or will soon have – documentaries on Victoria Pendleton, Usain Bolt and Tom Daley, a Panorama special about sports equipment, Olympic warm-up football matches, Twenty Twelve, something called British Olympic Hopes and Dreams, a torch relay recap, a Megastructures special, The Big Sports Quiz, A Question of Sport special, Matt Smith’s Bert & Dickie, Ab Fab and all the other Olympics-trumpeting, London-centric shows that TV keeps churning out to capitalise on the excitement.


Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. When it’s done well – and often when it’s about a specific athlete – Olympic programming can be genuinely fascinating. Although off-puttingly reverential at times, the Pendleton, Bolt and Daley documentaries were all well-made and thoughtful looks into the rigours of modern-day athletic training.


Given that we’re all about to be mercilessly beaten about the chops with images of people whose entire lives revolve around full-time preparation for a single quadrennial event, they’ve provided a handy dose of insight for those of us who can barely wait for a bus without getting bored and wandering off for a pizza.


Also on the plus side, we’re due the final episode of Twenty Twelve tonight. It’s grown in confidence throughout its run – not least because almost every single catastrophic prediction it’s made about the games has come true – and it’ll be bittersweet to let go of the characters after all this time. Not least Jessica Hynes’s Siobhan Sharpe, who surely deserves her own spin-off at this point.


Then again, it’s within the BBC’s remit as an Olympic broadcaster to reflect all sides of the games, not just the brutal training regimes. For example, it also has a duty to demonstrate that most professional athletes are profoundly uncharismatic as soon as they leave the track. This presumably explains the presence of the Question of Sport and Absolutely Fabulous specials – each competing for the title of worst Olympic-related show on TV – in last night’s schedules.


A Question of Sport is always terrible, but there’s something genuinely depressing about the sight of Sally Gunnell and James Cracknell trading forlorn yucks with Sue Barker purely because they think it’ll conjure up some vaguely-defined Olympic spirit. But in terms of utter hopelessness, Absolutely Fabulous just about clinched it. It was structurally lazy, one-note and far too reliant on stilted athlete cameos, all climaxing with a Clare Balding joke so dreadful that it deserves never to be mentioned ever again.


But this onslaught of Olympic-related programming won’t last. There’s too much of it. It can’t possibly sustain itself. The good news is that it’ll dry up in a couple of days. The bad news is that it’ll be replaced with the real Olympics.


Soon, in the place of all of these sideshows, you’ll be watching Jake Humphrey labouring through the 13th consecutive hour of the day’s live Olympic coverage with a look of exhausted agony on his face. You might not like all this now, but you’ll miss this when it’s gone.


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