Television Review

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The Independent Culture
CHANNEL 4 was at it again last night, giving us yet more lectures. What is going on? Is it the subliminal influence of the Government? Certainly there is a Blairite quality to some of the channel's current output. In an apparent spirit of liberalism, it is taking on adult subjects, like sex and addiction, and then treating them in a nanny-knows-best-so-no- arguing manner.

Sex Bomb, which last night reached its rather tired climax, was a series of lectures on the theme of "Everything You Already Knew About Sex... And Were Afraid You Were About To Hear All Over Again". Still, at least it had some naughty pictures to look at. Hooked, which took the demon alcohol as its subject, was a lecture, pure and simple.

It got away with it up to a point, thanks mainly to the charm of its interviewees. Most of them were around 70 and talked with what is so rarely heard nowadays, a sense of breaking through reticence. But if the style could be savoured, the content was like a tonic water without ice or lemon. What it came down to was this: drink makes you drunk. Lots of drink makes you very drunk. A very great deal of drink makes you an alcoholic.

Stella, an elegant 74-year-old, was cast as the subject of a morality tale. Having started out enjoying a Scotch, just like you or I, she ended up a raving soak in an analyst's consulting rooms. If only Hooked had found someone who didn't look so well on it, we might have taken greater heed. Still, the final words of scolding commentary resounded: "The pleasures of drink have long carried with them the danger of excess and addiction, for both men and women."

What with all the black-and-white footage, the viewer had the sense of watching one of Mr Cholmondley-Warner's public information films. "See how attractive this lady looks, clasping her glass of intoxicating drink. But people of Britain: take heed. Her enchanting smile is in fact the heedless leer of an incurable lush."

While Channel 4 lectured on, Horizon (BBC2) got high on modernity. The documentary strand used to deliver its information in ways more boring than could be imagined, via scientists who looked like they could hum the whole of Dark Side of the Moon. This lot could have been film stars.

Last night's programme considered the question of ageing. Might genetic manipulation one day circumvent the process? Quite possibly, having already produced worms that are, in human terms, healthy 200-year-olds. All the bright-eyed scientists were thrilled by this. Yet somehow it was the sceptical Frenchman, for whom the processes of living and ageing were indistinguishable, rather than warring factions, whose philosophy offered the greater hope.

This Horizon was at its least compelling when its graphics were at their most excitable. Explaining the DNA structure of a cell cannot fail to be interesting, unless it is illustrated - visually and aurally - by inane repetitions of notes on a musical stave. This is the kind of thing you get in museums which fear they will lose their lottery grant unless they become "relevant". Someone - preferably David Attenborough - should explain to them the difference between childlike and childish.

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