Culture

The Noughties: TV that proves nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

Somewhere in the suburbs, the hours between night and morning. The dark falls cold and unmoving. The air is crisp and quiet. The cars rest nestled in garages. But what’s that? A light goes on in a top window. There’s a muffled sound of screaming. Stuart Maconie has woken up in a cold sweat. “REMEMBERING!” he yells. “THE BBC ARE REMEMBERING THINGS WITHOUT ME!”

Remember the Millennium Dome, being afraid of your computer, and Dane Bowers? Well then, do I have the – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – 10-part series for you. In The Noughties (Wednesday, 10pm, BBC Two) Angela Scanlon sits socially distanced in a hotel room while a succession of comedians tell her about a year they can remember from the 00s. We start in 2000, with Geoff Norcott and Ellie Taylor. Subsequent years and subsequent Mash Report cast members will follow, and by the end we will have, collectively, remembered the entire gamut of the decade that changed the world for ever, from Big Brother right the way up to Big Brother 10.

As a format, “remembering things” actually faded away as the 00s went on, every possible alcove of memory having been mined by talking heads in front of a psychedelic green screen backdrop in those endless I Love … series. In the decade that followed, we all stopped remembering things for a bit in a 10-year period of nostalgia TV fatigue. But now that we have enough distance from the Year 2000 to actually look back at the blue-tinted shades and bootcut jeans and Spice Girl solo careers, it actually makes sense to bring the format back.

On previous form, this should work. Stuart Maconie remembering tin whistles was classic television. But something about The Noughties lands slightly wrong: Scanlon’s knowing “can-you-believe-we’re-bringing-back-remembering-things” nudge-wink energy is diffused over the long metres of social distance; Norcott, stranded on the end of a sofa between two women sitting at wildly different angles to him, has to swivel round to tell each in turn how small televisions used to be. Within the stark hotel-room acoustics, all threat of banter is dampened down. It feels very much like raw footage of the first two Come Dine With Me guests of the evening, stranded in a stranger’s front room, desperately waiting for the third and final straggler to arrive. “So what do you do? And are you local? Not come far? Yeah, same. What else is there? Oh, right: remember when the Millennium Bridge used to wobble around?”

But then, what do I really expect from a show about remembering things? Action? CGI? Drama? There is no easier conversation starter than “Remember when …?”; no quicker shortcut to finding a shared bond. Remembering things is a conversation that happens every second across the UK in bars, restaurants and those weird family parties your partner drags you to where you’re left in a room with all their uncles for 20 minutes: or, at least, in a normal world it is. Without those, the country has a remembering things void, and The Noughties seeks to fill that. No, it’s not very good. But remember when TV wasn’t very good? And remember what little televisions we used to watch Stuart Maconie through?

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