And the world laughs with you

the week on television

There wasn't much evidence of the pulpit in BallykissDibley (BBC1, Fri), last night's blind date between two primetime priests, but more than enough elsewhere in Comic Relief's order of service. The biannual task of the Red Nose festivities is to find a satisfactory compromise between entertainment and consciousness-raising. The biannual task of columns such as this one is to express the worry, which may or may not be widely felt, that a grab-bag of Hancocks and Deaytons has no business parading a conscience that their daily work requires them to conceal.

There was a particularly monstrous example of this critical stance in another newspaper's review of the first instalment of Balls to Africa (BBC1, Sun, Mon, Tues). It imputed the basest of limelight-seeking motives to the messy menage of celebrities assembled for a football tour of West Africa. They were described as "embarrassingly available" and "second- rate" by a reviewer the memory of whose witty radio stuntwork has been all but eclipsed by the widely noted brevity of his own career in TV. How second-rate is "second-rate"? Better than having no rating at all.

In fact, the now established tradition of comedians reporting from the front line of deprivation is part of a much wider trend in TV. Celebrity involvement buys an audience for documentaries that would normally be given a wide berth. They may be about feeding the world or feeding the intellect (remember Terry Jones on the crusades?) but the same rules apply. It speaks far less well of the viewer than the viewed that this should be so. We're the invertebrates for needing to be led by the hand towards our own wallets, or our own enlightenment, by people who make us laugh.

If there was a slackness to Balls to Africa, it took the refreshing form of an admission, albeit unspoken, that these celebrities didn't know precisely what good they were doing. Frank Skinner stood in a swarm of giggling "Africans", as the beneficiaries of our charity are generically known in this sort of film, and reckoned it was "great that they're doing gags". That summed up the almost childlike paucity of his world view, in which the punchline looms larger than the poverty line. But it was a welcome retreat from the holy know-all style of some previous Comic Relief films.

The tendency in Comic Relief programming to sentimentalise "Africans", with the help of slow-motion and plangent soundtracking, is not inflicted on "the homeless". Lenny Henry's brief in Walk On By (BBC1, Wed) was to present his street-sleeping subjects as individuals. Genetically programmed to be larger than life, he suppressed his own personality wherever loudness was inappropriate, but skilfully used it wherever possible to coax the personality out of others. In one scene, he helped Jason, a boy with a periodic heroin problem, to sell the very newspaper that carried this week's critique of Comic Relief's impure philanthropy. (In a rather choice irony, the punters all wanted him to autograph the front page.) Jason eventually felt familiar enough with Henry to admit that he always switched over when he was on.

Jason also took a camera crew to Canterbury to show them his childhood haunts. "Who'd want to film you?" a friend, passing by, asked incredulously. The glamour models on Kilroy (BBC1, Thurs) didn't have the answer to much the same question. Most of the women participating in this studio investigation into nude modelling were thinking in terms of a future in TV presenting. However, television is a prudish medium. "I've got a degree," said one woman from under uniform white hair. "But I can't get a job as a presenter. Perhaps at Channel X, but not Carlton." So there we have it: rejected by the channel widely regarded as the lowest of terrestrial low, but granted a free screen test by Kilroy.

As an act of wholly inappropriate charity, it was matched only by the plug for a moribund pop group in The Queen Phenomenon (C4, Mon). Channel 4 ought to set up an inquiry to find out how this one managed got through its defences. Perhaps it happened the day Michael Grade was handing in his resignation. MTV had presumably discarded it as insufficiently rigorous. The film was made by a rum-sounding pair called Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher. "Europeans". Who needs them'?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

    £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

    £22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones