TV Review: Video Diaries (BBC2)

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The Independent Culture
From meeting a girl to shagging her my record is four minutes and thirty seconds," boasted Justin Richards in Video Diaries (BBC2). He didn't say exactly how he did his timekeeping (was there a faint click from a concealed stopwatch as penetration took place?) but, at this point in the film at least, rapidity of execution struck you as a wise strategic choice on his part. Any longer than four minutes and thirty seconds and the girl in question might have time to get to know him, and that would surely be counterproductive. But then Justin explained that this wasn't really him talking after all - it was Zeus, the swaggering, sparkler- adorned alter ego who performs as a male stripper at hen-parties and gay clubs. Lying back in his bath, Justin confessed that Zeus was getting out of hand, that he was getting a "bit twattish at times... I can't seem to control it". What followed, fortunately, was the defeat of Zeus.

There were several striking moments in this account of life on the lowest rungs of the entertainment industry. The shot in which Justin explained the technique of pre-performance enhancement, while his shoulder juddered rhythmically, was a novel one in my experience, as were the revelations about what really goes on at hen-parties - which are not quite the look- but-don't-touch, naughty-but-nice occasions you might have assumed. The oddest discovery of the film, though, was the slow realisation of just how innocent Justin is, miraculously untoughened by the coarse world in which he moves. You knew you weren't dealing with the sharpest mind when he explained his earnings ("You get about pounds 100," he said, minus commission which is 15 per cent, and minus VAT which is 17 and a half per cent, which leaves you with about pounds 80.") but the full extent of his guileless simplicity only emerged during his weepy confessions about "Miss X", a married woman with whom he was having an affair and whose every departure left him sniffling uncontrollably.

It was Miss X who had suggested that unprotected sex with hundreds of young women might just be a risk factor for Aids, a thought that had not previously occurred to Justin. He would hardly have been more shocked and astonished if a gnu had dropped on him out of a tree. In those scenes, and in the touching way in which Justin counted all his birthday greetings and recalled the emotional bruises of his childhood, you saw that you weren't looking at a man chasing after sex at all, but at a small boy searching for love.

Kiss and Tell (ITV), a thriller apparently inspired by the botched undercover investigation of the Rachel Nickell murder, was implausible at almost every procedural level but was rescued by a central emotional truthfulness. It began not as a whodunnit but as a wasitdun, an investigation into a crime without a body and with clues for which the viewer had less incriminating explanations than did the detective in question. When he recruited an old girlfriend to insinuate herself into the life of the prime suspect, he had to cope with his unresolved feelings about her and the continuing humiliation of her departure. Far more alert to the vulnerability of policemen than these things usually are, it was well acted by Rosie Rowell as the undercover psychologist and Daniel Craig as the policeman. It also deserves credit for ending so uncertainly, giving the satisfaction of a last-minute deliverance but witholding the shallow pleasures of rescue or reconciliation.

"Beauty is the first test," said G H Hardy, "there is no place for ugly mathematics", a remark which might have been the epigraph for Edmund Coulthard's Equinox film (C4) about maths, a studiously aesthetic response to the wonder of numbers. It looked gorgeous and dipped its toe briefly into seven very deep pools, from the innateness of mathematical ability to the mysterious nature of pi. There were many pleasures besides Coulthard's visual inventions, but the film was so effective at arousing your appetite for the ideas it contained that it finally left you feeling frustrated not to have anything really solid to bite down on. It was the perfect opener to a series that doesn't exist.