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TELEVISION REVIEW V RADIO
REMember rock ’n’ roll?
scaled the US Top Ten in 1987, REM
3 have ballooned, given the purists cause for concern. 1989’s ‘Green’ was their first record for a major label - would more base considerations now drive REM’s art? Eek. And then, from the next album, there was ‘Shiny Happy People’, big dumb pop ahoy. Double-eek.
But purists are sad people, and REM are not. Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe can write pop to order. Unfeasible as it i may seem, they could be more i massive. But for every irony-rich pop l single there’s a literary wonder like
’ 6 ‘World Leader Pretend’ or a wheezing
‘ weirdo like ‘Texarcana’, out-of-the- ; blue album tracks that could easily 3 have come from ‘Reckoning’ or
4 g ; ‘Fables Of The Reconstruction’. Aide-
‘If it had been left to my devices,’ says Michael Stipe, ‘the record would sound like Fugazi on 45.’ REM are the band, ‘Monster’ is the new album, and to mark its coming, and to prove that REM are now part of rock’s royalty, they get their own day on the airwaves. Praise be, then, that ‘Monster’ is, to quote Stipe, heavily predicated on the singer’s own punk- rock dream: ‘[to] make the loudest, fastest, most fucked-up record in the world.’ Daytime radio better look out.
Just when it seemed like the biggest ‘alternative’ band in the world had become palatable to the mass media’s commercial considerations, they throw a wild-eyed curve-ball. Another one. True genius has a knack of doing that. Ever since ‘The One I Love’
l memoires from the parallel universe I forever - and solely - occupied by the
. 5 boys from the South. Postcards from
the edge, not the mainstream. Then
1 they confound expectations again by
' refusing to tour and releasing a record
of morbid introspection. Deliberately or not, ‘Automatic For The People’
' stripped away some of the lumpen
mania by then surrounding the band. It
i sold only 2.5 million. Only. As opposed
to ‘Green’s 4 million. And so to ‘Monster’. Raw, raucous,
dirty, fucked-up. They’re touring
again, so a further sales dip (a bit too noisy, perhaps, for the johnny-come- lately, post-‘Green’ fans) will be offset - it took less than five hours for all
1 19,000 tickets for their two shows at
the SE00 next April to sell out. What else do you need to know? They’re the best band in the world, ever. Almost makes listening to Radio One all day seem exciting. (Craig McLean)
. REM Day is on Radio One on Mon 26,
featuring an interview with the band on the Evening Session, 7—9pm. Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope assesses ‘Monster’ on Thurs 29.
I Kit and the Widow (Radio 2. Sat 24. (rpm) Messrs llesketli-llai'vey and Sissons. perennial heroes of the lidinburgh festival. captured in this year's show .it the (‘afe Royal. Sadly. the show has been 'saniti/ed~ soiiiev.'liat to render it suitable for Aunty lieeb's ears.
I Dress Up and Sing i Radio 4. Sat 24. 7.50pm) leathers ruffle and sparks lly in the cultural hothouse of lidinburgh amateur operatics in Harry (‘ltllllll and (‘olin llnusc'nui/i '\ Tit/1' Douglas's comedy play. recorded in the lidinburgh studio. As the lidina Classic ()pera (itllltl convene to discuss their spring production. the awful spectre of modernism challenges dyed-in- tlie-wool traditionalism. with unexpected results. Jan Wilson. Michael Mackenzie and Vari Sylvester star.
I Take That in Concert (Radio I. Sat 24. 9pm) Robbie and his chums take Sheffield by storm on the tour with the highest babe-appeal rating since Tom Jones played the Royal Variety Performance.
I Furry Trout, Etc (Radio Scotland. Mon 3(i. 12.20Pmi first of a series of ten- minute ventures among the more curious curios held in Scottish museums. 'l'odav. the National Museums l)avid llepple' shows Jack Regan the eponymous exhibit. a taxidermist’s practical joke called a gruck. Tune in at this time all this week for more curators' quirks.
I Looking for Recovery (Radio .1. Tue 27. 7.20pm) Yes. yes. yes. we all know the recession‘s over. . . itsiusi that . well. for example 300i) people lost their jobs
70 The List 23 September () ()ctober l‘)‘)4
the other day when the British Aerospace plant in Hatfield closed down. From
Hatfield Galleria. Nigel Cassidy chairs a
debate in front of a local audience. with a panel of knowledgeable guests from the usual quarters. and a new nationwide survey on job security to dissect.
I It Ain’t Necessarily So: The Spin Doctor? Nothing to do with New York rockers: this edition of the religious debate series examines the apostle St Paul. leading contributor to the .\'ew Testament. Was he merely an unscrupulous PR titan for Jesus. or are his writings crucial to interpreting the Gospels'.’ Two rabbis square up opposite Christian scholars to argue the score.
I Opinion: The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Radio 4. Thurs 2‘). 9.30am) Despite the recession's death rattles. some churlish pinko greenies still insist that market forces are not environmentally sustainable. True blue Dr Mary Archer
begs to differ. though she does offer a note of caution.
I The Six Caesars (Radio Scotland. Thurs 2‘). ().3()--7prii) Allan Massie
concludes his short series with a profile of
the demagogue who fiddled while Rome burned. limperor Nero.
I The Cossacks Ride Again (Radio 3. Fri 30. 10.45pm) All over Russia. Soviet
statues are disappearing. to be replaced by
romantic efligies of shaggy. horseborne heroes of the steppes. As Russian nationalism rises. with renewed interest in (‘ossack music and folklore. l’eter ('oriradi investigates the enduring Cossack myth. and finds it is not without its dark .sltlt'.
‘People’s always made money off the misfortunes of other people. Ever since the beginning of time. Aaahhnnn . . . The dollar is where it’s at. Everything else is secondary.’ Remember Jahba the Hutt‘? Now imagine him crammed into a shiny brown suit. with gold bracelets around his ﬂippers. The originator of the above quote is Larry Flynt. publisher of Hustler . whose conversational drava is punctuated with breathy groans, kinda like he was. er. enjoying a quick ﬂick through his own magazine. Larry is reflecting here. however. on a more recent title of his — ()J — The Triumph and The Tragedy. one of the countless ‘instant publications‘ thrown tip by the ()J Simpson case and featured in OJ Mania: The Media Trial of OJ Simpson (BBC 2). At the heart ofthe programme lay the argument that the Simpson case (ex-wife of major American Sports hero and celebrity gets brutally murdered along with her male companion. OJ is accused. leaves a suicidal-sounding note and attempts to evade capture. being chased Blues- Brothers-style down the freeway by the police while a TV news helicopter broadcasts the chase live to the nation. It's the old story). is a perfect example of the tensions and contradictions between America's 1st Amendment commitment to free speech. freedom of information and a free press. and the 6th Amendment which promises a fair and speedy trial. ()r. as Andrew Neil former editor of The Sunday 'I'r'mes. now working in America puts it. the fact that Americans have no legal restraints on the reporting of a case before trial — including the broadcast of leaked evidence to potential jurors is ‘Great for journalism. btit I‘m not so sure it‘s good for justice.‘
While one commentator observed that. on the contrary. with so much media scrutiny a fair trial would be ensured because all concerned would be on their best behaviour. the point was made clear that both the defending and prosecuting attorneys are highly sophisticated practitioners of media manipulation -- as evinced when Robert Shapiro. ()J's lawyer. clearly aware of the camera angles in the courtroom. shifted in his seat. placing his head between his client and public scrutiny at a highly charged moment.
Absorbing the collage of ()J-related clips which comprised the programme
leaves one. however. not with thoughts on justice and legality. but of fascination at the whole circus. Stations employing split—screen enable broadcasting of both the car chase and the semi-finals of the basketball play— offs simultaneously. The fact that the sales of white Ford broncos — ()J's ‘getaway‘ car-increased by over 3 per cent following the chase. ()r the bit- players. like the woman who placed an ad in Variety alerting casting directors to her likeness to the prosecuting lawyer. and Kate Kaelin. the out-of- work actor who used his air-time in the witness box as a screen test. becoming a star as ‘the courtroom jester" before the discovery of his past as — shock! — a soft—porn actor.
The Simpson TV movie is. of course. almost in can, produced by Robert Lovenheim. who considers ethics as ‘an amusing question for those of us in TV'. Ethics. though. weigh heavy on the Unbearany Patronising Sincerely Bearded Narrator of Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story (BBC 1 ). a TV movie about how horrible the media were to figure skaters. imprisoning them in the eternally black and white roles of Snow White (Nancy) and Devil Slut (Tonya). when their lives were obviously much more complex than that. Still. this didn‘t stop the filmmakers from portraying Tonya's mother as a one- dimensional bitch queen. and her ex- husband as a complete sleaze. signified by his moustache (the spidery kind that IS-year-olds sport). This being a TV movie. the usual subtle direction. editing. scoring. scripting and acting were employed. ‘i wonder what Tolstoy would‘ve made of Toriya's life . . .‘ mused the UPSPN: ‘Much War . . . Little Peace.‘
Around the same time as Nancy was getting her kneecaps rearranged by a man in black on BBC]. a man in pastel shades of autumn was reminding us what excellent value a TV licence is on the sister channel as Knowing Me, Knowing You . . . With Alan Partridge (BBCZ) heralded the great man‘s return to the screen. If you still wake tip sweating with the ll’ngrm theme in your head. or have been trapped in Pebble Mill dole-hell. then you'll know what a fantastic piece of dissection this is. If not. there‘s always the horse-shit. child custody jokes and the most fantastic utterance of ‘Kiss my arse' yet broadcast. Aha! (Damien Love)