Pompeii on the television
My Pompeii programme is on BBC 2 on Tuesday at 9.00 pm (except in Scotland, when it is shown on Friday 17th at 9.00). I shall be in Rome, so I won't see it -- though, yes, I have had a preview, and am happy with it. I say what I think, in the way I usually say it; and I look like what I look like, which is above (though, if I am honest, I would say that's a bit too flattering).
So now I shall just have to get a hard skin. Of course, I hope that other people will like it too. But you are not going to please everyone, are you? And they will certainly let it be known.
And, fair enough, I suppose -- if you put yourself about on the television, then you have to be prepared for people to take potshots. That's the deal I guess.
I noticed the way that some critics went for Richard Miles (who used to be my colleague in Cambridge)... for his scarf and for the way he looked down his nose in front of the camera. Maybe he did, and maybe it was bad telly -- I just thought it was Richard.
So I am fully expecting, indeed preparing myself for, the stuff about my messy hair and wrinkles... fair cop, but that's me. And I shall take it like a woman.
I had a tiny prequel last week, after there was a nice feature in the Independent about the programme by John Walsh, whom I have met, but who is not a brown-nosing friend... indeed the last time I encountered him was over a year ago at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, in a historic Booker debate (he was championing Portnoy's Complaint, me The French Lieutenant Woman.. and we rather locked horns over their relative merits).
Anyway almost instantly there were a couple of comments posted under the article.. one saying "Who IS Mary Beard" (fair enough).. the other suggesting that it was all a hype to sell more of my books for Christmas. That's where I found myself bridling... hell, I filmed this programme in the Spring, I thought, I had no idea when it would be shown. In fact, I was impatient to have it on air, and I had always hoped it would be early in the autumn. Of course, I'm pleased to sell more books, but it was nothing to do with me that the programme was put on in the run up to Christmas. (I should say BBC scheduling remains even more mysterious to me, after making this programme, than it did before).
Still, I expect that is nothing compared with what will come.
My position (let me remind myself) is this. I did this programme because I was asked... because I want to get more people interested in the Roman world (and even if it is a ratings disaster, it will sure reach more people that a book). And because, after all those things I have said about the BBC not being interested in women over 50, it would have been cowardly and hypocritical not to give it a try. I enjoyed doing it and learned a lot -- and think that we made a good programme.
If I turn out to have been hopeless at it, at least I've got the day job!
(Oh .. and you kids from Hull Collegiate, I dont know if you make it into the background, but I especially hope that YOU enjoy it!)