Monday, May 30, 2022

Remembering After Dark, the best TV discussion programme ever

In the days when I was on the Liberal Democrats' federal policy committee, the members were invited to a breakfast meeting with Channel 4 at party conference each year.

At one of these events I asked someone from the network why it didn't bring back the open-ended Saturday night discussion programme After Dark.

He replied snootily: "We like to retire formats become they become tired."

I should have replied: "What about the format where Z list comedians look at old TV clips and say 'Blue Peter was for posh kids. We watched Magpie.' That got tired years ago, didn't it? Eh? Eh? Eh? But you've still gone on using it, haven't you? Eh? Eh? Eh?" 

Unfortunately, I didn't think of that retort in time.

But at its best After Dark was really good. You can see above its celebrated programme on the British intelligence services from 1988.

It lasts three hours, which was one of the points of the programme, so you may prefer to dip into it.

Or you could read this 2017 blog post from the chief executive of Open Media, the company that made After Dark:

One of the programme’s unshakeable principles was that After Dark is always live, really live, the discussion being transmitted as it takes place, without prerecording or delay. This is rarer than one might think, "live" being a word broadcasters use with promiscuous frequency to describe everything from theatrical events recorded long in advance to political debate edited before transmission. 
For example, the BBC’s Question Time – on air when After Dark started in 1987 and still going today – while pre-recorded still claims, disappointingly, that it is "live". The BAFTA TV Awards were transmitted this year with a seven second delay, just in case anything "dodgy" was said in the heat of the moment. 
But After Dark was actually live, whatever the consequences. What the guests said was transmitted. No delay, no editing, no hidden manipulation, and no censorship: what one might call freedom of speech.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

Totally agree. There was a particularly memorable and revealing session on the Troubles to which Bernadette McAliskey contributed.