James Taylor Night, BBC4
The Invisibles, BBC1
Britain's Youngest Grannies, BBC3
Peep Show, Channel 4
A night devoted to James Taylor showed the old folkie's magic can still charm – unlike a peep behind the scenes at maison Austen
Sunday 04 May 2008
When the most attractive sight on television is a balding balladeer left over from the Seventies, you've got to wonder. I eschewed the opportunity to ogle Premiership footballers last week. Instead, the thinking woman's eye candy was "Sweet Baby James", the deserving recipient of a "special" James Taylor Night on BBC4. All smouldering eyes and tousled locks, the man who seduced Carly Simon (into marriage) and Carole King (into collaboration) with soulful songs was in fact a heroin addict, trumping Pete Doherty in both timing and talent. A repeat showing of a 1971 concert revealed his charisma and trickiness in equal parts.
Now he's a rehab survivor, on stage with just a guitar and a back catalogue of classics, including "Fire and Rain" and "You've Got a Friend". In casualwear and sipping from a bottle of Fiji water, Taylor resembled a fuddy-duddy geography teacher – until he opened his mouth. The hair may have gone, but the voice remains the same.
There is a way back from drug addiction, Taylor seemed to be saying to his fans. Let's hope Amy Winehouse was watching. Any woman of a certain age, meanwhile, who fancied Anthony Head in those coffee commercials will have had their fantasies dashed by watching The Invisibles, BBC1's new "dramedy". The salt and pepper crop (hey, it works for George Clooney) sat atop a deeply lined face that appeared to have had liberal application of St Tropez fake tan. The mahogany skin was an attempt to stand up the show's premise, which was that Head and his chum Warren Clarke had just returned to England from years of hiding out on the Costa del Sol. They're crims from the old days, when burglary and extortion were charming and jolly and no one got hurt. Now they're in Devon, older but apparently no wiser. There's just one last job, you see ....
This is clearly an attempt to tap into the New Tricks audience, but it came off like The Bourne Ultimatum meets Last of the Summer Wine (with a torture scene out of Casino Royale thrown in for good measure). As Clarke and Head sped away from a crime scene in a stolen motor one wondered, can a car chase be described as pedestrian?
During The Invisibles's woefully overstretched hour, the clichés don't stop. Dear old Mo (Head) practised his safecracking skills with a pink satin eyemask and a kitchen timer, saying out loud, "I'm the best safe-cracker this country has ever produced. I'm William Shakespeare, Bobby Moore and the Beatles." Then – cue the overbearing upbeat music – he cracks it. The old magic hasn't deserted Mo after all. But it might just have deserted Anthony Head.
Elsewhere, femininity and motherhood were major talking points. At eight minutes, 51 seconds I stopped watching Miss Austen Regrets. Seeing one of our great literary figures hold up a blanket while her niece did a wee had me reaching for the remote. Thanks to the power of Sky+, I was able to go straight from bonnets and muslin to pierced noses and crop tops. Yes, it's Britain's Youngest Grannies. The voiceover described the dreary towns of the North-east where, it intimated, this kind of thing goes on all the time. Then, "even in a quaint village in Norfolk" they found a mid-30s grandmother. The "even" gave it away.
Tara, a feisty if overplucked mother of four, had put her daughter on the pill at 12. But, the voiceover added, "a mix-up at 15 led to pregnancy". The camera panned to Rickeita, a statuesque blonde with Sophie Dahl's fine features and a mane of bleached blond hair. Ricky said that despite the difficulties she faced, she knew she'd cope "'cos I'd seen my mum do it". She'd split with the father of baby Lexie, like all but one of the teen mothers in the programme. Tara, meanwhile, had been looking forward to some "me time" after 20 years of childcare. No such luck.
The one consolation for these women attending toddler groups as grandmothers alongside the thirtysomething first-time mothers is that, according to the blokes eyeing them up in local clubs, they qualify as GILFs (Grandmothers I'd Like to Fuck).
One man who wouldn't turn his nose up at a GILF is Mark, one of Peep Show's lame excuses for menfolk. In a burgundy dressing gown, with the early onset of a double chin visible, Mark simultaneously whined about going out, while fantasising about meeting "the one". The prospect of a date led to the dismantling of "the megatron", his taped-together multiple remote controls. After all, as his mate Jez said, "we don't want to look like masturbators". In that dressing gown?
The fifth series of this dark comedy shows no signs of running out of puff, rather like James Taylor.
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