Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.
If Rip Van Winkle woke up today in front of his television set, he’d probably think he’d just dozed off for a few minutes, such are the number of remakes, reboots, and repeats of programmes from the 1970s and ‘80s.
The television investment in the past is staggering. Come Dancing, back in its Strictly version, Poldark, Goodnight Sweetheart, Porridge, Are You Being Served, no end of Opportunity Knocks-style talent shows and hours of programming that has refused to die, like a patient kept alive on life support. It’s television in a permanent vegetative state.
The starkest difference Rip Van-W would notice from television this week is the enormous strides made in the treatment and representation of disability since the 1970s. Accompanying the Rio Paralympics is the ever acerbic and barrier-breaking The Last Leg: Paralympics Live (Channel 4).
Presenters Adam Hill, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe have, from their unique perspectives, consistently smashed questions and misconceptions about disability head on.
Under the hashtag #IsItOK, viewers are actively encouraged to ask those questions that pass our minds but which are all too often the one we’re ‘too afraid to ask’.
Hills approach is blunt and, no doubt, to some a little distasteful, but there’s no denying his ability to broaden conversation and dialogue about all manner of aspects of disability is becoming a growing voice in the public discourse.
Thursday’s show provoked a viewer question “#IsItOK to ask how the swimmers without arms get out of the pool?”. Well? Have you ever wondered? Can’t say it was ever top of my list, but the answer – he climbed up the steps – answered a wider question. How do people with disability get along in life? Simple, the same as the rest of us, just in a slightly different way. But isn’t that what we’re all doing: life in a slightly different way.
The Last Leg is a valuable part of Paralympic coverage. It’s not just entertaining, hugely funny and with great guests, it’s a warm and welcoming opening of the door into a world that for far too many reasons many of us have little experience. As for the sport itself? Incredible! Just admire the ability. You can forget about the ‘dis’.