Television Reviews: Beat Route and Body Story

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The Independent Culture
"WHY DO SOVIET leaders only drink herbal tea? Because proper tea is theft," said Jools Holland in a sculpture park filled with redundant Soviet statuary on the outskirts of Budapest in Beat Route (BBC2) last night. Which brought to mind another thought: What's worse than Jools Holland? Jools Holland telling jokes as faded in the memory as the Evil Empire itself. Or, as the split-screen opening sequence made clear, what's worse than Jools Holland? Two Jools Hollands.

The two Jools Hollands stood on a hilltop overlooking the city so that the Danube was between them - one, you see, in Buda, and one in Pest - and squabbled. Jools One hummed the Blue Danube. Jools Two whined about being interrupted and pointed out that it was a Viennese waltz anyway. This, apparently, is the definitive guide to the world's "coolest" cities, from someone who has been employed as an arbiter of cool for more than a decade.

As you might have noticed, I don't like Jools Holland much. Despite the fact that he has an encyclopaedic understanding of music and Later... has access to better bands than anyone else - much like The Old Grey Whistle Test used to outclass TOTP every week - his mates-with-the stars act has the same switch-off factor for me as Chris Evans's. I find his cheeky face automatically sets off that 20th-century neurological phenomenon, Remote Control Finger Twitch.

And although Beat Route had some sublime musical moments, not least the stunning gypsy band that closed it (see? I did watch all the way through), this was enough to make me long for Peter Ustinov. Was this travelogue, or a lesson in how "cool" people travel (making outdated jokes about espionage and not even bothering to do enough research to learn how to pronounce Magyar, something even the Lonely Planet Guide could tell you. Oh, well. No doubt I'll get a slew of hate mail from people who thought it was terrific. I just have a feeling that I may not be alone.

Meanwhile, ungenerous people like me will have been dismissing Body Story (C4) for its simplistic, childlike approach to explaining our inner workings, but I have to admit to being rather charmed by it. The computer graphics of particles - which look suspiciously like red aspirins - speeding through tubes, and last night's representation of the limbic system as a frosted cobweb, remind me of those great Sixties films like Fantastic Voyage, in which miniaturised scientists in submarines had to fight off The Attack of the Platelet. And the gossipy style, weaving together an event in the life of some invented stranger with the effect it has on their body, has a great giggle factor.

Last night, Greg, a bit of a good-looking twit of a City Boy, went on a bender after getting a promotion and failing to have it away with the girl of his dreams. We, meanwhile, observed the effect of the alcohol on his brain, freezing up the cells in the higher brain and letting the lower, limbic brain, "the lizard in all of us" (and most keenly observable in SWAPS dealers and second-hand car salesmen), free to roam. Greg drank some beers, described himself as a shark, had his trousers unzipped, got locked in a loo, and fell over. And I, roughly speaking, did the same.