The man who saw tomorrow

quatermass_2.jpgNigel Kneale created reality TV without realising it. Comedian Mark Gatiss recalls his turbulent relationship with the ‘TV colossus’ who died this week.

When Big Brother began on Channel 4 in 2000, I took a principled stand against it. “Don’t they know what they’re doing?” I screamed at the TV. “It’s The Year of the Sex Olympics! Nigel Kneale was right!”

In 1968’s The Year of the Sex Olympics, Kneale, a pioneering writer of TV drama who died this week, ingeniously predicted the future of lowest-common-denominator TV. The programme kept a slavering audience pacified with such blackly funny concepts as The Hungry/Angry Show (in which senile old men throw food at one another), the titular Olympics, and the ultimate programme, in which a family are marooned on an island and then watched on camera, 24 hours a day. Yesterday’s satire is today’s reality. Or today’s reality TV.

A few years ago I tried to persuade The South Bank Show to devote an edition to Kneale, only to be told he wasn’t a “big enough figure”. This was doubly dispiriting, not only because, to anyone interested in TV drama, Kneale is a colossus, but because it seemed to confirm all the writer’s gloomy predictions regarding the future of broadcasting. Couldn’t the medium celebrate one of its giants?

Continued here.

2 thoughts on “The man who saw tomorrow”

  1. Well, I find it hard to believe that no-one has left a comment here – I’ll just say that he will be sorely missed, and that I will now go to Amazon and see if I can find some Kneale DVDs (other than the Quatermass series which I, like all right thinking people already own. Even the terrible John Mills one.).

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