The virus induced lockdown has had some peculiar televisual side-effects as broadcasters have struggled to interpret the stay home message from government. Whilst under normal circumstances (whatever those might be, I can’t remember) conversations and interviews might take place on sofas the size of tennis courts against studio backdrops of carefully selected special effect images and projections, none of this now applies.
Smart suited men and women speaking in front of backdrops of the Manhattan skyline at night are replaced by the kind of broadcast quality associated with student vlogs, video apprenticeships or those rather overearnest afternoon advertisements for haemorrhoid ointment. Talking heads, for once, are exactly that, their fisheye round faced proximity necessitated by the limited pickup of the laptop’s microphone. Suave newscasters and correspondents, hair brushed and airbrushed, colour-coordinated complexioned sophisticated interpreters of events are replaced by their mad rustic cousins, ties akimbo, plethoric complexions unmasked beneath scarecrow hair. As a friend of mine once said, it’s a bit like waking up next to a new lover and discovering that the hot water bottle was actually their colostomy bag. Or that the genteel, tea drinking Frank Bough was actually a cardiganned crackhead.
Broadcasting from one’s home is of course fraught with uncertainties. Inevitably no sooner have you at last got the Russian ambassador on screen than Amazon rings your doorbell. Or your cell phone receives a text to the tune of Colonel Bogey. Or your three-year-old child marches confidently into the room just as you are doing a live piece to camera about the deteriorating Korean political landscape.
But the thing I love most about these broadcasts, apart from their splintered spontaneity and the frisson of excitement lent by imminent broadcasting implosion is the insight into the broadcaster’s home life. I have seen it all.
Broadcasts from attic rooms, with magnolia walls and a single unshaded bulb above their heads. Echoes of gulags and isolation, of rooms unloved, remote from the rest of the household.
Contrived backdrops of rococo mirrors, chandeliers and candelabras, like Viennese palaces transposed to Muswell Hill. Objects (or should that be objets?) carefully positioned in the frame. Keeping up appearances for posterity. After all, digital is forever.
Fashion conscious bookish boys masquerading as Renaissance men, their razor-blighted complexions and ill-advised goatees betraying the lie.
Then, a world away from these contrived filmset mockups, there are those whose standing is enhanced, their integrity strengthened by broadcasting from the living room with its children’s toys, washing baskets overflowing and background noise. Real people. Or so it seems to me.
How many broadcasters, I wonder, have delivered a piece in a shirt, tie and pyjama bottoms? Such as the West of England Reporter doing a piece to camera about the state of Britain’s care homes. Everything went perfectly, until he stood up to make a particular point. And in a manner of speaking, he did.