Television review

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The Independent Culture
Crossing the Floor began with a Conservative minister silencing a persistent journalist with the aid of an electric stun gun - a scene that may well have drawn a longing sigh from more than one politician. Apart from that fantasy of retaliation there were few other consolations on offer to members of either party - except for gallows laughter or subversive sniggering. Conservatives, readying themselves for Bournemouth's week of the living dead, might have grimaced bravely at this vivid sketch of a government on life support, while grumpier Labour members will have relished the sharp caricature of the media machiavels that notionally run the party. For the rest of us there was the fantasy of an election, provoked by the shock defection of David Hanratty, the reptilian Home Secretary first introduced to viewers in Guy Jenkin's earlier political farce, A Very Open Prison. Hanratty halts in mid-prevarication during a Commons debate and declares for the opposition, an apparently unpremeditated stroke of conscience for which he has, of course, carefully prepared - securing guarantees of a safe seat and a place in the cabinet. He reassures his shocked wife that his action has involved no large betrayal of principle: "You don't have to worry - their policies are exactly the same as ours now." That was a pretty dull joke - the sort of thing that ageing taxi- drivers pass on as scorching wit - but the writing sharpened up later. "Jules - did `vibrant' pass the marketing survey?" asks the Labour puppet- master, as he is briefing their newest recruit on the party's official adjectives. Later he interrupts one of the Labour leader's robotic homilies to remind him that the demographics indicate he should always replace "I think" with "I feel". "I already say `I feel'," sneers the Labour deputy, a sceptical Old Labour bruiser. "Yes, you should say `I think', " replies the unfazed spin-meister.

Jenkins had also taken the risk of letting some real emotions into the thing with the last-minute death of Hanratty's wife, an event that allows for a surprisingly touching joke about his shock: "Your wife's been killed," he's told. "Will she live?" he asks, not yet taking it in. The event finally prompts him to decency - for about three minutes, before his political cunning reasserts itself and he spots an election-winning photo opportunity. Altogether very enjoyable.

Channel 4 began a season of programmes about fame with a mixed bag of films. I'm Your Number One Fan's principle insight into the subject was its demonstration of the lengths to which people will go to make a name for themselves as a director. In order to give itself an air of jittery mania, Jaine Green's film had ripped off the title sequence from the Hollywood thriller Seven - all mad scrawls and slipping sprocket holes. Once the initial irritation had faded, this struck me as an inventive touch, nicely pursued ("End of Part One" had been replaced with the menacing "It's not over yet"). So it was dismaying to find that she had also put her conscience into storage for the project. I am sure that Blue Tulip Rose Read, an unfortunate woman who has conceived a passion for the DJ Mike Read, was perfectly happy to be filmed flailing in orgasmic pleasure as she listened to the radio or barking like a musical dog. Indeed, she can now buttress her delusion with a video of this film, in which she shares a screen with the object of her affections. But any sentient viewer will have been aware of the ethical questions raised by the scenes. The director hadn't bothered to answer them - the freak-show was too good to pass up, even if it left the freaks more disturbed than ever. The only cinematic device missing from The Vanishing of Richey Manic was a final credit reading "Un film de Stuart Clarke". Jimmy jibs, steadicams, and yards of visible dolly track had all been employed to add a baleful visual lustre to this account of a disappearing rock star. It worked for me, as did the subject - a man escaping from fame into an even greater celebrity - the endless stardom of unexplained departure.

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