The week on television: Sixties nostalgia never dies...
Saturday 26 July 1997
There was a crude but perfect illustration of this in the account of the scriptdoctoring work they now do in Hollywood, where a joke about urinating into a jar they wrote for Ronnie Barker in Porridge was meticulously recycled for Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. You can't rest on your laurels any more cosily than that. The other two peaks of their career are The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen Pet, but there hasn't been anything comparably original for years. It wasn't mentioned in the programme, but it seems appropriate that their most recent script, which they are trying to film this year or next, is about a Seventies rock band marooned in middle age.
Turn now to Classic Albums (BBC1, Mon), a new series about, er, classic albums, which tells of recording sessions before computers, when weird sonic effects were improvised in the studio by abraiding a piece of polystyrene on a plastic comb. Satisfyingly pitched somewhere between scholarship and gossip, the idea delivers a more or less exact facsimile of Mojo magazine, except the pictures move.
First up was Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland (or Electric Landlady, as it was erroneously renamed on the original acetate). It was a courageous decision to start here because, unlike other albums coming up in the series, its chief architect is less available for comment than the Artist Formerly Known As Prince. So there were loads of interviews with the musicians Hendrix pulled on board, and it was Clement and La Frenais all over again - except these guys don't talk in sentences, let alone paragraphs, so there was a lot of slightly desperate jumpcutting to quilt the narrative together.
In the old footage the musicians were lanky and wan. Spool forward three decades and the tame faces have turned into Ordnance Survey maps. The programme did nothing to persuade you that there shouldn't be compulsory retirement for pop musicians when they turn 33 or die, whichever comes first. It also killed off the conventional curiosity, which we also apply to Marilyn and JFK, about what Hendrix would look like now. On the evidence of those around him, better not to ask.
Alexander McQueen will doubtless one day be the subject of a programme like Omnibus but, for the moment, he's of interest to journalists rather than historians, which is why the first television profile appeared in The Works (BBC2, Sun). Let's reserve judgement on the summer line featured here, in which crocodile heads thrust Alien-style from jacket backs and antelope horns sprouted from shoulder pads. What was revealing was that McQueen had come up with a stronger and more personal reason for deploying them than the simple and traditional urge to shock. In his equation, designers have the same life expectancy as animals preyed on by big cats. There's one flaw in his analogy, and that is that the hunted attempt to fade into the landscape. On the evidence of this film, McQueen has no instinct for camouflage. With the first sign of success he seems to have been marauded by women in mile-high hats with absurdly distilled accents, whereas he still says "like that" without using a single consonant.
All Mod Cons (BBC2, Mon) could have been mistaken for a paean to another classic album. In fact, it's a history of DIY. Not so much the Jam as the jamb. Do-it-yourself had its own TV personality in the Sixties in the thoroughly kempt form of Barry Bucknell, who was full of the joys of Formica. All Mod Cons tracked him down and interviewed him 30 years on, and unlike Clement or La Frenais or Hendrix's entourage, he hadn't changed a bit.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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