Televiewing on Tuesday July 3rd 2007

Access to four channels only.

ITV’s  Loose Women  at 12.30 : it’s a chat show/forum with an all female panel.
    Only the tongues are loose, as far as one can tell. Perhaps the producers chose the title thinking to rope in the more voyeuristic of the day-time audience anticipating some shenanigans of the Bad Girls
variety: if so they are in for a disappointment: not exactly challenging (at least, not on this showing) but, undeniably, women are fully represented.

2.00pm   Daily Cooks.  
    If anyone were a daily cook you’d assume that person to be of the female gender, wouldn’t you? Surely the vast majority of wives and mothers out there are cooking daily - sometimes three times a day. Not on this programme.  
    Three fat men dominate the proceedings and greatly enjoy sampling the fruit of their labours (at the ITV company’s expense, obviously). There was a ‘token’ woman who did not say or do very much but declined when the choccies were handed round.
    Good for her.  But then, she had before her very eyes, three frightening examples of what over- indulging can do to a person.
    Today’s challenge was to produce a salad  - generally judged to be ‘girly’ - which would appeal to men. They were chuffed to have dreamt up such a revolutionary idea, though you could say that a salad, however manly, is no proof of culinary skills. 
    The mind boggled at seeing how much (in 50 minutes) they were getting out of it; the ‘salad’ consisted mainly of beef fillet - they really gorged themselves on that.             
    Painful to watch, painful to listen to: bog-standard, estuary English, deemed by TV bosses on top of contemporary culture, to be the voice of the people. So why is it so difficult to understand what is being said?

    This was followed by a repeat of an old Inspector Morse: more often than not in this genre, women turn out to be the chief perpetrators of crime, especially murder, although this bears no relation to the actual crime statistics. (For example, in the quaint olde worlde village of Midsomer  where you might expect time to be standing still and women to be mainly concerned with embroidering samplers and jam-making, there can be two or three psychopaths (f) lurking behind every hedgerow).  So here we had three murders- a husband and two sons, nasty pieces of work - carried out by a ‘nice’ woman who works as a consultant in the field of ‘family relations’ (above suspicion, naturally) aided and abetted by another woman, wife and mother of the above; as the episode opens we are shown the ‘mousy’ wife as a victim of verbal abuse, cowed by her bullying brute of a husband. She had, it emerges, sought consolation in an affair with the brother of the family relations expert who was brutally done to death with the tools of his trade (he was a stonemason); a member of her family was responsible - an honour killing, no doubt - hence the motivation for the murderess (his sister). Yes, it’s complicated, but viewers would stop watching if they didn’t have to concentrate to keep up. 

     I was reminded of one of many such murder mysteries shown last year when little Lindsay Coulson, former Eastenders star, Carol Jackson (mother of Bianca et al) was supposed to have put to flight someone younger, taller, fitter and then bludgeoned her to death with a large metal crampon; the second of two murders, crimes passionels, in a fifteen year span: the viewing audience appears to have an unlimited capacity for suspending disbelief and, naturally, the industry’s chiefs are happy to exploit this.

    The above is yet another random example of what is beginning to look like typical female behaviour. Unfortunately, there is a sizeable section of the population for whom the line between reality and fiction on screen is blurred. Could the portrayal of women in this way be an attempt to provide meatier roles for the girls or just blatant misogyny?

    Returning to July 3rd: switched to Wimbledon on BBC2 and caught a women’s singles match,(quarter final) every bit as exciting as the men’s; and, to reflect that (after a long hard battle) the prize-money is now equal.

    Next, The Simpsons, keeping up the good work: nine year old Lisa, indefatigable defender of women’s rights, decides to enrol in the military academy to which Bart has been condemned as a punishment for bad behaviour. We see total resistance to this initiative and she is bullied, ostracised and abused by the other inmates. Fortunately, though embarrassed, her bro sticks by her. She proves that a girl can do as well as a boy in an endurance test that is later deemed by the military authorities to be unsafe for cadets to perform. She sensibly decides she doesn’t want to join the army, anyway. You can rely on this programme to be ‘on message’ at all times. Lisa must be the world’s youngest fully-fledged feminist –and proud of it. We should send her a T-shirt.

6.30pm  Emmerdale: couldn’t face it, sorry:  watched some more tennis.

7.30pm Now for my favourite: Eastenders,  which has recently featured Sophie Thompson as a throwback to that phenomenon of the ‘40s, the Wicked Lady.
    Although statistics prove that abusers of children are overwhelmingly male, this popular soap is running a main storyline where Phil Mitchell, erstwhile thug and wife-beater, now a reformed (well, sort of) character in his new role of hands-on, loving, caring dad to Ben, is involved with Stella, an abuser.  Ben has recently returned from South Africa, to which far distant place he had been removed for safety by his mother, Kathy, Phil’s ex-wife, now deceased. We do not know exactly why Stella self-harms or what part she actually played in the death of her sister, though we do know the parents hold her responsible.
    It is important for the final denouement
 that the parents do not attend the wedding, apart from the simple fact that they are unlikely to bond with the Mitchells, or, indeed, anyone else in the Square. So psychopath or sociopath, probably a bit of both, Stella is terrorising Ben behind everyone’s back. It is never clear why she is so keen to become Ben’s stepmother or the fourth Mrs Mitchell. Perhaps she is just plain daft.

8.0pm  C4  3 Fat Brides, 1 Thin Dress  Couldn’t face the horror of this: the title speaks for itself. Why would anyone volunteer for such public humiliation? The money?  OK.  

    Nor Gordon Ramsay’s F-word - the kitchen, once more, a woman-free zone; try Men-U-Like Cooking and F****** as an alternative title.

8.0pm  BBC1 Holby City
    To be fair, there is an equitable distribution of the responsible jobs (a better balance than in real life, I suspect). Connie, a surgeon (of whom only 4% are actually female) is good at her job and (mostly) highly respected in Holby General (BRI), managing to combine single motherhood with a heavy schedule. She has her faults and, in this episode, we see her as a not very loving daughter who has not even told her dying Pa that he is a grandfather.  At the eleventh hour she pulls a few strings to ensure his last hours are more comfortable, in her own hospital.  Holby City
does at least ensure that women are represented at all levels, even senior management. Again, this may be a strategy for providing more acting jobs for women (a worthy motive) and adding glamour to what could be a very unglamorous workplace.  I’m always astonished at how far necklines can plunge, especially when  practical, cover-up clothing would seem a must in the context of a hospital. On the other hand, it would do women a disservice and harm recruitment if nurses and medics had a dowdy image.
    The programme tries to deal with contemporary problems and concerns, social, psychological and emotional. There are some very nasty people out there who seem to talk to staff just how they want, which, we are told, reflects reality. Gender equality is followed through in that the women are quite as nasty, sometimes nastier, than the men.

9pm BBC2  Paris
    A truly feisty
French presenter, Sandrine Voillet, shows us a more interesting, alternative side to the City of Light. The majority of commentators on this type of programme are men, so it is good to see a woman doing the job so well. And she’s got a big nose!

10.00pm BBC2 Sensitive Skin  
    I read a review of this, by a man, who could not praise it too highly. In my opinion it is pretentious rubbish, almost redeemed, but not quite, by the inclusion of some good actors.  Joanna Lumley is always watchable; in this series she is somewhat untypical of the many 60+ lone women, widowed or otherwise, who form a substantial part of the population, in that there is no shortage of friends and admirers looking out for her. No wonder, since she looks nearer forty and can afford the clothes, make-up, beauty treatments that are required to enhance the look.  Maureen Lipman , ‘guesting’,  plays a stereotypical, strident feminist – American to boot - the sort that gives Feminism a bad name.  It is made clear that it is she who wears the trousers in her household and her husband may just be getting tired of this. Oozing confidence at the start, she ends up cringing and kneeling on the floor practically licking his boots, ready to sign up as a Stepford wife if that will get him back.  What does this tell us about assertive women? What is it trying to tell us about the ‘real’ nature of women?

I’m afraid this was as much as I could watch. Should have liked to see Star Stories: Madonna The Wife’s Life – a film by Guy Ritchie just to check that his films aren’t as bad as they’re said to be, but it was way past my bed-time.

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