What he did do was take a golf lesson from a celebrated teacher on a perfectly groomed Florida golf course - where this suburban eczema has blemished thousands of acres of previously unspoilt swampland. The alligators are still there, wallowing in the water traps and - I hope - occasionally snapping up the odd golfer, but much of the rest of the wildlife has been replaced by the insulated rich, living in gated communities where nothing will perturb their airbrushed mental vacuum. "We talk about shopping, we talk about our husbands... actually this morning we were talking about what we were going to eat," said one of the Stepford wives interviewed in the film. She added the last detail with a note of pleasant surprise, as if one of the ladies had started a discussion on phenomenology. And how did Chris Evans, that demon of irreverent anarchy, describe this grotesque place? "I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it is like paradise, isn't it?" We were then privileged to watch the great entertainer shanking balls into a variety of ornamental hazards.
Fortunately for Channel Four, Evans' reluctance to leave the golf course gave free rein to his producer Jez Higham, who took the opportunity to show the absurd and obsessive penumbra that surrounds the game. There was a brisk item on the professional divers who scour Florida's ponds for some of the six million golf balls which are estimated to be lost every year and a wry tour of the Boutique de Golf, which stocks mink club- head covers and jigsaws depicting the history of the game (could there be a more anaesthetic combination of pastimes?) Both of these items were necessarily tongue-in-cheek in their approach, because they didn't have an on-screen presenter who might have stuck out a tongue more directly - the man who notionally filled that post being back on the water-sucking turf, having his swing tweaked at our expense. I've felt for some time that TFI Friday reveals a lazy streak in Evan's talent - a willingness to let jokes run for twice as long as they merit - but alongside this self-indulgent jolly it counts as positively heroic labour.
In an unusually inert programme Timewatch (BBC2) charted the atrocious history of the relationships between white settlers and aborigines in Australia, which runs from savage massacre to eugenic extinction. "The quickest way is to breed him out," said one Protector of Aborigines, who obviously treated his title with a fair degree of latitude. Timewatch had included a Dr Rob Brunton - whose thankless task it was to murmur occasionally that Aborigines might have been over-romanticised, and that some of the crueller programmes of resettlement had been carried out "for the most altruistic of reasons". This wasn't very convincing, given that the altruism consisted of rescuing Aborigines from the burden of their own exploited existence. Looking at Australia now, I don't think even the most fervent idealiser of Aboriginal life would want to wish the accomplished fact of the country away and replace it with a kind of anthropological nature reserve. But a guilty conscience - without feeble mitigations - would seem to be the very least white Australians could offer by way of reparation.Reuse content