Television

Big Read: BBC

My mother recently confessed she looked forward to getting old so she could have more time to read. After bringing up nine children and a lifetime of underpaid care work (she still volunteers, looking after "old people" often younger than herself), that may seem scant reward. But it brought home to me just how imaginative literature can immeasurably increase the pleasure and quality of even materially impoverished life.

The Deal

Channel 4 film, shown on 28 September

With Hollywood director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons) in charge we might have expected a portrayal of the interplay between sex and power and the "dark side" of the relationship between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. What we got was more like a Mills and Boon story of rivalry between brothers for the hand of a good woman, (or in this case the Labour Party and, goddam it, the country), who had been let down badly by previous lovers (the Tories, the unions, militancy).

All things to men

Pornography: The Musical, Channel 4

Stealing and gratifying other people's sexual desires in return for money have only ever appealed to me, and then not much, when I've been really broke. Both strike me as being dangerous, uncomfortable and one of them - stealing - possibly immoral. To judge from Pornography: The Musical the "money factor" is the biggest reason people work in porn.

Globalisation is Good

Channel 4's documentary Globalisation is Good (20 September 2003) certainly lived up to its billing as "controversial" . In fact it could easily have been called "Sweatshops are Good".

For instance, the film showed a Nike factory in Vietnam where the boss and some carefully chosen workers said that they thought Nike was a brilliant employer (loans, sports facilities, clean factory, high wages, etc.).

Hitler: the Rise of Evil

In Hitler: the Rise of Evil (Channel 4 TV) Robert Carlyle gives a brilliant portrayal of the maniac himself. Carlyle condenses what he was politically and socially into a personality. We see his manner, body language, servile and half-fawning, like a dog with his tail down, towards his social "betters". We see the connection between his floundering attempts to find his own place in the world and his cranky nationalism, his need to find scapegoats and "conspirators" to explain the terrible things that happen to himself and to Germany.

TV: Sweatshops are good for you?

Tim Cooper

Channel 4's documentary Globalisation is Good (20 September) certainly lived up to its billing as "controversial" . In fact it could easily have been called "Sweatshops are Good".

For instance, the film showed a Nike factory in Vietnam where the boss and some carefully chosen workers said that they thought Nike was a brilliant employer (loans, sports facilities, clean factory, high wages, etc.).

Early Doors

TV: BBC2

There has been a renaissance in British situation comedy in the last decade.

Okay, I suppose you might not think that an accurate statement if you take into consideration some current situation comedies such as My Family - a neurotic dentist (yes, dentist) and his equally neurotic but ultimately completely uninteresting middle-class family. Or that one Adam Faith was in before he snuffed it. Or Harry Enfield's latest … I forget what it was called. Obviously, there is a lot of complete rubbish getting commissioned.

I'm a bore: get me off the telly

I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV) and 100 Worst Britons (Channel 4)

It's that time of year again when reality TV hits the screens. Big Brother is back next week, but in the meantime we've had the delights of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! The small advantage of these shows is that, unlike Fame Academy or Pop Idol, the participants don't sing. Well, not much, anyway.

Two and a half million votes were counted in the final of I'm A Celebrity. I reckon that must be about the same as the number of votes for the Scottish Parliament. It cost 25p a go to choose whether an ex-cricketer, an ex-footballer or a DIY design guru should be King (or Queen) of the Jungle. The bookies were set to lose thousands if the favourite, Phil Tufnell, failed to win (he won). But why did anyone care?

Indicting the Drugs Companies

Channel Four

Campaigning investigative TV journalism is not often seen on our small screen these days. Dying for Drugs did very well what good TV documentary can do - tell a simple story and communicate the huge implications, as no amount of tables and statistics could do. It brought home the human impact of the big drugs companies' search for profits.

Dying for Drugs told four stories, each more terrible than the last.

The war on TV

By Vicki Morris

Alongside the ground war, and the war for hearts and minds, we have the propaganda war (and the TV channels have a ratings war).


Nowadays, the credit to the UK/US side appears to consist not so much in the lies they are allowed to peddle as in the gratitude they earn from the TV companies for meeting televisual demand. (And, hey, why isn't the army sponsored yet?)