Call me old fashioned but didn’t we

fight a war for the tight not to listen to cheeky chappies on the wireless“? Flip past the ads for men‘s fragrances in any slick lifestyle mag these days and you’re liable to encounter a six-page feature plugging the idea that radio comedy is the coolest lifestyle accessory around. a panacea for all ills. and the funniest thing since Sid James popped his clogs and went off to the great hospital sketch in the sky.

So why is it that. when you actually tune into Radio 4 to listen to the stuff. it’s invariably Wendy Richard bellowing ‘repetition. repetitionl‘. Paul Merton droning on about the squirrels at the end of his garden. or some

‘You can only puncture a hot-air ballooon once, and The Day Today just has too

many pricks.’

Oxbridge common-room bore doing a bad impression of Brian Redhead (God bless him etc . . .)? There are worse experiences than having mixed bags of super-annuated luvvies and over- educated windbags gabbling in your ear in crackly mono. but not many.

The trouble is. producers assume that what works on radio will happily make the jump to TV. Not so. The assorted clever Dicks and smart Alecs who produced the ()n The Hour scurrilous news parody for Radio 4 garnered sufficient notoriety (mostly from a particularly blimpish Daily Telegraph column) to be given their own BBC2 series. The Day Today. and those days of long-wave aural anonymity are already beginning to take on a halcyon tinge.

The Day Today arrives on the small- screen oozing that tnost ambivalent of virtues. clevemess. Their relentless parodies of the booming pomposity of TV newscasts is astutely observed. Steve Coogan’s send-up of the banality and ignorance of sports commentators is spot-on. and the portentous delivery of ludicrous stories is imaginative and intelligent. The trouble is. none of them is remotely funny.

The problem is that the skits are fatally undermined by the smug intellectual superiority of the cast. Parody of media types is a peculiarly introspective and self-conscious genre. On the straitened chattering-classes’ coffee-moming that is Radio 4. mimicking Jeremy Paxman is possibly profoundly witty. On the substantially


7 more demotic TV medium (even

: BBCZ) its insufferable knowing

cuteness leaves a nasty taste. Their

; attacks are too samey as well. You can 5 only puncture a hot-air balloon once,

I and The Day Today just has too many pricks.

l tn'cd with Middlemarch, (BBC2) i honestly did. but its pleasures elude me. I haven't read the novel. but then only ; about three people in the world have.

' Unfortunately Andrew Davies. who

i wrote the screenplay. is one of them.

' and the result is a painstakingly detailed affair. with the central figure of

Dorothea (Juliet Aubrey) an arid. priggish heroine. ‘She might look

virginal. but remember in those days she wouldn't have changed her

knickers for a week.‘ Davies told the

cast during filming. but despite his best

intentions. Middlemartrh has been

woefully devoid of earthiness to date.

Aubrey moons around Rome like

. Emma Thompson on downers. with

only Patrick Malahide as the scary

2 Casaubon escaping the suffocating

dustiness of BBC period dramas. It

bodes ill for Davies's much-discussed

‘raunchy‘ adaptation of Pride And


‘Aubrey moons around home like Emma Thompson on downers, with only Patrick Malahide as the scary Casaubon escaping the suriocating dustiness of BBC period dramas.’

You can have a better time trying to deconstruct the current Peugeot 106 ad. This Thelma And Louise pastiche : features two pouting sorts driving ‘; around the USA ditching various i accoutrements en route. including a Bradford street map and a hair-dryer. Arriving at a high bridge the stroppy lip-glossed Scottish one drops ‘Tony‘s flat keys‘ into oblivion. ‘What. my Tony?‘ exclaims her gormless chum. Now does this imply that a) Stroppy lip-gloss is merely helping Gormless escape the trap of dull Tony? b) Stroppy lip-gloss has been shagging Tony senseless behind Gormless's back ; and this is an oblique confession? or c) Stroppy and Gorrnless have lopped off Tony's penis with a carving knife and l are looking for a gnarled petrol pump

attendant to hand it to? What does it all

mean? (Tom Lappin)



A selection oi television highlights,

listed by day, in chronological order. Television listings compiled by Tom Lappin.


I Surgical Spirit (Scottish) 8.30—9pm. Nicola McAuliffe stars as the stroppy surgeon Sheila in the medical sitcom. tonight behaving even worse than usual. I Drive (BBC 1) 8.50—9pm. Not content with offering us sublime comedy on Thursday nights. Alexei Sayle teaches us to drive safely in a series of ten-minute amusing films with a serious message.

I love Hurts (BBC 1) 9.30—10.30pm. Adam Faith and Zoe Wanamaker face the tribulations of parenthood as their baby- minding conflicts with their careers.

I Cheers (Channel 4) 9.30—10pm. Diane recklessly entrusts Sam with a valuable book as security for a loan.

I The Unpleasant World 01 Penn And Teller (Channel 4) 10.30—11.05pm. The sick and scurrilous magicians perform more bad-taste trickery. teaching Fiona Fullerton a dubious party trick. and showing us how to con a free meal from a restaurant.

I The Word (Channel 4)

11.10pm—12. 10am. Terry Christian. Huffty. Dani Behr and Mark Lamarr introduce more salacious showbiz chat and music.

I Fantasy league ’94 (BBC2) 11.15-11.45pm. A further instalment of the shoddy soccer game-show. with Frank Skinner and David Baddiel.


I The New Adventures ot Superman (BBCI) 6—6.45pm. The soapy take on the superhero saga continues. Superman’s anonymity is under threat when Lois Lane gets hold of an invisibility suit.

I Casualty (BBC 1) 8—8.50pm. Holby staff are worried about the imminent merger with Queen’s Hospital. while a young Filipino girl is admitted. accusing her employer of maltreating her.

I Unplugged: Crowded House (BBC2) 8.40—9.05pm. The Antipodean popsters

(joined by Tim Finn) deliver an acoustic

set that includes the Hunters And Collectors and Doug Anthony Allstars classic ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me‘. I NYPD Blue (Channel 4) 9—10pm. Kelly and Sipowitz investigate a strangling. and Sipowitz exacts revenge against Giardella in the New York police series. See feature. I Arena: In Search or 02 (BBC2) 9.05—10.05pm. A special on Frank Baum’s American classic The Wizard Of 02. with notable literary figures (including Salman Rushdie) talking about how the film influenced thetn. The film itself is shown on Sunday afternoon.

I Arachnophobla (Scottish)

9.05—1 1.05pm. A horror tale with more than an element of comedy as a deadly breed of tropical spider infests a small American town. John Goodman is the cool exterminator with a healthy hatred of arachnids.

I The Prime or Miss Jean Brodie (Channel 4) 10pm—12.05am. Maggie Smith won an Oscar for her portrayal of Muriel Spark‘s unconventional Edinburgh schoolteacher whose unorthodox views. teaching methods and private life lead to her downfall.

I light Sun (BBC2) 10.55pm—12.45am. A dreary period drama set in 18th century ,I Naples starring Julian Sands as a petulant baron who discovers that his fiancee (Nastassia Kinski) has been the King‘s mistress. and storms off to become a monk.

I Broadway Stories: Johnny One Eye (Channel 4) 12.05—12.40am. Mike McShane plays a crook with a bullet wound. holed up in a darkened room. Damon Runyon’s take on Reservoir Dogs?


I Moviewatch (Channel 4) 6—6.30pm. Johnny Vaughan hosts the film review show from York. with punter pundits offering their critiques of The Age Of Innocence. Wayne 's World I] and Decadence.


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I Time Team (Channel 4) 7—8pm. Tony Robinson hosts the series taking an accessible approach to archaeology. digging up a Norman town in Shropshire. I The Empress (Channel 4) 8—9pm. The first in a series of three specially- cotnmissioned TV operas. The Empress is a tragi-comic tale of lust and destruction in a matriarchal society. See preview. I Moving Pictures (BBC2) 8.10—9pm. Howard Schuman looks at Farewell My Coneubine. the use of video in the movies. and how to get a decent crane shot. I A Touch 0i Frost (Scottish) 8.15—10.15pm. David Jason stars as the downbeat detective. trying to catch a rapist at large in his area. and in the process taking risks with his junior officers. I liaising Arizona (Channel 4) 9—10.45pm. A frenetic comedy from the Coen brothers. starring Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless couple who kidnap one of a tycoon‘s quintuplets. Cage is his usual manic self. and a fine supporting cast includes the always- wonderful John Goodman. I Comic Asides: The Honeymoon’s Over (BBC2) 9—9.30pm. A spiky and cynical comedy pilot from Harry Enfield wn'ters Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson about a newly-wed couple who find it impossible to live together. I Headhunters (BBC 1) 9.10—10pm. BBC Scotland‘s wooden drama draws to a close with Simon (James Fox) in a dishevelled and shambolic state. retreating to his country cottage. Your heart bleeds. j I Super Bowl XXVIII (Channel 4) g

10.45pm—3.30am. Get in the chips. dips and Bud for another incomprehensible four hours of huffing and puffing (and ,that’s just your mates on the sofa). I


I The Bigger Picture (BBC2) 7.30—8pm

Billy Connolly continues his leisurely I perusal of the history of Scottish art. exploring genre painting in the Victorian l

6T8. I

The List 28 January—10 February I994 73