“ The best of the week's arts and culture news, covering books, art, film, architecture and more „
The Culture Show has been shown on BBC2 since 2004. Over this time it has been shown at various different lengths and timeslots, but it currently resides at 7pm on Thursdays.
The conceit of the show is that it has features on many different facets of culture - art, literature, comedy, music, architecture, theatre, opera.....
Typically it has features on specific art exhibitions that are being held, upcoming plays etc - so mainly current rather than historical. Needless to say, a lot of these features can be quite city-centric as this is where most of the most high-profile work happens! However, there is some travelling across the world if it is felt to be relevant - for example, they once went to Norway to interview Metallica as they were featured in a festival there and more recently they went to Russia as a supplement to a Russian art series.
The identity of the presenters varies quite a lot, but generally it is one of either Mark Kermode or Lauren Laverne. They also have 'experts' in their field who do quite a lot of work for them - ie Andrew Graham-Dixon for Art, Arthur Smith for Comedy. Occassionally celebrities become regular correspondents if they have a particular passion for the subject matter, ie 'The Office' actor Martin Freeman is often drafted in when Motown is featured.
If a significant cultural event is taking place, then the focus of the show will shift to entire episodes featuring many different facets for this. For example, August episodes are given over to the variety of events that will be taking place at the Edinburgh festival.
In general, I would say that this show does not really lean to the mainstream, but rather is an accessible way to find out about cultural events - certainly more accessible than Newsnight Review which can feel slightly hectoring at times to me. That said, the limitations of the 1 hour format and the fact that it usually gives this time over to a variety of different subjects means that it cannot really go into any depth about matters. This is particularly irritating if it is touching on a subject matter that you have a specific interest or opinion on because it will probably end before you can get anything out of it. Conversely, the features are long enough that if you happen to be watching something that you are not interested in then it can drag. That's why I always watch it via Sky+ - so I can skip to the good bits.
Probably the stronger sections are those that feature film critic Mark Kermode and his foil Simon Mayo in a short televisular equivalent of the film reviews that are on Mayo's Five Live show on Fridays.
In conclusion, this is a show that comes under quite a bit of stick for being a little 'light' by some highbrow parties, but it is an easily accessible look at the arts. It can never be comprehensive due to the magazine-style nature of the show but it is something I always watch. Not least, because it gives me an insight into a world and events that I do not always get to experience as I do not live in a major city.