Last night's viewing - Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions, Channel 4; Absolutely Fabulous, BBC1

 

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The Independent Culture

To get Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions under way, the programme's presenter sent out a tweet: "Are you successful in your business and suffering from mental illness? Would you talk about it on television?"

Received opinion might have it that answering "yes" to the second question would be automatically answering "yes" to the first one too. You'd have to be mad, wouldn't you, to choose to reveal this deeply personal fact through the medium of Wax, a reliably entertaining on-screen presence but never, in the past, a byword for sensitivity or tact. But Wax has changed a lot in recent years, coming out about her own experience of clinical depression, and she wants to change received opinion about mental health too. To that end, she was trying to persuade others with the condition to jump, to take the risk of exposing their condition to their close colleagues.

I don't know how many people replied to her invitation but three appeared here: Charlotte, a part-time marketing manager with OCD, Johnnie, a London chef who recently had a very public meltdown on Great British Menu, and Derek, an industrial designer who'd recently had a serious bout of depression. For Johnnie, likeable as he was, the hazard of this enterprise was relatively small. He already traded on a reputation for eccentricity and, besides, he was the boss. When he sat his staff down and came clean about the seriousness of his recent breakdown, I don't suppose he expected any of them to throw their whites on the table and stalk out the door. Charlotte and Derek, on the other hand, were gambling with bigger stakes.

It turned out well, of course, at least within the limited time frame that can be accommodated by such a programme (the thing about prejudice these days is that it knows how to conceal itself). Derek's colleagues found out the exact reason for his four-week sick leave and Charlotte's fellow workers discovered that her apparent standoffishness (she finds it very difficult to shake hands) had its origin in fear of contamination, not mere haughtiness. They also discovered that she had been sexually abused when she was young – the origin of her compulsion to cleanliness. In both cases, everyone was supportive and admiring of the candour involved. But the real test of this experiment in openness will be what happens when there aren't cameras around to record a ceremony of acceptance. I have a feeling that the results will be good.

No getting away from the Olympics on BBC1 last night. Between 8pm and 11.25pm, every single programme paid homage to the invader, with the torch parade passing through Walford and Absolutely Fabulous building the last of its three specials around Eddy and Patsy's wild excitement about the event. It isn't the sport they're interested in, obviously, but the imminent arrival of Michael Douglas, who has rented Eddy's house and who they see as a passport to A-list Olympic parties. "I shall be wearing my buttocks as a head-dress by the time that man arrives," announced Eddy, who plans a major make-over.

Unfortunately, she's not been paying very close attention to the calendar and doesn't realise she's left it too late, a mistake she feels is forgivable: "It's been everywhere for five bloody years! Excuse me if I missed that it's actually bloody started. It's been like tinnitus." Dames Kelly Holmes and Tanni Grey-Thompson and Stella McCartney offered themselves up as straight-women for Patsy and Eddy's faux pas and there was a brief, slightly baffling visit to the Olympic Stadium, during which both women enjoyed an unconvincing reverie of athletic glory. And then, after quite a few raucous laughs, it just stopped, as if nobody had quite worked out where the finish tape was. But I did enjoy Eddy's protest as she was bundled out of the stadium by a security guard: "You're discouraging me from taking up sport!"

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