TV

Is it forward to ask ... how big?" said Michelle, suddenly covered in blushes. It would be positively backward not to, I thought. After all, if you are about to employ a male prostitute, it's only understandable to be curious about the tool of his trade. Still, it was slightly odd to hear such a Victorian word emerge in the middle of a peculiarly twentieth century procedure - not, I hasten to add, the transaction itself, which has undoubtedly gone on for centuries, but the recording of it on television, as part of Jane Treay's Under the Sun film (BBC2) about a Melbourne male escort.

Privacy may be an endangered species these days, but clearly some vestigial sense of modesty survives, because this wasn't the only moment when an almost confrontational candour was interrupted by a sudden flutter of old-fashioned reserve; the businesswoman who obligingly pointed out the sexual possibilities of her hotel suite hesitated when she found the word "masturbation" rising to her lips, and similarly paused for permission before letting it out.

On the whole though there seemed to be no limits to their self-exposure - so much so that when the time came to close the bedroom door you felt a mild sense of surprise that there wasn't going to be a ball-by-ball commentary on the action.

This film could easily have been ghastly. That it wasn't, was partly down to the unabashed collaboration of the clients involved (several of whom seemed to view the transaction as little more than an unusual version of shopping therapy) and partly because Treays had been fortunate in her choice of central subject. Joel, shy and slightly dorkish had a hinterland which made it impossible to look at him as just a sleazy caricature. The revelation that he was a passionate and skilled furniture-maker who had hand-built a house for his wife and carved her name into the facade, recuperated remarks that would have otherwise sounded like cheesy self-justification - remarks about his "respect for all women" and his "total emotional monogamy" with his manifestly uneasy wife.

For all the candour, nobody here was telling the whole truth - the women were unlikely to confess that the deed had actually felt demeaning and empty (though one did concede that she missed the "little cuddle" that would normally accompany sex) while Joel himself had every interest in down-playing non-financial motives for continuing what had begun as a desperate measure. Even the implicit suggestion that all these encounters were filmed as they occurred seemed decidedly implausible (would a nervous initiate really say "Sure, you can bring a camera crew"? Even if you found one such paragon of flagrancy, are you likely to be able to find two or three?) But however they did it the result was an intriguing film, one which presented the material as anthropological curiosity rather than grubby joke.

The presence of documentary cameras, and how people behave in front of them, was also central to the first of a new series of ER (Channel 4). The entire episode was filmed as if it was rough footage for a fly-on- the-wall documentary, a conceit which resulted in some dizzying involutions of form. Given that ER borrows much of its visual language from documentary anyway, the scenes in which a fictional crew tried to keep up with a crash team offered a mille-feuille of confected realism.

They weren't quite as brave with the idea as they might have been but there was plenty of thought-provoking fun all the same. The presence of a fixed camera in the staff coffee-room allowed for some nice play between on-stage and off-stage behaviour and at one point the cameraman's battery went flat at the crucial moment of a resuscitation, neatly reminding you of the formal nature of such narrative crescendos. I wasn't entirely sure that they were safe in moralising about the sentimental manipulations of documentary filming - it was noticeable that when they wanted real emotion the sense of a foreign accent in the filming style disappeared almost entirely - but the episode will deservedly star in media studies seminars for years to come.

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
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

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all