TELEVISION / Tears, jerks and fakery: What happened when a daytime chat show was confronted by grim reality

IT WAS just another Good Morning with Anne and Nick (BBC1). Our rosy hosts - she in red, he in green, like the two halves of Snow White's lethal apple - were sitting on a sofa in their mock drawing-room beside their mock log fire with matching mock concern for their guests. Tracy, Les Dawson's young widow, was there reminiscing about her husband. She had brought baby Charlotte who, swaddled in salmon-pink ruffles, looked like the tonsilled interior of a giant sob, but Tracy herself had conspicuously failed to cry. Nick, a tear jerk of the first water, wasn't going to let her get away that easily. He jerked some more: 'Tracy, let's have another look at pictures of Les and you at home and can you just tell us how it affected you hearing him talk about dying?' Tracy cried. 'Lovely to talk to you.' In the fake kitchen, an excitable woman was cooking 'crusty breasts'. The daily horoscope began scudding across the bottom of the screen. Mine warned me to 'keep your distance from those who can't face reality'. While watching daytime television - are they kidding?

It was then that Teena Sams appeared on the guest couch. Slight and ashen, she was fluttering frantically like a bird in the hand. Her husband, Michael, had murdered Julie Dart and kidnapped Stephanie Slater, so she was a prime exhibit for the day's big theme - betrayal. Anne and Nick began a pincer movement: 'Surely you knew something was going on?' 'You didn't even have an inkling that there was something strange about his behaviour?' Mrs Sams, already hoarse with anxiety, grew fainter: 'I swear to the Lord I did not know.' 'You feel

terribly betrayed, don't you?' 'Yes, yes, I do.' Nick told Mrs Sams that Julie Dart's mother had just rung in to sayshe found it hard to believe her story. The microphone on Mrs Sams's blouse started picking up a sound like a sucking chest wound: she wailed her story again. Mrs Dart rang back to say she believed her now. 'Well, Mrs Sams, we must leave you there,' said Anne.

That's what she thought. No one had bargained for Stephanie Slater turning upat the studio to comfort Mrs Sams and discomfort the hosts. Presenterkind cannot bear too much reality: Anne and Nick may spend the best part of each morning encouraging people to open up, but when it really happens - the drowning wife clinging to the gentle shoulder of her husband's victim - they don't know where to look. 'I think she needs me, don't you?' 'I do Stephanie, I do.' Here was real emotion, you couldn't doubt it, but somehow it looked stranded and cheapened - and, yes, betrayed - by the fakery all around. Nick and Anne couldn't stand the heat, so it was back to the kitchen with David the singing troubadour for a bit of crusty breast. 'Quite a day for Teena Sams,' mused Nick between mouthfuls. He wound the show up with an appeal: 'If you guys out there know that you've been a bit of a rat and you want to get back into favour, write to us saying why you need David to serenade the lady in your life]' Step forward, Michael Sams.

From en suite barbarians to Civilisation (BBC2). In the week that an LWT announcer trumpeted that the South Bank Show would feature Margaret Atwood, a novelist who writes about 'enlarged breasts', Kenneth Clark's epic 1969 series was back to remind us that arts programmes had once appealed to the mind without first tickling the crotch. Its presenter would never have stooped to conquer but, as John Wyver's K: Kenneth Clark 1903-83 (BBC2) revealed, this was hardly the result of an egalitarian urge not to patronise viewers. Clark came from a class too busy pleasing itself to worry about pleasing others; it gave him a useful egotism, though, the kind that can attempt a synthesis of two millennia of art without shrinking at the audacity of it all. Watching the first few frames of Civilisation, the certainties of that patrician world now seem as remote as the hands that fashioned the cruel crone head for the Viking prow: its colours are faded, like embroidery left in the sun. The presenter doesn't look that hot either: trying to perch on a rock near an aqueduct in his dark suit and light kerchief, Clark has all the casual flair of Prince Charles. And yet, when he starts to speak - standing just across the Seine from Notre-Dame - the blend of eloquence and knowledge confirms him as one of the medium's great talking heads: 'What is civilisation? I don't know. I can't define it. But I think I can recognise it when I see it. (He turns to the symphony in stone across the river with a smile.) And I'm looking at it now.'

Wyver's portrait of Clark was dazzling but incomplete, rather like the man himself. Modern biography has a nasty habit of treating a life like a detective story, but here the leads from the past were followed up too little. Much of Clark's cuddle-free childhood - cheerily described by him as 'very agreeable . . . I was largely neglected by my parents' - was spent with a favourite book about the Louvre. Small wonder that when he grew up, he loved and trusted paintings more than people. Colin, Clark's younger son, bore lucid witness to his father as hermetically sealed aesthete: 'He found that art could give him tenderness and solace and energy and tranquillity and beauty without asking for anything in return.' Human beings proved less obliging. Clark's wife, the small, dark, beautiful Jane, was so crushed by his serial adultery that she 'had recourse to alcohol as an anaesthetic'. The same night, in the repeated Love Tory, we saw how Clark's elder son, Alan, treated his small, dark, beautiful wife, Jane: a clear inheritor of the gene marked heartless.

Clark the public, smiling man was a far more attractive figure. He was quick to see the power of television, and although to our eyes he is a prinking snob, to the snobs of his own generation he was a dangerous populariser: when he took charge of the ITA, he got hissed in the library of the Athenaeum. But he answered his critics by making the medium respectable, worthy to carry the noble message of art. Millions got it, but what about the messenger himself? You don't have to be Germaine Greer to spot the irony of Lord Clark standing beneath a Byzantine dome exalting the higher sensibility while, at home, Lady Clark drank herself into the lower insensibility.

Youdo have to be Germaine Greer to dress up in gymslip and school tie to attack Youthism in Bad Ideas of the Twentieth Century (C4), another good idea from the Without Walls team that brought us 'J'Accuse'. Greer is never less than interesting, although she is frequently more than irritating, having little inclination to stay in the same postal district as her original argument. Early in the programme, she told us that the First World War had triggered Youthism, later she told us it was the Sixties that had made age repulsive. Of late, Greer's work has looked increasingly like a dramatisation of her own predicament tricked out as the universal condition. What she doesn't understand is that a woman of 53 has to have a very high brow indeed to celebrate the arrival of crows' feet on it. The housewives we saw in a Chingford beauty parlour having their faces toned were not just there through vanity and fear, but through a small effort to do the best. This lack of basic human sympathy makes Greer a lousy reporter, but a great polemicist: who else would call both Yeats and Tony Blackburn as witnesses for the prosecution?

Inside Story's Rector versus Clinton (BBC1) was an instructive if melodramatic documentary about how a liberal man seeking high office in a reactionary country might allow a mentally subnormal black to be executed to prove he was leadership material. What you call the man after he has done that - apart from President - was a moot point. Though not as mute as poor Mr Rector, who has gone to that great Democrat paradise in the sky.

The other bad sight ofthe week was eager rhymesters responding to the day's events for Poets' News (BBC2). I found the best place to watch this was lying behind the sofa with a cushion over my face. It was probably inspired by Shelley's claim that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, but even Shelley would have had third thoughts hearing this lot with their tin ears and bound metrical feet. You thought the Somali people had endured every indignity until you heard Simon Rae's doggerel: 'The feeling was we can't stand by / And simply watch these people die. / But did that mean we should be / A self- appointed referee? . . . We always want to do what's right / Does sending troops in help - it might]'

Poetry is not in the business of taking Polaroids: it should be a long slow developer, raising images that we frame and keep. The way to get it to a wider audience is to take a leaf out of Lord Clark's book and give us the best there is. Last year was the centenary of Tennyson's death, but not a single television programme marked it. Raes may come and Raes may go, but he goes on forever.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
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.

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes