Ice couples lose their cool
Friday 10 March 1995
"Oh! and a bad landing on his first jump." Positively Maskellian in his gentlemanly disappointment, Alan cushions the endless pratfalls in the velvet vocal hush he acquired as Pot Black MC. After years commentating on Milwall, Barry has weathered into a less tolerant style. "Russia's Olympic champion," said he dubiously. "You might wonder just a touch about the need of the costume being quite so swan-like."
For a sport reliant on freezing temperatures skating is oddly full of people with no cool at all. The entrance of Philippe Candelero had the boys ransacking the emergency description manual. "This charismatic Frenchman," said Barry. "Definitely one of the characters of the ice surface," agreed Alan. Candelero shares a barber with Bob Geldof and the same canny feral face. Alone in a sea of jade velour, he favours black. Think of Albert Camus having an existential crisis in Come Dancing. "Philip Cantona there applauding his countryman," said Alan, who had spotted another charismatic Frenchman without quite identifying him. Later, Eric and Philippe would get together in the dressing room and discuss poetic use of the triple toe loop. But first Philippe had to put two hands on the ice, kiss them and wave to the crowd before adopting his concluding pose, a crucifix. "Well he's still got tremendous personality," said Alan. "Five point nine from the French judge," screamed an incredulous Barry.
This being a men's event it boiled down to one thing: mine's bigger than yours. Competitors went for ever more taxing jumps and fell over. Or, as Barry put it, "Couple of difficulties getting the difficulty sufficiently difficult to get on to the rostrum". Keeping it simple and the spell miraculously intact were the young Americans Jenni Meno and Todd Sand. Jenni is a gleaming Debbie Reynolds to Todd's quarterback and together they forced Alan to bring out the big one. "My goodness!" Todd slammed on the brakes and sent up a shower of crystals as Jenni hurtled from his arms adjusting herself in flight to land with a serene smile. He threw up his arms as though he'd just scored the goal of his life; Todd Cantona! "My goodness again!" moaned Alan.
Shut That Door (BBC1) was a limp memorial to Larry Grayson. Michaels Barrymore and Grade paid handsome tribute and you did not doubt that the man they praised was modest and kind. But this was thin stuff. Endless clips from The Generation Game only confirmed the worst: as host lovable Larry wasn't a patch on bossy Brucie. The real interest of Grayson was evaded as it had been throughout his life. He was that very British comic type - the fastidious prude who gets laughs by smutty debunking of his own sexuality. "I've done the Maid of the Mountains. I've been very bizzy. I've done the Vagabond Queen - I refused The Chocolate Soldier." Parodying his own effeminacy as Kenneth Williams had done before him, Grayson defused his threat to a conservative audience. As long as that door stayed shut, the audience was only too glad to be gay.
She's Out (ITV) was not the closet drama it sounded. This was the sequel to Lynda La Plante's Widows hitting the screen. Punching the screen. Kicking its bleedin' `ead in! One does not necessarily look to this author for subtle exposition but if you don't mind good strong melodrama that you can stand a spoon up in then Lynda is your cup of char. The She in question is Dolly Rawlins (Ann Mitchell), released after doing 10 years for murdering her gangland hubby. Waiting with a warm welcome for Dolly - or, more specifically, for the diamonds she has stashed somewhere - is a bunch of no-good broads holed up in an abandoned health farm. Even before Dolly's arrival, a fruitful tension has been established: "Ya never said nuffink about vat prune faced bitch bein' in on viss." "Shut it, Gloria!" No coincidence, I suspect, that these desperadoes have the complementary talents of a Magnificent Seven: Kathleen the fraud expert, Gloria the arms dealer, Connie the wiggle with a giggle and so on. A safe-blower is usually assigned to this kind of caper, but here we can rely on Dolly to incinerate any obstacles with her furious-falcon stare. "But, what if it doesn't work?" "It's got to - for all of us." Aha, sisterly bonding through humiliation of the male oppressor: my favourite.
With her muscular popular works, La Plante continues to disprove the unspoken rule of TV that women become invisible at the age of 39. How satisfying to realise that the male cops in She's Out barely registered at all - the only Constable you remember is a bad print of The Haywain. The drama's very title hints at a female emancipation beyond a simple prison release. It would have grabbed Mary Wesley's ludicrous Vacillations of Poppy Carew (ITV) by the hair and held it over Tower Bridge until the silly cow made up her mind.
A television monument, The World at War (BBC2), ended with a numbing roll call. "I had not thought death had undone so many," crooned Larry Olivier quoting Eliot, who was himself quoting the observer of an earlier Inferno. We rested awhile watching one of the undone, a boy in a felt cap twirling from a tree. The leaves were out in the canopy above him: life, after all, would have the final say. The programme finished just in time for you to turn over for the new-look Hearts of Gold (BBC1). Fifty- five million dead so that Esther Rantzen could be free to ambush the living - was it really worth it?
"No one is safe from us on this show," warned our hostess, baring her famous incisors. "Unsung heroes in unlikely locations" should watch out. Alan and his son, who had helped their friend when he had a bad fall in Snowdonia, were surprised by reporter Mickey: "David has nominated you for a Heart of Gold." "Oh, no!" said Alan. He would pay for that later. When they were in the studio. "What do you mean `Oh, no'? How dare you, Sir," teased Esther. The tone was one of mock reproof, although the caution was clear: don't even think of spoiling the game. A D-movie reconstruction of the heroic event followed. But there was more: "We actually have a picture of you, David, as you were just after that accident in hospital - and you can see how desperately serious those injuries were." Has the woman no shame? The next story was about a plucky child who had got help when her mother was injured in France. What would unheroic behaviour have amounted to in these circumstances - leave the friend to die on the mountain, the mother to bleed in the road? The show seems incapable of distinguishing great acts of dedication from common decency. "We'll have more surprises and maybe more tears next week," promised Esther. Her world runs on Faith, Hope and Celebrity. But the greatest of these is Celebrity.
The Buccaneers (BBC1) ended with Nan and Guy making a very public, and therefore preposterous, escape. This confirmed what you had suspected from the start - there were two dramas here. While director Philip Saville was intent on something beautiful and troubling, scriptwriter Maggie Wadey was abandoning Edith Wharton in favour of Cookson and finally Cartland. Asked by Radio Times what she hoped for next, Wadey said she had her eye on The Age of Innocence, having disliked Scorsese's film because it "stifled the emotions". What on earth does she think the 19th century was like - Hearts of Gold? The Age of Esther would be surprised to learn that feelings can actually be enhanced by restraint.
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