TELEVISION / Graduates of the school of hard knocks

TEN YEARS ago Jeff Perks made a film about 'knockers', East End lads who scraped a thin living for themselves, and a fatter one for their organisers, by selling rubbish door to door. It was a portrait, in the middle of the Eighties boom, of the grubbier fringes of enterprise; whatever else you might think about them, the film suggested, at least these young men were getting on their bikes (though, in this case, the bike happened to be a rusty transit van packed with household goods). The tone was affectionately complicit - OK, so they exploited people's charitable instincts in order to sell junk (part of the proceeds notionally went to help the mentally disabled) but that's all part of the game, innit?

Last night, in Cutting Edge (C4), the director went back to find out what had happened to them all. There were some lucky ironies (in the old film the boys set off from beneath a large banner announcing the 'London Enterprise Zone'; 10 years later the warehouse in the background is still disused, though the priapic tip of Canary Wharf can be glimpsed above the roofline) and there were ironies Perks had worked hard to get in. Cutting from a young man pitching worthless dusters to a shot of the same man 10 years later trying to get work for the bands on his record label, he suggested that there was no real difference. 'It set me in good stead for the real world of knockers,' said one contributor, recalling his days on the doorstep.

It would certainly stand you in good stead for the world of documentary film- making, which involves its own dubious practices of packaging and passing off. Perks showed he was no slouch at this in the earlier film, which included a staged fight between rival gangs of knockers that looked as if it had been filmed by David Lean, rather than a single surprised cameraman in the middle of a nasty scrap. Ten years on he appears to have gone legit, though last night's film was a little reticent about those whose lives didn't match the film's desired message of 'knocking by another name'. You got a lot more of the record-label executive (who had hustled his way to a small swimming-pool in the back garden) than you did of the taxi- driver who had worked at the knowledge.

The film was absolutely candid, though, about the way the years weigh on people. In 1983 these boys had no future but they lived from day to day anyway, so didn't appear to have noticed. Ten years on they've discovered the sour pleasures of foresight. It wasn't all bleak - one has trained as a photographer and is building a career as a photo-journalist, another has gone into acting - but the song on the credits ('Enjoy yourself / It's later than you think') had a decidedly mournful edge to it.

One of the current cliches on BBC 2 is the elaborate gag about secret crannies of Television Centre. Some basement corridor is dolled up with cobwebs and spooky lighting and we're asked to share the conceit that this is where television programmes are sent when they're naughty or where out of work DJs live out the rest of their natural.

The latest (and I hope the last) manifestation of this self-regarding device forms the framework for Inside Victor Lewis-Smith (BBC2), an attempt to transmit, in conditions of relative safety, the volatile humour of the BBC's home-grown media terrorist.

St Reith's (basement corridor dolled up with vaguely medical appurtenances) purports to be a hospital for those incurably damaged by working in television. Some of the details have the right acidity ('The Frank Bough Memorial Zip Injury Wing' for instance) but for the most part all this just interrupts what Lewis-Smith is best at - a hilarious projectile spew of music-hall groaners and wild connections. His five-contributions to TV Hell were the funniest things broadcast last year but that was at least partly due to the fact that they were come and gone like a ram-raider through Dixon's window. There are more laughs here than in most half-hour comedies but it still feels a little as though he's got a wheel-clamp on.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?