Friday, 15 January 2010

A Royal Pain

Jacques Peretti. Anyone? No? Well count yourselves lucky. Jacques Peretti is a Guardian journalist who now apparently has a lucrative little sideline in expose documentaries. His series of programmes, usually called something like What Really Happened?’ have been all over the television schedules again recently. Here’s a few of the classics I’ve stumbled across of late:

Princess Diana: What Really Happened? Michael Jackson: What Really Happened? Paul Burrell: What Really Happened? Dodi Fayed: What Really Happened? William & Harry: What Really Happened? I mean for god's sake, enough already. I tell you what, here’s one for you man, Jacques Peretti: Who Really Cares?

Don't get me wrong I like a good bit of investigative journalism as much as the next man but seriously, you wanna see these things, they’re just the worst kind of TV. There’s none of the intelligence and humour you get with Louie Theroux, none of the edginess and insight you get with Nick Broomfield, none of the sense of purpouse you get with your man there who went undercover to show racism alive and well in the British police force (whose name temparoraly escapes me, sorry pal)* and none of the giant, tattooed, knife wielding, cockney skinheads you get with Donal McIntyre. These people frequently go into highly volatile situations, meet extremely dangerous people and regularly risk being turned into human pin cushions in order to shed a bit of much needed light on what's usually a genuine social problem.

Our Jacques on the other hand simply lines up a load of people 'close' to his subject, usually a cousins flatmate's hairdresser's milkman, then points a camera at them while they eagerly put the boot in, collecting all the best unsubstantiated gossip they’ve got and he closest he ever actually comes to interviewing the focus of this whole pointless exercise is knocking on their door then legging it. That’s not journalism, that’s playing chappy. Me and a bunch of mates used exactly this technique when trying to retrieve a ball from my next door neighbour's back garden when I was eight. First we asked a lot of people from the area about the man in question, then we went to his door, chapped it, bottled it and ran. Had I known at the time we could’ve filmed this process, called it “My Inflatable Danger Mouse Ball: What Really Happened?” and sold it to channel 4, I would’ve undoubtedly done so.

Look, this isn't me sticking up for the people he’s investigated. I’m not a fan of any of them as it goes. Most of them aren’t even worth it anyway. The royal family for instance hasn't been even remotely interesting since Victoria, let alone their bloody butler. As for the King of Pop, frankly I'm not sure I wanna know. Does anyone? On the off chance that I’ve drawn his attention with this rant and I find Jacques Peretti raiding my wheelie bin tomorrow, ‘researching’ his latest documentary, Andy Dowling: What Really Happened? I’ll do him a favour and save us both some time. Not a lot.

*His name is Mark Daly and a fine job he did too.