Now that's entertainment

No one told us it was the `documentaries' that would furnish us with wall-to-wall tripe on TV
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The Independent Culture
REMEMBER THOSE pompous fools 10 years ago, who called themselves the mandarins of broadcasting, genuflected on the hour every hour to the memory of Lord Reith, and banged on endlessly in the broadsheets about how the deregulation of television would lead to a drop in broadcasting standards? These idiots, I distinctly remember, threatened us with the prospect of telly without any documentaries, and simply wall-to-wall cheap tripe instead.

Well, what boring old farts they were, weren't they? They knew absolutely nothing. If they were so smart, why didn't they predict what was really going to happen? Why didn't they tell us that in fact there would be documentaries on the television pretty much constantly? Why didn't they see that it was the "documentaries" themselves that would furnish us with wall-to- wall cheap tripe? Why couldn't they understand that in this brave new world of TV we'd get both, and at the same time?

Wednesday evening's offering from Channel 4, The Real Story Of Airtours Air Rage, was a perfect example. An "investigation" into the air rage incident a few weeks ago in which 12 passengers were ejected from a flight to Montego Bay because their drunken and rowdy behaviour ended in a free- for-all, the programme spent half an hour talking to passengers, air crew and the FBI, and using actors to reconstruct scenes from the flight.

What did we learn from this documentary? That in an air rage incident a few weeks ago, 12 passengers were ejected from a flight to Montego Bay because their drunken and rowdy behaviour ended in a free-for-all. How very illuminating. And great fun. Until I saw the programme, I'd thought that rowdy behaviour in a confined and crowded public place was unseemly. Now I know it's merely entertaining.

Of course, the blossoming of air rage is rather entertaining generally, isn't it? The Virgin stewardess who got her nose broken by Thomas Adams hasn't stopped laughing since the plaster came off, while the BA stewardess who was indecently assaulted by John Henson has admitted that she was a prude who didn't really know what bawdy humour was until she felt that hand sliding up her skirt.

Meanwhile, the BA woman passenger who had her headphones bitten in half by Lee Thresher before he punched out a window has expressed her gratitude that he diverted her attention from a mediocre film on a ridiculously small screen, and laid on a decent floor show instead.

But most tickled of all is Karen Plumb, the BA stewardess who tried to control the in-flight boozing of her boss Michelle Beeken - who travels the world monitoring standards of service by BA cabin crews - when she went wild on an off-duty trip to New York.

Karen and Michelle are now reported to spend many happy hours together flicking through the Spotlight actors catalogue, and speculating on who might play them when, after Michelle's disciplinary hearing and Karen's compensation hearing have been concluded, the documentary about their own air rage incident is made.

During one testy moment, as the girls became agitated over the question of which of them should be played by Cameron Diaz, Michelle punched Karen on the other side of her face. Their producer was delighted, as this was perfect material for the making of the documentary about the making of the documentary. The producer was also able to suggest that Cameron could play Karen in the first film and Michelle in the second. So everyone was very happy indeed.

But not quite as happy as the documentary executives, who feel they have come up with a twist that will revitalise a much-loved film genre which of late has become a little tired. Busily reinventing the road movie as the road-rage movie, they are reported to have several thousands of projects on the go.

Inevitably, the highest-profile of these is the biopic exploring the life of Kenneth Noye, although Hollywood producers are on tenterhooks lest the prosecution should fail and their plans be dashed.

The project, which has the working title I Don't Want To Live In Britain, explores Noye's pain that there's hardly anywhere left in the country where regular guys can go about their business without being questioned by the police. Currently, though, Noye is in Spain appealing against his extradition on the grounds that he has been illegally identified as himself. Instead he wants to be known as Sean Penn from now on, in honour of the actor who, the rushes attest, is better at being him than he is.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to repeat other Hollywood successes of past years, a new production company, Ragesploitation, has announced the commissioning of a script that will rework the blockbuster based on a novel by Harold Robbins. Hotel Rage will detail the lives of various guests at a top hotel in Strathclyde, Scotland, as they abuse staff, destroy their rooms, glass barmaids in the face and punch waiters. The thrilling finale will feature a fight involving 100 banqueting guests.

The production company also hopes to go into production on a couple of the burgeoning hybrid spin-offs of the docu-rage phenomenon. Motel Rage, they promise, will deliver all the excitement of road rage, but with the kind of interiors that only hotel rage can deliver.

Holiday Inn Rage, though, is the big one, for it may be able to revive the flagging fortunes of the film musical. The trend didn't initially attract much attention, as it started out fairly peacefully with a few sad old whiteys bemoaning the fact that rap had gone downhill since the innocent days of the Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash. However, as the rap body count grew, Holiday Inn Rage became more and more of a going concern.

On Wednesday, the movement threw up its first big European hero. The French rapper Joey Starr was jailed for insulting an air hostess and punching her in the face. The air hostess, Lucie Mustel, admitted she had slapped him after he had commented on her looks.

"I just said that the myth of the good-looking air hostess has collapsed," said Starr. The rapper, who fronts the band NTM (formerly known as Nique ta Mere, or "screw your mother"), will play himself in the film and start shooting as soon as his prison sentence has ended. He would like Ms Mustel to be played by Eddie, the dog from Frasier, but contractual problems are expected.

Other glorifications of violence, rudeness, drunkenness, misogyny and sheer bad temper are also beginning to surface on a small and large screen near you. The splatter movie is likely to be revived by HaemorRage. Since actors are merely expected to get so angry before camera that they start bleeding from every orifice, this is being touted as quite a money-spinner.

Soap operas, too, will get a shot in the arm as they overtly explore a theme they have been quietly working over for years. MarRiage has become a vengeful tool, whereby a person hates and despises someone of the opposite sex so much that they decide to make the rest of their lives a total misery.

Here in Canary Wharf, London, though, it is Silent I Rage that everyone is talking about. This occurs when a columnist's editor suggests that her marriage joke doesn't work because of the silent I. The columnist then rips the editor's Power Macintosh from his desk, bashes him on the head with it and hurls it out of an 18th-floor window. It imbeds itself in the Millennium Dome below and causes a national crisis. When the columnist is asked why she did it, she says that she wanted to see whether Lauren Hutton would agree to portray her, since both women have huge gaps between their front teeth. Immediately, everyone understands where she was coming from.

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