Back to De Bom and the eighties

The Bomb is hanging over our heads again. „I never expected to be at this table, at Buitenhofwould have a serious debate about the potential use of weapons of mass destruction,” said former politician Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in the political talk show on NPO2 on Sunday afternoon.

Twan Huys questioned the former secretary general of NATO about the possible introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to stem the Russian invasion. De Hoop Scheffer was against, because this could provoke Russia to throw De Bom. Other guests from BuitenhofUS General Retd Ben Hodges and Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky argued that NATO should act more firmly against Russia. It seemed unlikely to them that Putin would use nuclear weapons, because that would not give him an inch of territory.

The threat of nuclear war with Russia is very reminiscent of the 1980s. Pop group Doe Maar caught the fear of a nuclear Armageddon in 1982 in ‘De Bom’. Singer Ernst is fatalistic about this: why bother with school and career if he would soon die “under the apartment buildings of the city next to you-would”? Better he can get to know his beloved in the time that remains to him. ‘The Bomb’ ends with the hum of a malfunction. That indefinable final chord scared the young fans of the time.

At least that’s what they said in The best of… the 80s (Saturday, NPO3). ‘The Bomb’ and the large demonstrations against nuclear weapons are the only matters of importance. Well-known Dutch people comment very briefly on a procession of unbearably light subjects that would typify the era. The program is intended to be nostalgic, but can send a person into a deep depression, with Frizzle Sizzle, Bennet & Bee, Dolly Dots and Patricia Paay. Easy twisted entertainment. It’s a repeat too, I see.

With foresight, the public broadcaster programmed no fewer than three programs about the eighties. The Terrible Eighties (NPO3) actually doesn’t count, because that series is about a residential group – an experiment that is typical of an earlier era. Well, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is in it, and it certainly belongs to the doom atmosphere of the eighties. It is a special but unbalanced series. It starts as a farce, around Jacob Derwig as a screaming house tyrant, and after five episodes suddenly turns into a heartbreaking family drama. And just when it really couldn’t get any worse, an unlikely happy ending suddenly follows. (According to TV reviewer bd Arjen Fortuin, it’s art, and it is.)

In A program about the eighties (NPO3) Teun van de Keuken freely and associatively uses characteristics of that era to tell a broader story. He’s had the bomb and the Cold War before, this episode is about the major famine relief efforts in Africa in the eighties – Band Aid, One for Africa – and its condescending neo-colonial character. The opening scene is already golden: you see the Ethiopian chef Mek leafing through a bin of second-hand records, he finds a Children for Children album, and reads: “A child below the equator is usually just a beggar.” His lilting accent gives this subject just the ironic lightness it can use. We see the Dolly Dots dancing on a map of Africa in 1987, to fight hunger in Mozambique.

The bouncer is again for chef Mek. He answers the pressing question that Band Aid raised in 1984 in their Christmas hit ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’. Sure enough, Christian Ethiopia celebrates Christmas, he says; for several centuries longer than Northern Europe. That wasn’t the problem.

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