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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Last night's telly....

It's a long time since I did a TV review - well, it's a long time since I watched a television programme, but that was never really an impediment in the past, so I don't know why I'm getting all particular now. Anyway, as there's not really much in the news today worthy of my scarcely considered adjudications, let's pick over the still warm carcass of last night's telly, possibly one final time.

Eastenders never disappoints. Invariably unfolding its unremitting misery on an increasingly obvious set, no doubt miles away from the rancourous festerings of the actual east end of London, it's now rapidly becoming the cultural glue that binds together such remnants of our fragmented and dissolute society as can still be joined together. I mean, where else can British Muslims go to see themselves presented as decent, ordinary hard working folk who bear no threat to the established order? Apart from Syria, obvs. My money is on Shabnam (Mishal Husain with a 'Demi Moore') being the first Albert Square resident to tell her folks - in her case the fabulous Masood Ahmed (David Aronovitch) - that she's just nipping out to buy a copy of OK! before boarding the next flight to Turkey, being driven to the Syrian border and smuggled over into ISIS controlled Raqqa there to enjoy a long, secluded, fertile life of domestic servitude and violence in between popping out the Caliphate's future Ummah. You can see it coming; her relationship with her dear old Dad increasingly strained, Kush's ill-advised and inconsiderate snog with Stacey (which will presumably develop into the full carnal Monty at some point during Ramadan) eventually revealed to her, not to mention Unrepentant Rapist Bastard Dean (Ched Evans played by a young Robbie Williams) and Shirley's campaign to drag poor Jade, scion of Dean's and her drunken cloakroom shag, away from the security of her adoptive home into the near-warzone that is the Mitchell/Carter stand-off and Shabnam will be just ripe for jihad. Cuckolded and shamed like that, who wouldn't want to behead a few western journalists? I know I would. Besides, Raqqa after curfew must seem like an eartly paradise after one of Mick's ever-more volatile cheery cockney knees-ups; the head-wetting of new baby Oliver being just the latest to descend into alpha male antler-locking immediately upon Dean's ill-advised arrival. The quest for Jade promises to be a good storyline and watching Shirley (Petula Clark as she would be in an alternative Universe run entirely along the lines of a sink estate) charm the social services will be a treat in itself.

One Mitchell who has managed to escape the carnage of Albert Square is Victoria Coren- who wound up as far west as Soho in last night's concluding installment of How to be Bohemian. Confession time: I missed the first programme, have yet to watch the recording of the second so have jumped straight in at the finale, so anything I say here is appropriate only to last night's show, not the series. Ronnie and Roxy's smarter, prettier and more gambly sister, Victoria began her exploration of post-war London Bohemia with Francis Bacon - and immediately it became clear why mobile phone giant EE have chosen younger sibling Kevin to front their various TV ad campaigns. Not only is he considerably better looking than Franny, but he's far less likely - at least by the looks of it - to go on a three day bender, be sodomised and battered by a violent petty criminal before smashing his mobile phone into someone's face in a jealous gay hissy fit. On the other hand, Kevin's paintings probably can't quite match Fran's when it comes to dark, brooding intensity and existential suffering. At the other end of the Bohemian misery scale was light-loving Molly Parkin (Nefertiti). Wonderful, touching footage of her younger self, fresh-faced and newly drawn to London from her native Glamorgan, basking in the sun, full of fun and smiling inside and out. VC-M teased out some of the oddities of her free-loving life - for instance, she divorced her first husband for infidelity despite having had, by her own estimate, 'countless' lovers, among them not one but two whole rugby teams - 'all that brown hair...' I know the feeling Mollster, I know the feeling. But Molly's attitude seemed sane - what's sex? she asked; just like putting your arms round someone with but with different parts of the body.

John Cooper Clarke (Harry Cross from Brookside, halfway through the third week with the jar) contrasted the rigours of his father's generation - 'no such thing as leeeeeeezure wear' for Cooper Clarke Snr. - with his own identification with and apeing of the new 'kings' of pop like Keith Richards and Bob Dylan. And suddenly *everyone* was a Bohemian, even innocents the like of Will Self now feeling possessed of the gum and gumption to wear a spotty scarf, as he still does to this day. The sixties and the seventies saw the pill enabling women to explore some of the sexual freedom that had previously been the exclusive preserve of the men in the sixties and seventies, in the eighties it was the turn of gay culture to explode. But Rev. Richard Coles (the Verger from Dad's Army) and Johnny Woo (Julian Clary, midway through the third *month* on the jar) highlighted differing reactions to the new orthodoxy that seems to have emerged from that initial liberation. Both Woo and Coles rued the rise of consumerist materialism - Woo in the gay community, Coles more generally - but they have taken radically different lines of resitance. Whilst the former dons increasingly outre costumes in which to run around the west end shouting 'Woo woo woo', the latter joined the clergy. It's perhaps a more interesting route and I agree with Rev. Coles that at the core of Christianity is a subversive and challenging code of living.

But as hipsters stoke the nation's pogonophobia to new heights of murderous antipathy, is there still a need for, let alone the possibility of a Bohemian - or any - alternative to the slow, dull grind of people making money for other people and all that that entials? The truth, perhaps, is that it's probably happening right here and right now, we just aren't aware of it and, quite possibly, wouldn't even recognise it for what it is even if we were. Just as Soho became the focus for those who sought another path after pleasure centres like Southwark and Vauxhall became absorbed into what was allowable, so will new sites emerge after Soho has been gentrified and developed to extinction. It's still a shame to see it go. But there will always be resistance to the normal out there somewhere.


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