After ignoring several scary warnings about what I was to see, it was pleasantly surprising to find myself enjoying The Singapore Grip, a new Sunday night series on ITV. I hardly ever watch TV drama anymore, certainly not from the BBC who recently trashed Howard’s End, and can no longer be trusted anywhere near Dickens.
Recent BBC attempts at period drama have been like listening to an orchestra not only flay a favourite piece of music but change the tune out of all recognition. This is no accident. Piers Wenger, Head of BBC drama, who gave us a black Mrs Cratchit in, A Christmas Carol, wants every second poke bonnet on screen to have a black face poking out from under it, and proudly rejects the idea that there’s any need to adapt literary texts ‘faithfully.’
This six- part ITV production of the 1979 novel by Booker Prize winner JG Farrell, seemed to respect the novel and its author rather than distort the work to score woke political points or adjust it to fit contemporary political correctness.
Farrell was anti-colonialist and we were presented with a rather unpleasant group of white fat-cats with no idea they are about to become the starving slaves of the Japanese. Their ugly colonial snobbery and reckless ineptitude were shown with a satirical light touch, gradually revealing how their folly is leading to a collapse Churchill called, the ‘Worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.’
We see the military situation handled lamentably by Major General Percival, played by Richard Lumsden, the man who’d also been in charge of the ‘Black and Tans’ fiasco in Ireland. This was all set against a glorious sound track from the 1940s, not the usual intrusive soaring violins now common in TV drama to ensure the right level of emotion in the putative international audience.
My satisfaction at this Sunday night delight was short lived as I made the mistake of looking at Twitter and found a cold shower of hatred against the series. Tweets roughly divided into people no longer familiar with serious TV drama complaining that it ‘Wasn’t like Downton.’
They were baffled by the ‘flat script,’ by Sir Christopher Hampton, unable to cope with anything oblique. Another said it was, ‘boringly well- acted.’ Possibly meaning nuanced. The rest, the majority knew nothing about the British Empire except that they hated it, and if any aspect is being shown on TV using white people it must be ‘racist.’
One of the most vituperative was Daniel York, a half-Chinese actor, who recently added ‘Loh,’ to his name. In March he resigned from the Actors’ Union Race Equality Committee after they were forced to apologise for Twitter attacks on Laurence Fox who’d insisted on BBC Question Time that Britain is a, ‘tolerant, lovely country.’
York later referred to the issue as, ‘Just a bun fight between privileged white people with money.’
It seems that his opinion has held sway as on Sept 14th Paul W Fleming, the new secretary of Equity, the son of a union activist in the car industry, who calls himself, ‘The first openly LGBTQ+ General Secretary of any union,’ and promises a ‘radically different future for the industry,’ has issued an apology to members of the Race Equality Committee who resigned over the apology to Fox.
This Sunday, unable to stomach a drama focussed on wealthy white people York accused the ITV series of, ‘Erasing the east Asian population.’
The media group BEATS, (British East and Southeast Asian non-profit media advocacy group) decried the show’s, ‘harmful non-representation of Asians,’ calling it, ‘deeply upsetting.’
‘In a landscape where the Black Lives Matter movement,’ they added, ‘has placed this country’s problematic view of its own colonial legacy firmly under the microscope, an expensively mounted TV adaptation of J.G. Farrell’s satirical novel, with colonial Singapore as its exotic backdrop, is a kick in the teeth to the U.K.’s East and Southeast Asian community. This is especially concerning at a time when anti-East and Southeast Asian hate crime has dramatically increased during the coronavirus pandemic.’ They also deemed Farrell’s satire, ‘fatally undermined by its 1970s race and gender mores.’
Back then we could laugh at ourselves as ex-British colonialists but strangely even that white self-criticism is now forbidden. Worse, the BBC are involved in attacking the series, whether out of jealousy or genuine woke commitment is not clear. They gave Daniel Loh a platform on Radio 4’s Front Row before the series began.
‘A cosy post-colonial story,’ said a review in the Telegraph by Anita Singh. She didn’t explain how it was ‘post-colonial’ despite being set in a time when the British Empire was still fully intact, but it’s the thought that counts and hers was disgusted at its, ‘half- hearted attempts at diversity.’
‘In context’ as they say on the Left, even when the BBC showed an all Asian cast in a drama earlier this year, Guardian critic, Chitra Ramaswamy, complained, ‘It’s ground-breaking in its casting yet Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Vikram Seth’s to me still feels uncomfortably old-school. This may be the first Indian period drama of its kind in British TV history but remains an India that a British audience is used to seeing.’Not only can British people not appear in a series, their viewing ability is suspect too.
ITV’s attempt to adapt a novel as it was written by its author is under severe attack. As the story is about the British Empire, white people who created the reviled thing, are no longer allowed to be central to the story.
Farrell is attacked for not writing more about Asian people, but if he had he would surely be attacked for ‘cultural appropriation.’ According to the rules of woke, now espoused by the BBC, men and women cannot write about each other and white people of either sex cannot write about, impersonate or even wear the same hair-style as black or brown people.
The BBC is wilfully committing suicide for the sake of its obsession with a racist, undemocratic ideology. If ITV are brow-beaten enough over this series, I’m worried that I’ll never get to see a satisfactory Sunday night drama again. Perhaps that doesn’t matter greatly, but why should anyone who wants to watch TV be deprived of inspiring rather than irritating adaptations of good literature, treated instead to an endless stream of propaganda which deliberately distorts the truth about Britain’s history, people and culture?
The situation of both channels sent me to bed very sadly.
Editor’s note: Read this disgusting parade of fifth rate talent hired by the BBC and ask yourself. Should I pay the BBC TV licence?