Television review

I don't know whether you were aware of this but Ken Hom Travels With A Hot Wok. This doesn't sound like a television programme to me - it sounds like the sort of mysterious accusation you find scrawled on the back of a lavatory door. Indeed the title is so clumsy and inelegant (the result, one imagines, of an unresolved tussle between Ken's agent, the unfortunate producer and a feisty lawyer from the Hot Wok manufacturing company) that I can't even bring myself to review the programme. Presumably we should just be grateful that it isn't Ken Hom Travels Virgin Upper Class With a Hot Wok And Stays At The Hilton When He Gets There. Disaster (BBC2, 8.00), which precedes it, is a different wok of fish altogether as titles go - concise, explanatory and perfectly designed to appeal to our appetite for other people's calamities. Last night's episode was called "A Cut-Price Tragedy", which, on the evidence of the three films so far, would also do perfectly well as a series title. Because, whether you're a Channel Tunnel passenger, an astronaut, or an air-traveller it would seem that the most dangerous hazard you face is a middle-manager's calculator, tapping out the cost implications of a ha'porth of tar.

Though the disasters so far have been very variable in terms of loss of life and location they have all shared two things - the fatal decision involved money and the danger had been accurately predicted in official documents, and then ignored. This is likely to be the case with most disasters, of course - it's cheap to imagine what might go wrong with any human enterprise, prohibitively expensive to guarantee that it won't. 100 per cent safety would mean 100 per cent paralysis. But there are still cases where the profit-motive is found lurking just a little too close to the scene of the accident and where the warnings are so exact that they make queasy reading in the light of hindsight. Last night's programme dealt with the crash of a Valujet DC9 in the Everglades - and intercut the announcement of the accident with a reconstruction of a transport watchdog writing an article in which she warned American travellers about the dangers of cut-price airlines, a piece provoked by Valujet's lamentable record. She knew that the public assumption that "if it wasn't safe they wouldn't let it fly" couldn't be more wrong - a member of the FAA had actually written a memo suggesting that the airline should be grounded after repeated violations of regulations, but because the FAA was also responsible for promoting air travel as well as regulating it, it had been buried.

The film actually opened with news footage of the Secretary of Transportation delivering a fulsome commercial for Valujet while surrounded by the scorched debris of one of their planes - fortunately he couldn't be embarrassed by the background presence of dead former customers because those bodies which had not been recovered had been eaten by alligators. With footage as richly ironic as that, and with the presence of the people actually involved at the time, it is a mystery to me why the series continues to resort to wooden reconstructions - most of which come across like extracts from a bad soap opera. But if you can overlook that, it delivers an intriguing analysis of the way in which office politics and commercial ambition can dull the obligation to fear the worst - instead of just hoping for the best.

Having watched Disaster, one phrase stuck out of The Ship as if blazoned with fluorescent marker pen - a ship yard manager was worrying about spiralling cost overruns during the conversion of a vast bulk carrier into a pipe- laying ship: "We'll have to have a closer look at how we work," he said resignedly, "and see where we can cut some corners." The imagination instantly offered a close-up of a vital bolt shearing during a Force Ten gale. C4's series about an attempt to resuscitate the Swan Hunter shipyard is often baffling, but it is also full of incidental revelations - the most striking being the changed status of the shop-steward. "We put our names in the hat," said a glum man, "and unfortunately mine came out."

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine