Television Review

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The Independent Culture
WHAT MUST it be like to be young, free and in social classes ABC1? Just to be so wanted - to know that everybody would like a piece of you. To walk past a newsagent and see the style magazines signalling wildly "It's you we want - read us", or switch on the television and find that everything is aimed at you personally. When you're young and financially uncommitted, you need never feel lonely.

How this feels for everybody else is another matter. If you're over 60, you can get a little buzz of flattery from switching on Channel 4 in the afternoon and catching the adverts for cheap life insurance without a medical examination. Otherwise, the quest for the yuppie vote can get rather galling.

For one thing, you have to put up with programmes like Spin City (C4), a sitcom that's only claim on anybody's attention - apart from the powerful Michael J Fox fanbase - is its savvy, hip veneer. Fox plays Mike Flaherty, deputy mayor of New York, whose life is a whirl of press conferences. In theory, this is a smart, insider's view of politics; in practice, it's an under-powered, stereotype-driven comedy. Last night's episode contained one likeable aside - planning a photo-op at the zoo, the mayor wonders whether the penguins wouldn't lend a touch of formality - but otherwise it tended to confirm the theory that you should never trust a sitcom in which the star shares a first name with his character.

The problem of yuppie love extends beyond the media. Two out of the three films that made up The Pull of the City (BBC2) have argued that courting the affluent young can have serious social side-effects. On Monday, Harvey Molotch showed how the regeneration of New York's inner city has been largely financed by businesses in search of money making opportunities. There have been obvious benefits in terms of, for instance, the recolonisation of public spaces - semi-derelict parks have been made clean and safe. The downside has been the replacement of public spaces by private ones. One street vendor talked about the way that some pavements in Manhattan have become militarised zones, patrolled by private security guards who move on anybody who doesn't look right. The young and smart have flocked back into parts of New York; but the poor are increasingly marginalised, shut out from society and its cashflow.

Last night, George Monbiot observed similar processes taking place in London - the cultural diversity of Spitalfields, for example, has attracted a new, fashionable crowd. But in their wake has come big business, driving up prices and driving out the people who made the area interesting in the first place. This sounds like a problem; but Monbiot's diagnosis made little sense. He wanted organic, self-regulating development; but he wanted it limited by legislation to control property prices. And underlying this there seemed to be an assumption that there are two kinds of money - the good kind, which comes with tattoo studios and graphic designers, and the bad kind, which comes with banks and lawyers. On occasion, Monbiot is a thoughtful commentator; here he came across as having read one too many style magazines. The young and fashionable strike again.

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