[— A Likely Tail

‘I don’t know any tarts, so I suppose I have idealised the profession slightly,’ says Mary Wesley. Her book, ‘llarnessing Peacocks’, drarnatised for Meridian TV, is a gentle comedy about a middle class single mother who cooks and sells sex to pay her son’s private school fees.

it’s a modern fairy tale set in a world of Land Rovers, dusty antique shops and leafy country lanes where our heroine, llebe, has given up looking for the father of her child, and has acquired a syndicate of hand-picked, wealthy and devoted lovers.

Wesley also wrote the novel, ‘The Camomile lawn’ which was successfully dramatised last year. Set in war time Britain, the characters made love while the bombs fell, and, in ‘iiarnesslng Peacocks’, the same guilt-free approach to sex is apparent.

‘I put myself in llebe’s position - what would you do if you had a child, no profession and no income? and I realised that all she can do is cook and make love,’ says Wesley. ‘But she does choose her own men and is in control of the situation.’

It helps that llebe is young, beautiful and has the right telephone manner, but the world she inhabits is one of lovelom buffoons and their snooty wives. Could this be a lab in the eye to the hypocrisy of the middle classes? ‘Well I am a member of the English middle class and I find them extremely funny. I’m laughing from the Inside

and the thing is, they are often unconsciously hilarious without realising it.’

Serena Scott Thomas, last seen playing Lady Di in the TV dramatisatlon of the lives of Charles and Diana, stars as ilebe, and the rest of the cast includes Sir John Mills, Peter Davison and lienee Asherson. The piece was directed by James Cellan Jones who was also responsible for ’The Forsythe Saga’, and written by Andrew Davies who wrote ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’. Perfect Sunday night viewing, ‘llarnessing Peacocks’ even has a happy ending. ‘It is unlikely that liebe should meet the father of her child,’ points out Wesley, ‘but so many things happen in real life that are so unlikely that no one would believe they could happen, but they do.’ Watch with a paper hankle and a healthy suspension of disbelief. (Beatrice Colin).

Harnessing Peacocks is on STV on Sun

9May at9pm.

Ellllll Rue Mall

‘My name . . . is Kevin Turvey!!!’ Thumbs-up signs and nerdish Brummie accents all round, that was the first of the many scrunched-up faces liik Mayall has pulled in the name of comedic endeavour. Since that, his first screen appearance, Mayall has gone from TV to theatre to live tour back to TV again, and is currently on a gruelling, two-month national theatre tour of ‘Bottorn’ with co-star and founder member of ‘The Comic Strip’, Adrian Edmonson.

Barely pausing to draw breath, Grenade are televislng his latest TV outing. tinder the catch-all heading ‘liik Mayall Presents’s three one-hour, star-vehicle comedy-dramas allow Mayall free reign to show off his acting talents - which is exactly what producer and head of comedy at Grenade, Andy Ilarries, had in mind

when they went into production. ‘What we tried to do with the films was to push him really hard to create characters that would demonstrate his acting abilities. We were also quite specific in them not to use any of lilk’s generation of comedians and to bring in a diversity of quality actors and actresses to play alongside him.’

The first film in the series is the immensely enjoyable “Micky love’, written by Peter Morgan. ‘What we wanted to do was a sort of British version of ‘The Player’ about the television industry,’ says llarries. And sure enough, the end result is a bitineg satirical parody of the strife and work of an ageing game show host, whose life suddenly takes a turn for the worse when up and coming youth presenter Greg Deane (played by Scots actor Alan Cumming), pitches a new idea to the station’s head of programming. What ensues is a series of overheard conversations and misinterpreted messages, which plunges Micky head first into a downward spiral of double-dealing, deceit and drunkeness.

The follow-up, ‘Briefest Encounter’, promises hapless lovers and Amanda Donohoe. ‘Awayday’, the final film, has Mayall as the no-luck best man who, after a particularly riotous stag night, finds himself trapped on a train heading north. With Ilelena Bonharn- Carter. lle might still be playing losers, but at least now liik Mayall enjoys a proxy glamour. (.loe Lanpard) mylovelsoanVon ThursZDat




An old bus rattles along a dusty track in Harare, Zimbabwe. It is crappy and rusty yet hot-wired with an in-bus TV. The passengers, to varying degrees. are rapt. The tele won’t make the bus go faster but it will their lives. The passengers may be poor and non- westem but still they can vicariously thrill to First World vice and affluence, as found in the fuzzy old episodes of Dallas that sizzle on the screen. In remote Newfoundland, in Canada. the same applies. In every global nook and crannie. the same applies. The days of empires and imperialism are over. but we are all still under a hegemonic restraining yoke televisual overlord and broadcasting behemoth, America, this is your planet!

‘Our productions have subsidised broadcasters around the world,‘ puffed the president of MCA lntemational in Channel 4’s Distress Signals: An Investigation Df Global Television. ‘We’re good at it,‘ preens the head of Viacom. ‘l’m not sure why we’re good at it, but it’s almost part of the fabric of our culture, for better or for worse.’ ‘If the broadcasting of Kojak is going to be looked upon as a major threat to your culture,’ the MCA man blithely states. ‘then possibly you have a problem with your culture.‘ The conquering colonial spirit lives on.

Meanwhile, the men from Zimbabwe’s state-owned ZBC station are shopping in Cannes. They can only afford to make one hour of home- grown drama each month, so at this international television fair, they are looking for bargains. They get one: Miami Vice is sold to the French for $60 000 an hour. But for you. my impoverished son. we’ve got a knock- down. never-to-be-repeated, ‘special Third World rate of $500 an hour.’ You can’t say fairer than that.

Well actually you can. If Americans have to fiog off vacuous designer cop shows to countries who can’t afford any better, imposing their value systems and cultural crud on the rest of the world, why not bung in a buckshee job-lot of camcorders? As shown in Videos, Vlgilantes And Voyeurism (Channel 4), the home-video revolution has made for cheap television and cheap thrills. While we’ve got You've Been Framed and Caught In The Act. Americans are rivetted to Vice Camera Action and Newshounds. in the former


show. in an attempt to clean up their neighbourhood. blubbery suburbanites cruise their local red-light distn'ct, kerb- filming. In the latter. saddo punters hare around after fire engines and cop cars, seeking out accidents and infernos with their cameras, then selling the footage to TV stations. ‘Wreckage and flames make great video.’ says an advisor to would-be newshounds. ‘The worst that I‘ve ever shot would have been the triple fatal at La Costa in San Diego,’ recalls a camcorder-toting weirdo. with the gusto and gleam that golfers use to talk about memorable holes or that fishermen use to describe whopping 40-pounders.

It’s not big brother we should be worrying about. but little brother. There are an estimated 40 million video cameras in the hands of private citizens around the world. ‘Ceacescu could never imagine having a surveillance force like the one we have in the United States,’ says a clearly perturbed Washington law professor. But even then, even as we are increasingly monitored by beady single eyes at the workplace, in bars. in the streets, the video-camera also re-enfranchises the individual. Private citizens use hidden surveillance to trap baby-sitters battering their children. An off-duty black cop films his own unprovoked beating by white officers. A victim of gay-bashing at the hands of his neighbour convicts the thug by setting up a camera to tape the aggro. It’s compulsive, repulsive viewing. and all the more so because the lens is unblinking and moral- and discretion- free. A dashboard-mounted camera, designed to offer added security to police officers, films one being murdered on a case. A couple are filmed making love in a truck. then paraded before the nation; the adulterous man later kills himself.

When given omnipresent access to such ubiquitous blood-and-guts footage, broadcasters should tread warily. After all. there’s nothing as queer or horrific as real life and when that becomes an increasingly dominant televisual feature, who needs fictional drama? Who needs Dallas? J. R., make way; Rodney King and co are the new main-players in the soap of real life. (Craig McLean)

Tom Lappin is on holiday.

78 The List 7—20 May 1993