Robert Hanks

Robert Hanks is a freelance writer and broadcaster.

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Robert Hanks' Television Review

"HEAVEN LIES around us in our infancy!" Wordsworth wrote. "Shades of the prison-house begin to close/Upon the growing boy." Most of the children followed in Eyes of a Child (BBC1) could have passed a pretty tough exam in shades of the prison-house. For a year, taking as their cue Tony Blair's pledge about child poverty, Kate Blewett and Brian Woods followed children in the rougher parts of England's inner cities as they went about their daily business: skiving school, watching TV, kicking a football around, breaking windows, getting into fights, running away... Precious few clouds of glory being trained here. The result was an impressively worrying and well-intentioned film, but one that was a little too muddled to create quite the sense of outrage it seemed to be aiming for.

Television Review

ON Scrapheap Challenge (Sun C4), teams are asked to knock up something extraordinary from old bits of rubbish that have been left lying around. The BBC runs a similar game, but it calls this "Primetime Scheduling". So, for instance, Debbie Horsfield (The Riff-Raff Element) has rummaged through piles of worn-out cliches from the Sixties - dead-end Northern town, lure of London, sexual awakening, youthful rebellion, adult repression, etc - and come up with Sex, Chips and Rock'n'Roll (Sun BBC1).

Television Review: Western Front

AT THE end of Western Front (BBC2), Richard Holmes stood in a military cemetery, struggling to encapsulate the lessons of the First World War at the other end of the century. It taught us to question, he thought, ended blind obedience - never again would we be prepared to lay down our lives or those of our children to try to change the world. And, finally, he squatted by a gravestone, engraved to "A soldier of the Great War": "And in a place like this," he intoned, "I cannot but remember that the least of them is as much a man as I am."

Television Review

IT COMES as a shock to see Bruce Forsyth as he was 28 years ago, introducing the first ever Generation Game: the sheer energy of the man, the elastic tension of that stupid silhouetted pose he used to strike, the twinkle-toed precision with which he kicked out of it and half-pranced to the front of the stage - it seems odd that I didn't remember it being so exciting.

Television Review

IF YOU'RE looking for an example of television's flighty affections, you could hardly do better than its relationship with Diana. Two years after the extraordinary orgy of brow- beating sentimentality that greeted her death, she seems to have been almost completely forgotten. The anniversary was marked only tangentially by Secret History (C4) in a film about a distant relative, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who died in 1806.

Television Review

YESTERDAY WAS a day of disasters: The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Poseidon Adventure, and an entire evening on BBC2 dedicated to global warming and its consequences. The conclusion from this seemed to be that we are all doomed, though science hasn't yet arrived at a consensus on the precise route by which catastrophe will arrive: take your pick from freezing, frying, drowning, drought or being eaten alive by giant insects.

Television Review

IN THE late summer of 1939, the Second World War broke out, and John Peel was born. It would be poor taste to suggest that the two events are remotely comparable in importance - though you could have got that idea from the weekend's television schedules. The way that Britain reacted to Total War and the fact of Peel's status as a living national treasure both exemplify a peculiarity of the British psyche. A love of failure, I was going to call it, but that's not right; it's more distrust of success, a desire to play it down.

Television Review

SERIAL KILLERS are surely amongst the least interesting people on earth. I mean, we all get a bit of a frisson from reading about Hannibal Lecter's appalling personal habits, or watching detectives race against time to stop a madman striking again. But the serial killers of fiction, and the puzzles they set, are as artificially constructed, as remote from real life as anything Agatha Christie wrote - it's fair to say that Hannibal Lecter is the Hercule Poirot de nos jours. Certainly, they don't, as some claim, tell us anything interesting about the human condition or man's capacity for evil.

Television Review

"I WAS once told," said Kirsty Young in Eclipse Live (C5), "that the difference between seeing a partial and a total eclipse was as different as a peck on the cheek and a long night of passion - so stay with us, because we're going to bring you the full, unedited version of the eclipse." And as the Sun's firm, rounded outline yielded to the Moon's insistent thrusting, the adult tone of Channel 5's coverage continued.

Television Review

FOR ALL the excitable talk you hear about sexual stereotypes breaking down, about people forging their own identities and discovering new gender roles, not much has changed. In last week's opening episode of the documentary series Soldiers to Be (BBC1), we saw a platoon of women army recruits introducing themselves to each other with little speeches about their families and their commitment to the job; by contrast, a platoon of men showed off about their near-misses with the law. (One NCO prophesied that the army will soon be taking murderers.)
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