Gotta learn the langwidge

Television
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Like a thoroughbred horse, a television personality is the work of genetic engineers, the fruit of a human being's coition with a television camera. The lens's latest crush is on Ian Wright, the presenter of Lonely Planet (C4 Fri), a travel programme that gives you none of that piffle about tour operators and air fares. Wright works far harder to entrap than enlighten. He chats the camera up as if he's trying to get it in to bed.

If there's still such a thing as BBC English, Wright speaks what you could call ITV English, a multiple choice of regional variants. In Wright's case, it's a rubbish tip of glottal stops and Cockney elisions. He sounds and looks uncannily like Tony Parsons's kid bruvver. God, or the East End, gave them both a high-eyed, wide-boned face and a 750-horse-power outboard motormouth. Signing off from Greenland, he uncharacteristically concluded that "there ain' even words tha' come close", which felt like a cop-out until he hopped off the helicopter. The chopper, with camera on board, pulled away and Wright shrank to a small speechless dot on a vast white expanse. Even from that distance, he definitely had a thing going with the lens.

There comes a point, though, when a television personality can get in the way. Gary Rhodes, not to be confused with his less telegenic namesake Cecil, returned with Open Rhodes (BBC2 Wed). It's as plain as mud that Rhodes's electric-chair coiff is a publicity stunt, but it does not impede his mission to give British cuisine the thumbs up - this week he was in the Highlands. Malcolm Gluck (is the surname a gimmick too?) attempted to do the same to English wine in Gluck, Gluck, Gluck (BBC2 Fri). "Greets you with a polite peck on the cheek," he said of a Cotswolds white, which, given his taste for hyperbole, sounded like a slap in the face.

Rhodes and Gluck are food and wine's yobbo tendency, experts hired from the wrong side of the tracks to cut the crap. No wonder this week's featured language abuse is the glottal stop. It's even caught on in the costume drama department. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (BBC2 Sun), Helen's husband spent months on end up in town because he couldn't tolerate a wife (played by sarf Londoner Tara Fitzgerald) who habitually mislaid whole areas of the alphabet. "May I no' love the sinner and hate the sin?" she asked her aunt before embarking on the disastrous union. On one of his infrequent visits to the family seat, she enjoined him to "Le' me ta' my child." He promptly pinned her to the wall and tried to throttle the consonants out of her. She fled to Yorkshire, where ITV English is the lingua franca. When someone up there invited her to take tea, she said, it would "no' be possibuw": she never let T pass her lips.

Richard Rayner also retreated to Yorkshire in Travels with My Camera (C4 Sun). A Bradford emigre, his mission was to apologise to his family for writing horrid novels about them. When he got there, you discovered that, while they still spoke ITV, he had switched to BBC, usually a mark of television impersonality. Of course, television personality is not the sole preserve of humans. In Dallas Doll (BBC2 Sat), the gaping-gobbed Sandra Bernard wormed her way into the underwear of an entire Australian family. The family sheepdog had her number, and maimed her far more effectively than any critic could ever do. Quite literally a bit part, it was still the meatiest role.

Comments