Review

TV Reviews of Gaytime TV and First Ses
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"It's absolutely ridiculous," said a stout woman, surveying last weekend's Gay Pride march, "I'm quite sure the Townswomen's Guild will have something to say about this." She was featured, as a bit of comical bigotry, in a report for Gaytime TV (BBC2), a programme which may well rob the Townswomen's Guild of their power of speech altogether. "For the next six weeks we'll be here, 'queering your pitch', " promised Bert Tyler- Moore, co-hosting the programme from one of the less saleable sections of the Dulux colour chart. This begged a question. The intended constituency for Gaytime TV have presumably had their pitches comprehensively queered already - otherwise why would they stay up so late to watch (if the series was any further from the watershed you'd have to set your alarm clock to catch it). And, though the programme is cheerfully explicit about physical attractions (tonguey kisses and butt-groping), it hardly seems intent on converting sexual floating voters.

Except, perhaps, by suggesting that gay life is one long party. It is something of a relief to find that the programme is quite funny - an even greater one to discover that its sense of the ridiculous hasn't been hedged round by worthy notions of solidarity. In the first episode, for example, you learned the Portuguese phrase for "I don't like men with big bushy moustaches" (presumably one of the few broadcastable entries in the Gay Phrasebook) and visited the set of America's first gay soap (a production which made Prisoner Cell Block H look like a Bergman movie). They kept a straight face, I grant you, but the general sardonic banter between Tyler-Moore and Rhona Cameron suggests that nobody is going to fly into a terrible huff if you can't. The result is a confident frivolity - not the dreary duty of being out but the giggly shared warmth of an in-crowd. The angry torch song about Aids, with which Harvey Fierstein played out the programme helped too - Gaytime TV may be light television, but it isn't entirely weightless.

First Sex (C4), by contrast, weighs a ton. The series is burdened by ideological manners, despite similarly kitsch set-dressing. I am not, it's true, the primary target audience for this programme, a magazine series "looking at issues of importance to women". But, in television as in war, there will always be collateral damage - poor saps who were just trying to make their way to a late- night movie and take a chestful of shrapnel on the way. I suspect that First Sex will leave quite a lot of viewers calling for the stretcher bearers, men and women both.

It doesn't help that the series feels as if it has been made by a committee and, what's more, a committee dogged by sub-committees. It is impeccably representative and inclusive. The only minority group missing from the report on women and the Internet was veal calves - no suggestion, strangely, as to how cyberspace might affect their lives. A matter of gender I suppose.

I can't believe either that the general air of woolly uplift will serve any viewer particularly well. The film report on Emily Kngwarreye, an 85-year- old aboriginal artist, avoided all the real issues in favour of a respectful opacity. "Can you talk more about your yam dreaming?" Emily was asked, as she casually dabbed out another canvas. "This dreaming has emu tucker connections," replied Emily gnomically, "and it spreads throughout this country." First Sex was perfectly satisfied with this baffling pronouncement: "Emily explains only the secular meaning of her work,'' they continued reverently, "the deeper, sacred meanings are imperceptible to the Western eye." Our crass Western eyes can spot a price tag though - "This canvas was purchased for over 20,000 Australian dollars," said the narrator in awed tones, as the camera failed to focus on a large abstract.

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