REVIEW / You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss

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The Independent Culture
IF YOU missed it - in which case, where were you and why weren't you watching Channel 4? - here's that corrupting moment again in slow-motion replay. At a gay club called Lips, Roseanne and Sharon, an erotic dance and performance artist (or stripper), are chewing the fat at an intimate table. With the camera facing her, Sharon slides her right arm over Roseanne's left shoulder, leaning in to squelch a kiss squarely on the lips of the highest paid woman in television.

Before mouths establish contact, the camera angle tastefully switches so that, of the two locked heads, only Roseanne's sceptical, swivelling eyeballs are in view. The most controversial moment in the history of the American sitcom lasts precisely 2.1 seconds.

The next morning Roseanne is at work, exorcising the memory by frenetically wiping the restaurant. Her sister, Jackie, gets the line of the night: 'Boy, if Sharon had slipped you the tongue we might actually get this place up to code.' Yes, but you might have got this show wiped off the screen.

It's a measure of the role of the chart- topping sitcom in America that it can get laughs even while going in for liberal didacticism. You can bet it wouldn't happen on Keeping Up Appearances. Part of this episode's preachiness was the casting of Mariel Hemingway as Sharon, because Hemingway's cheek-bones are just as close to her eyebrows as they were in Manhattan. It's safe to say that if Hemingway starred in her own blue-collar sitcom called Mariel, and they wanted a guest star to present a positive image of a lesbian, they wouldn't have picked on someone the shape of Roseanne.

In Public Eye (BBC 2), the middle classes were shocking rather than shocked. This consistently nagging series, which reports on social issues from the frontline, is one of the few investigative strands that still puts information before entertainment. Through no fault of its own, some issues have yielded stories that are more verbally than visually enlightening; but the battle of Britain's bypasses was a telegenic gift, the force for preservation bringing about an alliance between the Tory-voting bourgeoisie and shaggy ranks of New Age travellers.

Public Eye had obviously decided to have fun with this one. To illustrate that a lawyer was working overtime on the issue, there was even a sped-up sequence as he tackled his paperwork. In case you don't know the programme, this is about as probable as The Word running a report on the Uruguay round of Gatt.

There's something very egalitarian about a road-building project: it buggers up the lives of everyone. The shot of an old gent under a brolly bellowing 'No violence]' at the police as they dragged away an unwashed human road-barrier summed up the antitheses within this protest movement. So did the sight of the Marchioness of Worcester greeting a hairy hunk in a campsite with a hug.

One of the main aims of direct action protest (apart from trying to spare various areas of outstanding natural beauty from the M11, A36 and A27) is to advise the government that New Age Tories vote Liberal Democrat.

The programme tended to overplay the middle-class angle: frankly, quite a lot of the protesters seemed to be plain upper-class. But then they have been known to put a cross against the Conservative candidate too.

The report described it as an alliance between 'the well-heeled and the well- intentioned', although a more apposite encapsulation would make reference to ownership: some protesters believe the countryside belongs to everyone, others have bits of paper stating that it belongs to them.