When women did appear, it was all problems, problems. QED (BBC1) offered a worthy programme on an Ethiopian fistula hospital (treating women suffering from severe incontinence after childbirth - yikes!), and Provocation (C4) wallowed in the case of Sara Thornton who killed her husband when he was helplessly drunk and is now racked by self-pity. In it we were told that Thornton doesn't wear underpants. What are we to make of this? Would sensible lingerie have quelled her murderous impulses? She's no feminist heroine of mine - I don't trust her - but I defend her right to make her own decisions on undergarments.
What a joy to come upon Gayle's World (ITV) instead, a take-off on tackiness itself, with Gayle Tuesday (Brenda Gilhooly) gallivanting noisily round a studio that looks like a Marbella villa. She's the mock-incarnation of every blonde bimbo stereotype, all tit, tat and mouth. The mouth steals the show. It follows you around the room! It's shaped like a medieval galley, rocked by choppy seas, and out of it come squeals of pleasure as Gayle thinks about her show or her life or her boyfriend and manager, nicknamed Pimp. She's not only more subversive than her forebears, Alan Partridge and Mrs Merton, she has a lot more fun.
"Tuesday" was presumably the day her career was first launched by posing topless for the Sun or some other ethereal publication. She has since expanded her talents to include charity work, her first pop single ("Have a dinky donkey derby for the world!"), a part in a film on the Brontes, and this, a night-time version of daytime telly. Her celebrity guest was a game Russell Grant, who asked Gayle for her astrological sign. "Virgo with penis rising" was the reply - no one escapes mockery here. Together they handled some phone-in dilemmas, quickly concluding that none of their callers was worth helping, and then Gayle was "out and about" in Carnaby Street, looking for "Feminist Types". Gayle doesn't like feminists. She suspects them of mismanaging their make-up. It's hard to tell if her big- breasted Essex blonde act is a feminist backlash or a backlash against a backlash - with a hint of Miss Whiplash - but it's great stuff.
Perhaps high heels, ostrich feathers and the occasional shriek are what Mark Purdey needs in his campaign against organo-phosphate pesticides (Dispatches, C4). While awaiting complete scientific proof, he's collected plenty of evidence that these chemicals may be responsible for BSE, but no one wants to listen. Even MAFF (Ministry of Assholes, Farts and Fools) admits organo-phosphates, originally developed as nerve gas, are now alarmingly present, thanks to current farming practices, in bread, cereal, vegetables and cattle feed, but they refuse to consider the possible connection between OPs and BSE. As a food safety expert on the programme pointed out, the Government "licensed the product [Phosmet, poured over cattle to protect them from warble fly] and therefore accredited it for safety ... They [also ] made its use effectively compulsory, so that if Phosmet is responsible for BSE, the Government would find itself in the position of having caused the epidemic." Meanwhile, if Purdey's right, mass slaughter will accomplish nothing: cattle exposed to OPs will continue to get the disease.
Interviewed in Frankfurt last year, Nick Leeson said he only felt loyalty towards "the people who matter to me". Unfortunately these are few and far between. His colleagues earned nothing but his contempt. According to him Barings contained "a load of idiots" and "bumbling fools" (the usual conman's excuse, blaming his crime on the gullibility of his victims). For Peter Norris at the bank, on the other hand, Leeson was "like a virus that gets into something that works and perverts it utterly. He's an agent of destruction." Yes, but does he wear knickers?
pounds 830,000,000 - Nick Leeson and the Fall of the House of Barings (BBC1) ridiculed the lot of them, the smug bankers, smug Leeson, and the essential dullness of the empire they coveted. The progress of Leeson's fraud was described suspensefully (he lost pounds 50m in a single day without apparently losing his "cool"), but the tone was delightfully tongue-in-cheek, with frequent recourse to archive film clips of wallabies, the Titanic, 1950s ads and educational films about banking. The wallabies were quite important: Barings almost went bust once before when a clerk named Nicholas bought too many shares in the Buenos Aires sewage system, which proved difficult to flog to European stockholders. The Bank of England had to intervene to save Barings, but its then head, his son and grandson all retreated in disgrace to Ireland, with some wallabies purchased from London Zoo. You know something's wrong when a banker becomes overly involved with wallabies.
"We had the rhythm and blues for many a year and then here come in the white people and they call it rock 'n' roll, and it was rhythm and blues all the time. That's where it came from - us," said Dave Bartholemew, pinpointing the racial tension that could still be felt in the way the first instalment of Dancing in the Street (BBC2) was constructed. The programme's focus on mass appeal in the Fifties meant an inevitable slant towards the musical tastes of white audiences. Black music wasn't played on white radio stations, and had to be toned down in order to get heard. Fats Domino was accepted by white audiences because he was unthreatening (why? because he was fat?). It wasn't clear how Little Richard bridged the gap so successfully - with his incredible sculpted hair and wild whoops he seemed to be making few concessions to delicate sensibilities. But they were all usurped by white musicians stealing black style: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly. The music was great, the interviews lively. I only question the mythological status of some of these figures. After all, they just sang songs. Short ones at that.
"Interesting to hear your views - such as they are," said Juliet Morris firmly to some old geezer who didn't want women cricketers in the Long Room at Lords because they would chatter and fiddle with darning needles. For once the objective act of all news presenters was abandoned - Morris showed a shameless bias towards her other interviewee, Rachel Heyhoe Flint, who's getting on in years and is still barred from the MCC (Breakfast News Extra, BBC1). Perhaps Morris can help us infiltrate the male club that is TV, clear all the old boys and new boys off our screen and make way for some women. I've prepared a provisional list of alternatives to last week's programmes: Mistressmind, in which Magda Magdadaughter quizzes four women priests on specialised subjects and general knowledge of women's affairs: Clash of the Amazons, in which we relive famous female sporting rivalries; Secrets of Lost Empires, in which two women Hoover the Colosseum; Part 3 of Frigid Lavinia, the Denise Potter sci-fi adventure; and Part 2 of Astronauts, in which the all-male team try to master the shuttle loo while their wives poison the barbecue meat.Reuse content