Television Review

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The Independent Culture
"A LOT OF PEOPLE take an instant dislike to me," Corinne said, bemused, "...and I don't know why because I'm only doing a job." There was ample evidence in last night's Inside Story (BBC1) to support her view that people don't like her - at one point, a man slunk past her with a muttered "See ya, slut". "He doesn't like me," Corinne added, to put paid to any ambiguity.

It can't help that Corinne's job is being a bailiff, seizing cars and three-piece suites to pay off council-tax bills in the Leeds area - as she admitted herself, nobody is happy when the bailiff calls. But Corinne did herself less than justice when she said she was only doing a job; it's a job in which she takes a lively satisfaction: "I meet a lot of arrogant people... and we knock them down a peg or two."

Robert Burns once expressed a wish that some "Pow'r the giftie wad gie us to see oursels as others see us", which probably seemed quite reasonable at the time, but didn't take into account the rise of the television documentary. Now practically anybody can have all their foibles spread out in front of them, and in front of a few million other people who really didn't have to know any of this, and you would have to be remarkably thick-skinned to find this an easy experience. Still, after seeing Corinne in "The Bailiffs Are Coming", I have to admit the possibility that thick-skinned is exactly what she is.

Supposing she isn't, though, Corinne might have been able to pick up one or two pointers from Richard Taylor and Ian Stuttard's film as to just why it is that people don't take to her. To begin with, she is an aggressive operator, at least compared with Mark, her domestic as well as her business partner. Mark had been to one address they visited in last night's film 14 times before; each time he'd knocked on the door, waited a bit and gone away. Corinne wasted no time: she pulled out an extending ladder, climbed up it and rapped on the bedroom windows until the owner opened the front door.

She could probably get away with it if her manner was a little more soothing, if she worked harder on the small-talk. Unfortunately, she regarded "I'm coming in your house and seizing your goods" as an acceptable conversational opening. Over the years, the couple have been attacked with hammers, threatened with shooting, their van has been kicked, and Mark was once assaulted by a one-legged man. "In Preston," he added, as if that explained something.

One thing about Corinne, though: she didn't give much sympathy, but she didn't ask for any, either. At her home, the camera lingered on her collection of ceramic knickknacks - little clusters of green and blue terriers and bunnies; and later we were taken to see her singing Patsy Cline to a karaoke machine. She didn't deserve to be patronised like that.

Blood on the Carpet (BBC2) continued to provide an acceptable alternative to badger-baiting and throwing Christians to the lions. Last week we got a morality tale that anybody could understand - mean, rich old Haagen- Dazs forced to cry "Uncle" by kindly, hippyish Ben and Jerry. This week, sympathies were more evenly divided. "The Frocky Horror Show" followed the stormy relationship between Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed Diana's wedding dress, and Shami Ahmed, the multi-millionaire entrepreneur behind Joe Bloggs. When her business backers went bust, she asked him if he would be interested in taking over. Ahmed, eager to break into a classier market, agreed, and at first looked like the handsome prince coming to her rescue. She, of all people, ought to have known that handsome princes never turn out to be what you expect. His palace was a grim-looking office block in Wembley, where he wanted her to relocate for reasons of economy. The relationship was soon on the rocks.

This was a thoroughly British saga of class antagonism. She despised him as a crass populist ("You're talking about a man who thinks the biggest thing ever is to design diamond- encrusted jeans and he thinks that's classy"), he despised her as a middle- class airhead. The partnership is now over. She has her freedom, he has her name, at least for the moment. Ahmed's Elizabeth Emanuel range is now aimed at women in their late thirties - the kind who go for pizza and chips with a bottle of chardonnay on a Friday night. Is it me, or does that sound like revenge?