Television Review: An Audience with the Bee Gees

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The Independent Culture
THE PLEASURE of LWT's "Audience with" strand lies less in the spotlighted celeb, than in spotting which B-listers are going to get their faces on screen. An Audience with the Bee Gees (Saturday) was wall-to-wall soap stars. Bianca from EastEnders danced round her handbag, accompanied by Walford neighbours Ricky and Mark, Fiona and Judy from Coronation Street, and Jackie Dixon out of Brookie.

Soap stars aside, the evening was the usual combination of scripted wit and toadying. The Bee Gees, who have had more reincarnations over the past 30 years than Shirley MacLaine has in a millennium, are on the up again, and the ranks of bouncing Ulrikas were whooping to prove it. I'm not sure, though, whether singing live is their best bet. No-one, surely, has ever thought that those falsettos were achieved with anything less than a full tank of helium, and the sight of the three wrinkled Gibbs squeaking "You Should be Dancing" was enough to make one a bit queasy.

And is it me, or are the questions becoming increasingly unchallenging? Ian Wright asked a question so bland I can't remember it even though I rewound it three times. And Rory Underwood asked if they had had any adventures on tour. Blimey. And what do you think of the Pinochet debacle, Maurice? Bill Wyman provided some light relief by asking if the Andrews Sisters had influenced them in any way, and Caroline Ahearne looked charmingly sour throughout. Chief joy for me, though, was the inadvertent sight of Boyzone's Ronan Keating straining to hold the tune of "Words" while that old pro, Barry Gibb, who had made way for his contribution, strained to keep a straight face.

Running concurrently, The Real Kaiser Bill (Saturday, C4), was equally disturbing. The First World War, like the Bee Gees, is sexy again, and the programmes commemorating the 80th anniversary of Armistice Day may well garner more viewers than the subject has attracted since the Sixties made war unfashionable. But, though it was cleverly made and included just enough potted history to stay this side of scandal, it sometimes seemed that the entire film had been based on propaganda efforts of an earlier era.

Wilhelm II had, apparently, a love-hate relationship with England that was heavily related to his conflicted feelings for his marginally British mother. He had a hang-up about being born with a withered arm (Richard III syndrome?). He was possibly a closet homosexual (an acquaintance dropped dead while dressed in a tutu on one of his men-only yacht cruises) and disloyal to boot, dropping his best friend like a hot spud when he was prosecuted for being gay. He was an anti-Semite and enjoyed reciting gruesome tales from the front. He was, in fact, a bogeyman.

Comforting to know that our evil figures continue to have no redeeming features. If there was a lesson to learn, though, I think it was this: don't let your German son meet his British cousins. The history of the 20th century might have been a whole lot different if Kaiser Bill hadn't had his Germanic inflexibility adulterated with a huge dose of British snobbery.

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