A tale of two programmes 

31 August 2007 tbs.pm/83

Normally I have no interest in gardening whatsoever (plants tend to die if I have anything to do with them!), but back in 1992 I recorded “25 Years of Gardeners’ World” for someone and came across the programme again more recently since by some miracle that recording hadn’t been wiped like so many of my video recordings from that period.

Therefore from a purely historical and televisual perspective, it was interesting to watch tonight’s 40th anniversary programme since from memory I was able to compare it with the 1992 effort in terms of content and presentation, which in turn reveals amongst other things how priorities have changed during the intervening period.

Firstly, the 1992 programme dealt with the history of gardening programmes before Gardeners’ World, whereas today’s retrospective concentrated on Gardeners’ World with a brief mention of Ground Force; this isn’t too surprising given the additional history to cover, though it did seem to imply that gardening programmes didn’t exist before 1967.

The earlier programme also concentrated on the technical aspects of television production (eg. the use of microphones and mobile cameras) to a significantly greater extent; only the advent of colour television that effectively made Gardeners’ World possible was mentioned in tonight’s programme, though the later time period covered may have been a factor.

Inevitably the use of brief ‘talking heads’-style clips was a feature of the 2007 programme, but at least they predominantly consisted of either ex-Gardeners’ World presenters such as Alan Titchmarsh or knowledgable garden designers/presenters such as Toby Buckland, though the odd celebrity comment/appraisal was thrown in for good measure.

Also worthy of note is that the current main presenter (or ‘head gardener’) of Gardeners’ World – namely Monty Don – was employed as the in-vision presenter of tonight’s special 40th anniversary programme, whereas the 1992 special (from memory) just used a relatively anonymous voiceover in conjunction with interview and programme clips.

There was also the observation that during the late-1990s Gardeners’ World had a selection of presenters that may have been partly chosen for their characteristics, eg. Chris Beardshaw was the ‘male hunk’, there was a female presenter for the ‘eye candy’ and Alan Titchmarsh was the one that held it all together. At least all three of them were good presenters!

Tonight’s anniversary programme was predictably made in widescreen, but at least some of the older clips were presented in 4:3 with black bars at the side (something that may not have been done just a few years ago). Also of note is the fact that it was produced by BBC Birmingham whereas independent production companies had been involved in the recent past.

Despite the presentational differences, viewers would have still learnt much from tonight’s programme, which just goes to show that if the basic facts are sound then incidental changes in presentational style shouldn’t in theory matter that much. Of course the jury’s out as to whether the changes are fully justified or whether they actually enhance the content in question.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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