llever trust a soap opera character. That seems to be the message behind this week’s relationship merry-go- round in soap-land, which has more than its fair share of dirty dealings going down.
Betrayal is the most familiar action that soap plots turn on — of lovers. friends and partners — and its aftermath is a muddy mess of emotions. as EastEnders (BBC! ) so often shows. Poor Tiffany was left sobbing when Bianca couldn't stop herself spilling the beans about Grant and Lorraine. perhaps in unconscious revenge for the way she was informed of Ricky‘s infidelities last year.
Frankie. too. succumbed to tears after not getting her wicked way with Tony. who preferred a qttick getaway with gay lover Simon to her seductive chat. which amounted to: get off with me again or I‘ll tell all. Up to now. Frankie has been played a scarcely credible pantomime she-devil. wrecking relationships for the hell of it and then moving on. as nice-but-dim Alan Jackson found to his cost. Her mate Mick‘s sudden attempt to excuse this love ‘em-and-leave ‘em lifestyle as the result of an awful childhood scetns a little hollow. Would they feel the same need to justify a male Lothario‘s behaviour“?
Treachery of a lesser kind in Weatherlield. where the older men of Coronation Street (Scottish) are up in arms over Fred Elliot‘s sneaky attempts to cash in by betting on their jointly— owned racehorse. Betty‘s llotshot. Since Fred — who sounds more like Foghorn Leghorn every week (‘I say. boy. I say . . .‘) — was the one behind their original scheme to flog the horse abroad for dogmeat. the poor creature was probably racing for its life.
Meanwhile. Alma's faith in Stephen was shattered; she‘s been holding a torch for him for some time. to the great amusement of her husband Mike Baldwin. his business partner. He seemed the perfect gent. but who wouldn't next to Mike'.’ First Stephen cancelled his firm's business deal with Mike's factory. then he humiliated her by making it clear that he found her crush on him pathetic. It was a cruel moment. made worse when his mum. Audrey. publicised the affair in Alma‘s own ca ff.
ln Brookside (Channel 4). (ieorgitt visited the hairdresser twice without any apparent change in her style — no wonder boyfriend/brother Nat was suspicious. She decided that their on- off relationship is definitely over. after realising that she wants to have children.
Lindsay's also given Mike the push. not just for taking sole credit for the .book they wrote together about their time in a Thai jail. but for his persistent belief that great literature and a shave are incompatible. Mike is now working on his next opus about former Close resident Beth Jordache. Perhaps some enterprising TV producer will buy the rights . . .
‘I don‘t watch soaps. They are a load of rubbish.‘ — Mick Johnson in Brno/(side. (Andrea Mullaney)
Howard Jacobson has written a five-part analysis of the origins of comedy for Channel 4. Eddie Gibb listens for the punchhne.
After going in search of his Jewish ancestry in Rim/s. .S'i‘lmmuls. novelist and former academic Howard Jacobson has turned his attention to humour. in a wry series called .S't'riuus/y Funny: .-’ln Argument [Ur ('milt'tlv. It's a risky business. analysing humour. as anyone who has ever tried to explain a joke knows: it generally isn't fttnny anymore.
For that reason. Jacobson has wisely steered clear of trying to work otrt the mechanics of ltow a joke is delivered. and focused instead on the subjects that we find furtny. This is an analysis of content. not form. and one of the most obvious conclusions he reaches is that the content ofjokes frequently relates to body parts and fluids. ‘We're talking about piss and shit.‘ he says.
Jacobson is big on finding symbolic meaning in the traditional props of comedy. The frequent use of hose
Seriously Funny: Howard Jacobson
reckons laughter is the best medicine strap-on willies to Ken l)odd‘s tickle stick. via Charlie Chaplin‘s cane. Jacobson evcrt argues that a ‘stand-up‘ comedian is turning his whole body into a phallic symbol. Illustrated with carefully chosen clips from television comedy intercut with dramatisations of pre-electronic humour. it‘s difficult not to see phallic symbols everywhere.
‘I love verbal comedy and a well
pipes. custard pies and other gungey substances is. he reckons. quite clearly a reference to piss and shit. Travelling to visit a tribe of Mexican Indians. he finds a whole festival devoted to ﬂinging fake facees at one another. To simplify his elegantly communicated argument. one of the purposes comedy appears to serve is to puncture pomposity by reminding as of basic human frailties.
Similarly a whole programme is devoted to the phalltts and its significance in comedy. from the ancient Greek saty rs who sported giant turned sentence and the thing that surprised me was how much lower the whole thing became.‘ he says. ‘I seriously considered called it an argument for low comedy. 'l'hat's been good for me because I’m naturally prim and came to things like swearing quite late.‘
Jacobson already rated comedians like Billy Connolly and Barry llumphries. bill was compelled to sit through a Blackpool performance by notoriously blue stand-up Roy ‘Chubby‘ Brown. The trademark helmet fitted perfectly with Jacobson‘s phallocentric view of comedy. but he was surprised to discover how fttnny he found Brown. ‘I went along to see Chubby Brown and felt absoltrtely out of place.‘ he says. ‘But when he came on we all felt part of one big family through laughter. And everybody stt} s laughing is good for you.’
Serious/y l’llllll)‘ begins (HI Tue 4 l’t’l) mt ('lmnne/ 4.
nAoro HIGHLIGHTS '
I The Essential Mix (Radio l)Sat 25 Jan. 2am. Drum ’n' bass king Goldie’s Metalheadz collective hits the decks for two hours ofcascading beats in the mix.
I Bacharach And David - Hitmakers (Radio 2) Sat 25 Jan. 5.03pm. Fans of cheesy listening get ready. The duo who dreamt tip such classic cocktail hits as 'What's New Pttssycat'P'. ‘Trains And Boats And Planes' and 'Raindrops Keep Falling ()n My Head are profiled by Paul Jones. Dionne Warwick and ex-l)eacon Blue singer Ricky Ross are among those paying tribute.
I Sentimental Journey - The Arthurs Head For Havana (Radio 4) Sttn 26 Jart.
l l.45am. Comedian Arthur Smith takes a trip down memory lane with ex-NUM president Arthur Scargill. While others take their holidays in Benidorm and Tenerife. Scargill’s trips abroad have most often been to Cuba. home ofcigars and revolution. Smith tags along as the Red Arthur embarks on a whirlwind tour of Havana and and its seedy piano bars.
I Hula Shaker Live (Radio I) Mon 27 Jan. 9.30pm. The mystic rockers who entered chart orbit last year with a string of singles and their first album which went in at No I. play live at the Aston Villa Leisure Centre. Programme times are subject to change depending on the band‘s arrival on stage.
I Conor And The Polish Girl (Radio 4) Thurs 30 Jan. 4.45pm. Rapidly-rising film and TV actor Christopher liccleston finds a window in his diary to read this short story by Chris Paling about a drifting artist who falls madly in love with a mysterious Polish girl in Prague.
I Apocalypse How And Then (Radio 3 ) Sat l l-‘eb. l().()5pm. New five-part series with lwan Russell-Jones examining the theology and culture behind widespread American belief in the old sandwich board maxim: “The end of the world is nigh.‘
I Close-ups (Radio 4) Sat l Feb. 6.50pm. New series for film btrffs with Nigel Andrews looming in on sotne of Hollywood's big guns. This week Andrews talks to Robert Duvall about his roles in classics such as The Godfather and :l/mmlv/m' Nmr' and the changes he‘s seen over 3()-plus years in the biz.
I Yardie Get The Blame (Radio l)Sun t l~‘eb. 7pm. Geoff Small. author of the novel lim/it' (It'! The Blame. reports on the rising incidence in New York. Toronto and London of authorities pointing the finger at black youths — especially Jamaicans — for violence and drug crimes. The gangs and violence of Kingston‘s ghettos shaped the sound of reggae. he says. but have also helped create negative stereotypes of young black men.
I Medea Media (Radio 4 ) Mon 3 Feb. 7.45pm. Rod Wooden‘s modern epic stars Geraldine James as Medea. a spurned woman driven to exact revenge in full view of the media when her boyfriend dumps her to marry someone else.
I Teenagers In Love (Radio 2) Thurs 6 Feb. |().()3pm. Hard to believe in these sophisticated times. but once upon a time there was a musical craze called doo-wop. Those who were there have generally chosen to forget. but American DJ Randall Lee Rose remembers and plays classic hits from the genre‘s early days in the 40s through to the beginnings of commercial success in the 50s. The first in a three-part series. (Ellie Carr)
[amn— Brassed off
After being hurridly withdrawn from the schedules in November because of legal concerns, Channel 4 has finally given the all-clear to screen Brass Eye, Chris Morris’s satire of television current affairs programmes. At the time, director of programmes John Willis stated: ‘As a channel committed to innovative and edgy programming we always knew that Brass Eye would enter difficult terrain, blurring as it does, the boundaries between entertainment and current affairs.’
The show was pulled alter senior executives expressed concern about several items, including one in which Tory MP David Amess was conned into asking a parliamentary question about a fictitious drug called ‘cake’. Roger Cale, chairman of the backbench media committee, described it as ‘a cheap trick’.
But after taking legal advice, Channel 4 has evidently decided that satire sometimes requires cheap tricks. It is perhaps understandable that they were nervous, however. Before Morris started on television as one of The Day Today, a news spoof, he became notorious for announcing the death of Michael Heseltine on his Radio 1 show. It was typical of Morris that he selected the member of the Cabinet with a heart condition. Brass Eye? Brass knuckle, more like. (Eddie Gibb)
Brass Eye starts on Wed 29 Jan at 9.30pm on Channel 4.
78 The List 24 Jan-6 Feb I997