Sex, Stratigraphy and Stripy Jumpers.

So an era ends for archaeology on television, and with it comes the demise of the much loved stripy jumpers made famous by Mick Aston. Yes, the bearded master of television archaeology is leaving Time Team, to be replaced by the breasts, errr, sorry, I meant to say ‘talents’ of Mary-Ann Ochota. With an impressive publishing track record comprising of opinion pieces on websites and exciting comments on reality TV shows, Ochota really brings a level of chest, errr, sorry again, extensive archaeological experience to, what was it again, ah yes, a show about field archaeology.

Now, it is worth stressing that Time Team has long had an issue with gender representation during its productions, with the female archaeology profession often being left as backdrop figures, there but not really there, doing something, but never anything terribly important. So perhaps it should be celebrated that we now have an exciting female presence at the heart of the programme. Except of course Channel 4 have gone down their now traditional route of ‘breasts makes best’, relying on the arbitrary notion of the ‘attractive’ ahead of any recognised credentials. British archaeology is jam packed with world leading female archaeologists with competent track records of to-camera work on television (and radio). Why then did a programme about field archaeology bring in someone with a highly limited background in field archaeology, to front a programme about field archaeology?

It goes much further than that, because in one fell swoop, Channel 4 are able to address both the gender imbalance of Time Team, and the ethnic imbalance present in Time Team’s ‘white apart from Raksha Dave’ team. All good things on paper perhaps, but one can’t help but be concerned with the way in which they have gone about it. Indeed, if you wanted to put a female, ethnic voice at the front of the show, backed up with some sense of experience, why not promote Raksha Dave to the front of the show? Well, perhaps Dave didn’t have quite the right shape, I, errr, of course mean, right credentials, to front the programme…

Did Raksha Dave meet all the criteria to present the show? Probably, except for the dress size criteria perhaps...

With a production commitment to reducing the screen time of the more established archaeologists , the real question that needs to be asked, is what is the future of Time Team after the current efforts to ‘sex-up’ the show? Well, the plans are already in place for future series.

Series 21: Time Team Eliminator

Over the space of three months, vote to save your favourite archaeologist from elimination. Who will be left to have the final honour of re-excavating Silbury Hill for no obvious archaeological merit!

Series 22: Time Team Extreme

In an attempt to tap into the underused potential of the briefly lived series ‘Extreme Archaeology’, the Time Team crew are dropped in to undertake rescue archaeology in war zones: who will find the best Babylonian burial site, who will survive, tune in and find out!

Series 23: Time Team Death Match

What do you do with a complete set of freshly excavated Roman military weapons, well put them to good use of course! The Time Team crew is split into regional teams and using their expertise and degraded Roman weapons, must fight for the ultimate prize, survival and a place in series 24!

Okay, so the reservations might be a little extreme, but the motivations behind the re-boot of Time Team are pretty transparent and ultimately disappointing. The supposed stated goals of the changes could have been achieved in a way that did not require the clear dumbing down of televisions only regular platform for British archaeology. We can hope that it works, because the field needs the coverage, but this direction may well do more to kill the show than give it a new lease of life.

Either way, Mick Aston will be missed from television screens, and his jumpers will, quite rightly, pass into legend.

*EyeOnWales would be happy to offer a full retraction should Mary-Ann Ochota present every episode in one of Mick’s jumpers, and never once find herself in need of a long, lopeing, bend forward Charlie Dimmock style to camera pout, if it happens even once, the deal is off!

    • D C MacKenzie
    • August 23rd, 2012

    Mary-Ann Ochota is leaving Time Team:

  1. I disagree, I think you’re moaning for the sake of it. Any programme that doesn’t conform to your predetermined set of equality rules will get a hammering. Who cares if a woman fronts it or not? I’m a woman and I don’t care, I wanna see Tony and Phil bickering and so what if Mary-Ann is pretty? Raksha is on there as she is a good archaeologist, not a tv presenter. Get over it.

    • Not our rules, these are the rules of television today.

      It was never a question of how pretty someone might be, it was a question of competence. Expert voices were being removed from the show for the sake of non-expert, the definition of dumbing down.

      The result of this tinkering? The death of the show, largely as was predicted.

      For the record, lots of people had issues with the gender imbalance on Time Team – it is just lamentable that the producers attempted to resolve this by bringing in faces that were not backed up with expertise.

      • OK so point me in the direction of these tv rules and if they exist, how did Time Team blatantly get away with breaking them? Secondly, I wouldn’t call an Anthropologist as a presenter, who studied at Cambridge “dumbing down” a programme. Did they sack Mick so that Mary-Ann could take over or did he leave? Does she do the same job as Mick? No she doesn’t. There are various people on the show including Alex and Fancis, so why the problem with Mary-Ann? I have never seen her in a low cut top, she wears jeans, trainers and a fleece! Hardly glamorous.

      • As stressed earlier, the academic community had been complaining about the issue of imbalance in Time Team for years – not a rule as such, but certainly an area of contention. Aston left in response to the changes, and in part what was perceived as, yes, a dumbing down of the show.

        As for the low cut tops – cast an eye over some of the publicity that was spun around by Ch4 when MA was first introduced, you will not be wanting for low cut tops, they were plentiful.

        This is all a bit moot now, given that the show was canned, following, of course, the terrible reception given to the format changes, of which MA was a major element.

        • Mark
        • June 25th, 2013

        debski1970e :
        Secondly, I wouldn’t call an Anthropologist as a presenter, who studied at Cambridge “dumbing down” a programme. Does she do the same job as Mick?

        It was obvious to someone quite removed from the controversy (I’m in Australia, and only read about it in Mick’s obituaries) that Mary-Ann was there as a set of nice tits. She didn’t do Mick’s job; she did Tony’s. And her only special qualification for that role was a symmetrical and pleasant face and some pleasing secondary sex organs. Her anthropological background was immaterial, and she was never presented as an expert in that field. To the contrary, her role was to play the naïve novice along side Tony.
        It was silly to try and sex up a show that relied on its dry wit and cast chemistry as its drawcard. And Mary-Ann failed to contribute in a meaningful way to either. (As an aside, the lack of those two things is the reason the US Time Team is not equally compelling viewing.)
        If you’re honestly unaware of the decades old pressure on female TV presenters to be young and attractive, and the tendency of TV producers to insist on those attributes, you’re incredibly inobservant and would probably be better off applying your intellect elsewhere.

    • Ben
    • January 17th, 2013

    I would watch the hell out of your proposed series 22 and 23 😉

  2. Hi there, after reading this amazing piece of writing i am as well glad to share my know-how here
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    • Pete
    • June 10th, 2013

    I actually think raksha is sexy, but I’m a sucker for a intelligent woman

    • Indeed. I think there was a misunderstanding on this one some time back, where some posters thought we were criticizing Raksha. Quite the opposite, our point was that TT has a talented, pretty individual in Raksha, but Ch4 went with a dress size as guidance for their presenters and little else.

    • McSporeking
    • July 13th, 2013

    I wouldn’t say no to raksha, she is smart, funny and imo pretty and sexy

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    • joe blow
    • September 2nd, 2014

    Rashka gives me an erection

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