07 May 1998 12:02 AM
You earn a great deal of money if you're part of the cast of a hit American comedy like Friends. But there are drawbacks, because this money flows from syndicated sales to television stations all over the world. The more substantial of these have to be kept happy about their expensive purchase. They have to be made to feel like friends, in short. Which means that every now and then you will be required to emerge from your luxuriously appointed dressing room and pretend to have fun with the syndicating station's zany of the month. For Channel Four this currently means Johnny Vaughan, whose personal brand of inverted quotation mark broadcasting (everything that isn't a joke is a quote, or rather "a quote") has given The Big Breakfast a much needed ratings boost. In The One Where Johnny Makes Friends (C4) he talked to the stars while they filmed an episode in London, a series of interviews in which the pungent odour of contractual obligation kept breaking through the atmosphere of bantering equality. Talking to Lisa Kudrow, marooned in Los Angeles by pregnancy, Johnny asked for advice on how he could best break the ice with her co- stars: "You know the best thing to do with any of the cast", she said, "leave them alone!" It was the most explicit cry for help in this often excruciating programme.
07 May 1998 12:02 AM
MOST regular viewers will have suspected some time ago that British television has been corrupted by the narcotics trade. It tries to get along without the easy high of menace and machismo offered by drug documentaries, but it just can't kick the habit. Wait for long enough and you're sure to find more grainy footage of furtive deals or interviews with concerned policemen.
06 May 1998 12:02 AM
Psychology student Scott gets involved with a leather-clad belle dame sans merci, whom he meets after a brief flirtation on the internet. He's fascinated and she's poisonous - a drug addict and sexual opportunist who seems destined to flesh out his university course work in a particularly horrible way
05 May 1998 12:02 AM
No sooner had Father Peter declared his intention to leave the church and make a new life with Assumpta than He sent down an avenging thunderbolt, travelling through the cruelly bathetic medium of a dodgy pub fuseboard
01 May 1998 12:02 AM
The interviews in Dispatches'(C4) film about child abuse in South Africa were being shown with "full and informed consent", explained a Channel Four release accompanying the tape. This was reassuring, but only up to a point - because precisely what "full and informed consent" means in relation to a frightened five-year-old isn't very clear. One of the more upsetting passages of Tom Roberts' film showed a deeply traumatised child being tutored in court procedures with the help of a wooden dollhouse and some poignantly guileless woollen dolls. Presumably a similar exercise wasn't carried out to explain the chain of inspection and broadcast involved in a television documentary - with clumsy figurines standing in for the commissioning editor or, for that matter, the newspaper reviewer. And presumably too, the three-year-old boy who had been sodomised by a worker at his local creche did not carefully weigh the consequences of being filmed while having his bath. Of course, I'm being deliberately obtuse here - what was meant, I take it, was that parents had consented on behalf of their children, further reassured by the fact that the film wouldn't be broadcast in South Africa.
09 April 1998 12:02 AM
"We've basically re-invented the marble" explained one of the Gingell brothers, "We've brought marbles into the 20th century." It isn't easy to imagine exactly what needs improvement in a marble - they've been spherical and hard for over two millennia now, a textbook example of technological stasis. But the Gingell's had an idea of how to strengthen their diminished value in the playground currency markets, by inserting a picture of a Premier League player. Quite a good idea, really, considering what slavish completists children are, and how persistently they can haggle to secure that one missing piece from their collection. Good enough, certainly, to persuade a manufacturer to take up the idea and put some hard figures to the Gingell's fantasies of overnight prosperity. "Like winning the lottery twice a year," said one of the boys near the beginning of the programme, "3.3 million pounds in the first year if it goes big." At this point the profits were still tantalisingly projected - but the confidence of those doing the projecting was very high: "I cannot see it failing... It will not fail... It's too good," said one of the inventors.
01 April 1998 12:02 AM
I knew I was getting old when I asked a colleague how to spell Yuri Gagarin and she replied "Who?" Then again Yuri's global fame always did rest on a rather slender pinnacle. He was the first man in space, it's true, but his first time was also his last and his death in a plane crash only a few years later meant that he was never able to buttress his celebrity with subsequent achievements. He long ago entered the low earth orbit of historical curiosity, held aloft by the nostalgia of those who survived him (and, it has to be conceded, a recent mobile phone advertisement).
31 March 1998 12:02 AM
"You've got to 'ave a laugh now and again, 'aven't yer?" whined a disruptive neighbour in last night's Panorama (BBC1), evicted after a series of drunken atrocities. As a whole series of recent programmes have shown, there are few people quite as injured as a "neighbour from hell" asked to account for his or her actions. And the mood of the moment is such that these protestations of innocence can be reliably expected to stoke up the viewer's indignation even further. Not only do they threaten to burn down their neighbours' houses or push faeces through the letterbox - they lie about it afterwards, the brazen sods. The mood in councils about such tenants has changed too, with a push from central government, and Mark Sigsworth's film looked at the consequences of that alteration. What was odd about it was the way in which it played so uneasily against the current appetite for "something to be done".
30 March 1998 12:02 AM
Melvyn Bragg rounded the numbers up. The Origin of Species had been published "nearly 140 years ago", he said, introducing a round table discussion about the disputed border between social studies and evolutionary theory. As anniversaries go that wasn't particularly convincing, but the refreshing truth is that there was no commemorational alibi for BBC2's weekend of programmes about evolution, no calendrical imperative to address it now rather than in another eleven years time, when "the most powerful idea ever to occur to the human mind" will celebrate the 150th birthday of its formal publication. What had provoked this intriguing miscellany was the current vigour of the idea itself - still hot to the touch despite the many years which it has had to cool and congeal into a commonplace truth. Ordinary people can now talk about themselves as "human animals" without a flicker of existential dismay - as a woman happened to on Friday, in a programme about working from home - but that does not mean that the theory of natural selection (Darwin's true stroke of genius) has lost its effervescent energy, the sense of vast implications copiously pouring from a modest container. 139 years on, the bust of Darwin shows signs of displacing those of Freud and Marx in very different disciplines - a fact which raises almost as much alarm now as our primate ancestry did in Victorian days.
TV: I warmed to the man immediately when he grumbled about the atmosphere of `social oppression' in Switzerland and described an anonymous colleague as a `schmuck'
20 March 1998 12:02 AM
Watching Hopeful Monsters, Horizon's film (BBC2) about recent advances in genetic science, offered the intellectual equivalent of skating on thin ice. The sense of rapid forward motion was exhilarating, but it was difficult to shake the apprehension that it was only forward motion that was keeping you out of trouble. Every now and then I remembered that I might have to offer a paraphrase of what I thought I had just understood, and there was an ominous glacial creaking. I don't mean by this that it was a bad programme - it was actually very elegant - but the complexity of molecular biology is such that any real solidity of explanation would take a series rather than a single film. Because this was a single programme, and because it concerned a development that more than justified the mythical hyperbole (the scientists involved had "cracked open nature's great mysteries") it was almost obliged to shape its material as a graspable story - and the most accessible story for science programmes is still that of personal triumph. The person in this case was Mike Levine, Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of California in Berkeley, and one can hardly blame the film-makers for their selection, because he was captivating, recounting the progress from eureka moment (when he saw a picture of a fruit-fly with perfectly formed legs where its antenna should be) to the sinking realisation that his finest work was probably now behind him. I warmed to him immediately when he grumbled about the atmosphere of "social oppression" in Switzerland and described an anonymous colleague as a "schmuck" but, given that he was just one of several signatories to the paper which had described the breakthrough, it seemed likely that he wasn't the only person who could have explained it. I doubt if anyone else would have dramatised the matter with such unselfconscious zeal, though. His eyes shone as he sketched in the magnitude of his shared discovery.
- 1 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 2 Gurdwaras-turned-food banks: Sikh temples are catering for rise in Britain’s hungry
- 3 Teenage girl convicted of robbery after taking pre-crime selfie wielding knife
- 4 Government delays EU immigration report because it is too positive
- 5 'I'm experiencing austerity as well', says Princess Michael of Kent
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