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
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
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.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable