Charlton reviews

John Charlton settles down with the latest offering from Video Arts which looks
at the issues of staff appraisals

Spare a thought for training-video scriptwriters. They have a limited
format, must create one-dimensional characters, use inoffensive humour and
craft the shallowest of plots.

James Major, son of that guy who was Prime Minister before Tony Blair, said
there are five basic dramatic plots, but that he’d devised a sixth. If so – and
I doubt it – that would be five more than found in most training videos.

Generally, plots aren’t complex. Take this one: A short man steals an item
of jewellery from ‘one bad mutha’ and asks a young relative to return it. He
does, after many struggles and alliances with off-beats and mutants, and then
goes home and writes a book about the whole experience. Yes, it’s Lord of the

Training-video scriptwriters can only dream of creating such a plot. All
they have to play with is how people doing something wrong are shown how to do
it right.

Enter stage right Video Arts’ latest video/DVD on performance reviews. The
video comprises two tapes. Performance Review: every manager’s nightmare, and
Performance Review: every appraisee’s dream. The former features
mini-appraisals between six stock characters and incompetent managers. The
latter is an appraisal between a dream appraisee and a third-rate appraiser.
Video Arts frontman, Hugh Laurie, emphasises the lessons to be drawn from each.

I’m a Laurie fan. He’s likeable, clever and witty. I also like Video Arts
training videos. They’re slick, well-acted and professional, and this one is no

It will make appraisals more accessible to managers and appraises. But the
characters are – well, over-characterised, and the mini-plots slightly
over-simplified. I’ve appraised many odd-balls in my time, but none as odd as
Weepy Wendy, the in-house editor who can’t meet a deadline.

Rating: * * * *

The two-video set costs £995 and includes a course leader’s guide, delegate
worksheets, powerpoint presentations etc. The DVD set costs £1,395, which
includes extra footage.

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