TELEVISION / Taking the fast lane to snoozing Europe

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The Independent Culture
YOU are about to witness a feat not achieved in thrillions and spillions of column inches. The word 'Europe' will be cited without simultaneous reference to the Community, the Union, the ERM, the single currency, the fast track, the slow track, the no-go track, or the election that, according to statistics, you probably didn't vote in on Thursday.

For us sceptered islanders, the word Europe has undergone a semantic metamorphosis. Not long ago, it denoted high culture and deep sun-tans. Now, it denotes high butter mountains and a low boredom threshold. Once Brussels' only crime was to lend its name to a small, spherical, overrated vegetable; nowadays it's the sprout you feel sorry for. So Europe Express (C4) is a brave title: apparently oxymoronic, it suggests that the world's most tedious continent can still get up a head of steam. Just so long as no one mentions the U word.

This could easily be a misreading, but all the raciest reports from this triple- decker magazine-show seem to hail from the most traditionally strait-laced and stolid countries. Last night there were graphic tales of violence from snoring Norway and belching Belgium.

Those who saw the Independent's pop pages this week will know all about the satanic threat engulfing Norwegian society, a threat which sadly struck too late to put a hex on the national football team. It is posed by black metal, an offspring of heavy metal, brother of thrash, death and speed metal and cousin to skull, puke, scab, gangrene and rabies metal. (We're talking about music here, in case you've got Radio 3 on in the background.) Black metal groups believe they are 'the sons of northern darkness', and closer in spirit than most Norwegians to the old Norse Gods, in whose name they torch churches and, on one occasion, kill. Odin, of course, is depicted in ancient cave carvings wearing black paint on his face, black sunglasses and a bullet belt round his waist.

We saw footage of these incinerations, and they looked like the ultimate in rock video stunts: a case of artists taking their work too seriously. The soft-spoken members of a black metal band called Immortal were down on religion because 'it doesn't have anything to do with our music. So it's boring.' Maybe they're more persuasive in their own tongue.

The funny thing about satanic rituals, and not just those perpetrated by guitarists with lank hair, is that you never get to find out what they involve. Theologically speaking, we're in the dark on this one. There could be a series in it, as the snappy Europe Express format means there isn't often time to go into details.

In the other report, you wish they hadn't. This was about cockfighting, the Belgians' cheap, illegal version of bullfighting. As an devotee of the Palio di Siena, I probably have no right to mount a high horse on the subject of animal rights, but cockfighting does seem to reach the outer limits of cruelty. Before the fight, the bird exchanges its natural spur for a sharpened, 5cm-long metal one - in effect, a sword. Thursday night's Cook Report revealed how bulls' horns in Spain are blunted to protect the matador. To fight humans, animals are deprived of their own weapons; to fight each other, they are provided with extra ammunition. It doesn't look like cricket.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty, there were five programmes about gardening. Long after mandarins in Brussels have carpeted Britain with motorways, there'll still be a full quota of green-fingered series. Let's hope one of them will be the delightful Over The Garden Wall (C4). This is close enough to a natural history programme to drag in those viewers for whom the word 'trowel' has the same effect as the words 'Social Chapter'.

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