When you dig up the past, all you get is dirt…

Mick Quits Time Team #Tweetmageddon

Mick Aston Quits Time Team

Marion Ravenwood tells it like it is: straight, no chaser.

The news of Mick Aston’s voluntary retirement from Time Team hit Twitter this morning with all the fury of a woman scorned. As if the fact that the misogynist tone of the Daily Mail article (and typical run of badly-spelled comments) wasn’t bad enough, many of the bloodthirsty early morning tweeters seemed to agree, turning the car crash into a pile up of bandwagon-hopping twits.

We have to assume that much of what Mick said has been taken out of context to suit the Mail’s mission to stir the shit, especially seeing as it’s the cover story of the forthcoming issue of the respectable publication British Archaeology. The Editor (see HERE) must be writhing in his chair to see how his ‘scoop’ has been mashed, and the valid Countryfile comparisons dropped in favour of the witch-hunt against Mary Ann Ochota.

Mortimer Wheeler would be rolling in his grave, after having devoted much of his life to encouraging so many pretty women into archaeology. Much is being made now, towards the end of the day when cooler tempers prevail, about Mary Ann’s degree in Arch and Anth from Cambridge. She is primarily a Social Anthropologist, and a very successful one at that; but even so, how is she any less qualified to go on TV and talk about archaeology than, say, Tony Robinson? And why is no one yelling about Alex Langlands? He gets just as much air time as Mary Ann, and he is also much younger than Mick. And he’s been wearing that hat. What about him?

I am extremely pleased to have someone in TV archaeology to look at and listen to besides Neil Oliver and the ever-smiley Dr Alice Roberts. They are both credible presenters and nice people, but I am sick of the mafia-like corner they have on the market for these kinds of programmes. What’s next – a series called ‘Alice and Neil Get A Room,’ where they go around redecorating Iron Age roundhouses? Again – not the fault of the presenters, but more the visionless executives who don’t require fresh talent and ideas.

Mick Aston’s interview (which I await reading in full) puts me in mind of the 2006 World Cup final, when Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi. I don’t think Channel 4 insulted Mick’s sister, but the fiddling they did to Time Team has drained the life out of his life’s work; and thus, we are all witnesses to the unsporting end of the fabulous career of a cultural icon.

Let’s break down the problems: Channel 4 forced Time Team to relocate to Cardiff last year, as a condition of their contract. Then they split the viewing season, and now they are messing around with the time slot from week to week: this is well-known telly tactics for killing a show that you don’t want to commission anymore. Last week’s viewer numbers were less than 1m for the first time ever and now C4 is worried. Surely they must know the first rule of business strategy is not to mess with your cash cow?

The move to Wales meant that the heart of the crew, who had been together since the first series, had to be replaced with Cardiff-based staff. Seizing the opportunity to try something different (why not?), management decided to bring on board some younger presenters and archaeologists and give it a whirl.

Some of it worked, some of it didn’t – but the absolutely unforgiveable oversight was the decision to let the focus stray from the trenches (we know who is responsible – and we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you). It’s an archaeology show, full stop. The first three episodes of Series 19 look more like any old lame reality show where people sit around talking at each other, then have to do weird ‘challenges’ from time to time – in this case, poke around in the dirt for a little bit.

The management is well aware, with perfect hindsight, that it was a mess. The changes that didn’t work have been changed yet again, with the forthcoming filming season ready to rip. It will be all about the archaeology again, Stewart and Helen are back, and Alex and Cassie are staying. Mary Ann’s head was the unfortunate – and unfortunately pretty – one to get the chop.

It must be said here that Mick was the heart and soul of the original team; but just like France’s fans have embraced new star players, so too must we embrace the next generation of Time Team – which has always been the sum of its very interesting, unique and eccentric parts. Spare a thought for the remaining archaeologists, who still operate as the UKs biggest research unit, and take pride in trying to excavate and publish sound results in a very short time frame.

So why was everyone so angry this morning, and why was Mick’s retirement such big news? I think it’s because it hits an exposed nerve: archaeology is increasingly unimportant. We have moved backwards to the situation before Time Team and commercial archaeology brought contemporary relevance to the discipline, and we are seeing the effects of this in sharply declining jobs and resources. Mick’s leaving is the powerful expression of the end of an era, and there is nothing on the other side to feel hopeful about. I think that’s where we must put our collective energy, and be ready to support whatever may come along to fill the void.

Supermodels don’t get out of bed for less than £10,000. In archaeology, we have a different bottom line; and it seems like Mick would have carried on getting out of bed for just a little bit of respect.

[Soundtrack: Aretha Franklin, 'Respect']

55 Responses to “Mick Quits Time Team #Tweetmageddon”

  1. apr

    “….And why is no one yelling about Alex Langlands? He gets just as much air time as Mary Ann, and he is also much younger than Mick. And he’s been wearing that hat. What about him?…”

    Oh they have been. You only need to look at any of the Time Team forums.

  2. clair flower

    I cant speak for others, but i watched time team for the information and banter between all those participating in the digs not to have someone who is classed as being pretty or handsome, that is not what archaeology is all about. So how much extra do they have to pay mary Ann. We know that Mick did what he did because he loved it and we loved him. I hope he can start a new show of his own in competition with time team.

  3. MonasticDave

    Excellent article and your last point about archaeology becoming less and less important is spot on.

  4. Nathan

    It is called “killing the program” stupid TV Exex’s do this sort of thing all the time. I watch the show here in the USA by some great friends record it on disc foe me and then mail it. Remember it is called “Time Team” not “Time Presenter” the TEAM is the thing. More than the producers Prof. Aston has everyone’s thanks, respect and perhaps most of all his “dig”ity. (pun intended)

  5. Gale

    I disagree that archaeology is becoming less important. I think there is even more interest than ever from the public. From the commercial sector, however, it interferes with business and I think that’s where the problem lies.

  6. John Bartram

    Archaeology has got in the way of money – the developers, local government and now, treasure hunters (aka looters). Public opinion counts for little.

  7. Hamish

    All very sad. It takes balls to do what Mick did. I met Tony Robinson recently in Australia where he gave me a small insight into the hostility that Mick had faced from inside the profession for dealing with TV in the first place. Yet what he did was a triumph — he made Time Team compelling TV by by making sure that it was always based around a research agenda. Was very interested to see when I was in the States last year that the US version used the same approach — also with much success. Thanks Mick and all those who worked with him for showing that it is possible to make popular TV based on archaeology/history that is not trite.

  8. Des Morgan

    I would disagree with the assertion that Archaology is less important. Its been a brilliant program throughout the series. For someone ,like me, who have no formal training or qualification in Archaology its been extremly enjoyable and informative.
    I hope Mike re-considers his decision and continue to pass his knowledge and wit to us amateur viewers.

  9. parsimonious

    God such passion, i’m almost tempted to watch it again – not

  10. Mary

    Who is Mick’s sister and what has she got to do with him leaving Time Team?

  11. arkane

    so much passion over what many people would deride as a boring niche market tv show. it just goes to prove how good time team can be and should be. less emphasis on eye candy (male or female) and stop dumbing down the content. after all the viewing public have supported it for years in its original form

  12. Robert

    Mick held it together and he knew what he was talking about, now we have a young well educated lady who will use this as a vehicle for other jobs.

    But the show has lost so much, it’s becoming a chat show boring.

    get back to the winning ways, or sadly knock it on the head, suspect this has been done so when they end it people will say nothing

  13. wendy

    I watched yesterday’s last ep in this series with a heavy heart. When Mick sat down in that trench and chatted to Phil I felt so sad. That few seconds was the epitome of Time Team. Intelligent and banter at the same time with sound archaelology too.
    The two new bods may well be very qualified, but they were used to go off and shift rocks or do dumb-ish chats away from the trenches. really patronising to the audience.
    Mick you will be much missed

  14. Joop

    My wife and I have been watch for years now. We must have seen all ep’s 2 or 3 times. Please give us back “our Time Team”!! Don’t clutter the air with serie 19 type rubbish. Give use the well appreciated Time Team with Mike and the rest. I think that, if nothing changes, the serie is finished.
    We hope Mike re-considers his decision. Good luck to the “old crew”

  15. Ann Nolan

    I am a big fan of Time Team and have been for years, I feel I know all the lads ( male and female) on the show personally, they provide an excellent show both informative and fun to watch, Mike with his rainbow coloured jumpers , hats and gloves, Phill with his shorts and sweatie hat , Tony running around with his XXL T-Shirts ( for such a petite man ) and of course Geo Fizzzzzzz,
    what more can I say, I love them all. Please come back Mike, from Ann in Ireland , your number one fan on this side of the pond.

  16. Christopher Pugh

    Why Why do channel 4 have to tinker with a very good programe. It is the usual dumbing down, The team were very profesional in the way they went about the digs. I hope they all leave and set up another company and produce their own very profesional shows. CP

  17. Dennis Fisher

    With all due respect to Prof Roberts and Neil Oliver, I find that their programmes are more about the presenter than the history. I can no longer watch Neil striding across camera with his hair blowing in the wind, or Alice’s repetetive hand gestures. (why doesn’t someone tell her?)
    I watch these programmes for the HISTORY, the new discoveries and the new theories, and I don’t need a celebrity/presenter to add drama or tension where it doesn’t exist.
    TV needs honest progs like Time Team, and TT needs honest presenters like Mick Aston and Stewart Ainsworth who conectrate on the subject and not on their career.

  18. Tressa Beaumont

    I have loved and lived Time Team, and whilst fighting cancer with chemo and radiation, watched each episode… it took me to England, where i was born (been in Australia since 13yo) and i loved every minute… the energy, the recaps, The Team… and especially that each person could retain their viewpoint, challenge, get grumpy, crow over the times they were right, and generally, have pretty good fun, and still keep the edge of academic enquiry. And then, one day, half noticing, Tony seemed to be voicing over and struggling, information less, it was Before MaryAnn or other changes, just a bit, and then, pooft, The Team was gone, no more Stuart on his bike, no more Helen Geke, and i thought, omg. and the times i saw Mick he looked dismayed…. how could they let this treasure go. It has been such a treasure to me… Someone Please give Prof Aston and his Team their due gratitude, and a few million dollars to put their Time Team back together, And Steal Tony Robinson whose energy really is infectious. I swear it has kept me going these last 2 years… i’ve loved every minute and used to even try to watch other shows there was no energy/chemistry. I love that they say bollocks to each other, and i love the work they do….
    Can’t say thanks enough. But i’d love it back. Guys at the BBC *What Were You Thinking!! >>

  19. lewis

    Know I know its not just me. Many friends have said time team 2012 is totally crap,(pls excuse my “French”.) Is Tony Robinson going through some type of midlife crisis as he needs to hire ex-models. Even if she has a phD, she rarely shows it. Especially when you consider the experience that will be sadly missed (stewart ainsworth and Prof.Mick Aston)I’ve been watching time team since 1994. Its helped take my mind of things when I’ve been lying in a hospital bed after a series of operations, but this year even my 12 y.o. Nephew has said this past series is boring. Come on ch/more4. Show repeats from 1994-2011. I’m now a disillusioned fan. Shame, it was the highlight of the factual tv programming.

  20. Toni

    I have watched Time team from the very beginning, Back when there was just Tony, Carenza, Mick, Phil and the Geo Phys guys. It has lost it’s way slightly over the last few series. Fans of the programme watch it for the banter between the team and for the historical and archeological insight.

    Wouldn’t it be nice not to mention novel if TV executives actually listened to the fans of Time Team rather than make changes just for change sake. When it comes to Time Team the old adage ” if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”

  21. Marilyn Gautreaux

    I don’t agree that Archaeology is not important anymore. As a member of a History Society I speak to people all the time who watch Time Team for what it is,as do I, unearthing Britain’s past and learning facts that we never knew before to piece together Britain’s rich tapestry of history. There are more archaology community projects now that ever before and that is in part due to the popularity of programmes like Time Team, and presenters like Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver. If Channel Four want to mess about with what was a popular programme (it had to be to last 14 years) Its time the BBC or ITV snapped up Mick Aston and Stewart Ainsworth to make a quality Archaeology programmme like the ones that Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver do.

  22. Adrienne

    Only just reading about The Prof leaving, goodness knows where I’ve been. Shocked, upset, very sad. Agree with him 100%,there was no need for new presenters, if it not broke, don’t fix. Worked excellantly as it was. Who needs sexy young presenters when you have the very sexy Prof. Aston anyway!

  23. Pat Ellison.

    Mick Aston’s departure from Time Team is just the latest casualty in the killing of ‘real’ archaeology i.e. looking for information on the past rather than ‘finding THINGS’, an attitude we left behind once the Victorians had filled their museums. The rot began with Contract Archaeology – fastest and cheapest results. It continued with NVQs in archaeology which concentrated more on involving all the public in their heritage – a recipe for poor, illconsidered digging generally on known and recent sites where numbers of the public mattered more than proper project design, clear objectives and competent supervision. (I speak as a field archaeologist who was taught by Philip Rahtz, Steve Roskams and Harold Mytum at York, none of whom had degrees in Archaeology but all of whom were supremely competent and really cared, just as Mick Aston did and does. Time Team has dumbed down from a wonderful, accessible and informative programme into a banal parade of those who know nothing in depth and care less if only the ‘public’ watch their antics. I do of course, exclude Phil and a couple of dedicated others. So sorry you left, Mick, but it was the honourable thing to do before the subject you love and are so committed to was trashed entirely.

  24. Lee Morgan

    I was really disappointed with last season’s Time Team. After nearly two decades they have decided that this tried and tested model doesn’t work…so what, you’ve moved across the border. Does this mean you need to rip the heart out of something that so many of us look forward to every year? What were you thinking? At least Helen and Stewart are coming back, but so should Mick…you might even consider bringing back the original hands-on format which saw local craftspeople reliving the lifestyles, farming methods, etc., being investigated on the episode being aired. That was a sound way of involving the viewers in how it really felt to be alive thousands of years ago. I am willing to give the show ONE FINAL CHANCE before I decide whether to bother tuning in again…please don’t waste my time.

  25. kim bean

    gutted i so enjoy time team so informative i never miss a programme mick phil carenza tony and all the crew was brilliant, they with all there banter made the programme so enjoyable,why do you tv executives have too mess up things even when things was going so well all the best mick i agree with the other fans make your own dig programme and take on board your time team friend.

  26. William Woodford

    Having read much of the above I am still at a loss to understand the basic question… WHO is this “dumbing down” down to? Is it Wildfire, Channel 4, Tony Robinson or who??????

    Certainly agree that the latest series has been very disjoined and poor. That was evenbefore Channel 4 kept switching it about. The Carenza’, Bridge’s, Helen’s and Raksha’s were believable …. somethin Mary-ann never was. The other one in the silly flat cap also falls into that category.

    Perhaps the truth is that Channel 4 have decided that the show has reached it’s sell-by date and this is their way. Dumb it down… cry crocodile tears about falling ratings- thus allowing it’s demise.

    Sad if it does happen though.

  27. Tony

    I’m hesitant to comment from so far away but felt I must. I am in Detroit, Michigan and watch Time Team on an over-the-air broadcast station out of Canada.
    I’m so incredibly saddened to hear of the demise of Time Team.
    Having watched for years, often staying up to watch 3am and 4am broadcasts of the show, I feel like I know so many of the cast personally.
    It is a disheartening thought that we will only see Time Team in re-runs from now on. Time Team is really only Time Team with all those aforementioned individuals … Mick … Stewart et al.
    btw: I have not seen Alex Langlands on Time Team’s broadcasts here yet, however I have very much enjoyed his work with the Victorian Farm … Edwardian farm etc.
    My sincere condolences from the Colonies … and from over here, let me say yes, BBC please put the Team back together again.

  28. Michele

    I live in Toronto, Canada and watch Time Team on our provincial public televison station. While the episodes we get are a year or 2 behind I’ve watched many seasons , some episodes several times over. I watch more for the camaradarie between the team moreso than the archeology part. Mick seems so calm and laid back, the perfect foil to Phil’s bubbly nature. Love the striped sweaters and hats too, that’s his trademark. Put the team back to the way it was – perfect.

    Having said that, anything by Neil Oliver is very popular over here. The Coast series is fabulous as was the History of Scotland which finished this week. Other popular series were the Victorian and Edwardian Farm shows. We also get Poirot, Midsomer Murders, Morse and Lewis to name a few. Thank god for British TV which has some substance to it which that American crap we’re bombarded wth doesn’t.

  29. Veronica Benjamin

    I can hardly believe that the very interesting Mick Aston has been allowed to to leave Time Team. I have watched this programme over the years even watched repeats on Discovery History and been thoroughly absorbed by the information imparted. Tony amd Mick together with Phil are Time Team, shame on you Channel 4.
    Don’t know whether the series will have the same appeal without Mick!!!!!!e

  30. S E Saunders

    Get Mick back!! and get it back to the old format!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!PLEASE.

  31. Will Woodford

    Does ANYONE really knew the full story behing this very SAD situation. Different repots one reads infer different reasons YET no-one has ever come out with the TRUTH!!!!!!!!

    It is down to Tony, Channel 4, producers etc etc???? Whatever the reason the last series was little short of a disaster. Maryann and the drip with the flat cap were an INSTANT flop and devalued the programmes greatly.

    The newer programmes seem to sideline Stuart Aimnsworth and the wonderfull Helen Geake as well.. NO THEIR ABSOLUTE DETRIMENT!!!

    Lets get back to the tried and trusted format and make some more top rang programmes like they used to be.

  32. Keep on Diggin’ « These Bones Of Mine

    [...]  There have been well publicized problems during the latter series of Time Team, with a lack of focus on the archaeology itself and problems with presenters helping to drive the viewers away.  Although many professional [...]

  33. Dan the stone man

    So now we know: Time Team on Channel 4 will be dead by 2014 (but Tim Taylor will try to keep the old format going in a small way online on his own). This is the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ most feared by anyone that produces a programme of any quality. They must think we (i.e. the audience, introduced to and educated in archaeology by this fabulous series) have no judgement, and really will be interested in something miserably entitled ‘The King in the Car Park: Richard III’; but in fact it makes us likely to question their own judgement in assuming so.

    Ch 4 have got what they wanted – but “wanting to focus on new and innovative history programming, Channel 4 history is all about bringing the past to life in eye-opening, entertaining and innovative ways, from the best archaeological scoops, to big factual dramas” of Julia Harrington, the channel’s commissioning editor for history – tells us that she just could not let TT stay the way it’s always been, and so Series 20 & four specials will be the last seriously decent set of archaeological programmes that they will show. More’s the great pity.

  34. Pete A

    What I have missed from the new Time Team presenters are contributions that move our understanding forward. Stewart, Helen and the other established experts always made contributions that were pertinent and new; they moved the programme along. The new ones seem to either waffle meaninglessly or sometimes simply repeat what’s already been said. This, combined with the new intellectually lighter format, surely leads to a feeling that it has all been dumbed-down. Anyone who doubts this should watch the current two episode Time Teams offered by More 4. They are currently running old format episodes followed by those with the new contributors. It’s so sad that we will now lose even these, poor substitutes though they are.

  35. john grace

    Channel 4, archeological suicide bombers! You “Merchant Bankers”, “J.Arthur Rankers” A pox on all your houses!

  36. ken standing

    I’d like to hunt down the person responsible, push them in a trench and back-fill it.

    “Channel 4 history is all about bringing the past to life in eye-opening, entertaining and innovative ways, from the best archaeological scoops, to big factual dramas” of Julia Harrington, the channel’s commissioning editor for history – tells us that she just could not let TT stay the way it’s always been”

    …….. viewers are of no importance to these self-important apparatchiks. This does no credit to C4 and just incurs a bad taste.

    Hateful.

  37. Nicky

    What an absolute crying shame. SHAME ON YOU, CHANNEL 4. My husband, daughter and I have all watched and loved Time Team for years, and learned so much. It was presented in such a way that appealed to people of all ages, even children. Why oh why do the ‘powers that be’ have to mess about with a format that has worked so well for years? I agree with the adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and I disagree with the feeling/comments that archaeology has become less popular. Everyone I speak to about it loves the programme, especially how it was. Mick, Stuart, Phil, Tony, and Carenza are the heart and soul of Time Team. I saw Phil in Lincoln a while ago and didn’t have the courage to go up and talk to him as he looked unhappy – how I wish I’d done so. I do hope Channel 4 comes to its senses. If they don’t, then I hope the Time Team team get together and make their own programme. PLEASE, CHANNEL 4, LISTEN TO YOUR VIEWING PUBLIC.

  38. peap0d

    Maybe archaology is becoming less relevant as more and more people living in the UK are descended from africans and asians. It would be like wanting to know about the holidays of the people who lived in your house before you- irrelevant.

  39. Mrs Ellen m Jones

    My daughter&i love time team. & i feel that c4 do not give a darn about the people who deliver a great program or the people who watch time team.i am nearly 60. And until time team i was never interested in history . Now i am glued to it.i have to watch it. it is the best program ever. Bring mick back now. and every one else. C4 do not deserve to run anything.They do not care about history of this country or any thing else. Mick is TIME TEAM as Are the rest of the TEAM. Get ride of C 4.& move the TEAM to another channel Please. Ellen

  40. Alison Bull

    My family and I have been big fans of Time Team since it started. I am now retired and the two More 4 daily episodes are a key part of my schedule. As the Government start to chip away at arts and humanities in education, increases undergraduate course fees, and the recession means funding for archaeology is being reduced, it is up to public broadcasters (Channel 4 or BBC or anyone!) to keep a good thing going!!

    Reconsider Channel 4 PLEASE!!

  41. mrs c mccarthy

    tony robinson is the most obnoxious presenter i have ever watched….when he said to phil harding i’ve been working all morning what have you been doing.i would have buried him in the trench with the skeleton very easy.i know they work hard all day and deserve a drink in the evening.but why does robinson chuck it down his mouth every viewing..in camera and craftily slopes off during filming too.because all the work is done near pubs….i will be glad when all the repeats have finished for all to see.poor mick aston he was the very best and karenza and phil and rakash and matt.guy and francis the best too and mick the dig……..but robinson was an utter crap self opiniating long nosed goblin send him back to blackadder the little creep…worst presenter i have ever seen on tv…..he is a nasty piece of work.he loves the sound of his own voice.good riddance when he has gone…

  42. J Sommerville

    The comments of Mrs C MCarthy are absolutely spot on especially in relation to the totally infuriating robinson. Let him retire as suggested to blackadder. He spoiled for me a large number episodes with his attempts to falsely gain personal recognition for the successes of THE team without having made any sort of contribution. He attempted to claim that WE did this or that. He frequently was seen pointing out, with arms flailing and fingers spread wide,of potential areas for attention. His departure would enhance the programme. Im sure if he was geo’FiSSED’ the outcome would show nothing worthy of investigating.

  43. Paolo

    I have been hooked on Time Team for years, and I am from a not too small fan base here in Italy where T.T. would have a grandiose work to do ( if we just could kill some of our bureaucrats…) So sad to see it go but I hope some less brain dead bean counters in channel 4 accounting department will realize if they freshen it up a little and package it (bad choice of words but you get the idea…) it will be a great cash cow for the company AND stay true to the mission of getting good explorative archaeology done… VIVA TIME TEAM !!!

  44. frances

    Prof. Mick Aston rest in peace, Thank you for years of interesting programmes. Such a pity C4 are so short sighted. Perhaps they will replace it with another boring soap.

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