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Tuesday 27th November 2012

I made what might possibly be my last ever visit to TV Centre this lunchtime. I am not being pessimistic about my chances of getting a project on TV, it's just that this building that once buzzed with life is now wheezing on its death bed and (as far as I understand it) is closing in January. I am very sad to see it go (though of course it will still be there, it will just become something else) as its a building packed with memories - mainly of course of the time that I was in the lift with Jeremy Paxman and I touched his briefcase with one of my hands. That was a good day.
It feels like the BBC is dying, but I am sure it will survive this move and the various crises that it is facing at the moment. I hope it can recapture some of the spirit that made it great and stop worrying about things like compliance and not upsetting the Daily Mail (which is crafty enough to be upset by whatever the BBC does - they were wrong not to air the Savile piece without evidence and were wrong to air the McAlpine piece without evidence). Check out this interesting blog post by Samira Ahmed about a time when BBC producers took full responsibility for their shows and their superiors only got involved if there was a balls-up and even then they defended them. Humour and satire does not flourish well in an atmosphere of fear and retribution. The best jokes are a risk, a leap into the darkness - you don't know if it's funny until it's delivered and the prospect of failure or even offence is what makes a joke live. You can't have humourless people in an office working off a list of words or subjects that can never be mentioned, even if sometimes that leads to writers having to become more inventive. I suppose the internet is allowing us all to become the 1960s BBC. We're left to get on with it and try stuff out and the danger is that the freedom a creative person will have on their own might mean they leave behind traditional broadcasters whose output will become safe and boring. I don't want to see the BBC go that way. I hope they can pull themselves out of this self-perpetuated tail-spin. I have loved working for the BBC in the past and I hope to work with them in the future. It feels like they are willingly pulling out their own heart by closing TV Centre, but ultimately one building doesn't represent what this corporation is and should be. I love it, even though it has punched me in the face a few times.
I took the lift up to the 6th floor (maybe the very same lift that I once shared with a black-haired Paxman) and went for my meeting about the first draft of Ra-Ra Rasputin. The feedback was very positive, but there are changes to be made (I can't put a shrek in it as there is one in there already and more would diminish rather than improve and there may be copyright issues about putting Tim from the Office in it). The suggestions were all good and sensible and the executive who commissioned this is clued up and understands what I am trying to do. I can not allow myself to be optimistic: I have been here too many times and spent months writing and rewriting scripts that have ended up being rejected. To be honest it wouldn't be properly heart-breaking if they just rejected the script out of hand. Fate has learned by now that the best way to wring the most despair out of this situation is to make me work as long and hard as possible as I can on something, give me a glimmer of hope that this might be the breakthrough and then after a few months of it all seeming to go well to just make everyone go quiet. Not even to tell me that it isn't going to happen, just leaving me to work that out for myself.
Indeed I have allowed myself to feel a glimmer of hope, so we're on course for me finally accepting that nothing is going to happen in January 2014.
Goodbye BBC TV Centre. It's been bewildering and fun and ridiculous. It won't be the same without you.


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