IIEflEII Valentines


Decisions rarely come any tougher. Do you spend Valentine’s Eve canoodllng with your loved one over a candlelit supper In an intimate restaurant, or iii you stay at home and share romantic secrets with illchard Jobson, llina Myskow, Bury White and .lo Brand?

Those wacky rivals Alan Yentob and Michael Grade are increasineg treating BBC2 and Channel 4 as outlets for any whimsical idea that springs to mind and Valentine’s Day offers a cast-iron excuse for all sorts of special programming, as both channels offer nights of love (and in Channel 4’s case, rather a lot of sex a well).

Channel 4 go completer overboard, spreading their love Weekend over three nights. That unlikely coupling of Myskow and Jobson take residence in Soho’s Windmill Theatre to host segments such as the Kissathon, in which couples pit their lips against each other to find Britain’s fittest snoggers. Meanwhile an assortment o exhibitionist singles attempt to pick each other up under the distinctly unaphrodisiac gaze of Su Pollard.

Saturday night around midnight sees a British television first, with The flaked Chat Show, in which assorted guests including men’s magazine editor Linzi Brew, assorted exhibitionist blokes and a 75 year-old woman sit around in the buff discussing their bodies. it only lasts 15 minutes (sounds familiar?) which,

lion’t fancy yours much

considering the saiacious tabloid coverage, will probably come as a relief to the llational Crid. Britain truly is a nation of voyeurs.

Over on BBC2, Angus Beayton and John liegley give a potted history of the Valentine Card and stand-up comic .Io Brand looks at classic love scenes from the TV archives, particularly one in which Maid Marian demands ‘quickly Robin, tie me up anr bind me.’ Brand herself has a suitably no-nonsense approach to this romancu business. ‘It begins when our eyes meet across a crowded room and then I have to move in with the handcuffs before he legs it. on, why do so many men say no when they mean yes?’ (Amy Druszewski)

A flight Of Love, BBCZ Saturday February 13 from 7.05pm. The Love Weekend, Channel 4, Friday February 12, Saturday 13, Sunday 14.

IIEflEII Huwnflnmn lfigh!

Bernard lllll gets on one

Press the button and step onto the lift that takes you higher and higher into the planes of the unconscious. . . It’s a corny little metaphor for drug taking, but one that works well in The Art of Tripping, Channel Four’s spin through the history of mind-altering substances and how they affected the worlds of painting and literature.

First stop for presenter Bernard liill is the early 19th century where the romantic poets were busy knocking back the laudanum, and writers like Edgar Allan Poe were imbibing opium and describing the dark despairing

-' IOUTIIBVS into the Mind thus WIDE.

As llill ‘Interviews’ the writers, using extracts from their diaries and letters, the surprise is not that they took the

5 drugs in the first place, but the scope and Importance of drugs in the literary


‘l’d heard of the Club des llaschischlns, but I had no idea it had such a bohemian importance,’ says iiili of the Parisian club whose members met to eat vast quantities of cannabis paste. ‘I had no idea that was going on, I thought that only went on in my world. llere were these

crusty, dusty old literature freaks and I as an excuse for writing all their stuff, they were all getting off their trees In ' this almost legitimised club in Paris.’

With only two one-hour programmes to cover two hundred years of drug taking and a handful of exotic substances, the result is sometimes skimpy, always interesting, but infuriatineg inconclusive. This is exacerbated by the illicit nature of drug-use, as demonstrated by llill‘s reply to the suggestion that the world



Alexei Sayle was presumably fully booked when they were casting The Mushroom PleBl’ (BBC2) or he'd have been a certainty for the central role of Kostya. It’s amazing that an exotic Christian name and a vague resemblance to Rasputin can guarantee a lucrative career in TV and film playing any European from east of Vienna, but Sayle‘s availability is obviously decreasing.

Instead Kostya is portrayed by Nigel Terry with an accent that is one-third Saylish sneer, one-third Rene from 'Allo ‘Alla and the rest Anton Diffrin Nazi. I get a tad protective about accents because when Ieaming Russian 1 was told I had a Georgian intonation and rather fancied the idea. Georgians were apparently the Soviet equivalents of Cockneys, gunning along the Nevsk; Prospekt in souped-up Skodas with go- quite-fast stripes, hurling sexual banter at blushing devushkas, and trying to flog ajob lot of black market vodka.

Kostya is pretty wide as well, seducing the gawky Clea (Lynsey Baxter) early on with the aim of making it to Britain to continue his association with the slightly more lubricious Margot (Lesley Manville). This being one of those Russian tales where sex is equated pretty much with food, the action is a series of gastronomic and erotic cul-de-sacs that attempt to batter and deep~fry the viewer into submission. Thus Kostya

mixes a bunch of spices on Clca’s bare

Z torso with his tongue and [just hope he

might be a better place for Coleridge’s f

Khubla Khan. ‘Are you advocating the use of opium?’ he demands, ‘Are you saying that there might be a closet Coleridge out there, lust waiting for a

pipe to be put in his hand and a bed to 5

lie on for a couple of days? Who is to say that life would not have given Coleridge those experiences at any rate.’ (‘l'hbm Dibdln).

Without Walls: The Art Of Tripping is on Channel 4 on Tuesday 23 February

‘The action is a series of gastronomic and erotic cuI-de- sacs that attempt to batter and deep-fry the viewer into submission.’

wasn‘t using chilli or there‘ll be tears before bedtime.

It's all very exotic and mostly watchable, but as drama it doesn't quite gel, partly because the actors are i playing opposite each other in different productions. Terry packs every line with melodrama and misty-eyed romanticism. seeing his character as a kind of Turgenev hero finding himself 3 adrift in Terry And June territory, while I

Baxter is very much from the theatre- of-embarrassment Mike Leigh school, all banal language and feeble gestures. Probably the biggest problem though is that emigre writer Zinovy Zinik’s novel doesn’t translate too well for a British audience. His English champagne socialists are strange and faintly unconvincing figures, while his Russians seem boorish and crude. The most appealing TV drama about Eastern Europe has been by home- grown writers like Malcolm Bradbury or Andrew Davies, who can draw on decades of misconceived Western ideas of what really happens out there beyond the Danube, and make it sexy

to boot.

Lenny Henry in Chef (BBCl) seems determined to prove that he’s a character actor and not just the cuddly Dudley lad who does an awful lot of work for chariddy. Certainly the series is packed with potent one-liners and Henry demonstrates a fine line in withering glances, but the whole subject matter is a little unsettling. Henry has always struck me as the down-to-earth sort of chap who'd have no truck with the kind of gastronomic bullshit that allows restaurateurs to charge thirty quid for a slice of paté de foie gras. So it’s a surprise to find Chef is a comic apologia for elitism, an impression bolstered by the fact that it is shot sumptuoust and expensiver on film, a departure for a British sitcom. The whole thing has a slickly American feel to it even down to some of the

dialogue. ‘I don’t do nice,’ Henry

squeals petulantly at one point.

The full horror of the recession had failed to reach me in my gilded index- linked retreat, until they repeated that BIIIB PBTCT guide to how to make your own Tracy island. So expensive are the real McCoys that the nation as one had written in demanding another showing of the demonstration of how to convert assorted cardboard. sticky-back plastic and mulched-up Daily Records into a convincing lntemational Rescue HQ. Indeed such is the national demand for papier-maché that you’re lucky you‘ve managed to read this far without some overzealous ankle-biter ripping the page from your grasp and adding it to their pile of glutinous paste.

(Tom Lappin)

The List l2—25 February l993 51