A brand new BBC4 series called Perfume promised so much to me. Having read the book by Patrick Süskind of the same name maybe my expectations were set too high, after all it would be quite something to have a visual programme all about the many diverse stimulants that can heighten and prod the sense of smell. It does hint at that as each city is set with the narrator describing what Paris or New York smells like, the various contributing factors that trigger our own memories and places. But that’s about it on the diversity.
This appears to be chiefly about the massive international perfume industry. Suddenly getting the feeling that BBC has taken upon itself to be the substitute teacher of all manner of YTS schemes. Hmm. Well made documentaries concerning contemporary workplaces, be they council housing, the music industry or even parenting (see The World’s Strictest Parents for some heavy hints as to how to knock your teens into line) are becoming a bit de rigour for night-time viewing. Tonight, don’t like your job??Here’s some info as to how to get into another one, along with an impression of the talents you must posess, what is required for a professional pitch to Tommy Hilfiger and the general workings and multi-layers of the perfume industry. And while you’re at it you might like to buy either the latest Hilfiger scent or Guerlain’s foray into a more youthful market as we reckon both of these are rather good. Sorry – did I sound too much like an advert? I thought they didn’t have those on the BBC. My mistake.
“Sorry – did I sound too much like an advert? I thought they didn’t have those on the BBC”
Alright, so apart from the massive advert for two perfume houses this is very informative. It just seems a little narrow. Only focusing on the commercial industry when allowed to make a programme that could encompass an entire human sense seems a little indicative of the triumph of business over sensation. Maybe I’m just an old hippie (and that’s not a debate I wish to open up) but I’d like more.
At the same time, these are broad strokes over a specialised industry. With some pretty unique footage of the patriarch of Guerlain – septuagenarian Jean-Paul Guerlain, grandson of the founder of the great company – prior to his sudden resignation in the wake of a racist slur last October, there could have been an entire hour on just that company and its transition from one master perfumer rooted in the 19th century, to another in the now.
Perhaps there’ll be a greater expansion in future episodes. Or even a narrowing down. A whittling one way or the other of the focus to feel the rewards of such a remarkable concept. Maybe a scratch and sniff insert in the Radio Times for the last episode. I doubt it though. By the same token that makes this about the commercial aspect of smell, this will not be able to upset its contributors by being critical, or be able to afford the extra budget of such indulgences. We live in certain times that for now seem likely to direct editorial content of such delightful ideas.
Perfume, BBC4, Tuesday 28 June