Rogues & Vagabonds

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

Look Back in Languor • Lynne Harvey • 10 October 2001

Ant & Dec [Wikipedia]

Ant & Dec [Wikipedia]

It surely has to be some of the best TV in years. Oh the tears! The heartache! The anger! The hilarity! All to be found in the follow up to PopstarsPop Idol. This is the latest in the “lets put the auditions on TV” programmes. Old train spotter Pete Waterman led the firing squad of Nicki Chapman, Neil Fox and Simon Cowell.

This programme was good for the soul, as just when you thought everyone was turning into the same singing clone, ITV attracts some of the best young eccentrics in the country – and talented ones at that. The girl who sang ‘YMCA’ is a true character, and would brighten up anyone’s night down the pub, the only one not to sing in an American accent and not start each stanza with a breath and an emotion. She was also the only one not to sing.

What she did do defied description – but it was enjoyable. The guy who had a crying fit and threw his glasses across the room when turned down should surely not be in a business where rejection is something you take with your cornflakes, but the guy who argued with the judges? A winner! A good voice and he had a valid point about too many sugary pop stars and not enough rock singers. Shame he was auditioning to be the next sugary pop star.

The presenters, Ant and Dec, got in the way a bit and came out with clichéd TV comments, and mediocre blurb in between reading off autocue. I despair; just what is going to happen to these fresh-faced gurners, the cathode tube babies that are Ant and Dec?

They’ve been trapped in TV land for far too long and need rescuing before they turn into Max Headroom and Bruce Forsyth. Are they destined never to experience the outside world again? If they do, it’ll be like Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the abductees come out of the space ship. Led out of a TV studio by people in contamination suits, shaking and stumbling and hiding their eyes from natural light.

Will they be expecting everyone to be hap hap happy and wacky, and to talk in neat chunks of dialogue? Won’t they be able to talk unless they see a red light? They’ll be needing sweaters and warm clothing as their wardrobe must surely only consist of light studio clothing. One thing’s for sure, they need some life, other than TV life, as their reference points, personality and charm are becoming akin to something computer-generated, and that’s a real shame for two likely lads who are capable of doing far more than present TV shows on a conveyor belt.

•••

Looking forward to seeing No Man’s Land by the living god that is Harold Pinter, a living god for what he says about theatre just as much as his plays. This man talks sense for what he doesn’t say. Explained beautifully in his speech made at the National Student Drama Festival in 1962 (not that I was there you understand), which starts off: “I’m not a theorist. I’m not an authoritative or reliable commentator on the dramatic scene, the social scene, any scene. I write plays, when I can manage it, and that’s all.”

Oh the long drawn out plaintive speeches from writers who speak in great, long, drawn out sentences on why they wrote it, when they wrote it, how long it took, the problems they had with the characters, the day the computer broke down, the friendly repair man who repaired it and was honoured by having a character named after him – all this and they never explain a damn thing.

Should we tell the venerable Mr Pinter that of the two people ‘following’ him up and down stairs, through corridors and round bends at a deserted National a few months ago, one of them was no other than me old mate Mark, assistant set designer on No Mans Land. This was way before he got the gig, so Mark was decidedly uncomfortable when Mr Pinter was always five steps in front of him and really started to sweat on finding Harry baby holding the seventh door open in a row, static, with a quizzical look on his face, but extremely relieved when Harry then turned left when Mark and colleague had to turn right. No longer the ‘threat outside’, Mr Pinter was finding the threat inside and after him. Now Mark, I just hope you weren’t wearing those tight red trousers, as they’d frighten anyone.

•••

There I am in the never never land of Chardonnay and Chablis and who should pop up on screen but me old mate Jeremy. No sooner had the guy in the documentary said “I’ve invited my friend Jeremy over for dinner” than I knew it was my Jeremy who would be grinning over the kitchen table. Lovely lad, very spiritual, very sweet, very spiritual, very open, very spiritual and a martyr to his crystals.

•••

This week’s quiz question is: Where are the TV listings in this week’s Radio Times? All I seem to have in mine is adverts and magazine articles. I guess they’ve dropped them due to lack of interest.

Lynne Harvey © 2001

Originally published on R&V 10-10-01

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