Broadcasting: Red sauce goes nicely with velour

BRIAN VINER ON TELEVISION

A nglia, a company synonymous with quality television, without which we might never have set eyes upon the Sale of the Century, has gone and done it again, bringing us Jerry Springer UK (ITV). It was only a matter of time. Jerry is always assuring us that he is the world's greatest Anglophile, and primetime telly is in freefall downmarket, so some form of collaboration was inevitable.

Monday's show concerned family feuds, a topic which ought to keep the Today programme going for half an hour, let alone Jerry Springer UK. Curiously, though, it ran out of steam, with a young woman feebly berating her mother for showing her dog too much affection. Moreover, the audience - disappointingly self-conscious when it came to indignant shrieking, pummelling the air and chanting "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!"- will have to go some before it matches its Chicago counterpart. Just as you can never find a perfect cup of tea in America, so, one fears, the perfect Springer audience will prove elusive here.

In one respect, though, Jerry Springer UK did not disappoint. Television provides all too few treats these days, but Jerry's closing pieties are unfailingly, maybe even unwittingly, hilarious. On Monday he excelled himself, with a self-justifying sermon so righteous that I felt like applauding. The rest of us may scoff at the "trailer-park trash" who trade insults on his show, he said (or words to that effect), but "the rawness of the exchange may be the only spontaneous reality left on television today". The news, sitcoms, drama, are all "scripted, orchestrated, excessively edited", while the confessional, confrontational talk-show gleams - a nugget of integrity in a pile of sham.

Jerry Springer taking the moral high ground is like Mary Chipperfield slapping a sticker on her car proclaiming, "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas". But you've got to hand it to him. We all know that the average episode of Jerry Springer is marginally more carefully orchestrated than the string version of Schonberg's arrangement of Mahler's 10th Symphony. And he knows we know. Yet it doesn't stop him pointing the finger at all other forms of television. What a guy. However, someone should tell him that, over here, there is currently a drift away from scripting, orchestration and excessive editing, or at least the appearance thereof. Especially in comedy, where The Royle Family (BBC1) reigns supreme.

The long-awaited second series returned on Thursday, having switched from BBC2, amid some anxiety for those of us who rank the Royles as comic creations comparable with the Trotters, the Meldrews and the Fawltys. For BBC1 brings a much bigger audience, and one desperately wants the uninitiated to like it, while knowing that, like introducing new friends to a much-loved old friend with a bit of a wind problem, the encounter could go either way.

The genius, as ever, is in the detail. The copious velour, the bacon butties with "red" sauce, the ashtray overflowing with dog-ends, and the spot-on dialogue impeccably delivered. "Who do you think's the eldest, her or Gloria Hunniford?" wondered Barbara (the marvellous Sue Johnston), vaguely, of Judith Chalmers. Is it a paradox, or merely apt, that television is the medium best able to capture our pre-occupation with television? There are those who would call it a paradox. And then there are those who would say, paradox my arse. Whichever, The Royle Family is a blessed addition to Thursday nights, especially now that the incomparable The Sopranos (C4) is coming to a close - for a full lament, see next week.

I'll be coming back to The Royle Family too. And back and back. But in the meantime, Jessica Stevenson, who plays Denise Royle's diet-obsessed mate Cheryl, shows her versatility in a new sitcom, Spaced (C4), which she wrote with her co-star, Simon Pegg. The premise for Spaced - single woman meets single man, they move into flat together carrying baggage of past relationships - is enough to make a cliche-weary TV critic withdraw to a corner and rock to and fro, emitting a steady moan.

But it works unexpectedly well. The first episode of Spaced was highly original, quirky, pacy, decidedly dark at times, excessively edited (as Jerry Springer would say), and what's that other word we occasionally used to associate with sitcoms? Oh yeah, funny. It was very funny. "Do you rent downstairs?" asked Daisy (Stevenson) of her sensitive new neighbour. "Do you mean, am I gay?" he snapped. Perhaps you had to be there. But it looks as though C4 is on to a winner.

Which is more than can be said for the energetically trailed spoof documentary series People Like Us (BBC2). Michael Parkinson and John Humphrys were among those who lent their names to the spoof, which was fair enough, because People Like Us was a big success on radio. Chris Langham stars, mostly off-camera, as film-maker Roy Mallard, who last week conducted a po-faced profile of a small Nottingham-based manufacturer of thick film hybrids - which could just as easily have been desiccated suction caps or reinforced caterpillar treads. So far, so good. Yet, like many radio comedies before it, People Like Us has lost something in the move from Broadcasting House to White City. The joke is basically one-dimensional, which doesn't matter so much on radio, but matters greatly on television.

The spoof documentary is now almost a genre on its own, so I can't understand why there is a deafening fanfare of hype every time a new one comes along. The same happened with Operation Good Guys, which I thought disappointingly heavy-handed. Yet the funniest of them by far, Peter Kay's sublime mickey- take of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about a motorway service station near Bolton, The Services, was buried in the C4 schedules a year or so ago, and as far as I know has not had a primetime repeat.

On the other hand, hats off to C4 for giving a good primetime slot to Playing The China Card, Mark Anderson's two-part documentary marking the 50th anniversary of the Communist takeover of China. Part one was not only riveting but also unexpectedly hilarious. For it emerged that when Richard Nixon instructed his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, to take an olive branch to Beijing, the trip was conducted in such secrecy that Kissinger had to feign food-poisoning during an official visit to Pakistan. He was then spirited away to an airport, although not before his driver, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, had lost his car keys, eventually finding them in his son's bedroom. Meanwhile, to fox the media, a Kissinger- shaped stand-in was installed, presumably on the loo.

The programme did not record how the Pakistanis felt about the food-poisoning scam, which Kissinger's deputy, Alexander Haig, described, with scant regard for geo-political sensitivities, as "Delhi belly". But it did let on that, amid the drama of the 4am flit, Kissinger forgot his supply of shirts, which is how he came to meet Mao Tse-Tung in a borrowed shirt with a Harry Hill collar. Not only that, but when Chinese officials arrived to meet him, they weren't sure which fat Westerner was which. Cue the old song, "I wonder who's Kissinger now?"

These days, Henry Kissinger is more reviled than respected. But last week's telly left us in no doubt that the old boy has exerted more influence over his nation than any other Jewish-American ex-politician of German extraction. Apart from Jerry Springer, obviously.

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us