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The Independent Culture
About half-way through Ruby Wax Meets... (BBC1), Wax's encounter with Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady spotted a copy of Hello! magazine, the cover of which sported a picture of her toothy interrogator clutching a baby. Suddenly, Imelda looked at Ruby in a different light - her papers were in order. She was not just a humble dispenser of publicity, but one of its recipients too, a bona fide member of the disposable aristocracy of gossip. Reassured by this intelligence, Imelda let Ruby into her attic, where, as if in hiding from future catastrophe, the beginning of a new shoe collection stretched out into the shadows.

What, I wondered, would we have to endure if Eva Braun had survived the Berlin bunker to live on in comfortable retirement? There's no question, surely, that the absolution of fame would have eventually worked its shameless magic. After sufficient time had passed, we could look forward to Nicely Brauned, Eva's vegetarian cookbook; to a Hello! photospread, in which she welcomed us inside her gracious home; to sympathetic interviews on Oprah Winfrey ("Married a megalomaniac"). Naturally, some of this would be couched as mischief, just as Wax's antic impertinence was supposed to insulate Ruby Wax Meets... from any starchy criticism. The only problem is that the principal defence for such a programme - "Surely you can see she wasn't being taken seriously?" - is also a perfect statement of the prosecution case.

After much light-hearted jollity - a parody of sycophancy which Imelda took as the real thing - there was a sudden grave lurch into sobriety, when it followed some Marcos piety about abortion ("We don't believe in any killing, any termination of life") with graphic images of murdered people. The effect was, rather obviously, one of contradiction, but the absence of any information about who these people were, or what connection they had with the Marcoses, drew the force of the punch completely. And after that brisk genuflection to conscience, it was back to girl-talk about the Marcos millions.

Wax's questions were studiously ironic - "People never gave you credit for the good things you did," she said at one point - but you might as well try to stab a rhino with a cotton-bud, as bring down Imelda with irony. I'm an admirer of Ms Wax, whose back-of-the-class insolence is much needed in a world of toadies, but I wish she had realised that there is a difference between the Messalina of Manila and harmless candy-floss like Pamela Anderson. Imelda is undeniably funny when she murders a cocktail classic with that operatic warble, but she isn't just a joke.

There was a surprising amount of blood and guts in A Mug's Game (BBC1), though most of it belonged to dead salmon, slithering gelidly down the gutting line of the fish-factory at the heart of Donna Franceschild's new series. This promises a twee-free zone, and the promise is pretty well kept, even if Franceschild's fish-wives reserve their foul talk for content rather than vocabulary. "I can't help thinking he's got the wrong part of his anatomy in the wrong wee hole," moans the libidinous Denise, recalling a frustrating evening with an ear-plugging folk musician.

A Mug's Game began with a flurried late waking, a clever, mussed-up introduction to Kathy's family and its attendant miseries - diabetic child, malfunctioning car, marital decay and disappointment. It is a dilapidated life, only held together by her breathless and failing efforts. Unfortunately, the fish-factory is under new management - Mr McCaffrey, a widower with the man-management skills of Saddam Hussein and a harsh line on tardiness. When their eyes meet, you think you know pretty clearly what you are waiting for (Cinderella and the Beast, perhaps), but Franceschild throws in a wild-card in the shape of Con, a sharp-faced petty thief on the run from the IRA's bone-crunching discouragement of "local entrepreneurs". Despite its warmth and humour, A Mug's Game is, one suspects, cold-sighted enough not to turn to slush.

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