mon 16/07/2018

Posh People: Inside Tatler, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Posh People: Inside Tatler, BBC Two

Posh People: Inside Tatler, BBC Two

Entertaining enough, but this three-parter is about as vapid as its subject

Really not that fascinating: Tatler editor Kate Reardon Images: BBC/Dan Burn-Forti/The Garden Productions Ltd

It won’t come as much of a surprise to find that the staff at Tatler are a bit on the posh side – who’d have thought? – but I honestly doubt they’re that much posher than, say, those at The Times, or The Guardian, or that other esteemed people’s champion, the New Statesman. As for the “posh to common” ratio on theartsdesk – without doing an exact head count, I’m not sure we radically break the mould, either. Such is the way the world rock ’n’ rolls in class-ridden Britain. 

I have no doubt that the posh will always be with us. But, really, has their presence ever been more forcefully felt? Hours and hours of screen time devoted to exploring their habits and habitat, so fascinating do they appear to those just a notch below the pecking order, for yes, make no mistake, it’s posh TV executives who produce and commission this stuff, all the while pretending to be outsiders looking in (OK, they’re probably upper-to-middling middle-class types if you want to split hairs, which is what the English love to do when it comes to class and custom and social ritual). It really is baloney of the highest order, but since we are all crazy together in a hell of craziness, the masses appear to love it too. Maybe it’s just a way – a very British way – of keeping us compliant and things ticking over nicely for the establishment: the posh allow us to laugh at them now and again, all the while retaining the upper hand. Or something like that.

Anyway, suffice to say, we’re almost drowning in a TV sewage of posh. It might be the Downton Abbey effect – or it could just be the old sense of entitlement merely reasserting itself in unabashed fashion. There was a time when you might not have wanted to make such a meal of your lineage, but now posh is the new “working-class hero”. I reckon that if John Lennon was a youngish man today, instead of writing “Revolution” (the song, not some confused and posturing Russell Brand-esque call to not pay your taxes) he might just have been as likely to be joining the tweed set and playing polo at weekends –  though Lennon, I suppose, did kind of end up doing all that in a very New York celebrity kind of way, anyway. 

Matthew Bell, Tatler MagazineSimilarly, if Tatler’s newbie commissioning editor, Matthew Bell (pictured right), hadn’t been born in the Sloane Ranger-obsessed Eighties, perhaps he wouldn’t have become so bed-wettingly excited at the prospect of joining the posh set. All it took was Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, read at an impressionable age, and he was smitten. Bell came across as a likeable enough chap, but one almost felt sorry for his lack of aspiration. The son of a doctor and a teacher and “half-foreign”, the privately educated Bell was posh middle class to his fingertips.

And where had his flirtation with the upper echelons got him so far? Only a month into his new job, Bell had come up with a hare-brained idea to gate-crash the Queen’s garden party and had failed to infiltrate the Royal Academy summer party by pretending to be one of the waiters. Well, at least he was having fun toadying up to his betters. Of course, instead of one of the decadent elite in Vile Bodies, he was more like Brideshead’s Charles Ryder, thoroughly middle-class and similarly smitten and eager to please. And so eager was he to show his new loyalties to the clan that he even made a suggestion for a feature about how the middle class becoming rich “had ruined everything”. “They have ruined taste in Britain,” he moaned.

Posh People: Inside Tatler was the kind of frothy telly that Channel 5 loves to commission, but instead we found it on primetime BBC. Entertaining enough in its way, but it was about as vapid as its subject – which was rather more about the magazine than it was about "posh people". And it dragged. Tatler going to Poundland? Oh, my sides. Eavesdropping on an editorial meeting where Kate Middleton is the hot topic of the morning? Riveting. Listening to the Tatler photographer smugly yakking on about his terribly uninteresting snaps? Smashing.

Why was I being asked to care about any of this? Nor could I care about how the magazine is extending its advertising potential by embracing celebrity culture and chasing after new money, even if that new money extended to a photoshoot of a Nigerian billionaire. And it goes on for another tedious two episodes. This felt more like advertising than fly-on-the-wall. The whole thing gave me the creeps.

Fisun Guner on Twitter

Tatler going to Poundland? Oh, my sides. Eavesdropping on an editorial meeting where Kate Middleton is the hot topic of the morning? Riveting

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters