Helen Lederer l One day, when Helen Lederer and her two best friends were away from school. the headmistress gave their classmates a lecture about the three girls. They were Fascists, she said, and short as well. The rest of the class should strive not to be subverted by them. It was, she has said, an unconscious brand of anarchy which got her into trouble at school: ‘I was always funny, more or less, in the fact that I wasn‘t really a sorted-out person. All the clichés with me were there — I was fat then, I had asthma. I used being funny to get friends.‘
It is this sort ofself-deprecating humour which has become the trademark of Lederer‘s stand-up routines, and which provides the substance for her radio series Life With Lederer— the first comedy series which she has written entirely herself. In the first programme, Lederer homes in on her weight problem; later episodes find her looking for a suitable relationship and trying to organise a dinner party.
The shows take the form of monologues with dramatic interludes. ‘It‘s gentle humour with a few big laughs‘, says producer Paul Jackson, ‘Helen gives her perspective on the world and comes
up with some very identifiable situations, particularly for women.‘ Lederer got her first break from Scottish comedian Arnold Brown, when she appeared at the Hampstead Venue he was running. At that time there were very few women on the comedy circuit and female ’alternative‘ comediennes — like some of their male counterparts — were basing a lot of their material around feminist issues, poking fun at ' male chauvinism and cocking a snoot at patriarchy. Lederer prefers to attack her own shortcomings, capitalising on her neurosis: ‘I haven‘t chosen to use political or feminist lines in an overt sense because it wouldn’t suit the way I am funny - which is by undercutting and letting the audience deduce where I‘m coming from — I can‘t do the ‘let’s have a look at this‘ approach because it would kill my humour‘. (Miranda France) Life with Lederer starts Sun 2 Jun, 7.30pm
The wheel thing
‘People tend to scoff at game-shows. I don’t know why. I happen to quite enioy them,’ says Scottish Television’s Sandy Ross. This is probably a Good Thing as Ross is executive producer of Scottish’s most successful venture Into the genre, The Wheel Of Fortune, which starts a new series on the ITV network on 4 June.
People not scolfing at game-shows presumably include the twelve million or so viewers who caught the last series, last year. ‘We had a nice slot and were going out in winter months,’ explains Ross. ‘This time we’re going out in the summer, so we’re not expecting such a big response, but we should still be successful.‘
Guiz shows are often only as good as their contestants. Choosing them can be an arduous process. ‘Everyone hides in the office when we’re looking for volunteers for the contestant circuit’ says Ross ruefully. ‘We have to tour all the major UK cities and bus potential contestants in to find the best candidates. You don’t have to be a member of MENSA to be on Wheel Of Fortune obviously, but we are looking for good strong personalities that viewers can identify with.’
Wheel Of Fortune is a surefire winner as far as the format is concerned, regularly being voted most popular
Wheel I never: Campbell and Smillie get ina spin
quiz in the USA, and being adapted for countless other nations. Ross gets quite animated when you suggest it might be a nice cheap schedule-filler for the network. ‘I’m always hearing this, and it’s simply not true. There is
the set-up costs, the prizes (£4000 cash, cars and deluxe holidays) and the high production values of the set, it’s not cheap to produce.’
It is however the sort of anodyne entertainment the network snaps up, as Ross admits. ‘What the network wants, frankly, is not documentaries or serious arts programmes but good, broad-based popular shows. Channel 3 is about mainstream programmes and Scottish can certainly provide those sort of shows as well as anyone.’ (Tom Lappin)
Wheel Of Fortune is on Scottish on Tuesday 4 June at 8.30pm.
no such thing as cheap TV. If you look at
The corridors of power in the Kremlin are more often used as a metaphor for secrecy than opened t3 the media. But a new programme on BC 2 aims to delve deeply where no television programme has ever delved before. The Second Russian Revolution looks at the power struggles and inner workings of the changes In Soviet political power since Gorbachev became General Secretary in 1985. When the programme’s makers arrived in Moscow at the beginning of last year to start their research they were met with lncredufity, especially from the press corps: ‘You expect Politburo members to tell you what went on in Politburo meetings?’ But producer Norma Percy, who spent fifteen years researching and making programmes about British politicians was not going to be put off. She believes that they got lucky by making the programme when glasnosf was at its peak, so Politburo members were more candid than they had ever been and everwill be again. ‘There are rules of the game in
Britain, politicians know not to lie when they could be found out,’ according to
Percy. ‘There are no traditions and
rules in the Soviet Union, so a
Mikhail Gorbachev: class reunion
recently. In one sense, the ones who were playing the game were totally
; unrestrained: they would take our
: questions and goand look things up in
, the Politburo minutes. Imagine a British Cabinet Minister going and
} checking the Cabinet minutes then
i telling you on film what had been going
on in Cabinet!’
Norma Percy says the programme is
, aimed at people who are interested in
politics, so they can find out what Soviet politics are like. The first programme in the six-part series, Enter Gorbachev, charts the rise and rise of
the politician who the West learned to do business with. Originally a Brezhnev
1 prodigy, he did not become a liberal
I until late in his career and only rose to
; powerfhrough careful manipulation
and outrageous fluke. (Thom Dibdin)
The Second Russian Revolution, BBC 2
i Fridays, 9.30—10.20pm.
l politician‘s word went, until very
I The Leading Edge Radio 5‘s soul-searching series of interviews examiningthe ways in which people make it to the top oftheir professions. kicked offthe new season with a look at SirJohn Harvey-Jones. former chariman oflCl. This time it‘sJohn Sessions‘ turn. Sessions trots out the well-worn story about using comedy to humour the school bullies- although. surprisingly. it was his Religious Knowledge teacher who encouraged him to make a profession out of it — and talks frankly about his unsuccessful attempt to seduce Rosanna Arquette. (RadioS, Mon 3Jun. 12.30pm)
I Garrison Keillor’s American Radio Company As part of Radio 3‘s weekend oflivc broadcasting from Minnesota (Sat 1 and Sun 2 Jun). Garrisonkeillor's weekly radio comedy show will be beamed by satellite to our small isle. Featuring Robin Williams, jokes about Lake Woebegon. and plenty of Keillor whimsy. (Radio3,Sat 1 Jun, 11pm) l Into the Night: Charlie Watts Fresh-faced deejay Nicky Campbell meets ancient Rolling Stone. Charlie Watts to talk about jazz. Watts‘ new album of Charlie Parker covers and his loathing of playing large stadia. I know the feeling, Chazza. (Radio 1, Mon 3Jun. 10pm) I Drama Now: In the Native State Tom Stoppard‘s acclaimed play about the relationship between the British and Indians was first broadcast in April. The story is told through two encounters: the first between Flora Crewe — consumptive freethinker and poet (played by cuddly Felicity Kendal) and Nirad Das (Sam Dastor). an Indian painter, takes place in 1930 in Rajasthan. The second meeting is between Flora‘s sister and Nirad‘s son in I990in London. (Radio 3, Tue 4 Jun, 9. 15pm) An interview with Stoppard will be broadcast before the play starts, at 7.05pm.
The List 31 May— 13 tuner-1.991 69