Television Review

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The Independent Culture
WHEN YOU drop an apple, it obeys the law of gravity. When you drop a slice of buttered toast, the side it lands on is governed by the law of sod. When you drop in on your television, you observe the law of ubiquity at work. This law currently states that on any given weekday evening there is no getting away from Carol Smillie.

The secret of Smillie's omnipresence is that it is impossible to hate her, even if she has just cheerfully presided over the trashing of your entire kitchen-conservatory extension. There has never been a television personality with quite such a miserly bag of hate mail. I have a theory about Smillie which fully explains this: she is, in fact, the first cloned television presenter. Her inoffensiveness, that impeccable cocktail mixing two parts warmth to one part wryness, may as well be the laboratory- perfected result of detailed market research. It is as if a poll revealed that a random sample of couch potatoes said that they preferred their presenters to be female with an expensive but accessible hairdo, a face too quirky to be classically beautiful, a comforting Scottish accent and a grin the size of the Firth of Forth. A key element of this theory is in the name. Obviously Carol is the generic name for all female presenters. And as for Smillie, look no further than the seven dwarfs. They called her that so that she could have her own bespoke daytime chat show - now sadly discontinued - called Smillie's People.

Still, whenever one presenting opportunity disappears, another pops up. Which brings us to this week. In what may, admittedly, have been a freak week even by her standards, Smillie appeared on four different shows on four consecutive days. There was the standard frontage of Holiday Heaven (Tue, BBC1) in a racy but subdued leopard-print one-piece swimsuit and matching monochrome wrap. This was followed, as per usual, by Changing Rooms (Wed, BBC1), featuring the usual spotless DIY casuals. But then there was also a cameo appearance on The Truth about Soaps (Thurs, ITV), in which Smillie talked us through her appealing addiction to Coronation Street. And, to cap it all, the crowning accolade (and, for all we know, contractual right) due to anyone with more than 18 months' presentational experience: Carol Smillie, This Is Your Life (Mon, BBC1).

If we accept that Smillie is actually a real person, rather than a fantasy construct kitted out with a fictional past, then her life has been the perfect preparation for presenting Wheel of Fortune, The Travel Show, Holiday, Hearts of Gold, Midweek Lottery, The Wheel Show, Midweek Travel Gold, Holiday Hearts and other peaks of light entertainment.

Like everyone of her age with showbiz ambitions, at school she could do a passable impersonation of Frank Spencer, because without this important skill there was a time at the BBC when they would not even let you in the building. Her other impressive credential was the wretched attempt to build a career in modelling. Michael Aspel produced the hideous evidence in snaps which captured the essence of late-Eighties chic so perfectly that they just had to be fakes. It was the one moment all week when Smillie was not smiling.

You can tell that Smillie never made it as a model because she was not featured on Models Close-Up (Wed, C4). This was a video tour through David Bailey's address book. I suspect that Channel 4 only commissioned him on the strength of the cast list because, while there is absolutely nothing more to be said about the fashion industry, it is nice to have all the most famously beautiful women in the world saying it.

Bailey has spent much of his life thrusting his lens at said women. He has also spent much of his income divorcing some of them. One model he may be seeing less of in future is Naomi Campbell. Her former agent was invited by Bailey to list the reasons why he parted company with her. On the flip side, he did film her meeting Nelson Mandela. We saw her hugging him and enquiring whether she could call him grandfather. Well, at least she asked.

My favourite snapshot of the perfect vacuum inside a model's mind came, not in Bailey's film, but in the segment of Holiday Heaven that found Caprice on a yacht in the south of France. The name of the magazine she was reading on deck? Void.

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