Gay Times Reviews XXI

Adventura: Journeys In Italian Cuisine Ch 5

Ring-riii-iing. Ring-riii... 'Hello? Yes. A new cookery show? Italian you say? Hmmm. American chef... secrets and tricks of buying and cooking... Travelogue style? What, all friendly locals, cute shops and micro tours of the area? Wine to taste I bet... And I suppose it's all floaty flutes and soft violins too? Slightly hazy focus? [Nods] I thought so. No, I don't think it's interesti... [Pause] no, seen it all before. Tell me, is there a new angle? Oh, the chef is gay? And...? That's it? Oh dear dear PR person. Let me enlighten you a little. Firstly you don't have to be gay for gay men to adore you. Secondly just being gay doesn't mean you'll be of immediate interest to other gays. [Pause] Like who? [Listens] No. Christopher Biggins, I rest my case. And lastly don't you ever watch TV cooks? Darling, they're already camper than the proverbial row of tents! Now if you don't mind, I'm in the middle of Delia...' [Click!]

Ex-Rated Ch 5

Channel 5 eh? What a bunch of wags! Drag on some ex-couples, try to embarrass them and make the audience feel decidedly queasy, give the 'Big Winners' a computer or a weekend in Bruges for their trouble and finito. The reason I mention it here is because they had their first gay couple on - Steve and Scott - and I'm wondering what took them so long: that particular boat has long sailed.

But I digress. Steve and Scott (the latter cowboy hatted and be-kilted) dated for 18 months. They had infrequent sex - seemingly due to Steve's BO and halitosis. They were asked to match answers and 'talk dirty' to each other (remember Pyramid? Add smut and secrecy. Bingo!). Nice to see some snippy bitching, albeit late night and on Channel 5. Oh and as a little distraction, there was a hippified streaker to prove the programme was 'Live!' Boring. Crass. Cheap prizes. Thank Gawd for Mark Little's rapier commentary (prompted by malodorous double entendres, but it's Channel 5...) then but deary, word of advice: talk to your agent, pronto!

Behind Bars BBC2

Not entirely sure what to think of this series. A peek into six of the world's most (in)famous prisons: interesting fodder. The constant slo-mo panning and talking heads: my eyelids started drooping. Not a pretty sight. Anyway. If there was any interest for you, dear reader, is was that homosexuality was mentioned in each and every programme. Of course, most of it was all in the context of 'keeping bitches' (poor little mites who get yanked around and passed about between the top nobs on each wing), savage beatings of queers and how the 'perversion' of homosexuality caused other inmates to turn to killing and general debauchery.

I did find myself writing down loads of facts and figures about a few of the jails, particularly those in the historical documentary category; those without, it was a case of say it as you see it. For example, during the tour of Eastern State in Philadelphia ('the worlds' first prison!'), a 'Supermax' which keeps Category 6 prisoners (very bad people) incarcerated, I jotted down 'Badly tattooed. Protected by Daddy. Punk arse bitch. Razor wire 6 rolls deep. Floor like ice glass.' Really, beyond that, what's to know? I mean, do you want two weeks B&B there? There have been more than enough programmes exactly like this one. HMP Grendon in Scotland (if memory serves me) has already been the focus of an entire series, so what could another 50 minutes tell us? As it turns out, nothing. The programme on Holloway Women's Prison was, I thought, supposed to show just how much the authorities have 'improved' the regime there. Devil's Island? Hands up who hasn't heard of that place (even if you thought it was the secret hideout of a James Bond baddie)? Alcatraz... well there have been countless films and documentaries of The Rock. Even that 36 hour siege in New Mexico was widely covered in 1980 and since.

I just didn't find myself gripped by this. Small yawns turned into full scale stretches. Maybe for those who find an erotic thrill watching hunky prisoners, or for those who have little or no knowledge of the subject, maybe Behind Bars was a revelation. But for me (with a long time interest of true crime and the penal system, no snickering at the back thank you) - sorry but I slammed the door on it and chucked the key in the nearest slops bucket.

London's Burning LWT

Well the heat in this episode didn't emanate from a carelessly tossed match or a chip pan fire (shame, I like a good blaze*). I don't usually watch this 'immensely popular' programme but - as with everything else this month - the gay interest comes with a new 'gay' face. What better than a gay firefighter? Instant ratings boost there! Lots of scope for beefcake.. sweat... hero worship!

They did pick one of the better looking blokes down at Blackwatch: Hyper - aka Rob - a rather softly spoken Irish lad played by Connor Byrne. Station Sub officer Pierce (wittily nicknamed 'Sub') appeared to have something of a problem after he discovered the Dark Secret, and set about forcing Hyper to leave. Little did he know that Our Hero had been harassed out at his previous watch, and this time Hyper was not going to let it happen: after all, he'd just been promoted to Leading Hand (no, stop giggling!).

Cue face to face confrontations, low tones, staring eyes and the barely disguised gnashing of teeth. The presence of a murderous heatwave didn't help the situation (except for excess sweating). I did wonder if regular viewers had been made aware of this twist in the plot. But even I was slightly surprised when, over cheesecake and raspberry coulis, Rob came out. 'I'm gay' he said, his chin virtually on his chest. A spoon was dropped. A gasped 'Can't be!' was heard.

Suddenly, the real surprise. The young, funky looking chap called Joe (Jim Alexander) stood up. 'Nah I ain't affin' that!' he protested. 'It's not natural! I'll swing fer 'im if 'e comes near!'

Of course, Sub, Hyper and Joe are immediately called out on a shout. The potential for major drama was so clear! So transparently clear that the writer (Len Collin) obviously didn't see it. We ended up with Hyper's foot stuck and Joe being sent with a ladder ('That's a colleague down there!') to rescue him while other officers were gossiping away: 'He can't be gay... he like football!' and 'He don't mince like one.' Better yet, 'Do ya think he takes the man's role or the woman's?' Oh grow up! Do some research, please! While I don't know many str8 people, I'm sure that in the year 2000, they still don't reel out that kind of ignorant claptrap!

Good points: the very positive reaction from the Chief at the station, who smacked Sub down by saying, 'So long as he's not rogering vicars while in full Brigade uniform I don't care!' Yes! Hope at last! More and more positive reactions! Oh and Hyper's little explanation and speech to his restless confreres ('I don't fancy any of you, I don't wear women's clothing... I never owned a Village People record') being greeted with a jollying 'Yeah, but yer a poof?'

Seems that door's been opened yet another inch wider.

© July 2001 Megan Radclyffe

Brighton Bill BBC1

A prime-time analysis of the policing the gay community in Sussex? Surely not. But yes, the second instalment of Brighton Bill did just that. The event that prompted this focus occurred on 30 September 2000, when a gay man was brutally stomped to within inches of his life by two... words fail me – homophobic thugs – who also turned on a straight man who tried to stop the assault.

Despite being home to a very large population of queers, Brighton is by no means a utopia. 1 in 3 gay men experience violent, yet only twenty 'incidents' were reported last year. An escalation in the number of attacks revealed 'pockets of real hatred' centred around St. James' Street, the 'mecca' of gay clubs and businesses.

In the face of this particular attack, it was no wonder that local gays were 'concerned' about the police's ability to protect the community. Given some of the off-the-cuff remarks made by officers filmed here, I'd be concerned about their desire to even police the area. Discussions with the L&G Safety Forum seemed hopeful when a senior officer said 'We've increased the number of beat bobbies...' but crashed when he continued, '...from two to three.' What use is that? The beat bobby's comfort to a stray gay was, 'Well, hopefully you'll be safe.' Add to this that the police seem to think all the effort should be from the gays in reporting hate crimes, it's little wonder why there's no trust or faith...

Given The CCTV footage of these two aggressors was, thankfully, partially obscured by the video date stamp, but it didn't detract from the asinine yet ferocious nature of it. Yes, they found the attackers, two 17 year old white males (arrested amid the squalor of a 'lad' flat, and having shaved their heads to avoid recognition) and they received 7 years for GBH with intent. And in the six months since police 'increased' patrols in and around St.James' Street, seven more serious attacks have taken place.

The wish of gays in Brighton – as everywhere else, I suspect – is that the police authority's handling of them 'should be the same as the treatment of everyone else'... cynic that I am, and I'd ask a few other minority communities about that. MSR

Absolutely Fabulous BBC1

It was with equal amounts of ecstasy and dread that I watched the opening two episodes of an all-new series of Ab Fab. Delighted at the prospect of more 'classic comedy' (a term which can outdate and yet glorify a programme in one sweeping phrase) I admit I had to watch the first one twice to be sure.

Get past the spray paint graffiti titles that replace those smashing, if retina-burning, originals and it's all there... a little different perhaps, especially with the addition of Jane Horrocks as Bubble's cousin – the thoroughly irksome hyperbole Katy Grins – but it's BACK!

The essential pulchritude of what makes Ab Fab... well, fab! – is that for as long as there are new fads and trends, they can be exploited in a comedic style, and Jennifer Saunders has a knack for it. Edina can get her foot 'stuck up her chakra', be driven around in a 'liquorice allsort' Smart Car, try to 'Jamie Oliver up' the kitchen by throwing herbs around, and all while hopping about on a mini-scooter dressed top to toe in Aqua Scutum. Mother can silver surf her way around porn cycles on an Apple Macintosh G3 cube, take up 'guacamole' dancing. Saffy can be 'slave labour for New Labour' (and of course, my realisation that Saffy could be a code for 'Sappho' after a particularly odd scene with her friend Sarah is probably no more than wishful thinking). Bubble can crimp her hair into crinkle cut chips and clip-clop round the office using a pair of breast-enhancing cups as makeshift hooves. Patsy, oh so wonderfully, can inject parrallox repeatedly into her face, and can stick in a blue-eye contact lens and become a quintessential yet obviously band wagoning Marilyn Mason fan. If there's a trademark or logo, or a way to poke a sharply filed nail at celebrities and their causes, Eddie and Pats will be there.

Plain, simple and in short (for once): I positively loved it!

© October 2001 Megan Radclyffe

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