From Geller to Mellor is but the slip of a consonant between Olympic- sized egos. Yet, while Geller had grandly refused a seat in the VIP stand so that he could be with his people, Mellor does not turn down posh invites. He has, of course, actually been in person to the entertainment tent at Wimbledon. This structure was erected by Mark McCormack, the latest of the Mellor Moguls (R5) to be graced by a visit. Putney's all-purpose MP proudly announced that McCormack, who divides his diary into 15-minute slots, had alloted him three of them. Wow. The "guru of global go-getters" (viz McCormack) originally trained as a lawyer - like me, says the unsquashable Mellor. Honestly. He reminds me of Humphrey Lyttleton's faux-naif description of Nicholas Parsons on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (R4) - a man widely regarded as something of a cult.
If you could get past the interviewer, and it's a big if, McCormack was an interesting character. His first successes came when he offered to act as agent for some aspiring golfers. The fact that their names were Palmer, Player and Nicklaus shows his eye for potential. Now he virtually runs Wimbledon and the British Open and has set his sights on Fifa. There was a suggestion that his World Matchplay Tournament might be a touch unfair, as it is owned and managed by McCormack's company which, naturally enough, promotes its own clients, but no mud stuck. He seemed an honest, efficient - even likeable - global go- getting guru.
More than you could say for Dickens, who was thoroughly despicable. This was the impression left by Dickens and the Mouse, the first of a series of Victorian Interiors (R4), which twitch the antimacassars from under some revered heads. Catherine Dickens is prostrate: after 22 years and 10 children, her husband is departing with an actress; her sister says she must revere him as a genius; he's got the builders in to wall up her bedroom door and her savage mother compares her face to a three-day-old liver. No wonder she gulps and sobs a good deal. A rather tricksy production tried to explain his behaviour by means of hollow memories of little Charles as an unloved child, but that didn't really wash.
The trouble with docu-dramas is that, however well researched, they represent one writer's view - in this case, Michael Butt's. The walling- up, the children and the actress are all established facts, but the conversations are, inevitably, imagined and, frankly, I balked at the liver. After all, how did she know? Victorian mothers could certainly be sour, but they surely had sense enough not to leave valuable offal around for three days, especially before the advent of refrigeration.
Another Victorian pedestal wobbled dangerously last Sunday afternoon. George Armstrong Custer just about managed to stay up there but it was, as someone said, a damned close-run thing. For Last Stand (R3), Fraser Harrison visited the site of the Battle of Little Big Horn where that questionably heroic action of June 1876 is annually re-enacted: visitors can "handshake" Custer, we heard, and take home his autograph. Steve Alexander, who impersonates the general, sounded worryingly convincing. You wouldn't want to be within range of his pistol, especially if you take the view that the real man was a murderous jerk.
To some he was just that, to others a real hero, dying "like he might've went to sleep at a picnic". This was a really fascinating study, an eclectic assortment of widely differing, strongly held views. One earnest young woman spent a week in the mountains to authenticise her role in the drama. Poor soul, she wears no man-made fabrics and spends all her time, she said, doing war-tacticals. An Indian comes to revere the memory of Sitting Bull and Custer's descendants do the same, though an archaeologist said that the evidence suggests that it was a muddled mess of confused and frightened soldiers. In the end, as you might have guessed, Harrison concluded that there were heroics and atrocities on both sides, that war ain't pretty and that most people on that battlefield were doing what they thought was right at the time.
Finally, a couple of women who seem completely at ease with what they are doing. Anita Roddick loved her session In The Psychiatrist's Chair (R4), blatantly flirting with Anthony Clare as she evaded his enquiries about the ethos of the Body Shop. Oh yes, she agreed, she knew when she was being disarming. She owes her energy, she said, to an Italian passion for tomatoes. Must try that.
As for the other ... well, she has a Christian name that is but a whisper from easy virtue, a surname that tramples rampant over a rumpled trampoline and a delivery that would turn Custer to jelly. Charlotte Rampling, England's answer to Lauren Bacall, is murmuring provocatively about the history of the chanson on Tuesday nights in French Connections (R2). It's well worth listening to, but please don't ask me what she's saying: I'm still practising the voice.Reuse content