Last night's television: For if tomorrow never comes... - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

Last night's television: For if tomorrow never comes...

Look Around You BBC2 BodyShock: Orgasmatron C4

BBC2'S SPOOF on the earnest tackiness of 1970s factual television, Look Around You, reminds you that precision in pastiche can sometimes be at odds with comedy. There's no question that they've hit their target, from the interminably extended Stylophone-scored title sequence (how did we have the patience?) to the arthritic flourishes of the linking script ("on tonight's programme... we'll be lifting the lid on the toilet of the future"). But it's so accurate that you begin to ask yourself what the difference is between a satirical copy of clunkiness and the real thing. More dangerously still, the attempt to capture the limping pace of the original is completely at odds with any kind of comic timing. Again and again here you linger for a beat or two too long on a punchline, just long enough for the laugh to die and for question marks to begin landing on the corpse.

But there are plenty of things to laugh at. Peter Serafinowicz as the programme's presenter, Peter Packard, perfectly captures the ingratiation of someone who is smugly confident that he's fulfilling the "educate and inform" sections of the BBC Charter but hasn't forgotten that he has an obligation to entertain. The general cheesiness of team presentation is nicely caught too, from the Huey, Duey and Louie way that a single sentence is shared out between four presenters to the carefully scripted off-the-cuff banter. And they get the visual mannerisms just right - in particular, the assumption that every phrase requires a demonstration. Fronting an item on a high- voltage toothbrush, one of the female presenters explained that "simply brushing with good old-fashioned soap and water" delivered results as good as most toothpastes, and the studio director cut to a close-up of her hand scrubbing carefully at a bar of soap, just in case the audience was struggling with the concept. But if it was less dutiful about the imitation it would be a lot funnier still.

The main item in last night's Look around You was the Medibot, a wheelie-bin sized medical robot that could play the harmonica while performing laser surgery. The Orgasmatron, the medical device at the centre of last night's BodyShock, wasn't quite as versatile, though in theory it should have been able to make its users yodel joyfully when operated according to the manufacturer's instructions. Nadia Hall's film followed three anorgasmic women on a trip to the North Carolina clinic of Dr Stuart Meloy, a pain-relief specialist who accidentally discovered that he could induce orgasm in female patients by electronic stimulation of the spinal cord. The world's media got excited about this, and so had Nadia Hall, describing the Orgasmatron as an invention "that could change human life for ever". A few human lives, perhaps - but even that only if the Orgasmatron worked, and the evidence here was mixed to say the least.

Mary, a Beryl Cook matron sprung to life, cheerfully announced that she'd had her first multiple orgasm ever after spending a weekend fiddling with the Orgasmatron's buttons. She virtually had to have the machine pried from her hands. But then she seemed far less hung up about sex anyway. For the other two women it was a bust, the deeply anaphrodisiac procedure of having their spinal cords wired up far outweighing whatever the device was actually doing. It's possible that their problem wasn't physiological in the first place. "Darlene has been married to the same man for 37 years but for the last five she's been unable to experience sexual desire," the voice-over explained. Absolutely mystifying, eh? Dr Meloy, who appeared flakier with every passing minute, dreamed of setting up a clinic in Las Vegas, offering guaranteed jackpots to those on a sexual losing streak. He'll have to do a lot better than one cherry and two lemons if the dream is to come true.

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