So, I'm sitting at home in my coat, gloves and scarf watching I Can Make You Thin (welcome to 2009) and Paul McKenna is hypnotising me through the screen, I tell you, through the very screen.
One moment he's all chatty-chatty like a normal daytime TV host, interviewing audience members about their weight battles, sharing their pain, confronting them with old pairs of trousers so big they could double as the windsock at Heathrow, that sort of thing, and then suddenly – bam! – he clicks his fingers and goes all Svengali, looking deep, deep, into the lens, into your eyes, into your fridge, into your greedy soul, and then, well, they cut to an advertising break, presumably for our safety. A disclaimer announces the show is "for entertainment purposes only", just in case anyone is in danger of confusing it with prescription drugs.
So far, so showbiz. But then he shows us a method for "rebooting" the brain, to be used whenever you are about to tuck in, pig out and chow down due to stress, boredom or "emotional overwhelm". (Emotional overwhelm indeed! Isn't that what robots say before they cry? Alert, alert, emotional overwhelm! Emotobot to Kleenex!) He recommends you tap, 10 times, with index and middle finger, on pressure points – back of your hand, heel of your hand, collarbone, cheek – then roll your eyes, count to five out loud and hum your favourite tune. Do it when you are offered the dessert menu in restaurants, I'd suggest, and it may actually work, because you will look so strange no one will serve you any more. Apparently, after this procedure you are no longer as mindlessly hungry as Pac-Man; you are calm, you are collected, you are ready to think about something else. Well, we shall see. In the meantime, let us flip over to proper, terrestrial TV, which happens to be TV we can be proud of.
The Diary of Anne Frank has a clutch of wonderful performances – Tamsin Greig, blanched and catatonic with fear as Mrs Frank; Lesley Sharp, entertainingly infuriating as Mrs Van Daan; Felicity Jones, a muted, shy version of Margot Frank. Ellie Kendrick as Anne herself is perfect. As well as being a true heroine, she is also tart and wilful and naughty; this is a thoroughly unsentimental rendering of the story, and all the more powerful for it. Writing this review I haven't yet seen the final instalment, or how it handles her most amazing, optimistic, graceful journal entries but I am glad I have been practising my Emotional Overwhelm procedure.
The adaptation by Deborah Moggach is respectful and adroit, as well as fleet and effective – when the fugitives dance, the camera simply pans down to their stockinged feet. That it is filmed in the actual Achterhuis in Amsterdam makes it all the more precious, a creation that will endure as the house inevitably decays. There are more than a million visitors per year, and time must do its worst – the chestnut tree Anne used to watch from her window is seriously diseased, and has, thanks to a brace mechanism, an estimated five to 15 years left. We film these things while we can.
When making judgements about ongoing invasions it's easy to forget to remember, so the Anne Frank dramatisation was timely in a good way. Channel 4's documentary Surviving Gazza was timely in a bad way. Never has an extra "z" made such a difference, and it was perhaps its Freudian-slip closeness to the most important world issue that made this documentary about the travails of Paul Gascoigne's family feel so enervating. What the families of alcoholics go through is distressing and unutterably boring, and this programme was both. A brisk edit and a more stringent interviewer (Gazza's teenage children were deeply inarticulate but not beyond questioning) would have made for a better result, and one that might have reached more people with its ultimately stark, realistic message: some families, to save themselves, have to cut the alcoholic out of their lives. Dramas deliver death or reconciliation: this left Gascoigne in sybaritic limbo, on tour with the rock band Iron Maiden.
The real-life vicar of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London is Martin Dudley, a church renegade who went against church law to marry two male vicars in a wedding complete with confetti, fanfare and two best men. He is being "investigated" for this solecism. It ignites the imagination, does it not? You want to know more. In ITV's Demons, the on-screen vicar of St Bartholomew's is Richard Wilson, a prelate who holds a plasticky-looking orb and intones "it doth fume with the odour of sanctity". The imagination remains flaccid. This stuff has clearly all been made up by a scriptwriter in a hurry. It fumes with another odour than sanctity. Demons is a huge disappointment. The London settings are atmospheric (a library underneath Smithfield meat market) and there are glimmers of interest (the last episode name-checked the "Angel of Mons" of the First World War) but the script is glib and superficial, as is the unsettlingly eugenic dialectic between the baddies, who are "freaks" and look like tramps, and the goodies, who look like they have stepped out of a Head & Shoulders commercial.
Philip Glenister reprises his most successful role as Gene Hunt, using an American accent fig leaf to hide the shame of repetition. It is a sad thing to see your favourite actors less witty, less real and less cool, and to realise we loved only their scripts, not them.Reuse content