TELEVISION / Shaggy and not so shaggy human stories
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.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Taylor Swift, 1989 - album review: Pop star shows 'promising signs of maturity'
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational but still sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth sent home in double firing
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are