TELEVISION / Shaggy and not so shaggy human stories

A BARBER once told me that the secret of securing a good tip was to brush your fingers surreptitiously against your customer's earlobes. Apparently this is passed on from generation to generation at hairdressing school though I have to report that it doesn't work at all if you tell the subject what's going on. In 'Heads and Tales' (BBC 2), a compendium of Some Things Related To Hair, a psychologist, Dr Halla Beloff, put the principle more formally. Hairdressing is an 'intimate service' she explained, directly related to the grooming of primates, an activity which promotes social harmony and good feeling. So, as you sit there staring into the mirror with fingers dabbling hopefully at your lobes, you can imagine yourself as a giant silver-backed gorilla, condescending to a hairy acolyte.

There didn't look to be much good feeling in the business for Alex Campbell, who was having Elvis's quiff macramed on to his thinning scalp. His white-knuckled fingers grasped the armrest as an unsympathetic technician plyed her needle, weaving the hairy Axminster into place and dabbing on superglue here and there just to make sure. She pulled the knots tight with an odd relish, as though determined to make him pay the full price for his decision. The result was certainly secure, so much so that it looked as if it had been lacquered and nailed to his head with carpet tacks.

Documentaries like this are built on the Christmas stocking principle - bung everything in and don't worry too much if it ends up looking lumpy - and their success depends on coming up with more toys than space-filling satsumas. Some of Geoff Dunlop's 40 Minutes film did seem makeweight - the little revolving interviews with people talking about their hairstyles, for instance - but he'd also turned up some real treats.

A fascinating little excursion to Russia revealed that impoverished families are selling off their granny's hair to buy groceries - bringing the locks wrapped in newspaper to be weighed and graded, as if they were the fibrous product of a private allotment (which, in a way, I suppose they are).

Several gung-ho entrepreneurs, displaying the sort of bespoke confidence that comes straight off a cassette, planned their campaign for a baldness treatment that combined hanging upside down like a bat and attending what you might call 'hair- raising' sessions. Is it pyramid-selling, asked an off-camera voice. 'Word-of- mouth marketing', one of the businessmen replied sternly. Their chief executive appeared to have a sizeable tonsure but he insisted it was diminishing daily under the exciting new regime.

It's easy to be too dismissive of men's anxiety about hair loss - particularly if you're looking through a fringe at the time - but when it comes to a woman the distress is unproblematic, not quite yet a matter of saying, 'Honestly, you look absolutely fine as you are.' Dunlop's film ended with a moving segment about a woman whose hair had fallen out overnight. She still went to the hairdresser, lying back to have her wig shampooed and snipped and set, seeking the old primate comforts of grooming and association, and you last saw her peering into the mirror at the dome of her skull, identifying new growth with all the desperate optimism of a shipwrecked sailor seeing wisps of smoke on the horizon.

'You've been hit by a bus,' explained a policeman, bent over a bleeding man in Karachi Kops (C 4). After last week's episode, which introduced you to the hands-on methods of the local constabulary, you wondered for a moment whether this was just a suggestion for a convincing story to tell the doctor; 'I slipped going into the cells' wouldn't plausibly cover the energetic interrogation technique of these desperately overworked policeman.

The rest of the film was a bit baffling, involving a tangle of family associations and dead-end investigations, and it made you wonder why this is a series rather than a one-off documentary.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks