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All That Glistens...

26 May 2017


All that glistens...

Depending on your perspective, it is a fortunate or unfortunate coincidence* that the BBC chooses to unveil its double-glazing sales sitcom White Gold in the week of the FIT Show. Coxon, Head of Marketing at Eurocell, becomes a TV critic for a day.

Like you, we thought that – down at the good old BBC – it was only the Doctor that had a Tardis, yet it turns out the sitcom department has one too: otherwise how else to explain Wednesday night’s White Gold?

For those that missed it, White Gold is a ‘comedy’ set in Essex in 1983, and concerns itself with the antics of three double-glazing salesmen working for Cachet Windows. And when not in high-pressure Sits, their world is one of drugs, debauchery and casual sex.

Before the trite vulgarity of the show became apparent, one was approaching it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because our industry was to be subject of a high-profile BBC programme – they had been trailing it for weeks – and trepidation because of a concern that it would rely on discredited, lazy stereotypes of a bygone age.

In the event, neither emotion was warranted because – if one drills into it – it didn’t have that much to do with double-glazing.

Windows were just a ‘MacGuffin’ – a plot device that simply serves to get the narrative underway, and then decreases in significance as the drama proceeds. The show could have just as easily been about timeshares, used cars, estate agency, hedge funds or market traders. A timeworn reputation for dubious sales ethics is not our special preserve, and the characters were painted with such a broad brush that they weren’t especially recognisable as some of our ‘characters’ of old.

To be fair, we know that there is a kernel of truth in the concept, the premise of White Gold: because there was a body of businesses and salespeople back in the day who engaged in the shady or pressure techniques alluded to and made MEGABUCKS in the process. (And made life much more difficult for the rest of us in the years that followed).

And it wasn’t all retail installers of yore either – there were also a few fabricator, and some systems, businesses around where the owners gave the impression they’d missed out on founding casinos in Nevada in the early days of organised gambling, and kept shovels in the boot for dealing with truculent competitors.

‘Geezery’ it undoubtedly could be.

Worse, the writer of White Gold isn’t entirely uninformed. The series was written by Damon Beesley* of Inbetweeners fame. The more time-served among us may remember him from the days – early to mid-90s, if memory doesn’t fail – when he worked as the Deputy Editor of a Well-known Glazing Industry Trade Magazine (name withheld to protect the innocent); and his father was an established and senior executive in ‘old school’ business publishing.

He possibly would have seen – or, at least, heard of – the worst of our kind and he has returned, 20 years on, to try to haunt us and taunt us with them.

But it won’t have done us any harm.

Obviously, the industry has spent decades trying to shake off a name for dodginess and an overall lack of professionalism; and there was a slight worry that it if White Gold’s punches really landed, it could – to an extent – set us back somewhat.

As it was, the iffy salespeople were too incredible, the jokes too thin and the Life on Mars nostalgic scene-setting neither striking nor quaint enough to engage with it. Even if anyone could consider it a realistic portrayal of a wild west industry gone commission crazy; it would be almost impossible to connect that to the business as we know it today.

Oh, and also: it wasn’t very funny. It’s one thing being slated and held in low esteem by the general public; but it’s quite another to be held to sustained ridicule. That’s far more damaging, and it didn’t come to pass on this occasion.

So White Gold maybe; comedy gold, no.

*Re: coincidence. As a veteran of Glassex, Damon would have surely known – because of research – about equivalents like the FIT Show and that it was on this week. You can see a case for persuading the schedulers to launch it accordingly, for sport, if nothing else. And in the further knowledge that, as this piece proves, we would take the flaming bait and end up talking about the thing as well. Well done Damon!

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