liEEEﬂll Shootthe dancer
Back in the 80s, contemporary dance was oiten described as ‘the weird stuii you get on Channel 4’. Despite this uniortunate reputation dance has survived the small screen — and come out on top: dance film is iast gaining credibility as an art ionn In its own right, and hereto prove it is the second series oi Channel 4’s new look dance programme, Tights, Camera, Action!
As the name suggests this is no earnest little arts slot. ‘Witty and accessible’ is the claim and, as it to prove lt, Lea Anderson (oi Cholmondeleys tame) puts her tongue
ilnnly in her cheek and presents the show dressed as a painting by Goya.
Having cut their teeth on the ilrst series the production team are now going tor shorter works and a more global mix. ‘There’s a burgeoning talent for dance illm round the world, and we have a massive network of people who send us work,’ says Margaret Williams of MJW Productions. ‘The team has ilrm ground rules: iilmsthat make the programme must have both a strong visual Integrity and a certain amount oi broad-based appeal.’
Williams’ own work is a blueprint ior these criteria. ‘Mothers and Daughters’, a collaboration with choreographer Victoria Marks, appears in the second programme oi the series. It’s a beautliully craited iilm ieaturing ten pairs of real-lite mothers and daughters. ‘A bit oi a
! tearierker,’ says Williams, ‘ii you’ve } ever been a mother or daughter.’
Look out also ior Bruce Mclain’s
I ‘dance iilm meets stand up comedy’
number as well as a mixed bag oi other illms - some sad, some iunny, all visually arresting - irom leading directors/choreographers all over the world.
Beneath the populist ionnat lurk some pretty oii-the-wali illms, but with Anderson there to say ‘watch this film, it’s a bit oi a laugh’ - who can resist? Apparently Channel 4’s arts commissioning editor Waldemar Januszczak doesn’t particularly like dance, but as Williams puts it: ‘lle likes us.’ (Ellie Carr)
Tights, Camera, Action! begins on Channel 4 on Friday 29 July at 8pm.
I History On The liooi (Radio 4. Saturday 30. 4pm) A woman‘s skeleton is found under a car park in Gloucester. and before you can say ‘morbid’ John Slater is putting on his surgical gloves and investigating. It appears the woman died of tertiary syphilis. 42 years before it was introduced to Europe.
I Bombay Mix (Radio 2. Wednesday 3. 9pm) Apache Indian was the ﬁrst major Asian artist to cross over into a mainstream music chart. but according to presenter Sujata Barot this has more to do r with the lack of surveys held in Asian shops than the number of records sold. However things are changing: you can't expect racism to stand in the way of a record company‘s proﬁt. can you'.’
I Number Seven, Planty Street (Radio 4. Thursday 4. 8pm) in July I946. 100 Jews in the Polish town of Kielce were killed or injured in anti-Semitic attacks: barely one year after the revelations of the holocaust. Tim Pigott-Smith narrates this dramatised documentary investigating who may have been responsible for the pogrom: right wing nationalists. the local Communist party or the Soviet Secret Police?
I Talking Green Politics (Radio 4. Saturday 6. llam) Yo dudes! Surf‘s Up and it‘s like totally non-gnarly man ‘cause the ploopies man. they‘re like cutting a tube on your elbow. can you dig that“? The global cult of surfdom is currently clashing with the UK Government over the nine and a quarter million gallons of jobbies being pumped daily onto the best surﬁng beaches. First of four programmes looking at the eclectic mix of green pressure groups currently active.
I What Is [lie to Me Without Thee? (Radio 3. Saturday 6. 9.35pm) A Brian McCabe comedy starring Stuart ‘Life of Stuff' McQuarrie as the cellist skipping his rehearsal to ﬁnish a new composition.
Distractions include the nieghbours. mice infesting his instrument and the painful return of a departed co-habitee. Should have gone to the rehearsal.
I Leonard Cohen: Tower oi Song (Radio 1. Sunday 7. 7pm) An hour long (itjust feels longer) documentary on gloommeister Cohen, who comments ‘Somehow these descriptions of my work got into the computer: ’suicidal‘. ‘bedsitter gloom‘, ‘melancholy’ . . . as though seriousness had no place in song.’ Contributions from the comparatively jovial Suzanne Vega.
I The Communication Chord (Radio 2. Sunday 7. 10pm) Hang up your anorak for the evening and snuggle down with a hot cup of Bovril: this is ‘a celebration in words and music, of the steam train and railway travel.‘ Those destitute of souls may mock. but songwriters from Edward Strauss to Flanders and Swann have oft attempted to portray the magic of steam. Extracts from Charles Dickens and William McGonagall are featured along with (and this is very exciting) Reginald Gardner‘s famous train impressions.
I The Isle III Tears (Radio 3. Tuesday 9. 10.45pm) Between 1892 and 1954. seventeen million men. women and children passed through Ellis Island. the US immigration station in New York Harbour. Christopher Cooks reflects upon the immigrants who became Americans. and who‘ve now ﬁrmly closed the doors of Ellis Island behind them.
I Craham Taylor’s Football llight (Radio 5. Wednesday 10. 7.35pm) Utterly unlikely as it sounds. that's what it says in the BBC press release. After doing to English soccer what myxomatosis did to rabbits why he should be allowed residence in the UK is a mystery. but here he is looking at the up-coming nine months of soccer action. There‘s a phone- in. which might be interesting: ‘Graham. why are you such a . . .‘
The ﬁrst law of American politics — where there’s a Kennedy. there‘s a conspiracy theory. With television reliving the 60s this summer — see moon shot and Woodstock 25th anniversaries. all channels — the axiom was ably demonstrated when inside Story Special (BBC 1) returned to Chappaquiddick Island. a quarter of a century after that black Oldsmobile turned turtle in a brackish lagoon.
This should really have been the story of a tragic death. that of 26-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne. a secretary from the Democratic inner circle known as the Boiler Room Girls. But Chappaquiddick, a sleepy weekend playground for wealthy New Englanders, booked its place in history because the owner of the car was Senator Edward Kennedy, a man for whom succession to the Presidency was regarded almost as a birthright.
The events that led to Kopechne's death have never been adequately explained: Kennedy has always maintained that he was the driver. that he remembers clearly attempting to rescue Kopechne but has no recollection of how he himself managed to escape from the upturned car. In a deal with the prosecutor. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to report the accident until ten hours after the car went over the bridge.‘ There were holes the size of Idaho in the story and all sorts of lurid cover-up theories ﬁlled the vacuum. fuelled by Kennedy’s refusal to speak publicly about the affair since 1980.
Inside Story presented fresh evidence which it organised to offer a new, and in some ways less damning. explanation — Kennedy was not in the car when it crashed off Chappaquiddick Bridge. Kopechne had been left to drive the car alone. it suggested, after Kennedy bailed out to avoid the embarrassment ofbeing stopped by a police patrol late at night. possibly drunk, with a woman who wasn't his wife in the passenger seat. This would explain Kennedy’s failure to report the accident immediately: he didn't know about it until aides visited his hotel the next day to break the news.
Whatever happened in the car that night, Teddy Kennedy wrote off his ambition to succeed his brother as President ofthe United States and it was the suggestion of a cover-up. not the accident itself. that probably sunk his chances. If Inside Story is right, or even close. with hindsight a political
rehabilitation might have been easier had he admitted to having an affair. Twenty-ﬁve years on, that appears to be no bar to White House occupancy. Two sitcoms — one American. one very English — both of which use job loss to tee up comic situations. In a Chicago bar, a bankruptcy laywer (make that ex-bankruptcy lawyer), a stockbroker and a typing teacher (male) gather after work to drink beer, munch nuts and bond by reliving their ﬁfteen- year-old fantasy — Big Wave Dave’s (Channel 4). So far. their plans have never progressed beyond ordering another round. but today is different, today is the day that Marshall, Dave and Richie say. hey. this time let‘s do it.
‘Jokes about champagne, mobile phones and having to do without the house In Provence are just not iunny anymore.’
Cut to the commercial break and then it's aloha. Hawaii and the situation of this new comedy — the surf shop ofthe show‘s title. It‘s hard tojudge from the ﬁrst episode whether this will be Cheers in loud shirts (the creators’ credits include the Boston bar classic and M*A *S*H) but it managed to be funny and say something about that peculiarly 90s world recession neurosis — is there life after a career?
Downward/y Mobile (Scottish) is resolutely backward-looking, resurrecting the tired yuppie archetype for one comedy tour of duty too many. There’s a Good Life twist to this one too after ex-currency trader Mark. stiffed by Black Wednesday. and his failed designer wife Sophie (Josie Lawrence) lose their house, car and Gold Cards. The bankrupt couple pitch up at the home of Mark’s brother — a lute-maker (they got the loot pun out of the way early: keep watching for the inevitable liar/lyre gag) - and his pyschotherapist wife (Frances de la Tour).
This is New Age meets New Money with less-than-hilarious results. Jokes about champagne. mobile phones and having to do without the house in Provence are just not funny anymore. Absolutely Fabulous was the deﬁnitive late-80s comedy — can we please let the last decade lie in peace now? (Eddie Gibb)
70 The List 29 July—ll August I994