Class Scottish, Tue 10 Jun, 9pm.
Absolutely fabulous: Tamara Beckwith and Radcliffe Royds in Class
It's a strange day when you find yourself nodding in agreement with Michael Winner, Cheryl Baker and Kelvin Mackenzie. This is the achievement of Class, a three-part series which fascinates and infuriates in equal measure as it examines Britain’s social categories. Categories we thought had melded into one when Thatcher gained masses of votes from the unemployed, and Labour decided it no longer wished to be the spokes- folk for the working class.
In episode one, The Upper Class, the absurdities of the social elite will have you watching in amazement as your worst fears and prejudices are confirmed. Who is the genuine aristocracy? Even the upper classes haven't a clue, split as they are into debutants, nouveau riche, trust fund babes, those with titles
bought or inherited and those with or without nannies.
Then there's sex. It seems they're all at it. All the time. 'I think the aristocrats have a whole lot more sex,’ proclaims heiress and socialite, Tamara Beckwith. 'And certainly from my knowledge of them it's a whole lot more incestuous and naughtier. And that’s only what I've been told.’
And then there’s drugs. Henry Dent-Brocklehurst and Radcliffe Royds's notion of class came down, not to social strata, but to the grade of their poison as they pumped their inheritance into every available orifice.
You almost thank the praises for a voice of sanity as Class War’s Jim Bartlett recalls running around Ascot shouting Obscenities and knocking the toffs’ top hats off. Ascot is one potent symbol of the upper classes at play - as are hunting, polo and the auction rooms. Oh, and those nights when the younger members of the elite don tuxes and ballgowns to get rat- arsed and snog the horsey faces off each other.
Looking for similarities between the classes is easier than you'd think. The upper and working classes all like their sport, booze and shagging, albeit with widely different style and price-tags, while the middle classes flit between the two with ease. And then there's a row of blokes showing their arses in public. What finer example of cross- class solidarity can there be?
Soapland is staging more comebacks than Status Quo this fortnight with miracle resurrections in Emmerdale and coffin dodging down on Sunset Beach.
In Emmerdale, the bitch is back. Husband Frank Tate, Who's just been released from jail for her murder, thought she was dead. Actually she was in Mauritius. Faking your own death by car crash may seem a rather extreme way of getting away from it all, but Kim Tate is an extreme kind of woman.
After haying affairs With and SWindling most of the Village, no wonder she needed a holiday. But why is she back so soon? She claims all she wants is baby James, and is demanding Frank give her custody in return for clearing his name,
Despite a one-hour speCial, the show made Kim‘s dramatic return seem rather flat, but there was one deliCiously eVil touch. After taunting Frank into a heart attack, Kim took out a mirror to check his breathing. It stayed unmisted — so she retouched her lipstick in it. A true femme fatale.
Also returned from the dead is Annie of Channel 5's Sunset Beach, described by her grievmg auntie as: 'so full of fun and life and laughter!’ Fun- loving Annie, a flame-haired girl With a mouth that could accommodate a melon slice in a single bite, playfully hid in a coffin to escape the cops who
02 THE usr 30 May~12 Jun i997
Joe McFadden: High Road no more
suspect she murdered her dad.
Unfortunately the coffin was headed for the crematorium, but luckily Annie got out in time. The whole thing has confused the poor girl, who, on the grounds that there's no smoke Without fire, thinks she may have done him in after all. ’I must have done it! I remember standing over his body covered in blood - and I had to use shampoo to get it out!’ she cried. Now there’s a handy hint for y0u; if only Lady Macbeth had thought of that.
In slightly more realistic mode, it’s goodbye to the lovely Joe McFadden, Gary MacDonald in High Road. He's headed for doom when he discovers that his Wife cheated on one of Scotland's biggest pin-ups With the bloke who used to play Andy in EastEnders. Hang on — did I say realistic? (Andrea Mullaney)
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If you think it's grim oop north, try 19205 rural Hertfordshire as portrayed in Plotlands (BBCl, Sundays). ln episode one, heroine Chloe Marsh (Saskia Reeves) and daughters (Rebecca Callard and Jade Williams) were seen fleeing an abusive hubby/dad only to hand over their last fiver for a leaky tent in a field which, according to slimey salesman, Harry Crowley (David Ryall) is a paradise waiting to be built. Or in estate agents' speak, a tent with potential.
By episode two things have not got much better. The good news is Chloe gets a job in the big house as domestic to the Crowleys. And the bad news? The boss thinks a roll in the hay is all part of the service and the missus is a dragon with a face so pinched she appears to have been on kissing terms with a steamroller.
Meanwhile back at the field, Chloe discovers one of her top egg-laying chickens is a boy. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Marsh’s drunken lrish neighbour spends his wife’s last shillings on an illegal dog-fight, loses, and gets his wooden hut (one step up from a tent on the plotlands), raized to the ground in a violent revenge attack when he refuses to cough up. This is kitchen-sink drama minus the kitchen.
Events are a tad predictable (ie everything goes wrong) but engaging nonetheless. Saskia Reeves is impressive as the downtrodden but defiant Chloe (although which branch of Miss Selfridge she gets the red lippy from in 19205 rural England is anybody's guess). And, just when you thought this was deveIOping into a worti-y social drama, a few promising love interests emerge to spice things up. The lingering looks between Chloe and gentle giant (or is he just dim?) Tom may not be up to Mr Drake’s standards, but they're bound to end in an offer of 'My tent or yours?‘
Camping out to spice up their lives in another way entirely, were the 400 or so hopefuls in the bank holiday special Here And Now (880). Hollering above the sound of scores of SCreamingly hormonal pre-teens, a remark- ably composed Sue Lawley announced her double-edged mission. First, a question: ’Are the Spice Girls a product of marketing genius, or would we have fallen in love with them anyway?’ Hmm. interesting one that. And second, the moment our 400 pre-teen (some of whom were noticeably mid or even post-teen) friends have been waiting for, the audition. In the interests of science, Lawley and team have been scouring the country in search of two groups of girls with the 'spiciest brand of girl power’.
Sounds glib and vacuous? Amazmgly it wasn't. The airhead stuff was on the other side where the real zig zig ah-ers were warming up for their first ever live TV appearance on The Royal Variety Show. On Here And Now, with
Saskia Reeves in Plotlands: my tent or yours?
the aid of an eloquent band of junior Spicers we learned that, believe it or not guys, there are more interesting things about the Spice phenomenon than Geri’s cleavage.
Admittedly, the sight of legions of lasses splitting off into units of five, squeezing themselves into the Baby, Sporty, Scary, Ginger or Posh mould and calling it girl power was reminiscent of a kind of Orwellian nightmare where only five types of women are officially recognised. But when the wannabes are questioned more closely, it's clear that fitting into Scary's platforms is not what their brand of Girl Power is all about.
'We will not be defined by traditional female roles,’ proclaimed one empowered twelve-year-old from Camden. Impressive rhetoric from one so young, but as our host Ms Lawley omits to ask, how much deeper than No 7 make-up does it go?
All the same, I sure as hell can‘t recall chanting feminist mantras in the school playground. Can you? Be afraid boys, be very afraid. The women’s movement 90s-style wears seven-inch platforms and it’s Scary Spice.
If The Kung Fu Years (BBCZ) is to be believed, Spice Girls 70s-style wore Kung Fu pyjamas. Everybody wore Kung Fu pyjamas in the 70s of course, but if you were Pauline Fuller — housewife, mother and the first woman in Britain to take up karate, you wore the real McCoy.
Be afraid boys, be very afraid. The women's movement 905-style wears seven-inch platforms and it’s Scary
The one-time karate queen is one of a brace of experts (journos, actors and Kung Fu instructors) who testify to the fever that swept 705 Britain with almost as much force as bell-bottom flares. Clips of everything from classic TV series to aftershave ads under the influence of the mighty karate chop are amusing enough. But at the end of the day, it smacked of one of those programmes compiled from a trawl through the archives to fill a hole in the schedules.
Talking of which, Sitcom Weekend (Channel 4) was a scream if you’re up for watching endless repeats of your favourite shows. But hang on a minute, isn't that the BBC’s job?