Darcus Howe denounces a new BBC sitcom

The BBC's sitcom <em>The Crouches</em> bears no relation at all to a real Caribbean family

Like many Caribbeans, I looked forward to BBC1's new sitcom The Crouches, based in the Caribbean community. I didn't care about the gossip that both the scriptwriter and the director were white. Perhaps they had both married black people and therefore could not be charged with the dramatic crime of inauthenticity. I could not believe the BBC had scripted a sitcom without some knowledge of the Caribbean community. So I settled down one Tuesday evening, disbelief suspended and ready to enjoy.

What I saw then and a week later was unadulterated garbage. Viewers saw an extended Caribbean family in the kitchen of an overcrowded south London home owned or rented by the son. The grandparents were constantly threatened with eviction. The granddaughter stuck her tongue down the throat of her criminal boyfriend in front of her parents and grandparents. The father was suborned into joining his daughter's boyfriend and others in a midnight heist of a warehouse stacked with Reebok trainers. Granddaughter announced to the family that, rather than work, she wanted a millionaire who would "sniff at her arse". There was also cross-dressing and indecent exposure in front of London Transport CCTV as a tease for a homosexual. One of the actors tells me there is more to come in this BBC fantasy world, including black minstrel and masturbation sequences.

I am being invited not to suspend disbelief but to blitz all my sensibilities and human faculties until I become a retard.

The Crouches bears no relation whatsoever to the ordinary Caribbean family. I have spoken to some of the actors (they asked me not to name them because they are in fear of the BBC's white power) and they feel demeaned by having to play these roles and attempting to fit themselves into the impossible. They tell me that although the BBC said the actors had made serious contributions to the script, their major objections were ignored.

This is an attempt to denigrate the Caribbean community on a scale I have never seen before. The drama department seems to be saying that since the director general, Greg Dyke, wants more blacks on the screen, we will offer up some nigger behaviour for all to see. Does the department resent Dyke's challenge in some way? This is not what the West Indian community is, but what the BBC drama department thinks it ought to be. The show ought to be binned at once.

Darcus Howe is an outspoken writer, broadcaster and social commentator. His TV work includes ‘White Tribe’ in which he put Anglo-Saxon Britain under the spotlight. He also fronted a series called Devil’s Advocate.

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2003 issue of the New Statesman, Nepotism: is it back?