Ian Martin develops a new TV show
Monday. Exciting times. The BBC has agreed to pilot my new show, MasterSpace. It will celebrate architecture, in a format that has ‘meaningful resonance for today’s sophisticated viewer, with generic dance music and lots of shouting’.
That, anyway, is how I pitched the idea last week to some child who was perched like a black-trousered mantis on the sofa opposite. He frowned and squinted in all the right places, but for all I know he could have been secretly microblogging a tweetathon, or whatever it is 13-year-old commissioning editors do these days when they’re bored.
Tuesday. Rock Steady Eddie the fixer calls to see how my low-carbon, high-Islam, sustainable Libyan masterplan’s coming along.
I tell him everything’s on hold this week as I am concentrating on MasterSpace. He’s not happy. ‘Look, we’ve got to get in there pronto, Tonto. Libya’s like 15 years behind with the architectural jargon, plus all the clients are religious. Means you can spout all that bullshit about turning air into a solar-energy bank or whatever and when anyone asks you to explain how it works you just point upwards and whisper “Allah”. Perfick…
‘Plus - and I’m not being racist or insensitive here - there’s not much culture in Libya is there? That means no pubs, safer neighbourhoods, none of that gobshite about Creative Quarters or Community Engagement. Here’s your eco-city, thanks for the bank transfer, best of luck with the praying and wailing and whatnot, bosh.’
What a stupid bastard Eddie is. Then I pause, and reflect on how the world of commercial architecture works. Sulky architects with artistic pretensions are hired by shallow, venal profiteers and required systematically to redesign their scheme until the cheapest, fastest and most cynical solution is finally approved by the director of finance.
And then I think no, actually, Rock Steady Eddie really IS a stupid bastard.
Wednesday. In another life, Eddie would have been perfect for MasterSpace. As with MasterChef, the show requires two supervising personalities - sneery Aussie, loud Cockney - to watch terrified amateur architects knock up an iconic design from scratch in an hour.
They will each be furnished with computer software and basic ingredients. In an early qualifying round, contestants might have to produce a Museum of Atheism, say. In a race against time they must innovatively assemble polished concrete, polycarbonate handrails, non-numinous space, curved glass, suffused lighting, sponsorship signifier, timber seasoning, steel bits, ‘funky’ wheelchair
Then that’s it, time’s up. The two judges make a meal of sampling the finished designs. The Aussie one will say something like: ‘For a start, it looks awful. If I were presented with that on a visit to a world-class city I’d refuse to go inside. Concrete and extruded nylon? It simply doesn’t work.’ Then the Cockney one says something like: ‘That, my son, is a vortex of epic space emotion. Cor, I could happily spend half an hour in that. Lovely jubbly.’
Thursday. Alarm bells are ringing after a call from the producer of MasterSpace. I’ll be credited as having ‘devised’ the show, but I’m now ‘executive producer’ which is code for ‘head of shut up and don’t interfere’. I’m not even allowed to know who the Colourful Judges will be.
Friday. On set for the filming of the MasterSpace pilot. It looks like a high-tech kitchen, or a design studio. Everything gleaming and sterile.
Four contestants shuffle in for their vacuous interviews. They all say the same things. Architecture is my passion. MasterSpace means the world to me. This is all about pushing myself on a journey of… oh my GOD. Here come the judges through the swing doors. First, international miserabilist and theoretician’s theoretician Tub Hagendaas, who’s obviously here to be pessimistic about everything.
There’s worse - much worse - to come. Following him is Darcy Farquear’say, the architectural commentator. Skittering at his feet: the preposterous, overdressed dachshund Bauhau, who today is wearing a red trousers/blouson combination and a little beret. I can’t believe they’ve got Darcy in to gush his drivel over my brilliant idea. I develop a sudden migraine and leave without speaking to anyone.
Saturday. Fuming, blocking all calls and really hoping the pilot flops. The thought of Darcy becoming a TV personality is intolerable. Plus, I noticed Bauhau was the first one the contestants sucked up to…
Sunday. Spatial awareness and calm breathing in the recliner.