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TV: The Diary of Anne Frank

January 5, 2009

People who work in TV scheduling abhor the term “appointment tv” – those programmes which we all apparently make a point of sitting down to watch, making sure that nothing interrupts us.

I know this only because I once attended a meeting attended by a number of middle-management people, swiftly categorising one of the programmes they were talking about as the perfect example of “appointment tv”.

I really wish I hadn’t opened my mouth (there are plenty other anecdotes where this contributes to a common theme). I hadn’t been in the meeting very long, didn’t know any of the people at all and must have surely demonstrated the obvious signs of a desperate man even more desperate to make a spectacular impression.

I did in a way. Nobody said anything. The pause went on for ever. A bitterly cold breeze passed through the meeting room shortly after this. I took this as a cue to leave.

Those middle-managers are wrong, of course. There is – as much as they want to deny it and carve out their bold vision for a brave new TV world – still the notion of  appointment tv. Only it’s a different from the kind of appointment tv they might be thinking of. Appointment TV is something personal.

It’s the stuff YOU want to watch. It’s the stuff which strikes a chord with YOU for what ever reason. The stuff which might prompt you to think all day long “I’m looking forward to seeing that, if only I could actually get myself on one of these late running trains, perhaps one with more than four carriages so there’s a chance I might actually get on it.”

My particular journey home saw me ditching my preferred method of train from London Bridge to Hither Green on account of tiresome delays. Instead I ended up taking the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf and from there the DLR to Hither Green.

I’d wanted to get home in time for 7pm, in time to see the first of five episodes of The Diary of Ann Franke. Either I’d sit in the newly decorated living room with my recently repaired laptop or, if time was pressing, I’d watch it in the bath.

I’d gone to quite a bit of effort for me, getting in to work an hour earlier this morning so I could get legitimately leave an hour earlier than normal. It was important. I had to see the programme when it was broadacast – only very, very special people at the BBC get a preview of tape of such things as The Diary of Ann Franke and I’m not one of those people.

Public transport wasn’t working in my favour, however. I got home fifteen minutes after the programme started. I’d have to wait for it be on iPlayer  instead.

By the time it was available, the bath was run and I got in, dragging the laptop closer to the edge of the bath on a chair.

I got eight minutes in to the first episode and had to stop it. The programme was recorded on the Sky+ box downstairs. Based on the first eight minutes I’d seen on a 13 inch screen, I wanted to watch the whole thing on a 50 inch plasma downstairs in the lounge. Yes, it was that good.

Why was it so important? It’s just another TV drama, isn’t it? One inconveniently scheduled to run at 7pm every night this week. I never watch TV at 7pm every night. I never get home by 7pm. Why make the effort now ?

There’s something indescribably potent about Anne Frank’s story. I’m not Jewish nor  especially fascinated about the second world war or those who suffered in it. There was something distant and almost surreal about the idea of a real family actually having to hide in an annexe (what ever that was) which was in itself appealing to read, but the lasting effect of her diaries has taken me by surprise.

When I first read the diaries, the idea of writing a diary appealed to me. Something about the ritual of opening my very own secret world, just me, a notebook and a pen. It was therapeutic and seductive and reassuring all at the same time.

Somewhere up in the attic old teenage diaries survive. All of them pointless, tiresome drivel. None of them will see the light of the day. Never. They’re not for other people. They’re for me. It was writing. I wanted to write stuff. Anything.

It makes no difference if the handwriting isn’t right, if the layout is wrong or if the sentence doesn’t scan. It makes absolutely no difference whether I read it back (I never do). It’s indulgence available on tap and only for me.

That desire to commit thoughts to paper came from reading Anne Frank’s diaries when I was ten years old. We all had to read them at school. Then, our headmaster sold the idea of a school trip to Amsterdam, journeying up and down canals in a barge with the obligatory trip to Anne Frank’s house.

Watching the episode this evening stirred similar feelings I think I had when I read the book for the first time. There’s horror and anguish and agony in every scene, not solely because of the set design, the photography or the performances but instead because of the most painful of plot-spoilers:  Anne Frank never made it.

The first episode of The Diary of Anne Frank is available to watch here. Each subsequent episode will be available every day this week at 7.30pm.

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3 Comments
  1. So is it a good programme then? The Venerable Mrs P and I came to the conclusion it would be too upsetting to watch. However, a bit of I-Play-it-again and videoplus coding can rectify that situation if you think it advisable.

  2. Will permalink

    To the previous poster, it’s wonderful and I would sincerely recommend your watching it. I just watched the second episode, and again I think it took 10 minutes to really get going, but I mean to get going in the sense of becoming brilliant.

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