TV TV REVIEW Channel hopping

Diana: lived and died in the full glare of the media

In a week when there seemed to be nothing else gomg on in the entire universe, was the reaction to Diana’s death the ultimate case of the media tail being wagged by the public poodle?

Surely setting the agenda was still the media's role. Could the public really have forced the hacks onto the streets, diverting their attention away from other newsworthy events to cover relentlessly this most unbearably tragic and irony-laden of human catastrophes? Had the masses bullied the media in the same Way they appeared to drag the Queen out of her Balmoral hideaway -- where presumably she was attempting to comfort her two motlierless grandsons -- to address her mourning subjects?

In the eyes of the public at least, the media and the Royals were both partly responsible for the fatalities in the early hoors of Sunday 31 August (at times you forgot two other deaths happened in that motorised tin can). So they owed the bereaved nation a couple of favours

From the moment the news began to filter through, the shock, exemplified in Tony Blair's statesman-like perfoririance, followed by a national

Each revelation and/or minor development was greedin seized upon by the television networks, as if to justify blanket reporting.

outpouring of grief became all too apparent. Round-the-clock coverage kicked in effortlessly as though this had been rehearsed time and again like a school fire drill. TV jOUl’iiBllSlS carried the haunted look of delwering history in their sleep.

Each revelation and/or minor development -- the drunk driver, the real part played by the paparazzi, Diana's coffin on the gun-carriage, the Windsors' perceived insenSItiVity A was greedily seized upon by the teleVision networks, as if to illSili‘,’ blanket reporting.

On the day of the tragedy, it was left to Channel (1 r." all stations, to i ()lllt:

78 THE lIST l2 Sep /‘r Sep 199/

up with the first tasteless reporting —- a simulated reconstruction of the crash following the Mercedes careering from pillar to post. As if you were actually in the back seat of the vehicle, if you please. Had Brass Eye's Chris Morris taken over as news editor for the evening? Meanwhile the BBC's John Simpson had taken leave of his senses by making some completely unclear point about the large number of ‘blacks and Asians’ laying siege to Buckingham Palace.

And then there was the funeral itself. As if acknowledging the fact that this was the final instalment of the decade's biggest 'story’, the channels ground into action at a ludicrously early hour. The coverage was as pacy as the funeral cortege but less liker to be showered by floral tributes.

Subtle differences arose across the channels. The BBC preferred to focus on individuals giVing their eulogies rather than broadcast shot after shot of the assembled grievers as ITV did. Yet was it strictly necessary to home in and freeze upon Cliff Richard for about 25 seconds?

The Beeb partially failed to respect the Royals' Wishes of no reaction shots other than during oration. It held the camera on Earl Spencer immediately after his tribute, head bowed in silent contemplation as Westminster Abbey erupted into applause aroond him Yet, during his speech, the BBC retained a respectful distance when he was close to tears, whereas lTV's camera operator caught every tremble in the chin accompanying each guiver of the VOICC

Diana, Princess of Wales, lived, married, mothered, cared, divorced and died in the full glare of the media, so the ballyhoo which happened the week after the night before and right up to the final day should have come as no surprise Whatever comes next is up to both the Royals and media editors (Brian Donaldson)

Seven Sins: Sloth Channel 4, Mon 15 Sep. - - I

Busy doing nothing: Howard Marks defends sloth in Seven Sins Go on then. Name the seven deadly sins. Lusting after thy neighbour's wife is one of course, as is envying your neighbour’s shiny motor. And wasn't there a sinners' byelaw passed several years back about scoffing real dairy cream cakes? Let's face it though, most of us would be hard pushed to name all seven of those slippery little sins, and harder pushed still to avoid indulging in them. Tapping into this truth, Channel 4 has compiled seven programmes asking what significance Sloth, Envy, Greed, Pride, Gluttony, Lust and Wrath have for today's everyday sinner. Dragging himself in front of the camera for first in the series, Sloth, is convicted cannabis smuggler and author of Mr Nice, Howard Marks. Cutting a suitable stoned figure with his shaggy, shoulder-length

hair and threadbare sloppy top, Marks sets out in defence of what he believes to be the much- maligned practice of doing very little.

'Consumerism is the latest development of the principle which has been driving our society for generations, since the church first invented the Protestant work ethic,’ Marks claims. The Oxford graduate turned dealer, believes this has led to us down the unhappy path to ‘overwork, unemployment and not a lot of joy in between. What we need is a little more sloth in life'.

Essentially an extended voxpop, with a sluggishly convivial Marks holding the mike, the real strength of this personalityJed slot lies in its interaction with some brilliantly chosen interviewees. Witness with wonder as Marks partakes of a spliff in the presence of a Church Of England reverend, and chuckle as Edwina Currie attempts to chastise her old Oxbridge chum's chosen lifestyle.

’What have you been doing, darling, with your life since we last met?’ she chides. 'If you'd been a proper capitalist'and earned it [his long-gone drugs money] in a legitimate way, you'd have been sitting pretty by now.’

It's enough to make you take up a life of idleness post haste. (Ellie Carr)

I The second sin in the series is Envy, with novelist Kathy Lette. Watch local press for details of personalities appearing in the rest of the series.


As the news of Diana's death hit the nation, the ridiculousness of the soaps was brought sharply into focus.

In a week where real life events took on a dreadful quality of soap opera, the gomgs on iii Weatherfield, Albert Square and Brookside Close seemed strangely petty and irrelevant. When the news has stories of love, death, grief and saints, why bother watching a few people quarrelling in a pub?

Brookside, always the most responsive to a headline or public debate, to its credit realised that the programme's pretensions to realism c0uldn’t survive being the only place in the country where everyone wasn’t talking about Diana, and with impressive speed, hastily filmed an extra scene Bing and CaSSie’s short conversation in the garage was full of platitudes, but no matter: the important thing was that it was there. It made the others, with more rigid production schedules, look awkward and stagey.

it was particularly weird that the Mitchell clan in EastEnders were all churned up over events in Paris, where they’d left notorious drunk Phil behind tyou don't think 'no, of (nurse not'). The biuvverly love/hate thing between Phil and Grant is wearing as thin as their hair; Ross Kemp’s furrowed brow acting suggested more boredom than anger.

And poor Bianca, not only doomed by callous scriptwriters to marry dreary Ritky and work in the country's smallest

Biancaah: baby blues

market, but now they have to lumber her With a baby! Tiffany is too much of a victim these days to sympathise With, but the glorious, gallus Bianca surer deserves more.

The problem With Albert Square is that any character who was happy and successful Just wouldn’t live there, I fear for Bianca what \Vlll they do to her next?

Also faCIng baby grief is Judy Mallett of Coronation Street. Her desperate attempts to buy a surrogate child v— a strangely mature looking new-born, With What looks like one of Reg Holdsworth's old toupees on its head are clearly destined to fail

The plot is unfolding ponderously, carefully signalling sulky teenage mother Zoe's changing feelings. Just get the agony over With, the show needs to lighten up a bit. (Andrea Mullaney)