Magazine article The Spectator

What a Waste

Magazine article The Spectator

What a Waste

Article excerpt

If only I'd remembered earlier that it was my turn to do the television this week, I would have gone and found something trashy to review, like, maybe, BBC l's appalling-sounding new soap Sunburn (Friday). I mean, my columns are always so much more fun when I'm being really angry and reactionary.and evil.

Unfortunately, I just haven't been doing my homework. The only trashy programme that has made me vaguely cross recently was Airline (ITV, Friday). And my rage had less to do with the programme's quality it really isn't all that bad, for a docu-soap - than with a scene involving an Easy Jet check-in stewardess, a Canadian teenager and a box of live lobsters.

The teenager had spent a fortune buying the wretched crustaceans at the airport in Scotland but the Easy Jet stewardess wouldn't let him bring them on the plane. It was against regulations, she insisted. Well, sure, maybe it is against Easy Jet's regulations to bring live animals on to an aeroplane. And I could quite understand their refusal, in a subsequent scene, to let a woman bring her dog on the plane. But how stupid do you have to be not to realise that shell-shocked lobsters, with their pincers tied, in a box, do not constitute a health or safety hazard? And isn't it precisely that sort of knee-jerk, more-than-myjob's-worth adherence to bureaucracy that often makes our lives so much grimmer than they ought to be?

Well, I think so and I'll tell you what I'd have done in that teenager's shoes. I'd have said, `Right. Give me a hammer!' And I'd have smashed the lobsters' heads in and shoved them in the stewardess's face so that she could be absolutely sure they were dead and said: `Now can I check 'em in?'

Actually, I probably wouldn't. I'd have done what the teenager did: slink off and sulk. Oh, and the story had an even more annoying coda. Instead of crying `lobster thermidor's on me,' the stewardess took the box, squirmed awhile and then rang the RSPCA to ask how she might best release the darling little lobster-wobsters into the wild.

Now on to two programmes that didn't make me cross because they were the sort that make up for all the hours I waste watching rubbish. The first is Stephen Poliakoff's haunting new drama about the English eccentrics who run a genteel, old photo library and their battle to save it from predatory American businessmen, Shooting The Past (BBC 2, Sunday).

If you caught it in the wrong mood, I can imagine you might find it very annoying. It moves very slowly: roughly half of each episode is dedicated to a languorous, dreamy sequence in which, to the accompaniment of Adrian Johnston's beautiful, plangent string score, we're invited to gaze tearfully at arty black and white photos. …

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