review

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The Independent Culture
"Ah've got shoort hair. Ah wear an earring. Ah didn't see a fucking thing. Me name's Lindsay and ahm yower guide through Britain's yob culchar." Lindsay leaned towards the camera and roughly half a million middle-class viewers involuntarily leaned backwards. Presumably Lindsay, in the wishful thinking of last night's Everyman (BBC1), was "Everyob". I say wishful because Lindsay, despite some rough spots in his past, turned out to be a likeable young man - gentle and loving with his young son, proud of the community work he'd done improving the local fencing, prepared to put in hours at a youth club making sure that young boys don't go to the bad. If he's a typical "yob" I'm Mahatma Ghandi. To which the makers of this film (intriguing and irritating in equal measure) might reply: "Aha. But that's just the point. There is no such thing as a typical yob. If we could just get beneath the labels we might get our terrors into perspective." Then again even Lindsay seemed to think there were some bad lads out there - and he would have minced his words less finely.

The film took the form of some inventive footage in which Lindsay toured around town, revisiting old haunts and listening to the testimony of contemporaries (mostly variations on "Iss really borrrrring"). There seemed to be a notion that this was his vision of his own life - if so he has a future as a director of pop music videos. At one point he scuffed his way across the road and leaned against a lamp-post. "OK. It's time to move on," he said, after some general chat. At which point the background started to scroll past behind him, while Lindsay and the lamp-post stayed put, centre screen. After the pleasurable surprise this delivered had faded you wondered whether you should be enjoying yourself quite so much - should the film-maker really be evading the drear reality of the council estate like this?

Other devices offered a similar tug-of-war between style and content. The disaffected young people who described their lives were electronically positioned in ordinary street scenes - but was this a way of depicting their alienation or simply reducing the tedium of their well-tuned sense of grievance? Every now and then Lindsay would disappear to be replaced by well-to-do moralisers, whose sole task appeared to be to wring their hands at the spectacle before them. The vice-president of the Order of Christian Unity became embroiled in a semantic debate with Christina Odone over whether this was a vision of "boredom" or "despair", which was a bit like two passengers on the Titanic arguing about whether they were capsizing or sinking. "I was frightened when I first saw him," confessed the Bishop of Leicester. "I was alienated." This is unfair to the participants - they were invited to opinionate and they met their brief. But the yawning gap between their well-intentioned twittering and the lives on display looked at times like a Swiftian exercise in satire. It might have been nice, in the interests of equity, to have Lindsay commenting on his commentators - but for the fact that little would have been audible but a prolonged bleep. The BBC should on no account wipe this tape - its rich social comedy was apparent at the time of broadcast but it should mature into something really special over the next few decades.

Fighting Back, a week long series for Channel 4 in which the occupants of the Heath Town Estate in Wolverhampton explained how they were trying to diminish the notoriety of their address, was much more heartening, a tale of numerous modest liaisons beginning to build a community. Like Everyob it could hardly give a representative account of life in such a community - the problems were out of sight, busy scratching their initials on to the latest hard-won example of regeneration - but it did remind you that while some talk others get on and do something.

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