TELEVISION REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
"Cor, I tell you - the knobbles are doing it for me" said Matthew Kelly. The audience roared. Knobbles, I ask you - he is a one. He was lying prone on something that looked like a curvaceous plate rack, in fact a wooden device for stretching the spine and massaging the muscles. This had been invented by a young Royal Marine, invalided out of the service by a chronic back condition. Rather than slumping in despair, he pulled back his shoulders and set about designing a better back bender. They didn't actually say whether this device worked or not, but it had won him a pounds 10,000 award, which was enough to be going on with. The audience applauded his display of British backbone.

Eureka! (BBC1) is a good news show, devoted to such warming anecdotes of persistence and against-the-odds ingenuity. "It's about good ideas and the people who get them," as Matthew Kelly puts it, with his particular brand of cheerfulness. Inventions and inventors, in other words - the engaging monomania of garden shed Edisons, the classic narrative appeal of inspiration, serendipity and setbacks. It is, despite the kitsch nature of the studio conventions, rather jolly and encouraging. Last week, you were given the heartening tale of Kenneth Frogbrook, the inventor of a straw-matting device used for wiping up oil-spills, and Tony Waithe, an unemployed black designer who had constructed a new kind of fire escape. This week, the definition of invention was broad enough to include a charity worker who had devised a distribution system to get waste-food from supermarkets and restaurants into the stomachs of the homeless.

Matthew Kelly helps. His technique is very similar to Jeremy Beadle's: an assembly of laboured puns and beardy mugging - he pulls ooh-urr faces when anybody uses a long word. But, for some reason, the final effect of all this autocue jollity isn't quite as emetic as it is with Beadle. Kelly appears to be genuinely enjoying himself but he can turn serious without that awful lurch you sometimes get when frivolity hits an air- pocket. The programme is also sensible enough to recognise that some of its devices are idiotic, parodying the prose style of the Innovations catalogues. "Now you can say goodbye to no-grilled-sausage sadness" said Kelly, demonstrating a briefcase-sized portable barbecue. It's unfortunate that they couldn't themselves have come up with something more inventive than the maddening orchestral stings which punctuate the programme - the auditory equivalent of a wasp at a picnic.

I caught up late with Justice for Joy (Channel 4), a plain but heartfelt film about the death of Joy Gardner, who was asphyxiated while she was being restrained by police officers. The programme made no attempt at judicious balance - it was concerned rather to convey the depth of suspicion felt by black Britons about the civil authorities, a mistrust that can only be aggravated by the recent acquittal of the three officers involved in Joy's death. This bitter wariness can look like paranoia if you're not on the receiving end - Joy's mother even implied that the doctors and nurses had done less than they might to save her daughter, as if the NHS was just another instrument of white oppression - but it doesn't take much thought to see how vivid the sense of injustice must be. Imagine that three black security guards had suffocated a white troublemaker at a concert, by binding him with 13 feet of masking tape - the outcome, I think, would have been rather different. The police officers, of course, can (and did) argue that they were merely following normal procedures - which suggests that the court never saw the real guilty parties: those responsible for the culture of hostility and hysteria that characterises almost all immigration policy.

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