Gay Times Reviews III

Playing Nintendo with God Ch4

Ye Gads this was depressing and yes, I know it wasn't supposed to be. Focusing on an American HIV Camp for children (excuse me but why does the idea of an isolated area for those with HIV niggle at me?) where counsellors feel they have to 'butt heads' with angry kids who blame mothers, God and everything else for their status. Now I have problem with that - young children are never to blame themselves in this situation - but I did have a grievance with a local church claiming they 'could heal' a 6 year-old boy 'from AIDS'. The whole programme seemed to indicate - to me at least - that America's reaction to the HIV and AIDS pandemic is still way off kilter. While I understand the unity and strength that can be garnered from a camp such as this, it isolated many of the children and mothers here (a father's face was a rare sight) Playing Nintendo With God just made me very grim and despondent, rather than imparting the hope of contending with this disease that it initially suggested.

Real Rooms BBC1

Will this obsession the British have evolved with home improvements never end? No, and now even Barry Laden, promoter for the Fridge, has persuaded the Real Rooms team to transform his biege back bedroom into an 'Edwardian gentleman's room with a Millenial feel' for a mere £500. Of course they couldn't fill Laden's remit. They tried, bless them, with the staples and glue, they plumped for a Philip Stark style, 'old style, new materials' (moulded plastic - lovingly 'recreated' in that stalwart MDF) and orange, cream and blue paint. (Hang on ... that's my flat - they nicked my concept!) While Barry didn't get his Edwardian gentleman's room, he did get some natty shelves and a wicked headboard and was only out of pocket by £19. Ooh, another triumph for daytime TV and a suitably coquettish makeover to boot.

News Coverage - Mardi Gras All Channels

I switched on the national news, hoping against hope that in the light of all the recent queer-positive news over the Admiral Duncan that Pride - oops sorry, Mardi Gras - might get a mention. But there it was again, my heart in my boots... Hardly a peep except from LWT's local news show, London Weekend Tonight. Having informed the viewers that collections for taking place for the victims of the Soho bomb, the reporter asked 'So what's it all about?' as footage of the march - oops sorry, the parade - flowed across the screen and a stream of figures were reeled off. Ten thousand on the march (he said that, not me) and 1000 bystanders - 'most here to show off and enjoy' - with 80000 expected at Finsbury Park. Returning to the studio, the anchor interviewed Anthony McNeil, one of the organisers, who talked about having 'established a benchmark' but getting 'financial backing from the community'. The BBC's Newsroom Southeast, having shown true potential with the coverage of the Admiral Duncan, did not mention a single syllable about Pride - damn, Mardi Gras - neither did Channel 5, which is odd considering their general adoration of all things perverted. Ah well, there's always next year I suppose...

The Staying In Show Ch 4

Amy Lamé has returned with a 5 week run of the quiz that first aired as part of the Ellen DeGeneres coming out party, with brand new retro cartoon titles and team captains Jackie Clune (recently and briefly girlfriend to Barry Evans in EastEnders) and American comedian Scott Capurro. As with Jonathan Ross's It's Only TV But I Like It and the infamous They Think It's All Over, this quiz's success is largely dependent on the guest panellists. Of course, most of them are straight (the first show had Roland Rivron, Arabella Weir, that chap from Terrorvision and QAF's most definitely straight Craig Kelly) but the likes of Germaine Greer are booked to test their queer knowledge. But I savoured it before, and I still adore it now. Why? Well firstly it is a quiz about sexuality, and while it doesn't poke straights with too sharp a stick, its wit and bite is just my cup of tea. And secondly, it is just wonderful to see two out lesbians on the screen at the same time. Yes I know that it's happened before, but lesbians have never really been allowed to have any enthusiastic, facetious exchange on TV before now, so it sure makes this dyke's heart swell a little to see it here. I said it before and I'll say it again: more please!

News Coverage - Admiral Duncan All Channels

The week of the attack, the schedules seemed almost ethereal. Not a day went by without almost approbative mentions of gay issues and news. It culminated with extensive coverage of the ribbon being cut at the refurbished Admiral Duncan nine weeks to the day after that horrifying nail bomb. Both the local news strands of the BBC and ITV had live reports from Old Compton Street, though the BBC's Newsroom Southeast broadcast live throughout the 'not dismal but sad, but proud and a bit showbusy' event.
Referring to the Admiral as a 'monument for terrible loss' the reporter, Mike Embley, tried to observe the one minute's silence, but interrupted it with a voice-over. I hope this was a genuine mistake on his part. Still the aerial shot of Old Compton Street packed with people brought a lump to my throat, as it showed the 'resilience of Soho' that reporters had constantly referred to all day in trailers for the event, something that 'began as a wake and is now street party'.

London Weekend Tonight relied on close-ups of manager Mark Taylor's injuries, archive footage of bloodied and dizzied people running around after the bomb exploded (first specified as 70 then upped to 80), interviews with staff and Michael Moore, brother of one of the dead who is now volunteering at Stonewall, but the broadcast was cut before the ribbon was. Channel 4, busy with the news at Stormont, failed to mention it at all. Seems to me that's going overboard on not being a channel for minorities... Those channels that did show it all had a close-up of the permanent memorial at the Duncan, which has 86 candles melded into an impressive but strange sculpture.

Newsroom Southeast ended with that typical black and white footage with a violin underscoring the images just as ITV's national news was talking of the pub being 'an emblem for the gay community'. By Sunday, it was completely forgotten. How I hope that isn't the future for TV coverage of gay issues too...

Gaytime TV BBC2

You know I really did think it couldn't possibly get any worse. Yet another title sequence and another new set, full of brightly coloured globes, hexagons and bottles, steel borders and a unequivocal club ambience. A new trendy, fit audience swarmed all over the place, virtually standing on top of or hanging over Rhona Cameron and Richard Fairbrass. This audience, obviously encouraged by the floor manager, whooped like baboons, but always seemingly a second or two too late.

Oh but the changes didn't end there. In an effort to make us queers more accessible to the normal folks, GTTV are now interviewing "normal" megastars like Handy Andy and that dreadful boy Adam Ricketts.

I'm sorry folks, I really wanted to say something approbative. I really did, honestly. But alas and alack, The ambience was completely summed up for me with the titles of GTTV's weekly soap, Scene In Brum - the heady and oh so electrifying tale of the expansion of Angel's Café Bar in that very same megalopolis - as the manager was seen holding up a plank of wood. Enough said methinks. I must go, I feel quite sick now.

©Megan Radclyffe August 1999

Dyke TV BBC2

As usual, there's been heaps of hype for the return of Dyke TV (Ch4). Thankfully, this year's Saturday night schedule is largely devoid of NFT re–runs and ancient programmes. As I'm penning this eight weeks before transmission, the tapes I've seen are not TX–perfect. Take Dyke Blend, the pastiche of those horrific Gold Blendª adverts. No music, no SFX and lacklustre lighting in a world where "coffee" is an obvious pseudonym and there's a triple twist in this tale. And oh, it seems to end there. I'm assured the polished version is stupendous.

In addition, Dyke TV will be premiering Go Fish and the fabulous Bar Girls as well as documentaries on lesbian erotica videos, Load Of Old Tush and classified ads, The A to Z Of Dating. There's a portrait of author Dorothy Allison called White Trash and an exposé of bisexual model turned TV presenter (sic) Rachel Williams. She stumbles around in macintosh with her tit hanging out while we discover her seduction of the sublime Alice Temple, watch her trying to eat a kitten's head and spy her sucking her thumb. The lasting impression is that she says "I have no fucking idea" a lot. Lesbian icon? Are the Dyke TV researchers working part–time for Gaytime TV?

But stop, there's more! A documentary on the wonderful world of Mistress Martindale, a short film on Techno Babes, Donna Clarke's take on Lesbian Bed Death, a ton of advice on making lesbian movies in Zero Budget (an all–American tour of such trials and tribulations in five easy steps), Child of Mine, a 40–minute documentary on lesbian custody cases, Mad About The Boy for gender–clouded dykes, and tales of inter–racial relationships in Inga Blackman's Shades Of Desire.

If that wasn't enough, Ch4 are showing Celluloid Icons. First under the spotlight is Jodie Foster, in a piece directed by Pratibha Parmar. There's talk of "investing in her star image" and the "subtext of characters" played by the "unusually physically actress" but of the (significantly American) assembled devotees, only Lea Delaria admits the true obsession by mentioning Foster's fuckability factor. Black Divas glorifies Jesse Norman, Millie Jackson, Lena Horne, Sylvester, Shirley Bassey ("her delivery can be quite butch"), Josephine Baker et al but it's mainly soundbites from the particular tastes of George Melly, Elizabeth Welch, Paul Burston, McAlmont and Tina C. The Street asked John Lyttle, the Divine David and Tilly MacAuley, "Is Coronation Street just a drag show?": all gorgeous stone cladding, enamoured Mancunians and clips galore. Finally, the much touted show on River Phoenix, backed with wailing slide guitar and yodelling. The usual subtext analysis of why his characters echo gay experience takes a frightening lurch with the attentions of infatuated men who talk of "The Campfire Scene" as if it were some religious symbol. I shall definitely return to these next month.

©Megan Radclyffe 1993-2001

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