. Coming Soon Channel 4, starts Thu 17 Jun,


Cracked actors: Coming Soon

Easy targets are often viewed as soft options. Yet, just because a subject is wide open to ridicule, that is hardly a reason not to go at it full throttle. And when the subject is kept company with all around it being played for laughs, then what harm is there in that?

In the three-part comedy Coming Soon, an experimental drama group badly needs a break. ’Le Jeu’ Theatre Company are a bunch of multi- untalented, yet hopelessly enthusiastic, aesthetes who are on the cusp of a financial breakthrough. It comes in the

REVIEW This Is Modern Art

Channel 4, Sun 6 Jun, 9pm * * *

Thirty years ago, BBC series Civi/isation began with Kenneth Clark standing on the Pont Des Arts in Paris, looking towards the Louvre and pondering on the rise of European culture. This /5 Modern Art begins with men with earrings in converted warehouses in the East End of London. ’Welcome to planet art,’ says presenter Matthew Collings. ’Hey look, it’s a painting by me.’ Art on television has gone from

L Reithian public service to knowing

9 irony.

In three decades its not just

i broadcasting conventions that have changed: a whole world-view has

collapsed. Collings, in trademark glasses, sideburns and suede shoes wouldn’t dare mention the word ’civilisation’. He does use the word

'genius’ from time to time, making it

clear that that’s okay, as long as we know the difference between real genius and the Hel/o magazine version.

Collings is an experienced writer and

form of an Arts Council grant with one catch they need to rehearse and perform in Scotland, cast one Scottish actor and create a show which is, in the words of Arts Council official Graeme (David Walliams), 'a bit Scottish.’

To that end, they are forced to recruit Scottish jazz legend Paisley Johnson (Elaine C Smith), whose mere appearance on the bill and in the papers secures a larger venue Motherwell Theatre and a sell-out show. All of which puts pressure on the company, and smiles on the faces of the Arts Council officers who see pound signs ringing before their eyes. But how will all and sundry act when the group meet with their guru, the French-American performance artist, Julia Roth, played by Coming Soon’s writer and director Annie Griffin.

Griffin, herself, has been around the creative artist’s block, and is in as good a position as any to portray the incestuous, petty and sometime elitist world of the arts. And so, no one gets off scot-free: the tortured artistes in devised theatre; the uninformed drama critic, the public in fear of anything which smacks of ’challenge’,‘ and the philistines who Griffin sees as making up arts funding bodies. It’s almost refreshing to see no one come out of Coming Soon smelling of anything like a rose. (Brian Donaldson)

Trivial pursuit: This Is Modern Art

broadcaster and has written two recent books on the subject: B/imey! on the London art scene and It Hurts, on New York’s. Both share a jokey, ironic style, outbursts of trivial nonsense and blinding insights into how art works, why we like it and just how damn complicated it is to talk about it. ’B/imey!’ wrote The Guardian’s art critic, ’is the book the art world deserves.’ The television series is much the same only it sounds better with added lounge music and looks even shinier and faster, thanks to the direction of Ian Macmillan.

The programme rattled through Picasso, Pollock and Warhol in its first hour. We saw some old clips that showed just how silly art looked on TV. Then it was back to London. Collings looked visibly relieved. We can now look forward to five episodes about Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Of course, the kind of swinging metropolitan art scene Collings represents is only a fraction of the bigger picture. This Is Modern Art will make ideal and probably infuriating television. (Moira Jeffrey)


on the front page of The Sun. For this

3 distance seemed to be the filmmakers’


Aristocrats BBCl, starts Sun 20 Jun, 9pm approx.

Intrigue, family feuds, illicit affairs, wars and loads of sex: the BBC’s latest epic costume drama leaves little to the imagination, both in and out of the bedroom.

Set in the Georgian era and based on a true story, this six-part family saga focuses on the four beautiful Lennox sisters, born into luxury and the highest social order. As each comes of marital age, they choose (or are forced to choose) the men and relationships that will influence and shape their destiny.

These were certainly not Victorian times: ’This was a period in which they were very free and emotional,’ believes Geraldine Somerville, who plays Emily. 'You tend to forget that they were really quite outrageous.’

While the evolving backdrops of

Lennox loose: Aristocrats

English and Irish politics and royalty are very interesting, the series excels at

providing a look-in, via the sisters, at the socral elite and their lives. (Simone Baird)

REVIEW Spice Girls In America Channel 4, Sun 5 Jun it *

Compared with the psychological case study that was the Geri Halliwell documentary of a few weeks ago, this was pretty tame stuff.

The main problem, paradoxically for a fly on the wall film, was the sense of exclusion from the Spice Girls camp. OK, so we saw Mel B looking at a New York apartment, and Baby with no makeup, but the first mention of Posh’s pregnancy came when she reacted angrily to the story breaking

programme to work, we needed to see the girls immediately after she told them the news, but keeping a polite


From a distance: Spice Girls ;

Frustrating this may have been, but the star quality of the four subjects was : enough to make for fairly compelling viewing. Though, how devoting 95 minutes ,

of peak time to the world’s biggest pop act fulfills Channel 4’s minority network remit is another issue altogether. (Rob Fraser)


Frank Sinatra: The Voice Of The Century Radio 2, Fri ll Jun, 10pm.

Nobody does this kind of thing better than the BBC, expertly drawing on their unparalleled archives to present a definitive portrait of Sinatra's life and work. And this is a condensed version of 1998’s epic thirteen hour tribute, broadcast to mark the first anniversary of the death of history’s finest practitioner of popular song. David Jacobs a friend of Sinatra since the 1963 Albert Hall gig is the host, but this is no toothless whitewash. We get Frank the bullying perfectionist, as well as Frank the consummate vocal artist.

As fascinating as the interviews, anecdotes and analyses are, the real reason for tuning in is to hear that voice and those songs again. From early hits such as ’Night & Day' to the elegiac masterpiece of 'It Was A Very Good Year’, this series triumphs as a celebration and revelation of genius. Listen and be awestruck. (Rob Fraser)

20th Century Boy: Frank Sinatra

10—24 Jun 1999 THE “ST 105