All You Old Bastards Should LEARN Something From This - The Cult Of Chris Needham
, June 4th, 2008 10:32
An appreciation by Taylor Parkes
In the old days, when ordinary people got on TV, it was as murder victims or game show contestants. Humiliated by circumstance, or by some wig-wearing mansion-dweller. After a decade of docusoaps and dubious reality shows, little has changed: the general public are interchangeable (except for those whose mental problems might amuse you), there to be sniggered at by gutter-press gutbuckets, sworn at by jumped-up cooks, exposed in the limelight as peons who don't know their place. It's always been the way.
Except that in 1992, there was a series called Teenage Diaries. The BBC handed high-end video cameras to mouthy adolescents, told them to film their lives, then edited the results into 45-minute shows, each subject getting final approval of the finished product. No one was dropped into some contrived situation and poked until they cried, although some cried anyway; Teenage Diaries lurked in the everyday lives of averagely-extraordinary young people and just... watched. The results were painfully real " that is, hilarious, touching, absurd, worthwhile. There was, however, only one star: the unforgettable Chris Needham, whose astonishing programme passed instantly into legend. If anything better has been on TV " ever " I must have missed it.
Everyone between the ages of 14 and 25 watched In Bed With Chris Needham, or that's how it seemed at the time (when the BBC repeated the show shortly afterwards, heavily trailed, anyone who'd missed out caught up). We all recognised Chris, or thought we did, the heavy metal freak in wire-rimmed specs, skinny jeans and jumbo trainers, taking A/S levels in Loughborough and struggling to put a band together with his loyal, hapless mates. Of course, it was easy to laugh. That hair, hanging in clumps like spaniel ears; the proto-moustache, frothy and diaphanous. The callow pomposity and self-importance of youth...
...The full version of this article is available in Point Close All Quotes: A Quietus Music Anthology. Buy it now in the Amazon Kindle store.