REVIEW / You'll never get to heaven on an electric guitar

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The Independent Culture
FOR ANYONE gradually acquiring an allergy to the electric guitar (don't worry: you're not alone), Words and Music (BBC 2) was the place to be. For the last three nights, distinguished musicians and sparks introduced and played their own standards solo into an unblinking camera. In a sentence, it was Top of the Pops meets Open University in The Late Show studio. In a word, it was heaven.

Or it was until Iggy Pop sang 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'. He explained that he wanted to write a song about a big subject but couldn't face the idea of God, so he spelled God backwards. While everyone else spent the weekend contemplating His Lordship, here was a song about Dog. This skeleton with skin looked not unlike one of those devils you see in evocations of demonry on 13th-century Tuscan church walls. Suddenly, you understood why the guitar was once considered the nearest thing to Satan's toasting fork.

While you wondered if Pop is a Catholic, Everyman (BBC 1) asked if the Pope is a Catholic. Actually it didn't; it just took the rhetorical question as its title. On the first Easter Sunday in which Anglican women priests are officiating at the altar, this programme took the pulse of Catholicism in England, presumably on the assumption that there are now more Catholics than there were this time last year.

If the small print of Catholic doctrine is not your bag (don't worry, you're not alone), there were still rewards to be had in the cross-section of Catholics that was presented for study. At one end of the social spectrum we met the Duala family, a racial hotchpotch of women and children from a Liverpool terraced house, who talked of faith as something acquired anew with each fresh birth and baptism. They said 'mass'.

At the other was the de Lisle family, whose religion seemed to be inherited along with the manor, the estate and the children's four-poster double bed. They say 'mahss' (even though the service we saw them attending was a happy-clappy nightmare with flutes and guitars and congregational over-familiarity).

You had to admire Leanda de Lisle's effortless aristocratic disdain, as expressive of her social origins as her nipped-and- tucked nostrils, when she explained how she came from a family of recusants who 'don't like to get bossed around too much by Rome basically . . . We keep back things the other side of the Alps.'

Substitute the word 'Brussels' for 'Rome' and 'Channel' for 'Alps' and any non-Catholics still watching had a clear secular analogy of the fundamental issue at stake - whether to cling to a rigid centralised authority, or to celebrate in glorious, self-assured insularity. Dorothy Jones had amassed (rather than amahssed) seven children before she realised that obeying rules brings unruliness. She never mentioned the dread words Birth Control - perhaps because her wobbly cine-film of the Pope in England was running on the projector - but she had clearly opted to risk a reward in Hell rather than suffer a hell on earth.

Was it a coincidence that the final series of Jim'll Fix It (BBC 1) kicked off this weekend? Sir James, or maybe that should be St James, is bowing out before he finally turns into an albino cockatoo. If he took off his double-breasted grey suit it would be no surprise to see wings underneath, like Mervyn Peake's Mr Pye.

This columnist last saw Jim'll Fix It some time in the mid-1970s, and it hasn't changed a jot. The show is still a watery cocktail of wish-fulfilment and furtive publicity. In Saturday's edition a boy cycled along a stretch of as yet unfinished pipeline (a nice mention for Thames Water); two sisters presented a Holiday report from the Costa Del Sol (free plug for various hotels and clubs); and a grown woman tap-danced with the cast of Crazy For You (get your tickets now). Only a little boy called Byron wasn't furthering someone else's cause when he realised his dream of dressing up as a Swamp Thing and attacking Sir James. Don't worry Byron: you're not alone.