The City Uncovered With Evan Davis, BBC2

Did we like it?
Evan Davis made a likeable chummy chump as he strode lankily around New York, Newcastle and Venice while he concisely elucidated how banks have crumbled into a pile of dust worth less than a house on the Gaza Strip. But even in this fun-sized format, the inescapable truth is that banking and financial complexity is so dull it can met glaciers.

What was good about it?
• The most captivating part were those when Evan spoke to camera and explained exactly what had gone wrong with securitisation, how the banks fund their borrowing – employing three London skyscrapers as half-full/empty glasses of money to represent income, reserve capital and outgoings – and how Northern Rock’s arrogance, here almost solely attributed to the lumbering, oafish Adam Applegarth, caused its collapse.

What was bad about it?
• Evan tried his best but everything about banks and financial institutions screams ‘dull’ with the same volume as a banshee stitched together with the undead souls of Bonnie Langford and a fire alarm.
• What we already knew, and what Evan confirmed, is that money is made in the City essentially by overweight men with beer stains down their shirts shouting random numbers across the noisy throng over an office of a hundred other overweight men pretending to be busy. These numbers are then fed into a computer designed by more men, who have bought the morals of Josef Stalin from eBay and wear them like a medal for gallantry. And they all pretend they’ve made money pretty much out of thin air.
• Evan aspired to enliven this cerebral mortuary by inflecting the heads of Northern Rock, Applegarth, and Lehman Brothers, Dick Fuld, with some sort of conveyable compassion. Applegarth loved cricket and Fuld was a keen squash player, and so each were filtered through these colourless prisms to offer the illusion of humanity.
• But he failed, because like so many of their brethren, Applegarth and Fuld have long since forsaken their humanity, content to sacrifice it on the altar of the beastly pleasures of a holiday in Miami, empty mansions adorned with paintings that no one else will ever see and cars so fast they can outrun gravity; yet they are merely compensatory trinkets for a soulless husk all but jettisoned from the human race.
• And it’s because of this estrangement from the rest of the species that made it so difficult to comprehend the motivation of these creatures – as if they had slithered from the mouth of the fictional Gordon Gecko the moment he uttered “greed is good”, oblivious that such aggrandizement was purely satirical.
• There was plenty of hot air from the various talking heads that Evan probed, and while the professors were scathing of the bankers’ conduct they didn’t really appear as if they’d been warning of the supposed financial apocalypse. Meanwhile, the flotsam and jetsam of the finance institutions were equally as damning about how their peers, and sometimes colleagues, had caused and dealt with the situation – yet the indelible impression was that their opinions were only being sought now after the event, whereas had they expressed such opposition before the event then what they said would have been perceived to be as impotent as a sack of dinosaur sperm.
• The peppering of the narrative of BBC news reports, often repeating what Evan had just said as if this would dispel any doubts we had over his testimony. Still, we’d prefer an avalanche of this indulgence to the trembling smiles slapped across the faces of our nation’s newscaster when delivering the perfect story about the ‘miracle on the Hudson’ – it has everything; it happened in America, therefore offering the illusion of global significance; there were about 400 different US TV stations covering it thus ensuring loads of ‘astonishing’ pictures; nobody died, enabling the newscasters to wear the smiles; it had a succession of delirious people in hospital beds to enlighten viewers with that most trite but beloved phrase of the TV news bulletin, “I thought I was going to die!” by people who evidently didn’t; and of course, it soon had its own, by now trademarked, appellation of ‘miracle on the Hudson’
• And now we’ve got the murder trial of those accused of killing Meredith Kercher, a masturbatory conflagration fanned by the eternal middle-class, middle-age lurid fascination with the sexual deviancy of young people, and the fact that one of the accused is pretty. Had Quasimodo or a victim of cosmetic surgery been in such a position, it wouldn’t have merited a mention in the NIBs.
• With very little substance in the main thrust, Evan presented a brief history of banking. But as it was banking this was uninteresting, too, and showed a pale, dreary example of the human race first being constricted by the edicts of the Bible, and then using the ingenuity of a frosted turd to extricate themselves from its dogma.
• While we like Evan, we were soured by his name being part of the title as this is a trend in TV we find quite repellent, as if people are expected to watch because of the person presenting rather than the content – on the other hand, the film industry has been serving up swinefeed often with the figurehead of star power for decades, so it’s perhaps just a natural progression.

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