Television Review

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The Independent Culture
MELINDA MESSENGER HITS HOLLYWOOD (Sun, ITV) really should have been called Hollywood Hits Melinda Messenger. As the surgically-augmented personality rushed from meeting to interview to audition, you could tell that encountering even greater shallowness than her own had the summary effect of a sharp blow to the head. "It's a whole 'nother world," she said, reeling. It's a whole 'nother language, too. "Right now," said a voice coach she had hired to prime her for an audition, "she's in a good space in terms of where she's at." Melinda couldn't have put it worse herself.

It doesn't do to toss the term around like confetti, but I think Messenger may be the first postmodern glamour model. She has a utilitarian relationship with her own implants, as if they're employees rather than body parts. Their job is to knock on doors - that's where they get the name from. After an interview with a lascivious shock jock, she complained that "he did go on about my breasts. But then what do I expect?" There's no other way to account for the coy artificiality of this film. It purported to be a diary of the week Messenger and her two "assistants" spent knocking on doors in the world capital of silicone and platinum. But, on a deeper level, it was actually a film about what it would be like to knock on those doors if you happened to be a blonde model with a continental shelf hemmed into your bra. After the appropriate surgery, it could easily have been presented by her fellow chat-show host, Clive James.

Messenger has no intention of becoming an actress, but for the purposes of her report, pretended to have aspirations. The only problem with this approach was that, precisely because she's not a very good actress, she did it rather badly. There was only one moment where truth seemed to seep through the carapace of pretence. An agent advised her that to make it in Hollywood she had to airbrush her boyfriend out of the picture. After the meeting, she was greeted by said boyfriend, a cheerful cross between Bobby Ewing and Pontypridd. When he asked her how it had gone she bit her lip and, pensively, lied. Only one week in Hollywood, and she was already going native.

How to Make a Movie (Fri, BBC2) claimed that there has never been a better time to make movies in Britain. It then showed that it's still like clambering up a mud slide wearing flippers. We followed one first-time producer on the Melinda trail, traipsing disconsolately around the begging- bowl circuit in Hollywood. Later we discovered that not one of the people he pitched his script to actually read it.

The message of the first part of this entertaining series is that there is a topography of optimism unique to fledgling film-makers. Part of that optimism is the willingness to participate in programmes like this in the hope that it might, just might, lead to something. In the absence of a script, two other aspiring film-makers had decided to hawk their idea around in the form of a trailer. But first they had to find the money to make the trailer. "It must look like this has been cut from a fully-funded motion picture," explained one of them. This is like jumping out of a plane with a handkerchief for a parachute, with the additional rider that you must remortgage your property to finance the making of the handkerchief.

Apparently that's how the Coen brothers started. Maximum Bob (Sun, BBC2), a comedy set in a Neanderthal backwater of Florida called Deepwater, could have been made by the Coens. It has its origins in a novel by Elmore Leonard, but has hung a left at the sign marked Weird 'n' Wacky and fetched up somewhere satisfyingly near Twin Peaks. The eponymous judge, played with relish by Beau Bridges, has a reputation as a local Draco who overpunishes miscreants for piffling violations. Well worth watching, unlike the bulk of the Clinton testimony starring the disembodied voice of Maximum Ken. The only moment of genuine drama came at the mention of the word "cigar", when a look of terror flitted in and out of the President's eyes. It wasn't so different from the face of the defendant on parole in Maximum Bob when sentenced to the electric chair for under-age drinking. There's only so much comedy in breaking a butterfly upon a wheel.

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