Monday night saw Twitter go crazy with nervous television viewers and jokers suggesting the National Grid should cut out the power for a couple of minutes. Why? Because Blackout, a drama documentary chronicling a week in which the whole country is without National Grid power, crept up to shock unsuspecting Channel 4 viewers.
With one character pleading “please don’t lose the plot, Britain”, we were constantly reminded of the underlying realism and potential for this lunacy to actually happen, as emphasised by the real riot, petrol panic and David Cameron footage interspersed throughout.
From looting and riots, to families too scared to put their generators on for fear of attracting thieves, and criminals breaking curfew, there were all sorts of situations that real life has proved is perfectly possible and even likely. For example, the 2011 riots happened when there was no power outage or anything to hide the looters except for their headwear; if all CCTV cameras stopped working and the police were overwhelmed, there would be absolutely no reason for these types of people not to give in to temptation.
The annoying family man obsessed with self-sufficiency mocked looters for taking plasma TVs that they couldn’t actually use, but this shows how he was actually more short-sighted than them: they were making the most of the free ride to take things they could use when the power came back – however long that would take – whereas he was obsessed with being better than them now even though he himself had to turn to looting too. There’s no need to get all high and mighty in these situations, especially when you’ve misjudged so much yourself.
Many viewers were moaning that we weren’t shown the lovely British communal spirit, wherein neighbours bond together to share vegetables and generators. Sorry, but firstly that wouldn’t be very exciting TV, and secondly it’s highly likely that the minority would ruin it for the majority as they so often do in real life and as they do in this programme. Conversely, there actually was a very touching example of community spirit in Blackout. After worrying for days and encountering some big difficulties in getting to Sheffield, a mother and her young daughter turned up to find her elderly mother’s flat empty – before told that she was staying with a downstairs neighbour since her water supply had gone. See, nice things do happen.
It has yet to be seen how realistic this constant use of cameras and phones to video events may be – I for one would imagine that I’d be a little more frugal with my devices’ batteries in such a situation. However, as annoying as some of these people can necessarily be, it does give a more personal approach to something that could otherwise be very detached, coming across as “look at all these bad people who have already turned to violence and theft.” Instead, we feel sympathetic towards some of these characters as we see how desperate they can become in the space of just a few days.
Although this documentary drama was rather negative and shock-driven, it is definitely good for us to be reminded of all the things that could go wrong in our technology-filled world that we often don’t consider. If this programme promped anyone to become more self-sufficient, aware, prepared and considerate to others then it more than exceeded its duty, as it was certainly an entertaining ride too.