Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Look Back in Languor • Lynne Harvey • 18 November 2001

Cover of The Radio Times Magazine, 28 September 1923

Cover of The Radio Times Magazine, 28 September 1923 [Wikimedia]

Be afraid, be very afraid. If the US are looking for new weapons, they need look no further than Lisa Riley’s hooters. Forget stealth bombers and daisy cutters – when the military needs real hardware, send these in. Looked at straight on they don’t seem so threatening but sideways on… don’t go there.

It’s not the size – they’re not so big – but the physics behind them. My guess is they’re pewter with a payload of silver bullets – and she sure needs them with Melanie Stace, previous co-presenter of Jim Davidson’s Generation Game, making loving, sisterly comments on the Esther programme: that she didn’t want to see “ugly” people on TV, Lisa Riley being one of them.

Strangely, Melanie, some of us don’t want to see blank-faced, personality-lacking, shop dummies either. Your contribution to Children in Need, a horrific, lack lustre, soulless rendition of ‘Mein Herr’, was nothing but self-serving. Now that is ugly.

But ten out of ten to ‘Nasty’ Nigel Lythgoe – about as nasty as an Easter bunny – and Nicki Chapman, who pulled in a fantastic rendition of ‘Lets Face the Music and Dance’ for Children in Need. This programme can be excruciatingly embarrassing and turn into Smashy and Nicey Charity World quite easily, with celebs doing something very amateurish just to do something. But it’s for charity so we can’t moan, can we? Well, yes we can, as the ones who do go the extra mile and actually entertain, show what can be done to get us phoning in our pledges.

•••

Just what has happened to Gimme Gimme Gimme? The last series was so good they’ve transferred it to BBC 1 but it’s turned into dust before our eyes. Kathy Burke who, lets face it, used to hold the show together, now overacts and has become an unfunny stereotype. James Dreyfus ditto.

Where has the life and energy gone? The scripts are now totally reliant on increasingly coarse, unfunny one-liners. Coarse I can take, filth I can take, innuendo – lay it on me. But lame jokes and overacting to hold up a weak script, I can’t. Okay so Jonathan Harvey – the writer – likes Joe Orton (don’t we all?) but to take an anecdote from Joe Orton’s diaries and use it almost word for word whilst taking all the humour whatsoever out of it is unforgivable. For those interested: page 37, footnote one of The Orton Diaries. Pay homage by doing something Ortonesque, not ruining one of his best known anecdotes. God save me from this lazy writing.

Can we not bring in Simon Cowell, witch-finder general from Pop Idol, to sit in judgement at the BBC script department? You’d think, listening to his comments, that he manages innovative musical pop combos, not teenzine Boyzone and Westlife (tried and hung for murdering ‘Uptown Girl’).

I don’t care, kidnap him, put him in a van and bring him to the table of the BBC and get him to stop all this blandness they push out. The BBC is rapidly turning into Johnny-one-note, everything the same and formulaic to the point of scariness. Have we now entered into Orwell’s 1984, and is the BBC it? Is there one independent voice in the whole organisation? Or do they disappear into a real Room 101 – isn’t it kind of spooky that the BBC has that show…?

When was the last time you saw something on the BBC that made your eyes go wide – and I don’t mean Ainsley Harriott being the worst presenter on TV – that actually made you sit up and think and take your mind further, that made you dwell on what you’d seen for a long time afterwards?

I admit I’m still incredulous that people can watch A Question of Sport without cringing for England. But c’mon, what, if anything, is really making you think and opening up exciting vistas for you on the BBC? IT’S ALL SO BLAND!!! Even the filth is safe, the so-called anarchy is safe (Have I Got News for You).

Nothing jumps out at you any more. It’s corporate branding and everything is in company colours. Safe, bland and boring. The once enlightening BBC documentaries that bought events and situations to us we never knew existed or were ignoring, are no longer being made. Channel 4 has taken up the slack there. There’s a sort of haze, where we think we’re getting what’s happening and what did happen in the world, being shown the ‘facts’, but they’re the facts according to the BBC where everyone tows the company line, and mavericks are clearly not wanted. Worried? I am.

•••

If the blandness of TV gets too much for you, I recommend looking at the questions currently being asked on Ask Jeeves, the well-known internet search engine. (Others are available.) They have a section called ‘What people are asking now’ – it’s better than the telly. The questions change every twenty seconds which just gives you time to read down the line.

I kid you not, these are some of the ones that I saw: “Where can I find the English dictionary Webster’s?” – in a bookshop maybe? Or “Where can I find encyclopaedia articles about the common cold?” Hmm, let me think on that one – how about an encyclopedia?

“How can I sell my used car?” mystified the hell out of me. There’s someone out there with a driving licence who asked that; frightening isn’t it? My favourite was “How can I lose weight?” I can only think some poor sap had exhausted all other avenues and was using Ask Jeeves as some spiritual provider. A really crazy one was “How can I contact Simon Callow?” – oh, that might have been me…

Charlotte Coleman as Marmalade Atkins in Educating Marmalade [Wikipedia]

Charlotte Coleman as Marmalade Atkins in Educating Marmalade [Wikipedia]

So sad to hear of the death of Charlotte Coleman. Last time I saw her on TV she was terribly thin and ill. Most well-known I suppose for her performance in Four Weddings and a Funeral, which was outstanding, but it was the excellent performance she gave in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, that really stands out for me. A repeat is long overdue.

Lynne Harvey © 2001

Originally published on R&V 18-11-01

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