The Scheme - Raging Debate on BBC Scotland Documentary Series

I vented my views on this despicable programme on facebook last night and received a mixed reaction. Some people simply like car crash TV where people, usually lowly educated, are set up for ridicule.

This programme excels. In the sucking department.

It”s yicky.

And(seemingly) now it has gone.

I watched Newsnight tonight, aghast, as Stuart [sic] Cosgrove defended this vile pish.

Pat Kane, on the other hand, smelt (smelled?) the coffee.

Kane described the project as poverty porn. I agree.

Cosgrove floundered in his defence.


Because he works for C4 and they do that sort of thing.

The BBC don’t (and shouldn’t have to).

Death to the horrible, horrid, nasty scheme.

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Comment by Nicola Sinclair on May 28, 2010 at 10:00
I didn't actually, it just looked that way in the edit.
Comment by Nicola Sinclair on May 28, 2010 at 9:49
Are these really the choices for the "post-post-industrial" classes, as Pat mystifyingly calls them - either to be represented in documentary film or have a social worker or media commentator "articulate their visions and regain their autonomy"?

If that's the choice, reality TV - however it's edited - is preferable to disguising these people's voices altogether by presuming to speak on their behalf. Utterly patronising.

Did Newnight think for a nano-second about inviting one of the characters from the show in to say whether they thought they'd been victimised in some way? Of course not.

As Gary Fraser rightly points out, we're fine with representations of the underclass as long as it comes from a nice safe intellectual. Ken Loach doesn't incite this kind of rage - but a fly-on-the-wall documentary does. Go figure.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on May 28, 2010 at 9:43
That's what I meant to say
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on May 28, 2010 at 9:42
Yes they were selecting and highlighting for effect like every other form of media and communication from literature to film - really surprised you are so startled and appalled by this Pat.

Observational documentary is among one of the most selective and narratively chosen forms of media why would it not do those things?

You can say its clunky in style but to be shocked that it happens is bizarre. Surely you don't believe that this form of television is any more or less about form and convention than other forms of television, like history-reality shows or light entertainment. You can't 'naive' that one away.
Comment by mark gorman on May 28, 2010 at 8:46
That's what I meant to say!
Comment by pat kane on May 28, 2010 at 2:13
The defining sequence in the second episode of The Scheme is where junkie Marvin's girlfriend Dayna is standing on the green beside a cameraman. The shot dips towards the grass for a moment, showing the cameraman's silhouette for a moment, then rises up just in time to catch one of the neighbours socking Dayna shockingly in the face. Now does anyone *really* believe that the camera was simply "documenting" this kind of violence - or were they actually eliciting this kind of behaviour by their presence, like some overly-resourced happy-slapping phonecam video? This is the gold, the money-shots, that these documentary makers were panning for - the dog shit in the hallway, the wee daughter fingering the condoms on the shelves - as much shock-horror about the failure of the moral character of the poor as they could string into one episode. If you talk to social workers who deal with cases like Marvin and Dayna's, their aim is to get them to "re-story" their lives - to construct a narrative about how they'll progressively head towards a better life, small step by small step. By turning the chaos of their lives into such a public strip cartoon - Sorcerer's Apprentice sound track and all - the documentary makers rob the poor of the right to control the story of their own lives, which is a fragile, tentative and patience-intensive process best conducted privately and supportively. There's a regrettable faux-lumpen mentality in some stretches of the Scottish creative classes - eg below, "marvin cannae watch the Scheme cos some cunt's nicked his Plasma" - which is actually a way of denying the extreme structural inequality in Scottish life: don't sweat it mucker, we're all heiders together. No we're not: some of us have the power and responsibility to help the post-post-industrial classes to articulate their visions and regain their autonomy. And some of us are ok with them being antic entertainment, ratings-winning displays of character collapse. Sorry, folks, can't post-modernise this one away.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on May 27, 2010 at 14:48
Before anyone makes false accusations I did not set up the facebook group:

'Marvin cannae watch the Scheme cos some cunt's nicked his Plasma :)'!/group.php?gid=120589681304738&ref=ts
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on May 27, 2010 at 13:20
Marksays: "I suspect it means gratuitous observation of 'the underclasses' that gives the middle classes the horn. I think Stuart's secrtetly jealous that he didn't think of it. Tune in next season to see if it crops up in off the ball."

Off the ball on through entire summer Mark so not long to wait until I steal it and make it my own.

Seriously I think its a naff and reductive phrase, I'm not sure that the use of the words 'porn' or 'candy' ever work. Porn has very specific meanings about objectification. Whilst you might not like Scheme - and its not for me to defend - there can be no question that is was about a series of subjects (not objects) who were variously complex and no doubt some, but only some, are 'dysfunctional'. The reason I mentioned Shameless is that it takes similar material and turns it into satire rather than observational documentary. I marginally prefer the 'porn' word to the candy word as in thumb-candy, arm-candy or indeed in the Scheme's case 'ned-candy'. Its a word that implies sugary surfaces, which again is not entirley accurate. Sorry you think I 'lost' Mark not sure the humilation of an away defeat on Newsnight Scotland is something I'll ever get over. Just think that the Habitat 'rage' against this series is simply over-contrived.
Comment by Garry Fraser on May 27, 2010 at 13:03
give me one reason why we cant tell our story's from the scheme, is it okay to film as long as its near tourist spots or if ken loach makes a feature, i try & make films about what council scheme life is like, & everybody wants to tell there story so those who don't come down to our streets get to see what our lives are really like.
some of use maybe don't realize who many of us die every year, films like the scheme have to get shown, its okay to broadcast films about londons inner city's but when it comes to our own you'se are disgusted & shocked at the way we behave, we aint even working class no more we are an underclass,
Comment by mark gorman on May 27, 2010 at 11:10
I suspect it means gratuitous observation of 'the underclasses' that gives the middle classes the horn. I think Stuart's secrtetly jealous that he didn't think of it. Tune in next season to see if it crops up in off the ball.

I agree that it's reminiscent of The Family. But they deffo knew what they were letting themselves in for and it was in large parts sympathetic. (Although it did have a fair bit off class ridicule too) 'Middle income porn' anyone?


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