Last Night's TV - Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, BBC3; Hugh's Fish Fight, Channel 4
Teenage kicks are a risqué business
Wednesday 12 January 2011
There's the line... you've crossed it again," said Rob wearily, shortly after his dad had mentioned the box of condoms he'd tucked into his son's suitcase. Rob was off on his first independent holiday to Ibiza and Rob didn't know the half of it yet, because the whole point of
Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents is to cross the line and take up permanent residence on the other side. Rob's parents weren't just involving themselves in his safe-sex arrangements. They were going on holiday with him in a kind of Stalker's Package, which came complete with surveillance vehicles, remote cameras and stakeouts. Also subjected to this deeply creepy form of parental vigilance was Hollie, a builder's apprentice, whose mother dispatched her to one of Europe's premium suppliers of youthful folly with the incompatible instructions "Do not be silly" and "Have fun".
Hollie's mum, Vikki, said that she didn't want to see her daughter "flashing her bits all over Ibiza", a common enough maternal wish I suppose, but one that's a lot easier to fulfil if you don't then shadow your daughter through the island's nightclubs until the small hours of the morning. But as Hollie primed the pump in Ibiza with a round of shots and a practice bout of girly screaming, Vikki and her cousin were packing their bags back in Burnley, to begin Operation Creepout. And, shortly after a needy telephone call to her little boy ("Listen, I tell you what... I'm lonely already"), Rob's mum was getting ready to fly out with her husband to stare at him longingly through a mini-bus's tinted windows.
The invasion of privacy is, of course, a mitigated one. The teenagers have presumably all signed up to the idea that they're going to be filmed for a series about getting legless and getting laid. They know when they're on camera and – I assume – have enough sense to do the illegal or embarrassing stuff when the grown-ups have gone somewhere else. They must also have known that their antics might eventually end up on a television screen. But there's a difference between the dim, drunken awareness that your mother might one day see a lap-dancer dropping ice-cubes down your underpants and having her walk in mid-action, as happened to the hapless Rob.
The money shot of the format is a split-screen: teenager on one side, doing what teenagers have always done and astounded parent on the other, jaw open at the discovery that their child has an appetite for something other than toast and jam. And naturally the unwitting teenagers offer hostages to fortune. "If I told my mum I'd snogged seven guys tonight, in a weird way she'd be proud of me," slurred Hollie at one point. In fact, mum seemed not to be entirely uncomfortable watching her little girl suck the face off some spotty youth, which seemed like a kind of justice given how uncomfortable we were feeling watching her watch. Squirm-inducing throughout, the show reached its low point when the parents crept into their children's hotel rooms at one point to ferret through their belongings in search of evidence: "I feel terribly totally bad about it – snooping around," said Rob's mum, shortly before she established that his Durex pack of three remained untouched. There's a simple cure for that, dear, you thought. Just say no. On camera, both children naturally declare that it's been a great learning experience, which has brought them closer to their parents, but I thought I detected a subterranean fire in Rob's face that hinted at future repercussions. I suggest you put a webcam in your parents' bedroom, Rob, and upload the resulting footage to YouTube. That might teach them.
Hugh's Fish Fight – part of a season of programmes on Channel 4 – appeared to have scored a modest success before it even aired. This week, Tesco announced that it would shift its own-brand canned tuna exclusively to line-caught fish. And while it wasn't only the threat of another Fearnley-Whittingstall campaign that got it moving, you can't help feeling it hoped to beat him to the punch. His programme on tuna actually goes out tonight but last night he was exposing the ludicrous folly of discards, an unintended consequence of European Fisheries Policy. It's a folly that's usually invisible, because it takes place out at sea, where fishermen who've exhausted their quotas for certain protected species are legally required to jettison any they catch, even when they're dead. On a North Sea trawler, Fearnley-Whittingstall collected what would normally have gone over the side for the gulls – thousands of pounds' worth of cod and coley. And in Hastings, the local fisherman toyed with the letter of the law by doing their sorting just feet from the shoreline, so that Hugh could recover the discards with a large landing net and give it away through a local fishmonger (a trader, even more grotesquely, who often had to buy his cod in from Scotland because the boats just across the shingle were forbidden to land any more).
It isn't only European bureaucracy that's at issue though, because the deep conservatism of the British palate, which can't imagine eating anything in a chip shop except cod or haddock, also aggravates the problem. Fearnley-Whittingstall suggested it need not be an insurmountable problem by persuading a couple of fish bars to experiment with a mackerel roll, a product that sold surprisingly well, though I suspect the presence of a television camera is a powerful condiment at such moments, even more compelling than salt and malt vinegar.
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