Gay Times Reviews XXII

The South Bank Show: Gilbert & George LWT

Asteroid LWT

Timewatch: Love Story BBC2

No Child Of Mine Carlton

Crime Traveller BBC1

Brass Eye: Sex Ch4

Modern art's fascinating, isn't it? Personally, I think most of it's utter bollocks but then, I'm no aesthete. To me, the most confusing 'art' has evolved from the tangled minds of Gilbert and George, who claimed in a two-part South Bank Show (LWT) special that they 'transformed their own lives into art.' Gosh, it must be strange being at their place, eh? Surrounded by glasses filled with 22 year-old piss, and faeces from the early 80's sitting in jars, with pictures of semen stains, sweat and tears on the walls. And not just any old piss, shit or semen, but precious liquids extracted from the artists' very own orifices! Imagine the conversation during the soup course: 'The blood sample was eaten by a blue bottle. That was quite exciting!' How about being regaled over dinner with tales of the latest exhibition? 'It's the biggest study of shit, ever!' And after you've eaten, there's the home movie show, with a singing sculpture which doesn't sing, the flesh painted in a range of metallic hues, the movements robotic and stodgy. Pass me my coat for I'm off to MacDonald's.

Gilbert and George always struck me as a tad odd (an understatement I know). They are thoroughly narcissistic in a way only gay artists can be, terribly self-obsessed and egotistical, believing that the world shines out of their backside, so why not frame it? I wanted to know why they called themselves artists when they seemingly have no eye for beauty. I needed to know why they have to put their phizzogs into every piece they do. I wanted to see how sniffy they were about the French and Saunders pastiche.

The South Bank South would come, I'd hoped, with some explanation. But no. Rather than elucidate on their work, ideals or inspiration, Gilbert & George perpetuated their own myths. 'We want to take our art to the edge and make it the normality of life,' they gushed. 'We know what we are doing and they are wrong,' they asserted. The critics were even less pragmatic in their appraisal: 'Creativity flourishes because there are two of them,' one effused. I gave up and refused, point blank, to watch the second part. I'd like to sum up using a short conversation between Gilbert and George: 'What a nightmare!' 'Yes.' 'Aaah!'

Proporting to be a 'two-part mini-series' (huh?) on a disaster of global nature (set solely in America), I felt Asteroid (LWT) lacked a certain something. Maybe it was the scarcity of decent dialogue, or maybe the dearth of dexterous camerawork. Maybe all it needed was an exclamation mark. Still, it had a lump of coal sprayed in lustrous blue, spinning languidly towards Earth to be greeted millions of hysterical humans who were about to be blasted out of their RVs and mansions.

There was a square-jawed hero called Jack and an intelligent astronomer called Lilly. Don't be daft, of course there was a love interest between the doc and the jock. There were explosions that the team at Thunderbirds would have made more convincing, oodles of music that warned you by tone when to start worrying, and scene-by-scene strap lines telling you were the action was happening. And if that wasn't enough, there was a hurricane a'coming and it was nearly 4th July weekend! What's a script writer to do?

Jack, a brusque official with a stare that yelled, 'Back off! I'm thinking!' told everyone to 'Stay Focused!' so often I'm sure they'd all gone cross-eyed. Lilly threw her spectacles onto the desk whenever she despaired of her ability to get the job done. Soldiers spent hours colouring in a huge map of Texas with day-glo felt tips. Lord, the tension was unbearable and yup, the asteroid was still hurtling on. But wait! Humans 'are much smarter than the dinosaurs were' and based on this premise, three super-duper laser guns could be triangulated and blasted at the oncoming cataclysm. It might just work! Okay, we'll ignore the fact that it was perilously close in style to Independence Day and simply say Asteroid was so dreadful it was quite magnificent.

Farewell to Dyke TV. Nice to know all my grouching didn't go unrewarded. And Gaytime TV? Here's hoping. By the way, there'll be none of that radio lark this month as I've just moved house and the stereo's still in it's Styrofoam. Shame really, because I wanted to scope out HRH Regina Fong.

So it's back to the TV and Timewatch: Love Story (BBC2), the tale of Lilly and Felice who were thrown together by war in sun-glazed, leafy Berlin during 1942. Lilly was the wife of German soldier and mother to four boys. She had a picture of Hitler on her wall, and had received the Bronze Medal for Motherhood from the Nazis. Felice was a 21 year-old Jew who had torn off her yellow star and disappeared underground, only to surface when acting as a courier for false ID papers.

There's no getting round it: whopping yawn. Once again, we are presented with a bunch of photographs, a few pieces of Pathé newsreel, a handful of letters and a number of interviews. Tiresome. It didn't help in this case that the full story wasn't revealed and that the programme trailed off. Try and check out the book, Aimee and Jaguar' instead. However, it was good of Timewatch not to trivialise lesbian relationships, so praise be for that.

No such flattery for Roseanne (Ch4). The final ever series has completely failed to raise a titter in this household and the closing credits are routinely greeted with, 'That was arse!' A 'surprise' command performance by Saunders and Lumley (as Edina and Patsy) only proved that the British knock those Yanks into a cocked hat when it comes to comedy, and especially timing. And does Ms Barr seriously think we'd ever swallow her mother Bev being a dyke? It's all too dire.

No Child Of Mine (Carlton) was vaunted as the 'most harrowing account of child abuse TV has seen' and was based on a real life. It also provided a startling performance by Brooke Kinsella as Kerry, an elfin child propelled into a world of abuse. With a nod and a wink, her father sold her to a friend for a £40 gambling loan, and her cussing mother locked her in a cupboard for failing to dust adequately and then made her daughter perform oral sex. It got worse. Her mother remarried, this time to a creepy salesman called Graham who played 'pass the stepdaughter' with his friends before raping her. Her father forced her to stand on street corners offering blow jobs for £30 ('You're helping Daddy, yeah?') then her mother threw her down the stairs, again for not doing chores. After some encouragement from a black teacher (Colin Salmon) she called Childline and tried to get Graham prosecuted (no such luck) and was shunted from foster home to a gargantuan kids' home. There, she met a pimp who put her to work ('Money buys you freedom') and one of the care workers violated her. Eventually, she ran away to one of only four, count 'em - four, safe houses in Britain.

No Child Of Mine was fairly difficult viewing but what was it saying? What did the producers hope to achieve? If they ever presumed to make a tangible difference, they've set themselves up for a fall. People still won't believe it goes on, no matter how powerful the drama, and unless someone watching this film can muster and harness the financial power to create more safe houses, all we'll see is a couple of sparkly awards and a heap of complaints to the BSC.

And now, before your very eyes, a quantum leap from squalid reality to parallel dimensions. Crime Traveller (BBC1) marks the first stage of Michael French's exorcism of David EastEnders Wickes as a renegade detective (called Jack!) with unorthodox methods. George Clooney haircut, bit lively on his feet, wears bright jackets, you know? He fucks up on a major sting, he gets fired. Luckily for him that the egghead on his team, and a female at that, has invented a time machine, and it's waiting, itching to be used, in her front room! She'd cobbled it together with wires, rubber tubing, silver piping, polythene sheeting, sticky back plastic, old reel-to-reels, bubble TVs and allsorts (probably even the liquorice ones) in true Blue Peter fashion, and it is a stupendous homage to the likes of Doctor Who. Bloody fantastic. For the sci-fi starved among us, this hits the spot nicely, thank you, and French is rather favourable. Crime Traveller craps on Bugs too.

And speaking of televisual excrement, there's Brass Eye (Ch4). At least, you're supposed to believe it's rubbish, or beneath contempt. Whatever, I'm sure the phones were ringing off the hooks at the Duty Office. And pray tell, why? Because it's a bit close to the bone and that's a bad thing! Naughty Channel 4! Shame on you, Chris Morris!

I'd tuned in to watch him ruffle Peter Tatchell's feathers, but due to the bleeping and blurring of what Morris was saying, the whole piece lost its edge. The skit on why gays shouldn't be in the Navy was passably jocular. 'Homosexuals can't swim,' blathered the Admiral (one of Morris' characters). 'They attract enemy radar, they insist on being placed at the Captain's table, they get up late, nudge people when they're firing guns...' You can take this one of two ways: a) Morris is a homophobic wanker or b) he's poking fun at the obtuse, archaic attitude of Her Majesty's forces. When an audience member says her father abused her between 10 and 14 years of age, and Morris asks her, 'So it hasn't happened recently then?' is he an inconsiderate pig or is he denouncing the inanity of daytime chat-show questioning? When he berates a man in the audience for having 'bad AIDS' and tells him, 'What if a madman shot you to pieces? Anyone yawning would get your blood in their mouths!' is he a reactionary bigot or is he casting aspersions on a moronic society who still won't shake a gay man's hand? Go figure. It certainly makes a change from Richard and Judy, I can tell you.

I was praying the postman would bring me a little joy with a copy of A Touch Of Frost (LWT) which featured a lesbian sub-plot. Alas, too late. I must get on. I've had 18 workmen in here in 10 days and I've got to finish the skirting boards. Glossing, how I hate glossing...

© April 1997 Megan S. Radclyffe

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