Somewhere in the suburbs, the hours between night and morning. The darkness falls cold and still. The air is crisp and calm. The cars rest tucked away in the garages. But what is it? A light comes on in an upper window. There is a dull roaring sound. Stuart Maconie woke up in a cold sweat. “YOU REMEMBER!” he shouts. “THE BBC REMEMBERS THINGS WITHOUT ME! “
Remember the Millennium Dome, afraid of your computer and Dane Bowers? Well, did I – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – 10-part series for you. In the 2000s (Wednesday, 10 p.m., BBC Two) Angela Scanlon sits socially distanced in a hotel room as a succession of comedians tell her about a year they remember from the 2000s. We start in 2000, with Geoff Norcott and Ellie Taylor. The following years and the Mash Report cast members will follow, and by the end we will have, collectively, recalled the entire lineup of the decade that changed the world forever, from Big Brother to Big Brother 10.
As a format, “remembering things” actually faded away over the 2000s, with every possible alcove of memory being undermined by talking heads in front of a psychedelic green screen background in these never-ending series I Love…. In the decade that followed, we all stopped remembering things for a bit during a 10-year period of nostalgic TV fatigue. But now that we’ve got enough distance from the year 2000 to revisit the blue undertones, bootcut jeans, and solo careers of Spice Girl, it actually makes sense to bring the format back.
On the previous form, it should work. Stuart Maconie remembering tin whistles was a television classic. But something about the Noughties lands a little badly: Scanlon knows that the energy of the “can-you-believe-we-remember-we-remember” nudge-nudge is broadcast on long meters of social distance; Norcott, wedged at the end of a couch between two women sitting at vastly different angles to him, has to turn to tell each in turn how small the televisions are. In the austere acoustics of the hotel room, any threat of a joke is lessened. It looks a lot like raw footage of the evening’s first two Come Dine With Me guests, stranded in the front room of a stranger, desperately awaiting the arrival of the third and final latecomer. “So what are you doing? And are you local? Didn’t come far? Yeah, the same. What else is there? Oh, that’s right: do you remember when the Millennium Bridge swayed? “
So, what do I really want from a show about the memory of things? Action? CGI? Drama? There is no easier conversation starter than “Remember when…?”; no faster shortcut to find a shared link. Remembering things is a conversation that takes place every second across the UK at bars, restaurants and those weird family parties where your partner drags you to where you are left in a room with all their uncles for 20 minutes : or, at least, in a normal setting. it is the world. Without it the country has a memory gap, and the Noughties seek to fill it. No, it’s not very good. But remember when the television was not so good? And remember which little TVs we used to watch Stuart Maconie from?