Television Review: The Young Person's Guide to Becoming a Rock Star

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The Independent Culture
EVERYONE WANTS to be Danny Boyle and John Hodge these days. It's dangerous, though, to invite comparisons. The Young Person's Guide to Becoming a Rock Star (C4) did so at trailer stage by presenting us with mugshots of the main characters, with hash marks appended, an obvious lift from the posters for Trainspotting which every PR agency in the land used for their Christmas 1996 party invitations, and a tough analogy for the poor writer, Bryan Elsley, to live up to.

Still, once you'd seen it, there was no way to shed certain expectations. And just as every "yoof" TV spectacular had the requisite scene of someone bleeding all over the back of a car a la Reservoir Dogs, so scratchy, glib titles and punchy opening monologues are bound to be a feature of Britprogs for a few years yet. Jez (played by Ciaran McMenamin), lead singer of Glaswegian hopefuls Jocks Wa-Hey, provided one such: "Getting to the top: how's it done? I mean, when you're a kid, everybody wants to be famous, to be in a band, make millions, shag themselves senseless, grab a place in history..." Choose life, Jez. Choose life.

Okay, so I'm carping. Though Young Person's Guide bore some obvious similarities to Trainspotting, and even, in its portrayal of 12-year-old girls as wise connoisseurs of voyeurism, to that earlier Scottish smash, Gregory's Girl, it also had its own virtues. Elsley's writing is smart and snappy, his characters attractive (in a sick sort of way) and amusing, and director Sheree Folkson, when she wasn't getting hysterical with camera angles, had an impressively confident and pacy touch.

And it was very funny. There were moments which wrung bellows of laughter from these cynical old lungs such as the opening credits, featuring Jez, in his grots, incipient belly poking out, miming to "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" while his heavy metal dad growled "Dr Hook, the boy's a poof!" downstairs. The sign on the DSS door reading "Special Measures Department: cruel to be kind". The perpetually petulant expressions on the face of guitarist Joe (Nicola Stapleton). Apparently, they're going all the way to celebrity cameos and vast debts. I might be following.

If anyone's familiar with wealth and bringing ghastly interior design ideas to fruition, it's the staff of Hello! magazine. Cutting Edge: Hello! Hello! (C4) did its best to give us an amusing expose of the celebrity suck-up weekly, but was only partially successful. Those who work there may have had humour bypasses (the interviewer asked: "People who work on Hello!: do they see it as ironic?" to which editor Maggie Kuomi replied "Why would they see it as ironic?"), but they are also so skilled in presenting things in the best possible light that it was hard to break through the armour.

Still, it was good to be reminded that Hello! is still trying to prop up its circulation with front covers such as "1997: the first Christmas without Diana". And the fact that the notorious fixer, The Marquessa, was not only responsible for setting up the Gazza-Sheryl wedding album, but was also a doppleganger for a woman who sold me a bra in Debenhams last week, was enough to make it a satisfying experience.