review:Revenge is a dish best served cold

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Cutting Edge (C4) was talking revenge. Appropriate that it should follow Brookside, in which, for five ratings-grabbing days a week, revenge is employed as a primary plot device. Actually, the only plot device. As Barry Grant would testify, revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Though probably not in the case of David Cannon, a Northumberland farmer, who pebble-dashed the front of his local council offices with a trailer load of, to put it delicately, steaming hotfarmyard slurry. Mr Cannon was mad, he said, because the bureaucrats refused him permission to build a bungalow on his land. Just as well they didn't stop him constructing a jacuzzi, the consequences could have been bubbling away for months.

"I've never seen it stick like that," chortled Cannon, watching video evidence of his spreading fame, proof that if you chuck enough at a wall, some of it is bound to remain in the pointing. Mr Cannon was fined £1,200 for his moment of effluence - a price, he said, that was well worth paying.

"If I were a millionaire, I would do it every week," he guffawed. And you thought he could make a major contribution to local democracy here, setting himself up as a freelance arbitrator in planning disputes, stepping in as a final resort when bureaucrats begin to obfuscate: the muck-spreader general.

The point the programme unconsciously reinforced was that revenge is only palatable if it is conducted with style. The producers unearthed a parade of the spurned who had got their own back on errant lovers in a manner that made Cannon look merely shitty. Not for Katherine, labelled "a mistress", anything as prosaic as those urban legendary devices of seeding the carpet, putting prawns in the pelmet or ringing Los Angeles Dial-a-Prayer and leaving the phone off the hook for the weekend. This woman was revenge-specific. Her boyfriend was a wine snob who often showed her his cellar-full without ever cracking open a single bottle. So, when he ran off with another woman, she did it for him, breaking the bottoms off every bottle he owned, emptying them and carefully replacing them on the shelves.

It would have been good, at this point, to be introduced to Katherine's other half, to discover his reaction on pulling out the shattered remnants of his 1966 Chateau Palmer. Or indeed good to meet the long-suffering Mark, husband of Joan, a right boil-a-bunny, who reckoned "revenge became a way of life" for her. Sadly, neither of them appeared. Partly, perhaps, out of fear of saying anything that would enrage their barking exes yet further. But mainly because it is a lot less jolly, humourous and chortlingly good television to be the target of revenge than the perpetrator. As Frank and Lesley would testify. This couple's life was ruined when Lesley's ex decided to go medieval on them, eventually slicing up Frank like a veal calf as he answered the door in his towelling robe. Not funny at all, that. Revenge, the programme suggested, is only a legitimate response when there is a degree of poetic justice involved. Which made this the most pertinent commentary on the Eric Cantona affair so far aired.

The Late Show's dramatisation of Jostein's Gaarder's Sophie's World (BBC2) might well have been something to catch the eye of football's philosopher king as he cooled his soles in north Manchester. Gaarder's romp through the history of philosophy has become a massive best-seller throughout Europe. This programme, though - self-conscious, tricksy, irritatingly flip, less illuminating than the old Python philosophers sketch - could have been nothing less than a gallant attempt by the guardians of culture to ensure it does not take off over here. When Jim Carter, dressed up like the latest incarnation of Dr Who, said "funny bloke, that Socrates - uglier than Ian Rush", I reached for the keys of my muck-spreader.

Comments