Shop floor stories

It seemed an innocuous enough statement at the time calling Paul Watson, creator of 70s landmark series The Family and real-life Neighbours soapumentary Sylvania Wafers, a master of the fly-on-the-wall genre.

‘I don’t make fly-on-the-wall documentaries,’ he says firmly. ‘It’s

time that was squashed and squidged.

Files live on shit, flies bring in disease. It’s actually offensive to the people you’re making films about. The films I’ve made over the last few years have an authored point of view and the fly-on-the-wall stuff I’ve seen - IIMS Brilliant and others - simply seem to me to be mindless. We’ve

gone past that. When I did The Family, ;

working class people, people who weren’t obsessives or running for parliament or selling something or middle class weren’t getting on television.’

Perhaps it‘s just a semantic problem, i

but certainly The Family, made in 1974, was a breakthrough programme and one of the first instances when Andy Warhol’s ‘famous for fifteen minutes’ soundbite seemed to have some credence. Since then we’ve been saturated with slice-of-life soapumentaries, many created by Watson, but he still believes there is room for documentary series of that nature. Which takes us to his latest, The Factory, his first since joining Granada Television last year.

The Factory: last gasp for British i manufacturing? 1 ‘I wanted to find out why we had not 1 made films about life in a factory for

fifteen years,’ he says, ‘and I think

that’s not a coincidental number of

; years. There have been people who

a thought it best not to look at those

1 areas of business which Mrs Thatcher ! and others had so deliberately set

i about doing things to.’

' The programme was shot over five

1 months in a small Liverpool factory

; which makes gas fires. By

l coincidence, the political scandal

'i over British Gas chairman Cedric

, Brown’s whopping payrise broke

1 during filming and, even more

; ominously, as the factory’s biggest

; customers, British Gas was selling off 1 its retail outlets at the same time.

g ‘Manufacturing has been the core to

; our working lives fora long time,’ says

3 Watson. ‘50 before it possibly : disappears, let’s have a record of one

: place trying to survive with a bunch of

E people who see it as their Iifeline.’

: (Fiona Shepherd)

i The Factory is on Channel 4 from Mon 13.


I Cover Stories: Bouchercon ’95 (Radio Scotland) Mon o Nov. noon. lan Docherty talks low-down. dirty. murderous crime and intrigue with Sara Paretsky. Walter Mosley. James Ellroy and Ian Rankin and up to 1000 others at this esteemed international conference for crime. thriller and mystery writers.

I The Essential Mix Tour (Radio 1) Sat 4 Nov. midnight. Pete Tong dives deep into the mix. live at the Que Club. Birmingham. with a downright stunning string of Dis including DJ Sasha. Paul Oakenfold. Paul Bleasdale and the increasingly deck-worthy. new-look Boy George - all of whom score very highly indeed in DJ Magazine‘s ‘World‘s Top 150 DJs’.

I The Lipman Test (Radio 4) Mon 6 Nov. 10.02am. Suburban satirist and star of lOOl BT commercials. Maureen Lipman goes in search of the British hobbyist and ,finds a hotbed ofjealousy. pride and ambition bubbling under the surface of such harmless pastimes as caravanning. model aircraft-making and women‘s fly fishing in this new weekly series.

I Cinema 100: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Radio 4) Thurs 9 Nov. 10.02am. The 50s American comedy classic made famous by Marilyn Monroe and that ditty about diamonds being a girl‘s best friend gets the radio treatment in a new series that forms part of Radio 4's centenary of cinema celebrations.

I liotel Auschwitz (Radio 4) Thurs 9 Nov. 7.20pm. Tourism is a growth industry in Auschwitz. discovers Jon

{ Ronson. as he Visits various Holocaust

( sites now open to the public. and asks if

% it‘s remembrance these hordes of political

| tourists are indulging in. or exploitation?

i I John Dunn (Radio 2) Fri 10 Nov.

r 5.05pm. Nancy Sinatra. daughter of

) Frank. chats to John Dunn about the new

1 novel she‘s penned on her famous pops.

i Frank Sinatra: An American Legend. and

i (probably) about her recent and much-

) publicised appearance as a Playboy Playmate.

: I Off the Ball (Radio Scotland) Sat 11

3 Nov. 5.30pm. Scottish broadcaster and

) journalist Stuart Cosgrove does one of the

i things he does best (talking football) in

! the phone-in that aims to take the feet

from under the football establishment.

l I Soft on Soap (Radio 2) Sat 11 Nov.

6.03pm. Paul Bradley. aka Nigel from

IiastEnr/ers tunes into a nation glued to

their weekly/daily soap rations. in this

one-off programme covering all from

Laurence Olivier and his soft spot for The

Street to viewers who've got so cam'ed

away with their favourite soap they‘ve

tried to buy houses in Albert Square.

I Eureka! (Radio 4) Sun l2 Nov.

new-Darwinist and media celebrity Richard Dawkins in the first ofthis new series of conversations with scientists. doctors and engineers.

9pm. Stewart Lee and Richard Herring. the comedy-duo behind brilliant satirical news show The Day Today leave behind the glamour of television and get back to barking-mad spontaneous hilarity in the fourth series of their acclaimed comedy show. (Ellie Carr)

10.45pm. Barbara Myers meets top boffin.

I Lee and Herring (Radio l) Wed 15 Nov.



The reason police procedurals work on television is because police procedures can be repeated over and over again. It’s the way coppers go about things ~- methodically - which is why they get called PC Plod. The attraction ofthe genre. from The Bill to NYPI) Blue. is that the police officers themselves stay more or less the same. while the criminals they chase provide a fresh storyline every week. The villians are just passing through. but our favourite characters can alwaysbe relied on to show up for duty at the precinct.

ln ‘Brotherly Love'. the three-patter that kicked off the new series of Cracker (Scottish. Mondays). lead writer and creator Jimmy McGovern signalled from the start that this was a police station about to implode. The story picked up where the last series left off. with DS Jane Penhaligon still in shock after being raped by a masked man she is convinced was her colleagtrc Jimmy Beck. Nothing was ever going to be the same again at the nick. and as this is the last ever series. the air is filled with the sound of burning boats.

Cracker prides itselfon realism; the psychology and sociology of the crime is more important than the tedious business of chasing the bandits. the procedure. It stands John Major‘s attitude to crime on its head by understanding more and condemning less.

The psyches of cops and robbers alike are laid bare by Fitz's lancet-like insights into the human condition. His approach to human psychology is to take his subjects apart. even if he can't always put them back together again. In the last episode of 'Brotherly Love'. Fitz induced a panic attack in the guilt- ridden Beck. which led directly to his breakdown and suicidal leap from a tall building. This. one imagines. is not the kind of approach which endears psychologists to their professional bodies. but it makes for better television than a touchy-feely counselling session.

Beck wasn‘t the only guilty party in a story that was drenched in the holy water ofthe Roman Catholic church. McGovern is fascinated with the guilt complexes of Catholics. and Cracker swung an incense burner above its head with the determination of an East German hammer thrower. When Fitz says to Beck. ‘you can tell me l’rn a good Catholic boy‘. he turns into a father confessor figure who has people owning up to sins left. right and centre. just for a few words of absolution. Fitz has none. of course. but they unburden themselves anyway.

By continuing the rape storyline from the last series. McGovern has avoided trivialising the issue. though the Zero

Ghannel Hopping

Tolerance-style message about male abuse of power was perhaps a little over~playcd The continual forcgrounding of Penhaligon‘s trauma has turned the policewoman into a zombie-like presence whose eyes are perpetually red-rimmed. She is unfit for work as it is. and when the DCl had her dress up tarty to catch a prostitute killer. it was crass and meaningless. Ultimately by writing a storyline which ensnares the police team. McGovern sacrificed the plausibility of his characters‘ actions. and with it much of the dark humour which ran through the first series.

At this year's Edinburgh Television Festival. television executive Janet Street-Porter baited British broadcasters who she described as ‘middle-aged. middle-class. mediocre men'. Shortly afterwards the badly ctrt suits at cable station Live TV! must have got to her. because she resigned to return to programme making. Now a bit middle-aged and middle—class herself. Street-Porter has at least had the sense to avoid returning to the ‘yoofTV' beat that made her famous. Instead she brings us Street-Porter’s Men (Channel 4. Saturdays). a chatshow with a concept

The concept is that Street-Porter doesn‘t find all men boring. In fact there are some she rather admires. including her first guests BBC foreign affairs editor John Simpson and transvestite stand—up comedian Eddie lzzard. Looking for common ground. lzzard and Simpson made a creditable stab at confirming Street-Porter‘s theory that their respective jobs had several similarities. If you‘re a busker. Woking shopping centre can be a bit of a war zone apparently while war reporters frequently defuse tense situations with ajoke. It was reasonably entertaining stuff, but surely it exists only as a television in-joke based on Street-Porter‘s Edinburgh lecture?

Poor little diddums Paula Yates was reportedly upset at the ribbing she received from Private Eye editor Ian Hislop in the first in the new series of current affairs comedy Have I Got News For You (BBCZ. Fridays). Paula is showing signs of having aged very fast. very quickly. Not physically. you understand. though the cosmetic surgeon is already on call. but emotionally. An adulthood which has been suppressed with the mannerisms of a flirty schoolgirl. seems to be catching up on her all at once. Fitz would have demolished her increasineg sad craving for public affection in 30 seconds flat. (Eddie Gibb)

88 The List 3-H) Nov 1995