AFTER WATCHING Babewatch (ITV, Mon) I have resolved to never attend the Clothes Show exhibition again. Darling, it's just a cattle market. There was this woman called Laura - looking a bit like a distressed Jane Birkin - and her male counterpart, Simon, scouring the young faces there for the models of the future. When they discovered some likely candidate anxious to become Miss Damart 1999, they would sidle up to him or her and fix up appointments to see them later at the agency stall. Personally, I have no desire to be accosted in this way, when all I want to do is examine the new Nicole Farhi collection in peace.

And where do you end up? Like platinum Candice, the programme implied, who had the "Nivea Body of the Year"(whatever that was - had she used more Nivea on it than anyone else, or was her body more in need of it than any other?), and spent her life plucking eyelashes and being draped over the bonnet of a Merc.

Meanwhile, back at the exhibition, Simon and the camera crew were cruising for twinks. Two young guys were sitting by a wall smoking. Simon went up to the twinkiest, asking, "Do you mind standing up for me?" Shorty drew himself up to five foot nothing. Clearly disappointed, Simon said, by way of explanation, "Oh, that's why." That's why what? Why no one else had snapped up Shorty? Why his legs didn't quite reach up to his bum?

Back to Laura, who told us that the obvious ones never made it anyway. No, it was the ugly ones with glasses, the shy ones, the ones who didn't look like much who eventually made it to supermodels. Which was both interesting and encouraging for bespectacled ugly people, things being what they are in the newspaper business these days.

Except it was a complete fib, because the girl Laura really took a shine to - 14- year-old Lucy from Solihull - looked as though she had been born a model. Lucy possessed Dresden skin, a Bardot pout and cheekbones with the shape and delicacy of the handles on an antique teacup. She was about as obvious a model as you could possibly imagine. A life of travel, glamour, drugs, marital breakdown and eating disorders clearly stretches out before her.

But she was completely silent. No, really. As though she had no vocal chords, she made no sound whatsoever. Not a cough, nor a murmur, not a susurration passed lightly through her larynx. Perhaps, I thought, she hides a voice like broken chalk on a warped blackboard. But it was a clue to the problem of this series, one which explains why not that many viewers watched it despite its place in the prime-time schedules. This is ITV's first big foray into docusoap, but the producers had forgotten that it is great verbal moments that really make compelling soap. Eileen Downey, Mo and the rest are great talkers and shouters. Their dramatic moments are invariably accompanied by wonderful speech. But modelling is full of folk that only look and, in their turn, are looked at. And no talk is usually bad telly.

A reflective man myself, I still preferred Lucy's extraordinary beauty to the collection of tedious nonentities (in other words, people too much like me) who populated the BBC's latest docusoap, the bi-weekly The Cruise (BBC1, Tues & Wed). It was bad luck, I suppose, that the ship's doctor, the padre, the chief stoker and all the other Carry On Cruising staples were either unavailable or unfilmable, leaving the director with the ship's crooner, the chief stewardess - both of whom spent much of the time on the phone to their mothers - a monosyllabic West Indian cocktail waiter and a garrulous and inane American couple, whose good humour was the polar opposite of infectious. I remember that there was a film called Ship of Fools (Elizabeth Taylor was on it, I think); well, this was the Ship of Bores. The Marie Celeste must have had more interesting conversations on board than the SS Galaxy did.

Not that "interesting" is necessarily the same as "good". Nannies from Hell (ITV, Wed), for instance, was "interesting", in the same way as is being involved in a car crash or witnessing a fight in a pub. I watched, appalled for an hour, as hidden cameras caught the cruelty, the sadism, meted out to very young children by some of their carers.

What was useful about this programme, was the reminder of how easily small children can be abused and terrorised. Of all the age groups, babies under one - not young men - are the most likely to be murdered. But the vast majority will not be killed by hired helpers, let alone qualified nannies: the parents do it.

Now, I don't want to be pedantic, but - as far as I could tell - none of those filmed in the act were nannies at all. They were instead a ragbag of women to whom American children had been rather arbitrarily entrusted, and on whom the parents had - for various reasons - decided to spy, with cameras hidden in teddies and CD systems. There was the demented white Texan granny, the brutal blubber mountain from Barbados, and the psychopathic Latino who meted out vengeance for a child's assault on her white shorts.

From Britain, however, the only film was of a young au pair who, left alone for 12 hours a day with a nine-month-old baby, slept for the whole morning upstairs while the child crawled among the thousand lethal traps of the average living room. Whether her ignorant neglect was any worse than that of the parents (who had, after all, installed the camera in the first place) I leave to the reader's own judgement.

It would, I think, have been more responsible to give parents better tips on how to choose carers: what to look out for, how to set priorities and - in some cases - to remind them that children are not just for Christmas. But maybe some Mums and Dads do need to be shocked into understanding this.

Face to Face (BBC2, Mon), the programme on which someone famous once broke down and cried in the Sixties - and which has therefore been regarded as good ever since - returned with the unseen cultural toff Jeremy Isaacs interviewing the increasingly closely regarded Ben Elton.

The technique here can only be described as weird. What happens is that Isaacs asks, in a brisk and slightly cross way, a vast and awkward question like "who were your parents?"As the interviewee struggles to interpret and answer, he then asks another tangential question in a fashion that implies that he has not been listening to a word the interviewee has said, and that (were they wise) nor should the audience at home. All this, while the camera moves ever closer in on the subject's perplexed face.

Such a peremptory mental examination put me in mind of those medicals at school, when they stuck a wooden spatula in your mouth at one table and then immediately felt your balls with cold hands at the next. Elton - one of my heroes - certainly looked as though Isaacs had handled him with chilly fingers.

Louis Theroux also has cold hands. The trick to Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends (BBC2, Thurs) is that the former reporter on Michael Moore's shows (Moore is another Aaronovitch hero), seeks out the strange lifestyle, and suggests that he is open to embracing it himself. His subjects take him to their bosom, charmed by his naivety, while all the time he gently subverts their beliefs for the amusement of the viewer.

This makes him, I suppose, something of an exploitative liar, albeit an amusing one. In this week's show he was among the born-again of California, appearing on the live TV show of manikin preacher Marcus Lamb (the Lamb of God, naturally) and his brassy wife, Joni. Marcus and Joni had Theroux partly sussed, so I felt no sympathy for them.

But he also befriended Anne Lee, Lamb's 59-year-old receptionist, who took a real shine to him, and who clearly believed that he might be converted. He went to church with her, went back to her house, listened to her tales of past marital breakdown and alcoholism, and repeatedly ribbed her about her greeting - "Angels on your body!" - with schoolboy glee.

But, of course, he was not in any way available for conversion. Far from it. His purpose, had he been honest to Anne Lee, was to take the piss. And while I enjoyed the programme, I ended up with the uneasy feeling that she had more real angels on her body than I, or Louis, or even Lucy.

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