Thomas Sutcliffe

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The Sketch: Ron the non-confessor speaks a lot but says nothing

THE LAST time Ron Davies spoke in the Commons it was on the Bill establishing a Welsh Assembly, including a contentious Government amendment requiring the Welsh Executive to sign the Official Secrets Act. Mr Davies commended this amendment to the House and there have been several times in the past few days when his tight-lipped manner suggested that he had promulgated a private extension of this legislation to cover his own misadventures on Clapham Common.

Television Review

YOUR STARTER for 10. In which English classic will you find the line "I must congratulate you - you've always had magnificent balls"? Is it a) Pride and Prejudice, b) The Last Chronicle of Barset, or c) Carry On Don't Lose Your Head. The answer is c), as it happens, but the judges will not enter into any correspondence over their decision, given that almost any of the 30 or so Carry On films might also have contained this deathless example of British double-entendre. As Channel Four's tribute to the series, A Perfect Carry On (Sun), demonstrated, with a brisk montage of three "big one" gags (Woman to man carrying a large weapon: "Oooh, you've got a big one") the success of the films was never dependent on novelty. People paid for a ticket because they knew exactly what they were going to get, not because they wanted to be surprised by some departure from the formula. "They've stolen my steers," shouted one man in Carry on Cowboy. "Bullocks?" says another. "No, it's true... they've stolen my steers". You can almost imagine the audience chanting along.

Television Review

I'VE ALWAYS admired Christopher Hitchens' reckless appetite for blasphemy, partly because he penetrates further into the nasal passages of the pious than almost any other journalist, and it's fun to watch their apoplectic sneezing, partly because all dogmas should occasionally be tested against heresy. Those which are genuine will easily survive and those which aren't shouldn't anyway. He has already risked the jihads of devotees of Mother Teresa and Spike Lee, but last night, in Diana: the Mourning After (C4), he took on a still more popular subject - the paroxysm of grief which followed the death of Princess Diana. He did not, rather notably, question the Princess herself (barring a waspish observation that this paragon of charity had left not a penny to charity in her will); indeed, there was a brief panegyric towards the end about her qualities of warmth, beauty and compassion which would not have disgraced the pages of the Daily Mail. But he did question the assumption that reaction to her death had been universally bonding.

Television Review

THE CABLING of terrestrial television continues apace, with particularly impressive advances being made by BBC1 on Wednesday evenings, which last night boasted no less than three "believe-it-or-not" shows - the first of Chris Packham's The X Creatures, the egregious Mysteries with Carol Vorderman and a QED which had turned its attention to the pressing medical question of spontaneous human combustion. Not to be left behind in this general capitulation to the editorial values of the supermarket tabloids, Channel 4 is currently running In Your Dreams on Tuesday nights. This week, the programme began with flurried extracts of a Live TV! dream-interpretation chat-show called Fate and Fortune, unwisely prompting the question of what actually distinguished its own programme from Kelvin McKenzie's ill- favoured brain-child. Absolutely nothing was my own view, after watching an exploitative trawl through various new-age therapies, an "open-minded" (read "room- to-let") consideration of the meaning of dreams. I occasionally dream that Channel 4 still represents the values of rational viewers who want some alternative to audience-chasing pap - but then something on the telly wakes me up.

Television review

THE CLOSEST Doron Blake can get to someone he can call Dad is the Repository for Germinal Choice in California, a grandiosely titled sperm bank which supplied the vital fluid for the ceremony with which his mother contrived to make up for the absence of a breathing partner. In what I took to be archive film rather than a reconstruction, you saw Afton Blake seated in the lotus position, putting in a call to the psyche bank - "I invite you, oh precious soul, to come in through me, I invite you now to choose me as your mother." A semen-loaded syringe was held aloft like a host, the sacred object in this rather flakey form of incarnation. If you were wondering whether anyone could really be dumb enough to fall in love with a catalogue description (she had just confessed to her sudden infatuation with Donor 28's inventory notes), this scene supplied some corroborative evidence, as did the choice of her son's name - an anagram of "donor" which also means gifted in Greek. She wanted a child and she got a pun.

Television Review

"PETER IS really anxious because he has to go and produce a sperm sample," announced the voice-over halfway through "Baby It's You", the True Stories (C4) film about a couple's subjection to infertility treatment. To an outsider, the reasons for Peter's anxiety seemed pretty obvious - he could not be sure that his wife, the film's director, wouldn't follow him into the cubicle with a video camera and record his Clinton impersonation for posterity.
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