Small Screen: Mamet makes light work of his cutting art

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The Independent Culture
Hard work is no stranger to David Mamet or his audiences. A first novel, The Village, will soon join a rich body of work for the stage (Oleanna, The Cryptogram) and screen (The Verdict, The Postman Always Rings Twice) on the American writer's CV, while his pared-down, 'cut-and-cut-again' scripts demand both attention and reaction. So too his conversation: an old New York speakeasy is an appropriate setting for Sunday's South Bank Show (10.45pm ITV), a confident, provocative discussion with Melvyn Bragg of Mamet's essential themes and influences. From directing the screen version of Oleanna, a controversial study of sexual harassment, to method acting and plot structure, the stream of direct and intelligent comment is interrupted only by revealing extracts from stage and screen work. It is refreshing, too, that unlike many South Bank interviewees, he makes his art sound simple.

Look who's chatting

Late-night TV's husky maiden, Mariella Frostrup, is to get her own chatshow . . . albeit briefly. Look Who's Talking with Mariella Frostrup (11.10pm Mon Carlton only) will last for three editions (presumably, in case she fails to graduate from movie armchair to chatshow couch) and will be unique in that it boasts a format modelled on the personality and charm of its host. Like Mariella it will, Carlton promises, be 'sassy and intelligent, sexy and provocative'. Recorded on the evening of transmission, the show is billed as a 'Jonathan Ross-style' mix of upfront chat and music, but with the emphasis on reacting to news and the weekend's talking-points. Guests are said to include a weighty line-up of politicians, writers, actors and, yes, pop stars. What with riot girl Germaine Greer and Esther 'Oprah' Rantzen's new shows looming, in addition to Ricki Lake, Crystal Rose, Gloria and Vanessa, the all-women airtime assault is gathering pace. Perhaps a certain much-derided male BBC1 Saturday-night chatshow host should return in a new guise . . . with The Daniella Baker Show.

Quizzical assignment for veteran newscaster

Congratulations Philip Hayton. The highly respected BBC newscaster, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, the Ethiopian famine, Beirut, Northern Ireland, South Africa and the Falklands, has accepted a new challenge . . . presenting the daytime general-knowledge quiz-show, The Great British Quiz (1.50pm Mon BBC1). As the young reporter dodged bullets on the Falls Road circa 1974, it can hardly have occured to him that one day he would be asking housewives from Lincoln to name three varieties of English apple. Says Philip: 'It's an interesting new venture for me . . . It's refreshing to be doing something away from the death and disaster of the news.' Hayton clearly draws inspiration from a fine tradition of news transfers - Angela Rippon to Masterteam, Kenneth Kendall to Treasure Hunt and Michael Buerk to 999. Coming up: Peter Sissons presents the new series of The Word.

Contemporary heavy metal

Those who believe that the natural length for a new music performance should be, ooh say, about 10 minutes, will be very well pleased by Strings, Bows and Bellows, a new Sunday (8.50pm BBC2) blast of contemporary music presented by the trendy young British pianist Joanna MacGregor. Each of the 10 programmes focuses on a single piece from the likes of John Cage, Django Bates, Toru Takemitsu and Sofia Gubaiduliana, with instruments ranging from tin cans to the sound of a lion's roar. For the first outing, MacGregor performs Frederic Rzewski's 'Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues' in a flour mill on the Thames, creating a suitably mechanical backdrop to the work which is further emphasised by the positioning of a mini-camera behind the piano's hammers. You want avant-garde, you got it. . . . . .

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