David Tennant questions Tory’s emphasis on the ‘britishness’ of TV shows | Television industry

David Tennant criticized the suggestion by former media minister John Whittingdale that public service broadcasters should produce “uniquely British” programs.

In September, Whittingdale announced the government’s intention to force the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to produce more programs celebrating British values.

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Ministers plan to include the target in new UK media laws to be developed next year. While the main global players, including Netflix, Amazon and Disney, have invested in British content, some fear that the shows are too generic because they are designed for an international audience, without reflecting true “Britishness”.

Whittingdale cited Only Fools and Horses, Fleabag and Doctor Who as examples of quintessentially British creations. But Tennant, who played the Doctor between 2005 and 2010, criticized that.

He said: “Is there any criticism inherent in this plea for more Britishness?” he told the Radio Times. “Did Britishness mean ‘made in Britain’ or programs that have a certain political point of view? “

The Scottish actor asked if the government is really advocating for artists to be more sympathetic to him. “Why would the government feel it needs more sympathy for them?” Maybe that’s a question they should be asking themselves, rather than trying to blame the television industry, ”he said.

Tennant stars as Phileas Fogg in the upcoming BBC production of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. In the story, Fogg and his newly appointed French valet attempt to tour the world on a bet of £ 20,000.

Verne wrote the novel as France faltered after its military defeat against Prussia and the failure of the workers’ revolution in Paris. Its protagonist, a rich Victorian man with a stiff upper lip – previously played by David Niven and Steve Coogan among others – has been interpreted as an attempt by the author to explain the height of the Empire and the invulnerability of men. upper-class whites.

Tennant’s Fogg is a helpless, confused has-been who at one point relies on the help of a black man and a woman. “In many ways Phileas Fogg represents everything alarming and peculiar about this old sense of the British Empire,” Tennant said. “Potentially, it’s a story about an England that should get very little sympathy. “

Verne, he added, “chose to make Phileas Fogg a particularly stifling Englishman. We show a different kind of stuffy Englishman. He is very damaged, everything is a trauma for him.

Filming for the series, written by Life on Mars co-creator Ashley Pharoah, was dropped in March 2020 due to the pandemic, and then completed under restrictions. “It was quite alarming. You didn’t really know how dangerous it would be to be on set with 100 people, ”Tennant said.

The actor recently won an Emmy for his portrayal of serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV’s Des, which also won six national television awards. Tennant said the production team didn’t want to tell an exciting and sensational story, but that it was important to keep telling stories “about the gravity of the situation and how some of our fellow humans are dysfunctional.” “.

The initiative to make “British” programs was announced in a speech to be delivered by Oliver Dowden before he was replaced as Culture Secretary by Nadine Dorries.


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