Television Review

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The Independent Culture
THE TV INTERVIEW special has given us some of the most glutinous moments in the history of sycophancy. Think of those Barry Norman programmes in which Hollywood actresses like Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathleen Turner got fawned over to such an extent that they were almost wiping the dribble off their shoes. Or graveyard-slot fodder like (deep breath) Clive James Meets the Calendar Girls. If programme planners clear aside an hour in the schedules for a red-blooded anchorman to get personal with some glamorous female star, they have to be prepared for a small festival of libidinous male indignity. Johnny Meets Madonna (C4) would have been like that, I'm sure, if Ms Ciccone had let her inquisitor have his way. However, she kept him on a short choke-chain.

In case you don't know, Johnny Vaughan is the twinkly eyed, broken-nosed Barnet-born barrow-boy who shares the Big Breakfast sofa with Denise Van Outen (though not for much longer, apparently). On his early morning show, he bounces along in that revved-up berlad mode which has made him a sacred idol of Pub Men all over Britain. Allowed to stay up late to meet Madonna, he was on his best behaviour, asking slightly cheeky questions and then retreating when his interviewee began to bristle. And he was right to do so: the 40-year-old star wasn't taking any nonsense from a chit of a thing like Vaughan. With her curtains of cow-brown hair and zip-up beige leather outfit, she seemed to have come along to the interview as Uma Thurman in The Avengers - which suggested that one dumb move on Vaughan's part might result in a frenzy of potentially disabling aikido.

As an interviewee, she was unpredictable, opening proceedings by passing comment on her host's vowels. "Nice accent," she said, making an expression that suggested she was about to puke into the flower arrangement. And for the next hour or so, she oscillated between this I'll-vomit-any-second-now face and sudden shrieks of coquettish laughter. What her real attitude to him was, I've no idea.

Vaughan's line of inquiry was rather less surprising. If he wanted to reinvent himself as the Jeremy Isaacs of the Reebok-wearing classes, he has some way to go. Most of the questions he posed were not even his own. In order not to incur the wrath of Madonna, he asked her things which had been suggested to him earlier that day by members of the public. Even with this device to hide behind, his nerve still failed him. A pre-recorded sequence showed a scruffy middle-aged man chatting to Vaughan on the street, urging him to find out which of Madonna's lovers was the best in bed. (I'm not sure why he wanted to know this - perhaps he couldn't make up his mind whether to try to cop off with Sean Penn or Warren Beatty.) Johnny was delighted with the suggestion. "Yeah! Who's the best shaaaaag?" he rephrased, bellowing into the man's face. However, back in the hotel suite with Madonna, all this bravado was diluted to the more polite, but hideously cheesy inquiry, "Who do you think - by reputation or personal experience - is the world's hottest lover?" Madonna paused. "Oh dear," she said, as if Vaughan was a puppy who, in the general air of excitement, had forgotten his house-training. Then it was time for the ad break.

Leonardo DiCaprio (C5) was the subject of the latest in the channel's series of unofficial star biographies, and owed its less toadying air to a reliance on interview material shot when DiCaprio was still making naff TV sitcoms. However, if you want to get to the bottom of a star, truffling through their embarrassing off-cuts is probably the best way to do it. And, on the evidence of this documentary, there are plenty of people who want to get to Leonardo's bottom. One devoted disciple recited this tribute: "His silky blond hair/Which reminds me of the sun./His sparkling blue eyes/And that cute sexy bum./ I don't just like him for his face./His talents, too, like in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"

The story told by the clips was one of a boy blessed with supernatural ease in front of a camera, who might be approaching some terrible moment of hubris. For all its tabloid tone, the quality of its analysis was no less incisive that your average edition of Omnibus.

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