When it's better to travel hastily than arrive

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The Independent Culture
THE JOY of Passengers (C4) is becoming only fully apparent several weeks into its run. It occupies the braindead slot usually tenanted by The Word, but has rather slighter intellectual ambitions. Summarising a global grab-bag is problematic but, broadly speaking, it's a magazine in which the pictures can't stand still and the words go belly-up right in front of you. Uniquely, it is probably beyond the bounds of parody.

Last night the diary slot, which is just a longer report split up on the assumption that the target audience has the attention span of a gnat, concerned Spain's top female bullfighter. This killed two birds (not to mention several bulls) with one stone, because it ingeniously squeezed sex and violence into the same space. Throughout the report, Christina Sanchez wore a T-shirt with the word NUDOS plastered across her chest. The only time she wasn't wearing it was when she went for a dip, and then the camera quite flagrantly lingered on her bikini- clad behind.

Passengers can't hope to dovetail its two imperatives quite so neatly in every segment. Normally you have to make do with starvation rations of just sex, or just violence. But wherever possible they get both in. A piece about Ultimate Fighting, in which exponents of differents codes of martial combat lay into each other on American television, would have satisfied the bloodlust of most viewers who aren't also serial killers. And, in case that wasn't enough, most of the fighters were practically NUDOS too.

On the sex side, the techniques of titillation are sometimes merely suggestive - as in vapid reports on top models who don't drink or smoke or do discos, but who in most shots are very nearly NUDOS. In previous shows, there have been reports on transsexual night-clubs in Tokyo, beach parties in Thailand and biker dykes in Sydney: in each report the subtext is writ large: get 'em out.

In the contents page at the top of the show, the streetwise announcer never fails to warn you of potential kit- removal. One week it was some non- event or other at Newquay, where all manner of behaviour would be on view, 'including semi-nudity'. You have to admire them for that 'semi': it's such an honest proviso. Last night's semi-nudity cropped up in a piece on L7, the all-girl grunge band who like to take their clothes off on stage. At least this was unusual semi-nudity, because the guitarist was undressed from the waist down.

On those rare occasions when Passengers shows more than a two-tracked mind, it weighs in with a piece like last night's about the Can-a-bus, in which a coach load of globotrash rode to Amsterdam to eat hash cakes. After they'd visited the hash museum, they checked out the sex museum. Unfortunately, they never made it to the violence museum.

The internationalism of the series is theoretically admirable, but rather than give viewers of all nationalities the key to other cultures, it just encourages them to look through the keyhole. The common denominator could not be lower if it was dropped in the sea with weights tied to it. Also, the need to buy footage from abroad squeezes some probably presentable work into a format that is constantly fast-forwarding. A report by Jean- Jacques Beineix into Japanese obsessives must once have been an hour-long documentary, but here it was abridged into oblivion.

When the fully clothed Christina was shunted by a bull in her biggest fight, we caught a glimpse of Passengers' policy on translation. She limped to the side of the ring to call for refreshment, and the interpreter faithfully rendered her words into English: 'Water, for fuck's sake]' Passengers is thirsty work.

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