Tom Lappin catches up with erstwhile clever—dick John Sessions. who returns to your small-screen with a new batch of Like/y Stories.
Being the cleverest man to come out of Largs in the last few decades mightn‘t seem much of an achievement. but for John Sessions his mighty brain and erudite wit have proved something of a liability in recent years. in a country where it‘s government policy to celebrate the mundane and mediocre and treat intellectuals with suspicion, Sessions has often been tarred with the ‘cocky smaitarse‘ brush and dismissed as an over-educated poseur with a penchant for disappearing up his own multi-syllabled
Hardly surprising then. that since 1991 he’s been devoting his time to ﬁlm and stage work. eschewing the verbose one-man shows and television tall tales
that had viewers (and interviewers) reaching for their.
dictionaries and obscure cultural reference manuals. Thankfully for the hidden majority who enjoy television with a slightly higher level of literacy than 'Chelle and Sharon moaning in the Queen Vic. the self-imposed exile returns with a new series of freewheeling one-man playlets. Likely Stories features the Sessions trademarks of bimrre plots and cameo ‘appearances' by popular culture icons (Chn's Eubank as a religious leader anybody?). but promises to he a little more accessible this time around. "They‘ll be faster and funnier hopefully,‘ Sessions says. ‘Less of me standing there with a mad glint in the eye. holding a finger in the air being purple. All the dialogue drives it along. There‘s very little of me being the narrator. And the references have got more popular. it‘s not that they're all restricted to Sam Fox and Terry Wogan. but some of the more outré stuff is
John Sessions cancels his Daily Mail order
out. The subjects are pretty much down the golf course. Richard and Judy from daytime TV. a Dirk Bogarde kind of 60s actor. horror ﬁlms. that sort of thing.‘
By their nature. the performances are stagey. particularly the ﬁrst show Honey I Shrunk M y Ego, an affectionate pastiche of luvviedom. Sessions has some sly satirical barbs in amongst the gentle send- ups. but is very British about the perils of being too direct.
‘l'm off to America on Tuesday to do a comedy ﬁlm with Eric ldle about Merchant ivory so l've been thinking about this. if you’re going to write comedy from bile and take relatively soft targets and demolish them with a sledgehammer. all the punter sees is your hatred. Like Julie Burchill or somebody diseased like that. You have to take the mickey with
No love is lost though when he performs a relatively merciless parody of daytime bland couples like Richard and Judy and Nick and Anne. Sessions admits he ‘doesn’t have the nervous system' to be a confrontational political stand-up but draws on huge resources of anger when faced by the everyday symptoms of middle-class ‘normality'.
‘The Richard and Judy episode has quite a lot of bile.‘ he admits. ‘lt isn't just about having a go at two folk dressed in hom'ble Daily Mail clothes. it‘s about that pomography masquerading as concern that one sees all over the box at the moment. like the Bulger coverage. 1 saw Nick and Anne the other day and her soul is written on her face. It's not a pretty sight; like a poltergeist looking out of a Barbie Doll. They were sitting there like Mr and Mrs Daily Mail behind their metaphorical lace curtains. it isn‘t just banal. it‘s wicked. evil shit they represent. all that coffee- morning crap. That whole attitude to life is
‘It isn’t just about having a go at two folk dressed in horrible Daily Mail clothes, it’s about that pornography masquerading as concern that one sees all over the box at the moment.’
compounded in those programmes. like Nick Ross and all those fucking people. “\V"r‘e normal and nice. and we want the whole world to be a lawnmower catalogue." ’
Strong stuff. and a riposte to all the doubters who believed that Sessions had gone all old and flabby. sipping too many cocktails with Ken and Em. He's still a maverick in TV terms. and he‘s created a spiky little series. sitting a tad oddly under the Light Entertainment banner. ‘A little bit of oddness at the edge ofthings is a good thing.‘ he protests. ‘lf you just try to do what everyone else does you‘re told you‘re tedious and cliche-ridden. Mind you. try and do something original and people say. “what are you doing something new for? Why isn‘t it 'lilrry And lime?" '
Ja/m .S'essians '.s‘ Likely Stories begins on BBCZ m1 Sunday 8 a! 8. 20pm.
Some of the
The rehabilitation of Richard Nixon, the only US President to resign from office, probably began with a series of extended television interviews with David Frost in 1977. During the historic television confessional, the disgraced Chief Executive showed just enough humility - despite bravado statements like ‘when the President does it, that means it’s not illegal’ - for the process of forgiveness to begin. When Nixon died last month,
Former White House Chief N.R. llaldeman
the queues of people who came to pay their respects suggested that, for many Republicans at least, the former
president had been welcomed back into the fold of Great Americans.
This revisionism of the Nixon legacy adds a particular timeliness to the BBC’s five-part documentary Watergate, which recounts the events leading up to Nixon’s resignation and adds some new fragments of evidence. The story begins with an increasingly paranoid Nixon, furious at a torrent of leaks of confidential Vietnam documents during the run up to his re- election campaign, authorising a ‘special intelligence unit’ to gather dirt on the Democrat opponents. When the so-called ‘plumbers’ were caught bumbling around the Democratic campaign headquarters at the Watergate Centre in the dead of night, they sparked off a political conspiracy that brought down a president.
Watergate pieces together the story using archive footage and recent
interviews with many of the leading
players in the political scandal: N.R.
llaldeman, White House chief of staff; John Erlichman, Nixon’s chief ‘ domestic adviser, and John Dean, the architect of the cover-up who subsequently gave evidence that implicated the president.
Are they telling the truth or was it simply another chance to rewrite their role in history? In the details, it’s hard to know, but what emerges is a clear picture of an administration that stepped over the line separating legitimate political ‘hardball’ and illegal activity. The moments of high ' farce, such as chief plumber Cordon ; liddy’s description of the junior ‘ detective disguises used by the unit, t are surely too ludicrous to be anything 5 other than the truth. (Eddie Gibb) l Watergate begins on Sunday 8 May at 8.50pm on BBC2.
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