It wasn't that their standards were too high - they weren't looking for people who could sing well, just pretty boys who wouldn't cause acute distress when they opened their mouths. And once that low base was reached, it seemed, pretty much everything else was fixable. Hair could be dyed, performances tweaked, bodies and clothes altered and improved. The boys themselves were little more than sentient versions of My Little Pony, toys capable of embarrassment when their owners decided that it would be fun to dress them in thermal underwear and make them writhe about on a fur rug. "One of the most important elements for this band is that they look good," said one of their mentors at the beginning, memories of the audition clearly still vivid in his mind. So it was only after exhaustive fitting sessions and a tanning excursion to Marbella that the producers got round to tying up loose ends like the song and studio work.
The resulting single was a pop ballad which would not trouble its potential market by even a microscopic deviation from the expected formula. The producers spend up to pounds 500,000 to get the effect right, and rake back 25 per cent of whatever their cuddly Frankensteins earn. "A Band is Born" was watchable enough, but James Cohen's documentary was, in the end, so well-mannered and straight-faced about this essentially risible project that you wondered whether Stolberg and Hawkins had secured final approval. They may be too young to remember the transforming effect a similar behind-the-scenes documentary had on the career of Sheena Easton, but they were certainly not blind to the advantages of a 50-minute commercial in launching their toothy product. Upside Down's first single, the final caption told you, now stands at number 35 in the charts - if it fails to rise any higher, the BBC, at least, can honestly say they gave it their best shot.
There was, fortunately, more scepticism abroad in Traces of Guilt (BBC2), which examined the growing importance of psychiatric evidence in murder trials. The principle that those incapable of moral judgement should not be punished for their wrongdoing is an ancient one, but modern science has pushed the boundaries of culpability further and further back, so that unqualified guilt seems the sole preserve of people who knowingly park on double-yellow lines. Graver charges inevitably result in a legal hunt for mitigating traumas. "What Johnny's lawyers really need," said the voice-over about a knicker-stealer who had murdered a woman, "is a clear medical diagnosis." What Johnny's lawyers really need, you thought, is a good excuse.
As it turns out, the "science" of psychiatric diagnosis is still so subjective and unquantifiable that it is no difficult matter for a competent lawyer to find an expert who will support pretty much any position. Traces of Guilt left the large moral conclusions to the viewer, but its analysis of the increasingly fuzzy edges of moral responsibility was rather unsettling, a picture of free will hounded from the field.Reuse content