Magazine article The Spectator

In Bed with Trash

Magazine article The Spectator

In Bed with Trash

Article excerpt

Having been ill and at home lately, I've suddenly noticed how much I enjoy trash television. I can usually organise my life so as to catch or tape something worthwhile, such as Take A Girl Like You (BBC 1, Sunday) - Amis never took the view that to understand all was to forgive all; he understood his characters very well, and for the most part hated them all the more as a result - but what can you watch when there's nothing like that? Well, The Weakest Link (BBC 2) for a start.

I've known Anne Robinson on and off for years, never thought her rude in real life, and only brusque on the programme. Her 'goodbye' is short and dismissive, I suppose, the equivalent of the Margaret Thatcher handshake which steered people firmly away from her, but for the most part she seems remarkably tolerant. She gave only a glancing reproof to the man who thought Samuel Beckett had been born in the 15th century, or the woman who, asked which country's ships had fought alongside Nelson at Trafalgar, replied 'Switzerland'.

I spent a happy two hours in bed watching the final of Stars In Their Eyes (ITV, Saturday), won by a fierce-looking woman who impersonated Maria Callas. This programme, like an Abba tribute band dressed by Elton John, has disappeared entirely up itself, being as kitsch and as camp as a mink-lined teapot. Last year's winner, who did a rather good Freddie Mercury, was brought on to testify to the success and fame which had followed his victory. `It's all happening for you, isn't it?' asked the host, Matthew Kelly. `Well, I've got a gig in Glasgow,' he said with quiet pride. `You've got a gig! In Glasgow!' exclaimed Kelly, as if he'd just been offered a month at Carnegie Hall. Those four words told you all you need to know about that programme. (Incidentally the Amis series has found a real star in Sienna Guillory, who plays Jenny Bunn. She is a perfect TV performer because she acts with her face and all the muscles in it. For example there was a moment when the smitten nerd Graham sang her a Rabbie Burns song, out loud, in a restaurant. She indicated her profound embarrassment with an almost imperceptible flaring of one nostril. This doesn't work on stage, or even in the cinema, much.)

Ms Guillory would not have looked at home in the Neanderthal era. Neanderthal (Channel 4, Monday) was set 35,000 years ago, when our human cousins roamed what was then the icy, inhospitable wastelands of southern France. …

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