Cucumber Furryparts is undoubtedly the UK’s leading expert on presenting TV documentaries. From history documentaries about the prehistoric world, right through to current affairs documentaries about the political crisis of the moment, she is there on screen giving apparently thoughtful insights direct to camera. Of course, as most people know Furryparts began her career as a newsreader, where the major talent is an ability to read out loud without appearing to do so. Therefore, despite seemingly to be an expert on all matters from the ancient world to the modern one and from the arcana of ancient religions right through to the latest at the very boundaries of scientific research, all her apparent erudition, knowledge and insight depends on a well-written script.
Back in the earlier more naive days, factual TV programme makers often thought that such areas of expertise as history, science and politics should she presented by people who knew about such things. However, very few very knowledgeable people came across well on camera, and those that did seemed like eccentrics, loonies and obsessives.
They also knew too much about their subject, which sometimes made making a watchable TV programme about their area of expertise sometimes problematical. For few of them seemed to understand that it was the format, look, feel and watchability of the programme that mattered to the TV producers.
Facts, accuracy and truth did not matter half as much as finishing on time and with a good camera angle. As one historical documentary producer said in exasperation, ‘so who cares if it is not the actual battlefield? The one we showed in the programme was a far more interesting place than the dull, empty field with a hill shrouded in mist that the historian wanted us to use.’
However, one day, the historian the documentary maker usually used was unavailable, receiving a Nobel Prize or something equally visually unexciting. So instead, the documentary maker used an out of work jobbing TV actor to front his programme about battlefields of the Wars of the Roses. The producer was shocked and amazed that merely by using a middle-rank TV actor who usually played sidekick roles on TV detective dramas and sit-coms had increased audience ratings by 63%.
After a strategy meeting at the highest levels of the BBC, an entirely new policy for making documentaries was decided. Apart from a few presenters who were themselves celebrities, the station would in future only use celebrities. Ideally those already under contract or who would work cheap in the hope of getting their regular TV series and programmes commissioned for another series. Most were eager to take part, especially when the BBC showed them the viewing figures and DVD sales enjoyed by other celebrity-fronted documentaries.
These viewing numbers and DVD sales tripled when someone in TV management came up with the idea of putting the celebrity, actor or comedian’s name in the title of the programme or series. Soon these documentaries were everywhere, and Furryparts herself became the presenter every producer wanted to front their programme and to get her name in the title for a sure-fire rating success, which is why the Furryparts On… documentary series has been the ratings success it has for the last ten years.