Culture & Livability

BBC Doc to Bring Nail-Biting Thrill of Urban Planning to the World

Remember when Stephen Colbert, while parodying the pro-gun contingent’s use of violent video games as a scapegoat for mass shootings, took a tangential jab at the planning profession?

“Of course, video game violence is not a new problem,” the comedian said on his satirical TV show, The Colbert Report, earlier this month. “Who can forget, in the wake of SimCity, how children everywhere took up urban planning? It was all tune in, turn on and zone for residential use, man.”

The joke here — beside the obvious knock at pro-gun but anti-video game talking heads — is that planning isn’t a particularly cool or sexy occupation. And that’s okay. Even the dorks among us would admit to it. I mean, I laughed.

But planning has clearly captured some part of the public imagination, because tomorrow it will become the subject of a reality show on BBC Two called, plainly enough, The Planners. (All the cool kids watch BBC Two, right? That’s what I thought.)

British website PlanningResource reports that the eight-part “fly-on-the-wall” documentary series begins Thursday night with an episode on how developers looking to build 500 homes on a greenfield in Cheshire, a county on the England/Wales border, run up against local opposition.

Future episodes sound even more riveting:

Local anger is also roused in the Scottish Borders by a planning application to build a chicken shed to house 169,000 chickens, and back in Cheshire, an enforcement officer tackles a homeowner who has been unlawfully dumping rubbish in his garden for more than 20 years.

What type of market the BBC hopes to tap into with a show whose greatest conflict will likely stem from elderly Midlands NIMBYism isn’t clear. But maybe the execs believe that the minutiae of the planning world have made their way into the mainstream? Have all these years of mounting interest mean that Next City’s pet issues have finally gone primetime?

Probably not quite, but it may be fun to see how they’re portrayed in half-hour segments.

Be sure to read this collection of satisfyingly smug Twitter reactions to the announcement of The Planners premiere (“looking forward to the episode where an officer re-calculates the 5-year land supply and windfall allowance #surefirehit”). Oh, and apparently this isn’t the first time the BBC has turned its cameras on planning wonks.

Tags: culture, planning, television, bbc