Oestrogen on the rampage

Jasper Rees
Saturday 16 November 1996 00:02
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In the week it was decided that the Loin King would not be appearing on the nation's advertising hoardings, Panorama (BBC1, Mon) reported on the growing phenomenon of violent women. One wife, who spends two weeks out of every four as if demonically possessed by her own menstrual cycle, took it out on the furniture. "We got through three-piece suites like nobody's business," explained her besieged husband, who doubtless used the sofa as a defensive rampart. One woman scorned Bobbited her boyfriend with a Stanley knife: they showed you the photo of the reconstituted member, just in case your mind's eye was unable to call up the relevant image of mutilation. Another avenger drizzled molten candle wax over her husband's middle regions. Again, to jump-start those with stalled imaginations, a reconstruction depicted the phallic candles succumbing to the blade.

Apparently, if things carry on this way, women will be as brutal as men within 20 years. Sewing the penis back on will presumably replace circumcision as the op most frequently performed on British males. It's an equality of sorts, but it will take women far longer to achieve parity across the full range of sins. The adulterer with the molten groin admitted that his wife was seeking retribution for finding out about "some tramp I had been seeing". His wife would probably say he was waxing hypocritical.

Elsewhere, the contest between oestrogen and testosterone was hotting up. Both Video Diaries (BBC2, Sat) and Soho Stories (BBC2, Mon, Tues, Wed) found womankind in a state of unfettered lust as male performers stripped down to their assets. Note how both strippers mined Greek legend for their stage names (Zeus and Troy Passion, though sadly no Philoctetes), as if harping after a mythical time of clear-cut gender roles when men were men and women washed the amphorae.

Soho Stories deployed its favourite tactic of cross-cutting around the district to weave its narrative. Hence Troy Passion whipped up female hysteria as football hooligans (and the odd hooliganess) went ballistic outside in the street. Girls, went the heavily editorialised argument, are just as capable of mindless frenzy. This position was slightly complicated by the presence of Danny the transvestite singer, the series' lensoholic centre of attention. When he threatened to throw bricks through the BBC's window if they lit his face too harshly, it was unclear whether the X or Y chromosomes were doing the talking.

Sharman (ITV, Mon) tried to have it both ways. Our stubbled private dick has one main squeeze per episode and this week's, a whore in the bedroom, turned out to be an undercover cop in the bedroom. It's not a difficult look to pull off. One of the girl gang who mugged Elizabeth Hurley told Panorama she mistook her for a prostitute. (Would have saved Hugh a car ride if she were.) Sharman is an escapist bit of twaddle with the surreal twist that the escape route takes you to sarf London. The dialogue, in unsubtitled Streathamese, is only slightly less cacophonous than the clattering backchat of handguns. In the last shot of the show the prostitute / policewoman stood legs astride in black PVCs and gunned down a drug baron, just as Panorama on the other side was delivering its findings about violent women.

The charm of Crocodile Shoes, about a Geordie pauper who became a rock star, lay in the naivete of its hero, Jed Sheppard. Crocodile Shoes II (BBC1, Thurs) finds him still clueless in the face of industry chicanery, and the smoke-screen is wearing a bit thin. Jimmy Nail, who has weirdly built a pop career on this fictional foundation, is inextricably linked with the character, and yet with the credit he takes for creating, writing, starring, executive producing and composing, he will have difficulty persuading anyone that he's not a control freak dangerously hooked on wish-fulfilment. Rewriting himself as a loveable simpleton, methinks the lad doth protest too much.

More lads on Never Mind the Buzzcocks (BBC2, Tues), a pop quiz show cloned from its stablemate They Think It's All Over. Presenter Mark Lamarr has laboured hard to compose a distinctive sign-off (as in "My name's Nick Hancock", "this is me Clive Anderson..."), and he's come up with "I've been Mark Lamarr", which jarrs as much as the show it rounds off. The one original element is a game in which contestants see an ancient clip of a pop star at work and then have to pick out the much-aged icon from an identity parade. In two cases out of three, they got it wrong. There's a brilliantly cruel edge to the game's suggestion that identity is just a line in the sand.

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