Last Night's TV: Leslie Ash: Face to Face, ITV1
Losing It: Griff Rhys Jones on Anger, BBC2
Get mad then get even
Wednesday 24 September 2008
You probably won't know where your alar lobule is. No shame in that. Unless you're a plastic surgeon or an unusually well-briefed patient, it's not the kind of body part that crops up in casual conversation. You would certainly notice if it vanished, though, because its absence would be as plain – or as weird – as the nose on your face. The alar lobule is the plump little nostril pelmet that flares out to the side of your nose, and when one goes missing, as it has on Barry Fairbairn's face, the effect is, well, let's be tactful, distinctive. Then again, Barry's nose looks a lot better now than it did shortly after cosmetic filler had been accidentally injected into his nasal artery, causing his nose to start rotting in situ.
Not being a celebrity, Barry at least didn't have to endure a long and public monstering in the British press as a result of his self-inflicted disfigurement. Leslie Ash wasn't so lucky, after a lip-plump procedure went wrong and she became, in her own words, "the poster girl for all that's wrong with the British cosmetics industry". Sadly, the press treatment might have been more bearable if that was the true burden of the trout-pout headlines. What Ash actually became was the poster girl for all that was wrong with Leslie Ash, since a tone of serve-you-right self-righteousness about her vanity was the prevailing mode of the coverage. In Leslie Ash: Face to Face, she set out to improve her public appearance without the intervention of needles or knives, and she did it very effectively, in a crisply made piece of public-service television.
Ash's point was that she alone wasn't to blame for what happened to her mouth, but that the unregulated state of cosmetic procedures should take some flak, too. If you want to inject water into someone, apparently, it counts as a prescription-only medicine and will be subject to a number of stringent regulations. A lip-full of dermal filler, on the other hand, counts as a "device" and your local newsagent could insert it after a few hours' training. Even Leslie Ash could do it, as she demonstrated by signing up for a course that would qualify her to syringe alien substances into the faces of the cosmetically insecure. The task of squaring up to these issues – and squaring up to the camera – was obviously emotionally difficult for Ash, and she managed it with some dignity. She also effectively underlined the absurdity of the current regulations with regard to these procedures. But in her final, defiant insistence that cosmetic treatment should be a purely private matter, she revealed that she still doesn't quite get it. If it was purely private, nobody would bother in the first place because, by definition, it's about how other people see you. Whether you like it or not, your appearance is a transaction with the world. And if you're a television star whose career is built on your looks, it is beyond naive to imagine that nobody's going to take an interest in the details of the small print.
Griff Rhys Jones was also in confessional, scar-bearing mode in Losing It, a two-part documentary about anger. He was qualified for the role of penitent investigator, he told us, because he himself is famously grouchy in his domestic and professional life. The evidence he first advanced for this wasn't terribly impressive: footage of him getting a bit worked up during an ocean race, a context in which a bit of energetic shouting and competitive fury would seem to be par for the course. But then he went off to interview one of his former make-up artists, and as she gently recalled instances of his moodiness, you could see him beginning to simmer and tense up. He'd specifically gone because he wanted her to back up his account of his tetchiness, but he then started to get tetchy because she was doing it too well. In that moment – and in the slightly brittle quality of his laughter when recalling some past temper tantrum – you got a hint of how difficult he could sometimes be.
Craig Brown told the best story, about his own irascible grandfather, who dependably lost his rag after dinner every night until one evening he got so furious that he went upstairs and shot himself in the stomach. His last words were "Now look what you've made me do", a perfect encapsulation of the angry person's fixed inner belief that the world is at fault and rage is the only rational response, however wildly insane the consequences. Rhys Jones ended by soliciting more evidence of his own grumpiness from his former agent, and getting it in such unvarnished form that it left him pasty-faced with remorse, all flippancy gone. It made you curious to see whether he will be able to keep his temper when he attends an anger-management course in next week's episode.
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