Tammy Faye, in case the name doesn't ring any bells, is an American televangelist who, with her former husband, Jim Bakker, ran the PTL (Praise the Lord) network until it collapsed in the mid-1980s, amid scandals about adultery, drug addiction and fraud. Most people's opinion of her soul is probably not very high. Everybody likes to poke fun at televangelists, for the excesses of bad taste and self-gratification of which they are commonly guilty, and for the hypocrisy they seem to exemplify.
This documentary, from the people who brought you Jon Ronson on the Ku Klux Klan, showed a streak of mild sadism. Some of this was purely passive - she was allowed to recite at length from a poem she had written encapsulating the misery of her present life ("`What does it matter?' to myself I say/My hair is blonde, and dry like hay/And I'm too tired to even pray"); some of it was more pro-active, like the pair of squeaky-voiced fluffy glove- puppets who handled the continuity announcements, a self-indulgent mockery of the ones Tammy was famous for using on her broadcasts.
All the same, the programme was even-handed enough, or perhaps careless enough, to show that they were not entirely the simple-minded, Bible-bashing tools of Satan you might expect. At the height of their popularity, when PTL was bringing in millions a week and their religious theme park was the USA's third largest tourist attraction, Tammy was calling on viewers to reach out and embrace people with Aids, even the gay ones. After the fall, and her divorce from Jim, she presented a talk show with a gay co-host, who offered a rather two-edged tribute to her qualities as a survivor: "After the holocaust, there will be roaches, Tammy Faye and Cher." She came across, finally, as tacky and self-dramatising, but possibly soft-hearted and, I'd guess, no hypocrite: just weak, like the rest of us.
Human, All Too Human (BBC2), the first of three programmes about influential philosophers, was a laudably sober and concentrated skip through the life and work of Friedrich Nietzsche. He, you may recall, said that God was dead - this announcement was dramatised in a faintly Chris Morris-ish sequence, with a figure in a monk's cowl striding about a small German town asking the burghers if they knew where God was, and getting understandably embarrassed shrugs of the shoulders in response. Nietzsche also castigated Christianity as the religion of pity, an emotion he didn't have a lot of time for. What Nietzsche would have made of weak-willed, Bible-quoting Tammy Faye, God only knows. Or rather would, if he wasn't dead. You know what I mean.Reuse content