TELEVISION / Second round

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
IT WAS LIKE one of those made-by-the-book slasher thrillers. The survivors have gathered round, sobbing with desperate relief; behind them the corpse of the monster lies vanquished. They look away and start to congratulate each other but when the camera turns back the body has gone. Cue stabbing violins and a cinematic encore. Horizon (BBC 2) loosened its lab-coat to the extent of calling last night's film 'TB - The Forgotten Plague' but a less scrupulous outfit would have gone much further: 'Tuberculosis II - It's back, it's sneaky . . . and it's brought a friend.'

After a long period in which TB was thought to have gone the way of the steam-train (at least in the developed countries) rates of infection are rising again, particularly among the poor and dispossessed. Just in case we felt complacent about this, Horizon promptly let us know that the disease threatens everyone, the sort of information that tends to bring on a tickly cough. Despite past success in the West with the cocktail of drugs developed to combat the disease, rates continued to rise steadily in the Third World, and now Aids provides an ally for TB. People whose immune systems have been destroyed are a perfect haven for the disease and may allow for the development of new drug-resistant forms.

Even if you are 'immuno-competent', as one doctor strikingly described healthy people, you can't afford to assume this is not your problem. TB is an airborne infection and can't easily be isolated from the population at large. But perhaps the most unnerving detail was one that you might also take as a reassurance - in New York sufferers of the disease are effectively being paid to take their medication and there is the prospect of legislation to compel sufferers to have treatment. The cost of this would be some dollars 100 million a year.

Knowing that governments don't rush to spend money on the health of the drug-addicted and down-and-out unless a) the governments are getting nervous or b) they think it will save money in the long run, you were uncertain whether to heave a sigh of relief that someone was actually doing something or start worrying about exactly why. The faint-hearted who switched to World in Action (ITV) halfway through would have found a virtually identical report (less science and a touch more tabloid alarm) that presumably didn't do much for their psychosomatic chest-pains.

In The Name of the Room (BBC 2) Gillian Darley delivered a brief history of the kitchen. Earlier episodes of this series have hovered uneasily between voyeurism and faintly ludicrous theorising - as if Through the Keyhole had gone all self-improving and taken an Open University Sociology course. This was more straightforward - a brisk and interesting examination of the way in which British kitchens had changed over the years. It wasn't always the woman's place (a 1777 tax on male servants was partly responsible for the change) but, once in there, they found that the more 'labour-saving' devices you add, the harder it is to get out of the door.

Comments