Sitcoms > Mandela

From the Independent, Irish edition:

Picture 1

Now what kind of people would not just grumble about that, but make a formal complaint?

The sad part is that the BBC had to “explain” itself:

BBC News Director James Harding apologised to viewers, but said that Mandela’s passing was of “singular significance”.

“The importance of his life and marking his death seems extremely clear to us,” Harding told the BBC’s Newswatch programme over the weekend.

And. . . the program was a repeat.


  1. gbjames
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Oh, Jesus.

  2. Cara
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink


  3. Pete Cockerell
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Ridiculous. It’s not as if it was Arrested Development they were interrupting,

  4. Vinovian
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    The BBC interrupted many programs 10 minutes before the main news of the day was due to be broadcast. Important though the news of Mandela’s death was would it not have waited for 10 minutes.

    That evening in the UK we were expecting a storm and tide surge that was due to be the worst for 100 years potentially leading to flooding and death, the last time we had one of this scale hundreds of people died. This would have been a more important subject to interrupt programs for. Unfortunately this was all but ignored by the BBC.

    It is all a matter of priorities and in this case many people think the BBC got it wrong in the rush of news agencies to get the breaking news before everyone else.

    • Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I’ll admit, that does put a different perspective on it.


    • jesse
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Maybe true, but you do have to admit that one interesting thing is how so many people think it warrants a _formal_ complaint to editors who made a judgment call. As I wrote below, I guess that with the internet and commenting being so readily available on so many websites for so many years now, people think they are entitled to comment on just about everything.

      • Kiwi Dave
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        If you don’t complain to people making decisions on your behalf, how do they know you object to their decisions?

        The BBC makes many wonderful documentaries for which I’m truly grateful when they reach the antipodes but, unlike the British, I’m not forced to fund them.

        • Kiwi Dave
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          That should be “forced to fund the BBC”.

        • jesse
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          I understand what you mean. But if it were really important, in the “old days” one would have to stamp an envelope or make a phone call to complain, and most people would put it in perspective and not bother on such a relatively trivial item.

          I was aware the Brits pay a fee for TV…
          I would add however that the BBC also gets money by selling things to other countries. Lots of their stuff is sold to American television (there is a cable channel devoted to BBCAmerica, and there are gobs of local public television stations around the country that run BBC stuff. I have no way of knowing how money is apportioned, and can’t say any more about it, but I do think for example that Downton Abby is making a boatload of int’l money some of which comes back to the BBC.

          I was only trying to put things in perspective. So– someone interrupted a show to inform of Mandela. Well, I pay my property/land taxes which help fund schools (U.S.), but I don’t have any kids, but I don’t complain. It’s all part of being in society I guess.

          • GrahamH
            Posted December 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

            A few points
            1 Downton Abbey is an ITV programme, not BBC
            2 The money that the BBC makes from selling programmes overseas, while not insignificant is only a fraction of what the BBC spends (about 25%)
            3 Due to the direct way it is financed many people in the UK see the BBC as something they own a part of and therefore they complain when it does something that upsets them (I’ve done this in the past about BBC scheduling decisions that make no sense to me).
            4 The BBC operates a 24 hour news channel that is available to all viewers. They could have broken into regular programmes to announce the death of Mandela and directed viewers to the news channel.
            5 Mrs Brown’s Boys is utter cack – I’d never complain about it being cancelled.
            6 Due to its status and method of financing the BBC is fated never to get things right – it can never please everyone, but it tries and I would not have it any different.

            • jesse
              Posted December 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

              Thanks for taking the time to mention these things. I really enjoy learning about this sort of stuff, and it helps me understand what is going on.
              I’ve pretty much given up trying to understand ANYone’s behavior anymore, especially when it comes to internet and email stuff : ) but this info your gave really helps me get it. Thanks again.

            • jesse
              Posted December 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

              BTW I googled “utter cack”, not really knowing but gathering from your use what it might mean. Google insisted on giving me results for “butter cake”. : )
              Simple “cack” told me what I wanted to know.
              Gotta laugh at this craziness.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      That evening in the UK we were expecting a storm and tide surge that was due to be the worst for 100 years potentially leading to flooding and death, the last time we had one of this scale hundreds of people died.

      Personally, we were enjoying the fact that, for once, the worst of the weather was bypassing us to the south.
      But I’ve spent enough time in hurricane-force weather and 20m waves to not really wish that on anyone. Fortunately, this time it went off relatively lightly.
      The Beeb put out a rolling news programme for people who want rolling news. AND they do have the technology to put out banners across top or bottom of the screen for things that are really urgent. So they may have mis-judged things in this case. But WTF ; if they hadn’t done something, then they’d also have had complaints that they didn’t do anything. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  5. jesse
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    When people have such easy access with smart phones and laptops right by their sides, it’s natural that society would move toward this. Are you really surprised at this? In the past a person would just grumble at an unwelcome interruption and get on with maybe actually watching it and learning something, picking up a book, or talk to their spouse.

    There’s probably even an app for it ; )

  6. Darkwhite
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    While it’s not exactly worth losing sleep over either way, I do have a hard time seeing how a 95 year old man – widely known to be very sick – dying of natural causes, is urgent enough to warrant interrupting the usual schedule.

    • gbjames
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      I guess if you don’t realize that people have different levels of interest in different 95 year old people, then it might not make sense.

      • Darkwhite
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        I am not saying it isn’t interesting or newsworthy, I’m having a hard time seeing how it’s -urgent-.

        If a cheap and reliable HIV vaccine happened to be developed tomorrow – which would be monumental news – I still would have thought it odd to break in in the middle of a sit-com to announce it.

        The 9/11 attack, on the other hand, is an entirely different kind of urgent, because people will want to get in contact with relatives and flights will be cancelled and so on.

        • gbjames
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          “-Urgency-” is relative. The question is whether it is important enough to break into a rerun of Mrs. Brown. In my world view it is. Clearly other people feel Mrs. Brown is more important. I feel sorry for them but they probably have the fallback of viewing it on Netflix to salve their distress.

          • Darkwhite
            Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

            Yes, there’s much room for individual preference here. Since Coyne posted that -The sad part is that the BBC had to “explain” itself-, I felt like explaining why I think it might have been better to not run an interrupt.

            Then again, I imagine people older than myself might feel a closer connection to Mandela and his passing. Oh well.

            • gbjames
              Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

              I imagine so.

          • Scote
            Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            We need to stop framing this as low brow tv show vs. the import of Nelson Mandela’s entire life.

            The only question in my mind is whether the natural death of an important, retired 95 year-old person was urgent, breaking news that merited interrupting normally scheduled programing. Lots of things happen everyday. Mandela’s passing is important news, and he accomplished many great things. But I’m not seeing it as time sensitive in the UK to the point of needing to interrupt regularly scheduled broadcasts.

            • gbjames
              Posted December 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

              Others disagree.

  7. Woof
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Hell, it’s not like it was FOOTBALL (either type)!

    • Kieran
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Wait there are only two types of football? What about Gaelic football?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 10, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        What about Gaelic football

        So, what’s the other type?

        • Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

          Soccer, rugby union, rugby league, Aussie rules, …

          We’re back to “certain values of two” again!


    • Filippo
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Certain noble, “exceptional” Amuricuns griped that football games would be postponed on account of the assassination of JFK.

  8. Brian
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    At least he gave a ‘sorrynotsorry’ type of apology. CSI:NY was interrupted when Yasser Arafat died, and CBS fired the producer who cut in.

  9. Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I can’t imagine how they’d have reacted if they lived in South Africa. There are three state broadcaster channels here and all three of them had all broadcasting cancelled for two days and replaced with pieces on Mandela. I can certainly see why they did that but the part I don’t understand is why all three channels showed the same thing at the same time.

  10. Grania Spingies
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised that anyone was prepared to admit they were watching Mrs Brown. The chief punchline is: it’s a man! In a dress!
    Because that is just high-larious.

    • Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      Is it? A man in a dress, I mean.

      Personally, I’d interrupt it for the news that someone had developed a new shade of nail polish.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      The chief punchline is: it’s a man! In a dress!

      I shall file that under “useless bits of information to store in case they come up in the pub quiz.”
      You have increased my store of knowledge concerning “Mrs Brown’s Boys” to two items ; I previously knew how to spell it.
      Is it done [Kenny Everett's "Cupid Stunt" persona] “in the BEEEEST possible taste?”

  11. Posted December 9, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Newton Minow, then head of the FCC, made his still famous speech calling television a “vast wasteland” in 1961. This it still remains, as any perusal of a television schedule will confirm. Marx, were he writing today, would have to add television to his religion/opiate simile. Interrupting a sitcom (a rerun no less) to announce the death (however anticipated)of one of the truly historic figures of the 20th century is, in my opinion, entirely justified. That many people felt it annoying enough to write to the BBC about their imagined inconvenience is entirely to be expected.

    • Litchik
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Hear hear!!

  12. krzysztof1
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    It is a universal law that when a TV series show is interrupted, viewers will complain. Especially if it’s not local news. I can’t recall if it happened when Kennedy was assassinated, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      It did.

  13. Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Well, perhaps we should register our complaints about people complaining. I think I beat Ben to it!

    • Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Ha! I think you did! Didn’t expect that.

      …stupid git….


  14. Surangika Senanayake
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    What a surprise?! Winging Brits! Is BBC the only access they have for weather forecast? Move on to a modern world you wingers and get a life.

    • bric
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Your sympathetic understanding of other peoples problems is much appreciated.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Also, it’s “whinge”.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Whinging, I’d never heard of it until a visiting British cousin had to explain it to me.

  15. Posted December 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Let’s not forget that the episode they were interrupting was called ‘Mammy’s Ass’ and the announcement of Mandela came inopportunely just as Mammy was hitting someone with a frying pan… How can you disturb quality TV like that?

  16. Clive Page
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I don’t often watch TV news, but did that day because there was a storm surge in the North Sea with the expected level higher than anything for 60 years. In 1953 a slightly lower surge led to the death of over 300 people. Thousands of people were evacuated from low-lying coastal areas as a precaution. I have friends and relatives who live in these areas so was concerned. But the BBC’s main lunchtime news devoted about 27 minutes to Mandela’s death, and 3 minutes to this rather serious and continuing physical threat. (Fortunately in most areas the recently raised sea walls held, and only a few properties were destroyed when a cliff collapsed in Norfolk. This time nobody died, fortunately)

    While I have every respect for what Mandela did, his death was not unexpected, and the news coverage added practically nothing to what I already knew about him. I haven’t made a formal complaint to the BBC, but I do think their coverage was seriously unbalanced.

    • Dominic
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 2:46 am | Permalink

      I hate to do a Loki’s flyting, but I agree. They interrupted the programme 15 minutes before the main news. Why did they need to do that? There is a 24 hour news channel that the BBC run. The BBC coverage ever since has been fawning & obsequious & wall to wall. They are elevating him to the status of a saint, & the coverage is out of all proportion.

      He was clearly quite clever in not being overtly of any particular religious bent (is that the case?), but I would be interested to know if he actually was religious, or a humanist as I think some have suggested…

  17. Posted December 10, 2013 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Mrs Brown’s Boys is low-brow “comedy” for idiots who wear tracksuits and smoke home-made cigarettes.

    So its audience is unlikely to care about the passing of an international icon, unfortunately.

    It’s depressing that the Beeb felt compelled to apologise.

    • Dominic
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      “Mrs Brown’s Boys is low-brow “comedy” for idiots who wear tracksuits and smoke home-made cigarettes.”
      - that is a very judgemental statement.

      • gbjames
        Posted December 10, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        Oh vapors! We wouldn’t want to be judgmental now, would we!

  18. Posted December 10, 2013 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    I like watching Mrs Brown’s Boys (can’t wait for next series). And I certainly don’t fall into any prescribed (tracksuit and ciggies) demographic for watching it. I think the news of Mandela’s passing broke around 9.55pm so I totally understand people being pissed off with a break at the end of a program, even a repeat – you’d be just getting to the climax of the episode and bam!
    And the news on in a few minutes anyway…
    Ah well, my two cent worth.

    • Frank Odds
      Posted December 10, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      I’m with you 100%. I happen to like Mrs Brown’s Boys. I think it’s people in tracksuits and ciggies who avidly watch stuff like Downton Abbey, Strictly Come Dancing and sport.

      The issue is the judgement of someone who felt the news of the final heartbeat of a deservedly respected 95-year-old who’s been on life support for the past six months and functionally unable to do anything merited interrupting acheduled prgramming of any kind. I bet the editor concerned wouldn’t have dared cut into the last 5 minutes of any major sport broadcast.

  19. Jozsef Dallos
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he will not travel to South Africa for the memorial of freedom fighter Nelson Mandela on Tuesday.

    A source at the Prime Minister’s office said the trip is too expensive and that there were “logistical concerns” preventing the prime minister from attending.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted December 11, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

      There can’t be many countries on the planet where Benny would feel safe, come to think of it.

  20. Andrew Platt
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    We do have several 24 hour news channels in the UK, including one from the BBC which is freely available. Why not just flash a message on screen about Mandela’s death? Those wanting the details can turn over to a news channel, those wanting to continue watching their current programme can do so. Problem solved and everyone is happy.

  21. exsumper
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    The media are very selective. A more interesting story would have been how; with their corrupt and murderous antics;
    his ex-wife Winnie Mandela and his successors (including Zuma) shat all over the achievements and memory of a fine man.

    One of these cretins was so stupid, he even thought Aids/HIV was a CIA/FBI plot.

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