Socialist Worker

Alan Davies’ Teenage Revolution—excruciatingly whimsical

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2219

The middle classes have a talent for whining and fake rebellion. They also have a remarkable ability to see everything through the prism of their own supposed struggle.

There is a steady line in selling reminisces back to us—the “oooh do you remember that song, advert, cartoon” genre has been milked beyond its “The 100 greatest 100 greatest shows” breaking point.

Alan Davies’ Teenage Revolution adds to the format a rambling, tedious retrospection.

The 1980s are brought back by TV clips of some protests, Margaret Thatcher and Mike Yarwood—all to help us share Davies’ journey.

Whimsical self-knowing can work on a comedy panel show, but in a documentary it’s excruciating.

Davies recounts how he saw Citizen Smith, hero of John Sullivan’s reactionary comedy, as a revolutionary figure only matched by tennis star John McEnroe.

I suppose the programme gave some insight into the stultifying nature of the suburban middle class by stultifying the viewer into submission.

The issue that dominated the first of three episodes was racism. The local shop, run by an Asian family, was abused and the fascist National Front newspaper was some sort of prized publication in his public school.

Davies catches up with the shopkeeper today. He makes half‑hearted apologies that are painful to watch, while guilt mixes with utter trivialisation.

The big fear of Davies’ youth were the skinheads who came to the gigs of his friends’ band. We meet them again today, and the working class is revealed to be a bunch of racist thugs—so much more ominous than Davies’ boyish behaviour.

The air of fey regret masks the way the prejudice of middle class youth has been replaced by the prejudice of middle class middle age—the smug knowing self-guilt of the liberal.

Next week we apparently get to see Davies’ time in student politics. You have been warned.

Alan Davies’ Teenage Revolution
Channel 4, Thursdays, 9pm


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Reviews
Tue 14 Sep 2010, 17:14 BST
Issue No. 2219
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