Channel hopping

'Why are we here?’ asked the esteemed arts slot Omnibus (BBCl) in a special edition devoted to two of Britain’s barmiest comics. Or it might as well have done, try as it did to describe the indescribable and weigh up that which shouldn't be weighed: Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's unique, slippery, slidey, utterly infectious brand of humour.

Pundits were wheeled in to scratch their chins and ponder the mystery that is Vic ’n' Bob, while the childhoods of the dotty duo were dissected, presumably in a vain search for clues on the origins of their strange talents.

'They're inexplicable,' offered ex- Monty Pythoner Terry Jones, a man who knows a bizarre comedy elephant when he sees one while the journeys into Vic 'n’ Bob's past brought the astounding revelation that, yes, they took the piss out of teacher when they were kids too.

Outside the courts things are equally dramatic, with plenty of inter- chamber legovers and a tidy sub-plot on the personal problems behind

those high-flying careers.

Omnibus of course, is a serious arts dOCumentary, so some semi-serious analysis, of the 'Why are Vic 'n' Bob the funniest thing since Morecambe And Wise?’ school was to be expected. Although why we were lumped With monotone Sting as narrator is anybody’s guess. The best, and as it turned out, most insightful bits of the show however, were those where Vic ’n‘ Bob were allowed to ramble on about life, work, Ulrika and burying old cars arse-up in Vic's (alias Jim, alias Roderick’s) back yard.

Among the convoy of commentators called on to shed light on their inexplicable comedy magic, lurked a few unexpected gems though. Best of all was Mortimer's ex-boss Clolie Turney. Buttoned right up to her exceptionally tight lips, the tweedy soliCitor recalled how Bob's dedication to the job evaporated as his comedy career rose.

’When he left,’ she said stonily, 'he left behind a load of cases and a desk

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer: the unbearable madness of being

full of old bits of cake.’ So does she watch her old mucker Bob now, and have a chuckle over those mouldy bits of Battenburg? ’No,’ she said, less amused than Queen Vic herself. 'I don’t.’ No wonder the poor lad chose a career in comedy over the bar.

There was little in the way of light entertainment in Wing And A Prayer (Channel 5, Mondays). Crashing onto the screen with all the hallmarks of a US cop show fast camera-work and sexy people who shout a lot this new Brit drama about lawyers made its presence felt.

We knew it was about lawyers because two pairs of braces, two baldie heids and one stripey shirt (did I say sexy people?) had all shot into frame within the first thirty seconds. One bonk over the office desk later and it was clear we were in for action.

Styled unashamedly on the flash offices and even flasher scripts of shows like LA Law, this zippy courtroom series has all the elements of watchable, veg-out zone TV drama. Drugs, Violence, sexual abuse and suicide all show up in the first episode. And outside the courts things are equally dramatic, With plenty of inter-chamber legovers and a tidy sub-plot on the personal problems behind those high- flying careers shaping up for future programmes.

At first glance it’s a credible attempt to capture the huge UK market for fast-movmg, hard-hitting US crime shows, but scratch beneath the hi- gloss and a Visible soap froth appears. Wing And A Prayer deals in serious issues, but gives it to us, sometimes quite literally, in black and white.

The kid who gets his leg blown off in an alleged drugs shooting just happens to be white, his viciously cool dude assailants dripping in gold jewellery and designer gear just happen to be black. By the end of the episode, all cases are cleared up (bar an unfortunate suiCide) and the rapists and gun-toting drug dealers are off the streets. It's all just a bit too cut, dried and cliched to keep viewers SWitched on.

Besides, what sane person can sympathise With characters who wear striped shirts and braces? Lawyers they may be, but This Life it ain't. (Ellie Carr)

The Ba Ba Zee: Hitler's Forgotten Victims Channel 4, Thu 2 Oct, 10.55pm.

There are times when statistics are used to deflect attention from issues and swamp ideas in a barrage of numbers and percentages. Occasionally, their use can make you step back and ponder previously hidden information. In Hitler’s Forgotten Victims, part of Channel 4's new zone dedicated to the black experience, The Ba Ba Zee, we are told that 24,000 blacks lived in 19205 Germany while 15,000 black Germans fought and died for their country in World War I.

While gays, gypsies, the mentally and physically disabled and communists have all been added to history's records as fellow victims of the Jews, the black experience in Europe's concentration camps has been seriously neglected. In Moise Shewa's moving document of the times, we learn that German persecution of blacks began long before Dachau opened its fatal gates. Colonial policy in South West Africa - now Namibia - meant apartheid, sterilisation and, ultimately, genocide, giving Hitler his template for terror.

The surviving victims of Nazism tell how they managed to save themselves - some hid in the travelling circuses of Europe while others acted as extras in German propaganda movies, simultaneously spreading the message of hate and finding safe havens on film sets. Quite why it has taken so long to

Hitler’s Forgotten Victims: The Ba Ba lee remembers

tell this story is another question the film asks.

While many of the films in the series may upset in a similar vein, commissioning editor Yasmin Anwar is keen to look beyond the pain. ‘Some of these films will disturb as they bring to the screen the extremities of the black experience.‘ she explains. 'But over all, the zone is a rich blend of tones, voices and stories.’

In Music Goes To War, Yossou N'Dour investigates why much of Africa is tearing itself apart and aims to show how music can transcend suffering, while Brazil: In Living Colour questions why 60% of the population are ignored in the media. Not all doom and gloom, though, as the Spinal Tap-esque Fear Of A Black Hat gets an airing. (Brian Donaldson)


With bisexual encounters, surrogate births and banking priests positively flooding Summer Bay, temperatures are rising in the teatime Aussie soap slot.

Where would you find a priest in love With a middle-aged woman who’s just recovered the kidnapped surrogate baby she bOre for her daughter; a teenage dad fighting for custody of his child; or a teenage girl torn between two older lovers, one a male doctor, the other a famous female novelist?

Sounds like Brookside, doesn't it, but it’s actually the weirder and weirder wonderland world of Summer Bay, in Home And Away. Bisexual Shannon Whose previous lesbian enc0unters were cut for teatime post-school vieWing is pouting adorably as she ponders whether she should leave with writer and mentor Mandy (why, by the way, are there never old, dumpy lesbians in soaps?) She would be leavmg behind boyfriend Lachie (who sounds as if he should be in High Road anyway), a man clearly used to humiliation, having, as Sam in Neighbours, been two-timed by Annalise With much-missed joker Stonefish.

Incidentally, the actor who played him Anthony Engelman also turned up in Home And Away recently as an evil Wife-beater. There was a funny scene where both ex-Ramsay Streeters faced up to each other on a lonely highway, and you could almost see their lips trembling with laughter. The acting

ability of Aussie soap actors is much underrated.

The wife, by the way, was found to be the exact double of another character’s dead girlfriend because she was, in fact, the exact same actress. LikeTamagotchis, Aussie soapsters never really die - they just reappear somewhere else in a slightly different guise.

Two women are thinking of running off together in Coronation Street too, but for Rita and Mavis there’s none of that nonsense going on, you may be sure. They're planning on running a B & B in the Lake District - 'only a couple of hours away!’ someone points out. They don't realise that once Weatherfield's residents leave for the real world, they can never go back to the way they were. (Andrea Mullaney)

Corrie's Mavis: running away with Rita, but it's not what you think

26 Sap—9 Oct 1997 TIIEUSTBI