Greg Dixon 's Opinion

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

TV Eye: Titanic waste of time

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Julian Fellowes' Titanic is one of the worst TV shows marking the centenary disaster, concentrating on relationships between the different classes.  Photo / Supplied
Julian Fellowes' Titanic is one of the worst TV shows marking the centenary disaster, concentrating on relationships between the different classes. Photo / Supplied

In the end, I shouldn't blame the iceberg, but I do. The bugger should have stayed where it was and saved us all the trouble. But no.

Instead, sometime during the winter of 1911 and 1912 (probably), this bloody titanic chunk of ice broke off Greenland's Jakobshavn glacier (probably) and, after smashing through the pack ice, drifted slowly and majestically into Baffin Bay, then into the North Atlantic and thus into history. On the cold, still night of April 15, 1912, this big lump of frozen, ancient water had a bit of an accident which cost, tragically, around 1500 lives and - rather less tragically I admit - went on to waste, a hundred years on, yet another precious hour of my life.

Arguably, I should have seen Julian Fellowes' Titanic (TV One, 8.30pm, Fridays) coming. After all, the centenary of the sinking of this once good ship has been creeping up on us - though perhaps not as quietly as an iceberg on a cold, still night - for the past hundred years. And I had also watched, to my eternal shame, the entire, ludicrous second season of Fellowes' Downton Abbey, plus the two-part Christmas special.

Then there is the pack ice: the plethora of Titanic-related television - though I'm not sure the word plethora quite covers the sheer magnitude - that has, this past week, been dominating the documentary channels on Sky.

I watched a little bit of James Cameron's Titanic 100, which confirmed only one thing: Cameron is an unsinkable bore.

Then there was Nazi Titanic. It established only that the makers of this "documentary" had concluded that the best way to sell yet another Titanic documentary was for the word "Titanic" to have a tragic and unforeseen collision with the word "Nazi" and thereby attract a giant audience combining Nazi conspiracy theorists with Titanic conspiracy theorists. The result, as you'd imagine, was a triumph of paranoia (or was it?) over edification.

But Fellowes' drama, on the strength (or rather weakness) of its first episode, is by far and away the greatest centenary calamity. Never has so much been wasted for so little. Britain's ITV spent in the region of $24 million on this four-part miniseries. The result of all those millions is an empty exercise mixing tired costume drama with a tedious, right-on lecture about the evils of the class system.

I might just might have been able to bear that if every single character on Fellowes' Titanic wasn't, on top of being one dimensional and cliched, so bloody disagreeable.

This is a ship of titanic moaners; the RMS Antagonistic. Almost every character has been written in violent opposition to another so that characters don't interact, they fight for no other reason than that they happen to be in the same room as someone from a higher or lower class and that that someone is perceived as a third class scumbag, a second class crawler, a first class cad, a slut or snob.

The leaden script for part one delivered such tediously class conscious clangers as: "I don't believe in doing the done thing. If I do a thing, I like to know why I'm doing it" and "We are a political family, you, I think, have always been in trade".

Fellowes has now delivered not one, but two, anachronistic television dramas where a partly fictive past has been used to bluntly, clumsily and tiresomely lecture the present about social status. Maybe that still plays well in Britain. But I, for one, have had enough. Will someone please stop giving him money? Now.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

It has been said the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are a rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability. Despite having none of these things, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. Although it has been rumoured that he embarked on his journalism career as the result of a lost bet, the truth is that although he was obsessed by the boy reporter Tintin as a child, he originally intended to be an accountant. Instead, after a long but at times spectacularly bad stint at university involving two different institutions, a year as a studio radio programme director and a still uncompleted degree, he fell into journalism, a decision his mother has only recently come to terms with. A graduate of the Auckland Institute of Technology (now AUT) journalism school, he was hired by the Herald on graduation in 1992 and spent the next eight years demonstrating little talent for daily news, some for television reviewing and a passable aptitude for long-form feature writing. Before returning to the Herald in 2008 to take up his present role, he spent three years as a freelance, three as a senior feature writer at Metro and one as a staff writer at North & South. As deputy editor of Canvas, his main responsibility is applauding the decisions of the editor, Michele Crawshaw. However he prefers to spend his time interviewing interesting people -- a career highlight was a confusing 15-minute phone interview with a stoned Anna Nicole Smith -- and pretending to understand what they're going on about. He has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

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