TELEVISION / Match making: James Rampton reviews the best of the weekend's programmes
Monday 21 September 1992
Barry Hines's script was rather like the England football team; pacy, intermittently skilful, but far too predictable (football chauvinism is a pitch already well marked by the studs of The Manageress and The Comic Strip.) Before you could say 'Gazza', Roxy was being doorstepped by the tabloids and an old fogey football club director (complete with regulation three-piece suit and watch-chain) was spluttering about Cosmo billboards replacing Daily Telegraph ones. 'Where's it going to end? They'll be in the boardroom if we're not careful.' And didn't you see the joke about Roxy not wanting to swap shirts at the end of a game coming from several football pitches away?
Director Mandie Fletcher gave the material the oomph of an end-to-end local derby, but too often resorted to rock video storytelling techniques - fast cuts between Roxy dolls, and appearances in Hello] and on Wogan (this was a period film as well as a fantasy), all to the sound of 'Holding out for a Hero'. She also displayed a weakness for rather obvious images. Just after Roxy started an affair with the (married) chairman, they were seen standing on an escalator together behind a nun. And, all the while, we saw suspiciously little of 'the most promising talent since Georgie Best' in action - perhaps not surprisingly, as, for one scene, Barker is said to have needed 36 attempts before finally beating the goalkeeper.
Dame Edna's Neighbourhood Watch (ITV Saturday), a sort of Through the Keyhole from Hell, was much more accomplished at hitting the target. Dame Edna took to the gameshow like a possum to a pouch. She already dresses more dazzlingly than most gameshow hosts and comes with a ready-made catchphrase - 'it's spooky' - which elicted a Nuremberg Rally response from the audience.
Like Julian Clary, Edna is at her best engaging in free intercourse with punters, rather than being bound to a set script (as anyone who saw her dire feature film outing, Sir Les Patterson Saves the World, would testify). When she said 'Oh, you have a lovely interior,' you guessed what was coming ('as my gynaecologist always says'), but it was no less amusing for all that. As with sex, the pleasure of Dame Edna lies as much in the anticipation as the pay-off.
It is some kind of testament to his popularity that the shadow of Jeremy Beadle hangs over every light entertainment show. As Edna probed and penetrated her contestants' inner sanctums - even uncovering a place where one kept chewing gum for re-cycling - it struck you that the only real difference between Dame Edna's Neighbourhood Watch and Beadle's About is that Edna is funny. A punch in the face hurts less if you are laughing at the time.
The Brain Drain (BBC2 Saturday), the latest offering from the ubiquitous Hat Trick Productions, no doubt had people laughing, too. For this 'antidote to Question Time', Jimmy Mulville had obviously attended classes at the Angus Deayton/Clive Anderson School of Cynical Hostmanship. He offered a first prize of 'Me and My Paint' by Rolf Harris and observed, 'That was our last round . . . There is a God.'
But for all its evident gifts, a line-up featuring Mulville, Paul Merton, Willie Rushton, Dawn French and Tony Hawks did slightly have the feeling of a meeting of the Heads of the Five Families. Hat Trick is fast becoming comedy's cosy nostra and Merton's very first contribution here was an old chestnut regurgitated from Have I Got News for You? Television does not suffer over- exposure gladly. Young guns can all too easily turn into old lags.
No sign of any old lags on the catwalks featured in The Look (BBC2 Sunday). The first of six programmes on the fashion industry was like a moving catalogue, stuffed with supermodels (definition: the sole people on earth capable of looking drop-dead beautiful in a Baco-foil catsuit) who are rapidly becoming more famous than the designers whose clothes they parade. To its credit, The Look did not just unquestioningly ogle the women or the designers. 'Armani,' noted the commentary sharply at one point, 'whose creed 'less is more' applies to everything except the price tag.'
Gina and Jeremy Newson's camera had the knack of catching society women with their fireproof grins down. 'You're an absolute animal,' shrieked one as she emerged from a scrum of socialites outside a show. Apart from a fixation with trying to shoot the catwalk reflected in a pair of sun-glasses, the film played it admirably straight. They had obviously not been ensnared in the fashion PR machine, which has the power to shred journalists who do not toe the hem line.
We were, unfortunately, denied potentially the most entertaining programme of the weekend, when the beleaguered Secretary of State for National Heritage, David Mellor, pulled out of the rigorous Channel 4 talk show, Answering Back. His diary was too full apparently.
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