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Documentary makers are obsessed by access. and that doesn’t mean arguing over whose flexible friend pays for lunch. No. access to the subject is all importantat the moment and any filmmakers who can poke their cameras into a location never previously filmed stand a good chance of receiving a commission. Get behind the scenes even if it’s only to capture footage of a couple of housing officers from Dudley brewing up call it a fly-on-the-wall documentary and you‘re in business.

The received wisdom is that when it comes to access. Melvyn Bragg delivers. Now starting its twentieth season. The South Bank Show (Sundays. Scottish) has oiled up to the best of them. demanding the full cooperation of its subjects in return for an hour of cosy. uncritical profile worthy of Hello magazine. ln the first ofthe new series. Bragg came to praise Victoria Wood but ended up burying her under a light dusting of sycophancy.

Yes. she’s one of the most popular comedians in the country who can pack ‘em in at the Blackpool Winter Garden. but was it really necessary to laugh quite so uproariously at everything she said? In one memorable sequence he prefaced his inquiry about the link between being northern and funny



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Victoria Wood: buried under a light dusting of sycophancy

(Victoria Wood is at least one of those) with a long ramble about why it was too simplistic a link. Then asked the question anyway. while the camera


For this edition of SBS. access meant being invited to the dressing room to watch Victoria applying cold cream to her face and offering. with knowing irony. beauty tips. Now the director may have thought this was a chance to see the comedian unmasked. or at least without a face pack. but it was exactly the kind of image she would want to present. Victoria Wood appeals to a

largely female. audience who will be


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to the Edinburgh Megastore at 1pm on Thursday 26th September, when they will be playing live and signing copies of their new album

The Half Tail

lingered on that Cheshire cheesy grin of

thrilled to discover she gets through a tub of make-up remover a week. Come to think of it. Nivea would be the perfect sponsor for her next show.

The ghost of Victoria Wood. who was first spotted on New Faces around the time SBS was cuddling up to a ‘Mull of Kintyre'-era Paul McCartney for its first programme. stalks the garish set of The Big Big Talent Show (Saturdays. Scottish). This falls back on the generic. not to say geriatric. format laid down by countless TV talent shows over the years. though to be fair it is blessedly free of Nina Myskow (pronounced Mish-Cow. like you would after a few gins).

In the Hughie Green corner is Jonathan Ross. a man whose slide frorn cult Channel 4 chat show to prime-time l'l’V light entertainment host has been as uncomfortable to watch as his ever- changing hair style. Ross started as a neatly barbered New Suit. a sub-species of the New Lad. who blagged their way on to television with their Estuary England accents and Johnny Moke dress shoes.

Woss‘s endearing speech defect proved no impediment to a career in broadcasting and he was forever popping up MC-ing televised award ceremonies. but it was noticeable that his natural sparkle was replaced by an over-reliance on the auto-cue. Surely fronting a talent show represents a career that has now finally hit the buffers.

JR was always a desk act he stayed put while the talent came to him. Now on The Big. Big Pile of P00 he is forced to negotiate a set filled with

obstacles like small steps and low couches which are designed to make even TV naturals and he is surely one look uncomfortable. lt's live. which dramatically increases the fear of a pratfall. while making it proportionately all the more likely.

And that‘s before he has even seen the ‘talent‘. Next week is the final when nine young hopefuls get to perform their turn before a nation. As always. thejudges. ie the viewing public. will have difficulty choosing a winner given the uniformly low standard. while Jonathan bobs around garner in a sea ofernbarrassruent. He's drowning. not waving will someone please throw him a lifeline.

A man who could read cricket scores and still retain credibility as a broadcaster is John Peel. whose unofficial status as the nation's favourite uncle is undented by doing voice-overs for chocolate biscuit ads and fronting daft shows like Moving People (Wednesdays. Channel 4) about the stress of moving house. Is it possible to dislike this man? I think not.

The same can‘t be said for Hilary Charlewood. an excruciating Fulham dweller who buys and sells houses professionally. moving in just long enough to give prospective buyers the impression of a home rather than a property investment. The worst thing about this kind of person is they don’t notice that they exhibit all the traits they dislike in others. ‘I don‘t really like the people who play polo.‘ she whined. ‘They‘re the sort that buy my flats.‘ As the pot famously said to the kettle. (Eddie Gibb)

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Thursday 26th September 7 .00pm. Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street.


She will be reading from and signing copies of her new novel

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Friday 27th September 7.00pm, Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street.


Author of the Handmaid’s Tale will be reading from and signing copies of her new novel

Alias Grace-(Bloomsbury £15.99) Tickets £3.00 from all Edinburgh branches. Ehtitles bearer to £1 ofl' the book at the event.

78 The List 20 Sept-3 Oct I996