The Weekend's Viewing: I'm in a Boy Band! Sat, BBC2
Swimming with Crocodiles, Sun, BBC2
If you were being charitable you might say that I'm in a Boy Band! began on the learner slopes.
"You're a boy band if you're a band of boys," said one of the contributors helpfully, a generously loose definition of the film's subject that the producers then proceeded to exploit absolutely shamelessly. Why should they restrict themselves to the narrow archival possibilities available if they stuck to groups like Boyzone, Take That and their numerous indistinguishable replicas? That might have required some thought about what actually went into this sub-culture of pop. Easier by far to simply enlarge the definition of boy band until pretty much anything you want to include will fit. Spotting a clip of The Osmonds, I was reminded that the Mormons tend to go in for posthumous conversion, an approach that appeared to have inspired the appearance here of boy bands such as The Beatles and The Four Tops.
The Monkees I was just about prepared to buy – an accidental boy band perhaps, given that they were actually cast as a fictional group in a television comedy, but still an early marker for the essential components of the form. They had youth, a sniper's eye for a teenage female demographic, and the carefully variegated line-up that means there will be someone to suit every sexual appetite. A successful boy band needs to be like a pop version of a Kellogg's Variety pack, ideally with no cornflakes (the one that always gets left till last), although, as several boy bands have proved, that isn't a deal-breaker. The Monkees also had some killer tunes, but although I'm in a Boy Band! played "I'm a Believer", and "Daydream Believer" they didn't even bother to mention Neil Diamond or John Stewart, the men who effectively sealed the deal. Instead, they turned for comments on the art of songwriting to Mike Chapman, the genius who gave us that deathless classic "Tiger Feet", which propelled Mud to the top of the charts. Mud, incidentally, were described as "one of history's less probable boy bands", which may have been because they weren't a bloody boy band at all.
Making an hour-long programme that features only statements of the obvious, flaccid truisms and outright nonsense is almost an achievement, particularly if you actually have some quite interesting contributors in it. But if Alexis Petridis or Ronan Keating or Pete Waterman ever did say anything interesting about the business of confecting pop bestsellers someone had carefully made sure it didn't make it into the final film. There was a vague mention of backing harmonies at one point and some jokey stuff about choreography, but otherwise almost no insider knowledge that you couldn't have gleaned from watching a couple of editions of Top of the Pops. I liked the moment when Peter Noone testified to the derangement of some fans: "I had a stalker that stalked me all the way to Great Yarmouth," he said in astonished tones, as if the Norfolk coast was one of the remoter stretches of the Gobi Desert. But it seemed a thin return on an hour's viewing.
In the second episode of Swimming with Crocodiles, Ben Fogle travelled to Queensland, where he was hoping to take a dip with a saltie. Given that he might also be sharing the water with sea snakes, box jellyfish and cone shells (all potentially fatal) this seemed unwise. But fortunately circumstances intervened. The water was too murky or the crocodiles too shy. In the end, they sort of staged a swim-in, using an animal that had been captured in Darwin harbour and which had had its jaws roped shut first. But it still proved their point, which was that although humans will be treated as dinner at the edge of the water, they seem to be ignored as inedible if encountered far enough underneath it. One day someone will become the exception to this rule. It will not be me.
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