"I'm getting so frustrated," said Guy Gilbert, the director of Man Hunters: Meet the Gigolos. "I can't meet any women to tell me why they hire men for sex. I've put ads in the newspaper... I've trawled the internet." Obviously, Gilbert's requirements are a bit niche, but the thought occurred that there might be a gap in the personal-services market here, something an enterprising agency could profitably add to its portfolio of by-the-hour satisfactions. Instead of the exhausting business of tracking down real bean-spillers, the horny Channel 4 documentarist, gagging for a bit of pixellated-face confessional, could simply ring and order up Miss Right, What Do You Want Me to Say? Thirty minutes later, and you could be focusing on their shoes for the cutaway shots. Gilbert made no bones about the fact that he was a man happy to take a short cut when one was available: "I arranged a small focus group," he said later, "featuring two women from the office and my wife." Still, I take it he did it the hard way when it came to his customer interviews.
One, Louise, 44, explained that she'd started hiring escorts after "being constantly let down by men who were just after one thing". Since Louise is now after exactly the same thing, and having to pay for it too, this seemed a slightly paradoxical justification, though the shift in power seemed to have marginally cheered her up. Sadly, not quite enough to be actually cheerful: "He's not going to get up in the morning and make me a cup of tea and bring me breakfast in bed," she said glumly, itemising the defects of an on-the-meter lover. Are you sure you're hiring the right class of escort, Louise? If you're paying for an overnight, I would have thought a bit of pillow-plumping was a given.
Perhaps there's another gap in the market here: crumpet with crumpets. It's one that Rico could usefully explore, since he can't seem to wedge himself into any openings with his existing offering. Rico had invested quite a lot in his new career, what with paying an agency to feature on their books and the professional photographs for their "menu". But the returns were sparse. It may have been the turquoise thong paired with the sequin cowboy hat ("You look very gee ay why," the photographer's assistant said in a puzzled voice). It may have been that even in Rico's photographs his profound infatuation with himself was unmissable. But for some reason, the product wasn't shifting. "I am a winning 'orse," he boasted confidently, but nobody wanted to ride him.
John seemed to be busier, despite looking "like an accountant", as Guy unkindly put it. Another market gap perhaps: "If you want to know what double entry really means, call me now." John was adamant that he wasn't a prostitute but a "personal assistant", a job description that Gilbert questioned and John defended with dead-bat logic: "I assist people personally," he said, though he was reluctant to say just how personal the assistance got with the 70-year-old client who enjoyed a naked massage. At this point, I sensed a tiny hint of censoriousness from Gilbert, which was a bit rich given his own readiness to place himself in sexually compromising positions in return for a paycheck. When Rico was given the task of photographically recording his most vital vital statistic, Gilbert didn't make his excuses and leave, he hovered at Rico's door peeking through the gap. "I've just filmed a man having a wank on his bed," Gilbert said on the street outside. "Definitely the weirdest thing I've ever filmed." If it left you feeling dirty, Guy, I'm sure there are other jobs available.
There's no immediate prospect of sex androids supplying the tea-making deficiencies of human studs, if Horizon's "Where's My Robot?" is any guide. The most human-looking robots here (essentially just technologically advanced glove puppets) were so creepy you wouldn't let them through the door. And even the real robots have some way to go before being bearable companions. One, called Stair – or the Stanford AI Robot – was sent to fetch a stapler from the next room by its handler, a task which this Einstein of the robot world performed like a very dim work- experience person suffering the worst hangover of his life.
Danny Wallace was presenting here, in one of those infuriating Horizon programmes that try to hybridise a larky "journey" show with a serious science, and end up with something that does neither well. In a 50-minute programme there was, at a charitable estimate, 10 minutes of serious science content, none of which would have remotely challenged a bright 12-year-old. It also contained one completely engaging roboticist, Professor Rodney Brooks, who was enthusiastic and funny and I imagine, though this was never really put to the test, a fund of fascinating ideas about intelligence, artificial and otherwise. Perhaps next time he could be asked to make the programme.Reuse content