TV: The parents bicker and snipe during access visits, use their children as spies and catspaws, or even snub them with a playground brutality
Children must sometimes choose between parents - a decision which is inseparable from some level of guilt. Even when they are only parting temporarily - for an access visit or a short holiday - they fret anxiously about the feelings of the parent left behind, conscious that their own continued affections might throw salt into emotional wounds. The parents meanwhile (never seen in this series but a kind of invisible gravitational force around which everything revolves) are busy acting like petulant children; they bicker and snipe during access visits, use their children as spies and catspaws, or even snub them with a playground brutality. They force their children to become premature detectives, hunting down the clues to the unmentioned, unreported crime that has led to late-night clamour through bedroom walls.
In last week's programme one young boy recalled hearing his father say "I love you" on the phone: "I asked him who it were and he said it were Chris Barraclough" he said, the knowledge that his father was a liar coming hard on the heels of his betrayal. The offer of a fact sheet at the end of the programme suggests that divorce is an unfortunate event that might be better managed with the right information, but the interviews themselves, edited into an unforced consensus, argue that it amounts to the worst infidelity of all - that towards children's undemanding, self-doubting expectation of love.
The adult voice which provokes these responses is also largely unheard - though it can also be reconstructed from the effect it has left behind, particularly in sequences which edit together a whole range of responses to a single question. And this occasionally makes for uncomfortable viewing. Once you've decided to make such a programme it is hard to think of a way in which it could be avoided, but some of the questions seem designed to extract evidence of just how wounding divorce can be. "Why do you think he hasn't contacted you?" asked an off-screen voice in last week's programme. "Because he doesn't like us any more" replied a little boy who couldn't have been much more than six years old. One just has to hope that his being made to utter this bleak conviction aloud helped some of those who were watching, because it was hard to feel that it would have helped him.
"Tell us how you met John Lennon?" Jeremy Isaacs asked Yoko Ono in Face to Face (BBC2). "Do you want to hear that story again", she replied, slightly wearily. Well, yes, we do actually. In fact it's probably the only story most of us want to hear and some of us might have been feeling a bit miffed that it had taken so long to come up. The viewer's patience was not exactly rewarded. Whatever Yoko Ono is - loyal partner, avant-garde artist, serene mother - she is not one of the world's great raconteurs.
There had been some warning of her capacity to dawdle on the way to a point when she answered a question about how she had set up as an artist in New York, and told you more than you ever wanted to know about the cultural geography of Sixties Manhattan. But here she excelled herself - going into great detail about the mounting of her London show, the character of the gallery curator and her annoyance that someone had been allowed in before the official opening, but passing on not a glimmer of emotional colour about this first encounter between two famously devoted lovers. The charitable argument would be to put this down to natural reserve and celebrity fatigue, but perhaps she was being knowingly ungenerous with her personal memories - having been irritated by Isaacs' introduction, in which he quoted a harsh but adhesive description of her as "the most famous unknown artist in the world".
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