Channel Hopping

Seeing people dragged from their vehicles and beaten to a pulp live on news bulletins tends to make a viewer fairly amenable to the idea that America is a ‘Krakatoa waitin‘ ta blow’ as one US TV presenter colourfully put it.

The horrifying pictures from Los Angeles demonstrated a huge chasm between the way the American and British news teams handle this sort of thing. The US networks film everything in sight and simply run it. with the reporter‘s voice-over smattered with ‘Jeeesus‘, ‘it‘s hell down there‘. or ‘check that guy with the baseball bat'. That‘s not the British way. Both BBC and [TN have taken upon themselves the role of moral nannies to the nation, feeling an obligation to distance the viewer from the event, to explain and rationalise what the US reporters were describing as ‘crazy, just crazy’.

‘Viewers may find some of these pictures disturbing’ warned the considerate old BBC. A major city in the world‘s most affluent society was in full-scale race war, 44 people were shot or bludgeoned to death, and gangs ofvigilantes were roaming the streets. ‘Disturbing‘ seems barely adequate in the circumstances. Give me the American reporters any time: at least their response, erratic and colloquial though it may be, seems recognisany human, rather than the hushed reverence and patronising verbiage of the Oxbridge graduate Brits whose delivery is eminently suited to the pomposity of their scripts. '

‘The ioliowing guest, Jimmy Savile oi all people, even managed to emerge as a likeable sort oi chap, the

ultimate prooi that Anderson

has iailed.’

Laurie Pike‘s Made In The USA report from Atlanta was postponed for obvious reasons, which meant there was only a repeated Oprah Winfrey show to blot out the memory of a truly embarrassing Clive

Anderson Talks Back. Now Clive‘s a decent enough bloke'asTV presenters go, believing in the cheapo independent ethos of being rude. if that fails being really rude. and in a last resort make a self-deprecating gag about baldness. To be fair Anderson has had his moments (like the opening gambit to Jeffrey Archer; ‘There‘s no beginning to yourtalents. . .‘). That was then and this is now, however, and the sad fact is Anderson’s show

, is falling apart at the seams.

One of the problems is that Anderson’s barrister background is beginning to show through in his unwillingness to allow his subject to pick up a theme and run with it, butting in swiftly with a glib or childish quip to knock his poor guest out oftheir stride. Preparation isn’t exactly his strong suit either. The ‘interview‘ with American comic Bill Hicks was a shambles. It might have been pertinent and even exciting to bring up the fact that Hicks‘s act has regularly flirted with misogyny and homophobia in the past. Instead Anderson languidly asked the comic to tell us a few airplane gags. Hicks looked bored. failed to say anything remotely amusing and struggled to disguise his contempt for the host. The following guest. Jimmy Savile of all people, even managed to emerge as a likeable sort ofchap, the ultimate proof that Anderson has failed. He might do worse than take a briefglimpse at Angus Deayton‘s superior line in artful cruelty in Have [Got News For You, and endeavour to pick up a few tips.

‘James had one of those visages created by the divine hand specifically with the crackly black-and-white 625 line system in mind.’

TV Heaven (Channel 4) closed its celestial gates. leaving a faint aura of disappointment that a series that seemed to promise so much had become bogged down in kitsch. The biggest drawback was of course not having access to the BBC archives (and Philip Schofield’s Television '3 Greatest Hits is a very poor compensation). but there did seem to be a temptation to dwell on the quaint and dated rather than the quality.

The final selection did at least include one of the finest performers ever to grace the small screen: Sid James, in a rather poor sitcom George And The Dragon. James had one of those visages created by the divine hand specifically with the crackly black-and-white 625 line system in mind. The James laugh

emerged from the tinny speakers

with a resonant richness that was infinitely more salacious than a lifetime‘s collection of Benny Hill chase sequences. Forget Hill and the mannered Frankie Howerd, we still haven’t mourned James sufficiently. How about a Sid season, Channel 4? Carry On Dick, Carry On Up The Khyber. er, Carry On Cleo. . . that was a good one . . .(Tom Lappin)


A selection of television highlights. listed by day, In chronological order. Television Listings compiled by Tom Lappln.


I Through The Keyhole (Scottish) 7-7.30pm. A new series of the voyeuristic show where creepy Loyd Grossman pokes. around the homes ofdubious celebrities. Guest panellists are Patrick Lichficld, Pattie Caldwell and the inevitable Willie Rushton. I The Music Game (Channel 4) 8.30-9pm. Tony ‘Smut‘ Slattery presents a new and irreverent (ie. cheap) quiz game. looking at all aspects of music from Medieval to Techno. Tonight’s guests are DJ Steve Wright. actress Nichola McAuliffe and classical violinist Chris Warren Green. I Cheers (Channel 4) 9—9.30pm. Norm. Cliff. Sam. and the rest ofthe Boston bar regulars are shocked when they encounter the tyrannical side of Coach's nature. I Rory Bremner (BBC2) $9.30pm. The superior impressionist returns for a new series with an original twist provided bya regular topical cartoon strip. I Carrott's Commercial Breakdown (BBCI) 9.3()—l().2()pm. Jasper Carrott picks out another selection ofdire. dubious or downright embarrassing TV commercials from around the world. I Heartbeat (Scottish) 9—10pm. Nick Berry stars as the Cockney copin Yorkshire. tonight held at gunpoint when a neighbours‘ feud turns into a siege. I Have I Got News For You ( BBC2) I()—l().30pm. The admirably irreverent Angus Deayton hosts another edition of the news quiz with regular captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton being joined by guests Charles Kennedy MP and Jan Ravens. I Roseanne (Channel 4) l()—1().3()pm. Friday night‘s compulsory viewing. Tonight the Conner family celebrate Thanksgiving in their exemplary style. I Chilling Out: Dream Demon (Channel 4) l 1.55pm—1.35am. Timothy Spall gets another glamorous role, playing a bloated and deteriorating photographer in this low-budget but lively British horror. Jemma Redgrave co-stars as a girl plagued by terrible nightmares.


IGrandstand (BBC!) 12.10-5.10pm. The special Cup Final edition featuring live coverage of the Rangers v Airdrie game and highlights of the English final where Sunderland will be hoping to upset favourites Liverpool.

I nght To Reply (Channel 4) 6.30—7pm. Sheena McDonald hosts another set of viewers‘ complaints and ideas and offers them a chance to tackle the programme-makers.

I The Eurovision Song Contest (BBCI)

8—1 1pm. Oh no, it‘s that time again. Michael Ball sings the UK‘s load ofold tosh. while assorted Europeans drag their nations‘ reputations through the mire with their preposterous concoctions. The

marking system closely follows the pattern

I of Second World War alliances, and still it

comes back to haunt us year after year.

! I Wet And Windy (BBC2) 8pm—12.40am. Now whose idea was this? BBC2 are

. devoting their entire evening to

' programmes related to the weather. How British can you get? Programmes include a

profile of those crazy weathermen. Paul

Gambaccini remembering great weather

records (I kid you not), and Terry Jones

tries to explain most ofthe great eventsin

history in terms of the weather.

I Adventures: The Dream Ticket (Channel 4) 8—9pm. Beginning a new series of explorations and challenges by writers and filmmakers. The first programme looksat six ofthe winners ofthe British Airways free ticket competition. visiting their ‘dream‘ destinations. I Frankie’s House (Scottish) 9.15—10.15pm. The first part ofa new drama adaptation ofthe life ofVietnam war photographer Tim Page. 1964 and ‘- the I9-year-old Page finds himselfin Saigon striking up a friendship with Sean Flynn. son of Errol. I industrial Symphony Not (Channel 4) 12.25—1 .20am. A sort ofextended musical fantasy directed by David Lynch. revisiting some of the backdrops from Wild At Heart. Blue Velvet. Twin Peaks and Eraser/read. The music ofJulee Cruise features heavily. and Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern make briefappearances. Shown as a precursor to the American Chronicles series which starts tomorrow.


I American Chronicles (Channel 4) 5—5.30pm. A thirteen-part series of offbeat documentaries from David Lynch and Mark Frost. focusing on the minutiae of American life, with occasional narration from Richard Dreyfuss. The first programme explores the sights and sounds of the New Orleans Mardi Gras. See preview.

I Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories (BBC1)5. 15—5.4()pm. More quirky Americana in this tale of a cocky high-school kid whose personality turns out to be just too magnetic after a freak meteor storm.

I Strathhiair ( BBCI ) 7.45—8.35pm. The second episode of the promising story of sheep-farming folk. Grumpy old Macrae is distinctly dischuffcd when Jenny gives hikers permission to pitch their tent on the hillside.

I The Milagro Beaniieid War ( BBC2) 8.15-l().()5pm. Robert Redford directs this decent tale of a small New Mexican community rallying together to resist a developer and his shady enforcers.

I Sound StuiI: Together. . . Kiri and Andre on Broadway (Channel 4) 8.30—9.3(ipm. A new series of the distinctive music documentaries follows Kiri Te Kanawa as she fulfils her ambition to make an album ofjazz favourites, with the help ofAndrc Previn.

I A Prince Among Islands (Scottish) 8.45—9.4(ipm. Grampian‘s first network production for too long follows the Prince of Wales‘s return to the remote I Iebridean island of Berneray where he experienced the crofter's life. gathering potatoes and dipping sheep. Selina Scott presentsa low-key portrait of the bucolic Prince.

IA Fatal Inversion (BBC1)9.()5—1().o5pm. Barbara Vine, aka Ruth Rendell. wrote this fast-moving thriller about a group of young students spending an idyllic summer in a country house. Twelve years later the new owners ofthe house make a discovery that will come back to haunt the group.

I The Dead (Channel 4) Iii-I 1.30pm. John Huston‘s final fithe atmosphere

of 19th century Dublin impressively. in a tale of an after-Christmas party given by two spinsters. The director‘s daughter Anjelica Huston stars.

I Edge DI Darkness(BBC2) 10.05-11.50pm. A repeat showing forthe award-winning thriller taking in issueslike nuclear power and state security. Bob Peck plays Ronald Craven who is seeking an explanation for the murder ofhis daughter Emma. . I Spitting Image (Scottish) 10.05—10.35pm. Latex lookalikes in search of some rare laughs.

I Masterrnind(BBCi)1i).25-io.55pm. The erudite quiz hosted as ever by stern Icelander Magnus Magnusson, asking questions about Henry James. Bermuda. Peter the Great and Agatha Christie.

The List 8 21 my 169563