TELEVISION / Terms and conditions

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The Independent Culture
IN THIS week's Town Hall (BBC 2), the Head of Social Services was trying to deal simultaneously with a shortage of funds and an over-abundance of terms for talking about it. No one was disputing, he said, 'the value of gathering information on the basis of vulnerability'. But even so, was this an exchange-of-opinions meeting, or an information-gathering meeting ahead of the exchange-of-opinions meeting scheduled for later? Or was it a meeting to determine what kind of meeting to have?

Someone may have been about to call a meeting to discuss the matter, but by then we had escaped the conference room and hit the streets of Lewisham with Darren and Graham, two maintenance workers in 'the dirty squad' who clean up in extreme cases of domestic disrepair. The experience on his first day of discovering maggots wriggling around inside some old chicken bones had, Darren said, forced him to consider quitting there and then. Even now there were still things which made him wonder why he clocked on in the morning. But not, apparently, a bath filled to the overflow with cat faeces, which was what Darren and Graham had to deal with at 73-year- old Hazel Wheeler's flat. The humour which these three traded will probably stand as this documentary series' most abiding sequence.

Still, it's no easier, even five episodes in, to reconcile the occupations of the central characters with the Town Hall theme tune. It's an edgy, high-pitched piece for synthesiser and it wouldn't sound out of place in a John Carpenter movie, as a brittle preliminary to the main action. But then the camera goes and blows all the tension by showing us a bunch of people in office-wear, gathering information.

In Rear Window's profile of the American photographer Milton Rogovin (C 4), everyone agreed that not only was Rogovin a top drawer snapper, he was also 'a thorough gentleman' and 'a very nice man'. Which was good to know, and was readily confirmed by Rogovin's own appearances in the programme, patiently flipping through some of his old albums. But some further illumination of the pictures wouldn't have gone amiss. One expert said that Rogovin's portrait shots amounted to 'a meeting with another figure which transcends analysis', a comment which seemed determined to transcend hard work.

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