Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The highs and lows of fly-on-the-wall TV

Fly-on-the-wall documentaries are a common sight on our TV screens. Often cheap to produce they can sometimes result in entertaining or even compelling TV. Occasionally they may even make a star out of someone. Last night was the UK premiere of part one of the Steven Spielberg produced 'Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero', which charts the work to date on the new skyscraper being built at the Ground Zero site.

It was a stunning piece of film making, weaving individual stories of ordinary lives of people affected by the 9/11 terror attacks with the story of the rebuilding process. The collection of people - grieving families, determined city officials and patriotic workmen - shone with a desire to rebuild something that is better than before. The site - once a gaping hole in the heart of Manhattan - is a place of mourning but also a centre of immense energy and increasingly positive stories. This was high class TV and I would recommend you check out the equally good website charting the rebuild here.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Sky have been trailing the latest real-life documentary to chart the life of an airport - this time Gatwick. When the PR team at BAA or the airport itself agreed to let the cameras in they probably calculated that it would be a great (and cheap) way of promoting itself, highlighting its investment programme, demonstrating it offered a better experience to passengers than its rivals. Sadly the trailer shows passengers complaining of a lack of customer service as well as the classic people sleeping on the floor shot. Without watching the show Gatwick's reputation has been damaged.

The films about those rebuilding Ground Zero work because the filmmakers shared the aims of everyone else involved: communicate a positive message of renewal. It's clear that the documentary team at Gatwick didn't have as noble a cause to pursue but also didn't share the airports aims for the series.


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