TV UK, 5 September

Sex, drugs and the BBC.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Culture

Snorting Coke With The BBC (Channel 4, last Sunday) was notable mainly for the gratuitous gratuitous-nudity in its ‘dramatic reconstructions’. Ostensibly it was an expose-of-drug-taking-at-the-BBC-cum-expose-of-hypocrisy-at-the-BBC, but really it was just naff.

First there were the I Love the 1980s-style reminiscences about breakfast TV presenter Frank Bough’s drug use and odd sexual behaviour, then an inquiry into the sacking of Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon for doing cocaine. This was an opportunity for a series of celebrity rent-a-mouths to come over all worldly-wise and pontificate about how silly it was of the BBC to sack Bacon and of controller Lorraine Heggessey to make such a stiff-necked announcement to the Blue Peter audience.

For the record, I think Heggessey made all the right decisions, right up to agreeing to take part in this programme. D’oh! That includes ditching the obnoxious Angus Deayton, who was presented here as some sort of celebrity folk hero for his cocaine-fuelled abuse of prostitutes.

There is of course a real programme to be made about the normalisation of drugs in the media, and how this is negotiated by an institution as peculiar as the BBC, with its semi-official, semi-stuffy status. But Snorting Coke With The BBC was not it. This was a glib, superficial and irritating programme, and the most the BBC can say for itself is that it didn’t make it.

There is an episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry is coerced by a friend of Kramer into making pirate copies of films by sitting in the cinema with a camcorder. I wasn’t sure if people really made copies this way till last week, when the troll who lives on the sofa brought home some DVDs, allegedly acquired from his brother’s ‘hairdresser’ (don’t ask).

I sat down to watch The Two Towers, and at first thought I could put up with the grainy picture and echoey sound. About half an hour in, though, there was a loud creaking sound and the picture jumped to one side, and suddenly I was looking at the ceiling of a cinema. It took Jerry several minutes to regain his composure, and he went on to repeat the same trick several times throughout the film. He also seemed to get overexcited every time Liv Tyler appeared on screen. Jughghgh.

It just goes to show that crime doesn’t pay, I suppose. It’s a lesson that may or may not yet emerge from The Shield (Channel 5), which is coming along nicely. Fans of the politically ambitious Captain Aceveda will enjoy Rudy: the Rudy Giuliani Story (ITV1, Saturday at 11.10pm), which shares many of the same attractions as The Shield, and stars the impeccable James Woods. Yes, it’s a hagiography, but at least the picture stays where it’s supposed to.

Dolan Cummings is publications editor at the Institute of Ideas, and editor of Culture Wars. He is also the editor of Reality TV: How Real Is Real?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).

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