You know how when you get back from holiday you feel brain dead,
aghast at how little has changed in your absence and loath to do any
work ever again? Well, that’s just how I felt after a recent two-week
I should have foreseen the condition and arranged for someone else to
write this week’s column. Instead,I procured a review tape ready for my
return so I could get straight down to work.
The programme was the Creatives (BBC2, last Friday), a six-part sitcom
about, well, some creatives in an Edinburgh advertising agency. ’It’ll
be funny,’ I was assured. ’Remember that series called, blasphemously
enough, Campaign, from the 80s? Well, it’s a bit like that.’ Thinking of
the rich comedy potential of agency life, I allowed myself to look
forward to it.
And that - the anticipation, that is - was the only good thing about the
Creatives. Not for a moment could you believe the script had been
anywhere near anyone who actually works in the advertising business
today, whereas the journalist’s equivalent of this show - Drop the Dead
Donkey - manages to brilliantly caricature some of what makes journalism
fun and entertaining. That’s to say, the booze, the brawls, the byline
pinching, the deadlines, and so on. Why, Campaign actually employs a
Gus, a Sally, a Henry and a Joy, whereas I defy any ad agency to produce
staff to match the tedious ’stars’ of the Creatives.
Jack Docherty played Ben, while Moray Hunter played Robbie, joint
writers of an execrable commercial for Paterson’s soup. (It turns out
that they co-wrote the series as well as appearing in it - perhaps
that’s the only way it would ever get acted at all.)
The other characters - from ball-crushing agency producer, Lauren, to
oh-so-pleased-with-himself creative lech, Charlie - were equally
wide-of-the-mark stereotypes, leading one to suppose that if there had
been an advertising industry advisor to the programme makers, it was
white-suited Peter Marsh after a particularly long one at Langans.
Worse than the avalanche of outdated stereotypes and inaccuracies (when
did you last hear a producer utter the words, ’we’ve got to pitch a new
idea to the client’ in mid-shoot?) was the show’s inability to identify
the huge potential for comedy in the process of shooting a commercial.
Why couldn’t the even-more-bloody-pleased-with-themselves Ben and Robbie
be depressive and self-deprecating and bitter and pessimistic like
normal copywriters? Why wasn’t the commercials director given a silly
foreign name and allowed to strop around the set with his personal chef
in tow? And why didn’t the client insist - at the very last minute, of
course - on increasing the time his logo is on screen by a tenth of a