TELEVISION REVIEW / Can't stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen

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The Independent Culture
THE CORNERS cut in Body Heat (ITV), a new competition for fitness junkies, were apparent in the first event. 'We reckon it's just like trying to run the Edinburgh Mile,' said presenter Mike Smith, as six contestants stood on six computer-linked Power Jogger running machines, waiting for the word go. Shots of said Scottish city flitted across the screen before we returned to a studio which looks like a white-tiled show- kitchen with all the units stripped out. The subtext was clear: if the budget had permitted, that's where we'd be right now.

This could turn into an Olympic event to be reckoned with: 'And the gold medal for running on the spot while pretending to be in a city lined with Japanese tourists goes to. . . . ' Other events in Body Heat are called things like 'Power Point' and 'Pressure Point'; this could be called 'What's the Point?'

Though we weren't in Edinburgh, there was plenty for the eyes to feast on. Half a dozen people sweating in lycra is a vision pretty close to ITV heaven. Lest you complain, the title of the series is a fairly honest declaration of intent. They could have called it Rumpwatch, but that wouldn't have summoned up associative images of a young and lithe Kathleen Turner taking her clothes off.

Throughout the proceedings, Mike Smith keeps his clothes on (yes, of course his jacket was red), which has to go down as an opportunity missed to shed the tag of Britain's most defiantly uncharismatic television presenter. Unfortunately for the lubriciously inclined, co- presenters Sally Gunnell and Jeremy Guscott followed suit.

Gunnell marched on in thonky trainers, floorboards booming beneath her, to tell the power joggers what was expected of them, and you just knew it was the 13th take. In an effort to clone the frenzied atmosphere of a big stadium on to this ersatz competition, she was deputed to shove a microphone into the face of Robert from Bangor after he'd all but dropped off his Power Jogger. In his advanced state of knackeredness, all he could do was grunt. Don't give up the day job, Sally.

Among the competitors was the standard-issue bloke with hair down to his ankles, the standard-issue bloke with a little moustache and the standard-issue bloke with no distinguishing features whatsoever. The women all tended to fall into the last category. What with the lack of Edinburgh sights to take in along the way, a 20-second profile was run about each of them during the Power Jogger event. 'I work out between five and six times a week,' said Debbie. So, five-and- a-half times, then?

In a cultural climate of ever-shortening attention spans, this feature has distinct possibilities for all athletics events from 400m up. 'Hi, my name's Seb, I'm interested in running, I train every day and I'd like to be a Tory MP when I grow up.' Shave a few seconds off and they could even screen a 'Hi, I'm Linford and I train between 79 and 80 times a week.'

'They say pain is temporary, pride is permanent,' said the guest, real-tennis champion Sally Jones (nothing like starting with someone from a sport followed by millions). Body Heat is temporary.

Sunny Spells: A Game for Optimists (BBC 2) was a curious vignette from BBC Wales. Interleaving dance with drama, it can only be described as the film of the paintings of Emrys Williams. From canvases in which umbrellas and dayglo macs stand out against the rain-plump clouds and grey seas of the north Welsh coast, the script extrapolated a story about a sour old couple confronting the tedium of routine and the balm of fantasy. Amazing what you can fit into a space no larger than an episode of Body Heat.