Television Review

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The Independent Culture
SOME OF THE statistics thrown at you by Office Affairs (ITV) confirmed the old adage: there are lies, damned lies, and men boasting about how many women they've had. In this cautionary study of sex in the workplace, we met a cartoon Lothario who fondly recalled sowing his wild oats in a bingo hall. He itemised the women he had slept with like someone stocktaking sacks of flour. He couldn't quite remember why he had slept with number one: "Must have been something there because I kept going back for more. Maybe it's just because she had big tits." Sex with number four "was dead borin'. And the other people that worked there that had sex with her said the same thing anyway."

Market research of sex in the workplace is an imprecise science. According to one statistic, which this film used as a battering ram into the territory, 80 per cent of people have had an affair at work. If you marry that with the claim that 56 per cent of men have had sex with a colleague, that means that either a lot of men at work are doing it with one another or some women are very busy.

We met a secretary in a little black skirt who, having been very busy indeed, tended to confirm the latter diagnosis. I'd love to be a fly on the wall watching jaws drop the next time she's up for a job interview. She described herself as "the type of girl to give anything a go", where anything included have serial affairs with colleagues either married or about to be. In her estimation she's a release valve for pressurised executives, and her activities help to keep the divorce rate down. She would have been a safe person to pass the cigars round in the Oval Office.

You could tell she had no regrets because, like the bingo hall study, she was interviewed smugly lounging on a bed. The imbalance of this film was that it managed to listen only to people with a clear conscience. And most of those were women. The key players in office affairs are married men who drop their trousers for casual gratification, but there was no man in Office Affairs to tell us what it was like to have his fingers burnt by his own genitalia. Only two other men were interviewed, and they were hardly representative. There was a bus driver who, almost honourably, postponed sex with a colleague until after they had made the decision to desert their families and marry. And we heard from a wounded ex-husband whose wife had left him to live with a colleague, taking the house and the kids with her.

An unofficial finding of the programme is that a lot of workplace romances seem to involve drivers. Apart from the two bus drivers, there was the train guard who got the sack for writing erotic missives to a train driver she idolised, while a female security guard told of her affair with a married colleague. They were both drivers and enjoyed trysts in the back of a delivery van. The film took its stylistic prompt from the sheer tackiness that attends most office affairs - stolen caresses at the water dispenser, writhing on the table in the boardroom. So when you heard about the security guards, you thought, oh no, they're not going to illustrate her story with a shot of a bouncing van, are they? Oh yes they were. It's called making the beast with two catalytic converters.

According to Office Affairs, 41 per cent of married men have had sex with a colleague. I wonder how many them watching with their wives lobbied to flick over to the Horizon (BBC2) report on sex and drugs. Impotence may make bad viewing for men, too, but at least it's not their fault. The second half of this fascinating film about the discovery and development of Viagra moved onto the murky area of female sexual dysfunction, the causes of which remain much less understood. Here was scientific evidence to match the anecdotal evidence in Office Affairs: it's a man's world. The computer graphics, by the way, were just that. Graphic.

And so, with some relief, to Nigel Slater's Real Food Show (C4), which was completely free of sexual allusions or imagery or suggestiveness. Apart from the bit where Nigella Lawson massaged butter and oil into a plump chicken.

Thomas Sutcliffe is away

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