l The half of it
In a strange exercise in nostalgia, Hey i (tattoo and Tony Simpson’s classic scripts ior Hancock's Hal! Hour have been dusted oii and updated with cornedy’s Mr oeadpan Paul Merton cast in the misanthropic lead role. Sam Kelly plays his sidekick and straightman, though without the same relish as Sid James managed to bring to the role.
In the iirst episode oi this series oi remakes, ‘Twelve Angry Men', Merton plays the ioreman oi a lury who is determined to spin out the deliberations to ere maximum expenses and a slap-up lunch. While Hancock made jokes about the Magna Carta (‘dld she die in valn?’), Merton discusses the merits oi a Marks & Spencer’s sandwich. ilow times change. Ii they do the memorable radio ham episode it will probany ieature the Internet.
The Hancock comedies, which were iorerunners oi the head-to-head iormat developed by Mel Smith and oriii iihys Jones, ran ior ilve years until 1961. Six years later Hancock committed suicide In Australia. The gloomy iatalism that inspired his comedy also tormented Hancock in real lite and in ilnal years he descended into alcoholism. Merton
shares some oi the same comedy
Paul Merton: a halt oi Hancock
traits, such as the unrelenting cynicism and grumpy outlook on ilie, though without the real sense oi tragedy that hung over Hancock. Although a remake oi Hancock’s IIaIf Hourseems like rather an unimaginatlve idea (no surprise to discover it was Carlton’s), it does demonstrate the strength oi the original scripts, which have been adapted by Salton and Simpson themselves. Without Merton, however this simply wouldn’t work and the series has the air oi loving tribute about it. Merton clearly knows how much he owes to Tony Hancock. What next - a remake oi Stepioe and Son with Frank Skinner as Albert and David Baddiel playing Harold? (Eddie Gibb) Paul Merton In Galton and Simpson's . . . Tivelve Angry Men is on Fr126 Jen at 8. 30pm on Scottish.
I Postcard From Gotham (Radio 4) Sat 27 Jan. 6.50pm. Joe Queenan scours Manhattan for the latest word on the topics dominating talk across the States in the return of this bitchy. down to the nitty- gritty. hot gossip half-hour. I Documentary: Sign oi the Times: Emergency on Planet Earth (Radio 1) Sun 28 Jan. 7pm. Last in the series of this medium-is-the-ruessage look at protest pop. with UK songstress Kirsty MacColl talking global issues with guests Paul McCartney. Sting. Jackson Browne. Jim Kerr. Billy Bragg and Peter Seeger. I Cultural Baggage (Radio 3 ) Mon 29 Jan. 9.30pm. Strange. possibly drug- induced new series that looks at a bizarre collection of ‘cultural icons' and wonders what they're all about. First off is the car — as discussed by ‘AA Patrol man of the year‘. managing executive of Vauxhall UK. a design historian. and authors Will Self and lain Banks. Next ‘icons‘ on the agenda are: the community. dogs. viruses. and last but not least. the cagoule. I World Tonight Special: Pity the Peacekeepers (Radio 4) Thurs 1 Feb. 7.20pm. Still confused by the politics of the former Yugoslavia? Maybe 40 minutes on the frontlines with reporter Simon Dring and the boys of British infantry battalion ‘A‘ company will help. Follow Dring and his armed companions over their ﬁrst ﬁve weeks in the ﬁeld. from their initial landing in Split to take-up positions on the bleak. snow-swept slopes above Sarajevo. I Kids For Sale (Radio Five Live) Thurs 1 Feb. 10.35pm. David Prosser reveals the seedier side of the tourist trade in Thailand. with an alarming expose linking hundreds of British 'businessmen' to both the buying and selling of under-age sex in notorious Thai go-go bars. I Private View (Radio 3) Sat 3 Feb. 1.02pm. Glaswegian artist Douglas Gordon — best known for his P.\‘_\‘(‘/t()
exhibit at Glasgow Tramway where he
Trevor Nelson: well-credible
slowed down Hitchcock’s famous thriller to run to a marathon 24 hours — is first in the frame in a new series visiting the wilder shores of contemporary art.
I Trevor Nelson’s Rhythm Nation (Radio 1) Sun 4 Feb. 2pm. Another bid from Radio l to bring the station back from the brink of MOR tedium. with leading rhythm ’n' blues DJ Trevor Nelson joining an ever-growing list of well- credible jocks that includes dance DJs Time Westwood. Pete Tong and Danny Rampling. Tune in to Nelson each Sunday for a chill-out chunk of R ‘n' B and classic soul. Guest of the week is R Kelly. I in Concert: Beautiiul South (Radio 1) Mon 5 Feb. 9pm. Paul Heaton and co carry on up the tour schedule with choice cuts from their white-man's soul-drenched musical output of the last few years. Recorded live at The Fleadh. Finsbury Park.
I Kaiso! Calypso (Radio 2) Wed 7 Feb. 9.03pm. Radio 2 scoops a Trevor McDonald not always serious shock story. as the News at 72'” star lets down his hair fora new six-part series looking at the cultural. sporting and (finally) political life of his native West Indies. First on the agenda for Trev's big day out -- the shaking. shimmying annual Calypso festival. Carnival? (Ellie Carr)
‘ls that a ruan or a woman.‘ asks the wannabe record company mogul as he flips through a pile of photographs sent in by wannabe pop stars. That‘s jtist the kind of uncool thing your parents would came out with when. say. Boy George appeared on 'lo/r (if/Ire l’nps. But Nick Stolberg isn‘t spending £500.000 of his capital from a successful car leasing business to be hip or cool. This is an investment in a new product which he is designing and plans to sell at a handsome proﬁt. And handsome proﬁt is an apt description. because the product is a boy band which Stolberg is trying to mould -- he prefers to say ‘guide' -- into the natural successors to chart princes Take That. When their teen appeal wanes. as it surely must soon. another troupe of younger. more compliant youngsters will be on hand to do their master's bidding.
It could just be the subjects of last week's Inside Story (BBC I . Thursdays). Upside Down are a vocal band whose members were selected after an advert in a music paper generated 7000 replies. ()f that. a couple of hundred were auditioned before the final four were selected. They were. in the words of Stolberg. the ‘best of the boys next door'. Ranging in age from sixteen to 22. the lads had not an ounce of showa experience between them. but what they did possess was bland good looks and a passable voice. The rest could be dealt with by an army of stylists. producers and vocal trainers who were hired by Stolberg and his business partner l’aul l-lawkins to knock the not— yet-fab four into shape.
By allowing cameras access to the whole process from audition to first live. well minted. performance. Stolberg was taking a gamble. Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable to admit openly that a band had been manufactured by backroom boys. The careers ofthe German pop duo Milli Vanilli never survived revelations that their creative input possibly didn't even include singing on their own records. Sheena Easton’s transformation from gawky adolescent on Esther Rant/en's dream-come-true show The Big Time to foxy member of Prince's entourage was only possible by a move to America where she was never known as that ‘Nine To Fivc‘ lassie frae Bellshill.
But Stolberg clearly believed the publicity from an hour-long documentary outweighed the risks of exposing the puppeteers‘ wires which controlled the fresh-faced hopefuls. A slot on the Sums/i Hits newcomers tour and a modest chart entry at 32 suggested he was doing something
right before the documentary was shown.
And so from boys to men. Hollywood Men (Wednesdays. Scottish) to be precise. This is another series from the people who pointed a camera at the Tinseltown freakshow to bring you HUI/ytvnm/ Women. The men in question turn out to be even more self- regarding and artiﬁcially restructured than the women. A sequence on bad wig jobs was perfectly illustrated by the parade of appalling rugs arriving atop tuxedos at a glitzy Hollywood party. As one commentator noted. the quality of a movie mogul's hairpiece seems to be inversely proportional to the power they wield.
It's a rare collection of people that can make Dolph Lungren appear articulate. but a visit to a muscle-bound l-lollywood gym demonstrated that there are in fact plenty more stoopid people than that Scandinavian hunk. And then there's Fabio. another Euro hunk with a ﬁyaway hair problem who rose to fame as the model for the cover illustrations of a series of Mills & Boon-style romantic novels. Now. it seems. he‘sjust famous for being famous and the marketing industry built around him included a ﬁlm in which he starred with a digitally resurrected Marilyn Monroe. ‘Fabio represents the ability to make fantasy come true.‘ says his manager. adding: ‘If he didn't have anything to say. he wouldn't have got this far.‘ And what Fabio has to say is: ‘l caaan‘t beliv ees not buttah.‘ Yes. this is a man whose contribution to mankind‘s well-being is advertising low-fat spread.
l‘ll spare you the exact details of the cosmetic surgery that Hollywood men inllict on their willies. but one sad case had been under the knife ﬁve times after the initial operation was botched. It was hard to tell what was bringing a tear to his eye -— the discomfort when he pees or the thougHt of a $20,000 medical bill. Naturally he's suing the pants off the surgeon. but it was unclear whether he will have to remove his own to give Exhibit A its day in court.
Having done boys and men. that leaves only lads. The original lad. if the Omnibus (BBC 1. Mondays) ﬁlm ‘Ploughboy ()f The W 'stem World' is to be believed. was none other than Robert Burns. Writer Andrew ()‘Hagan described him as a ‘punk. asexual proﬂigate‘ will AL. Kennedy reckoned the National Bard was ‘the perfect bit of rough'. He was a man who delighted in behaving badly. though this. one suspects. is not the way the ladies of the Bums appreciation society of Durnfries see him. But after all. a man's a man for a' that. (Eddie Gibb)
The List 26 Jan-8 Feb l996 73