TV UK, 16 April

The Opera Babes in Jerusalem discover the true meaning of Easter.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Culture

The prize for the Easter holiday programme that sounded most like a spoof goes to The Opera Babes in Jerusalem. (Easter Sunday) The Opera Babes of course are a recording industry ‘crossover’ phenomenon, allegedly spotted while busking in Covent Garden. (‘People just started calling us the Opera Babes’, they explained, not very convincingly.)

I never quite worked out exactly why they were presenting an Easter programme, except that apparently their only knowledge of Bible stories was from Sunday school, and so of course they wanted to come to Jerusalem…To Find Out More! (as the light doc idiom has it). The result was a cross between Wish You Were Here and Songs of Praise, with the ‘babes’ miming to advert opera in holy locations. Almost enough to make a person watch the Pope on the other side.

But of course, holidays are really about family, not TV, and so I spent much of the weekend with the trolls who live on the sofa. On Monday evening, though, after barbecuing a few small animals on the balcony, we did watch the final of University Challenge. I’m pleased to say that after a freak result a couple of weeks ago, I have now put the trolls firmly back in their place and reasserted my position as undisputed champion. (One of them always shouts out the answers to questions on early Romantic poetry, but they’re pretty hopeless on everything else.)

This domestic harmony is in sharp contrast to developments in No Angels (Channel 4). In Tuesday’s episode, Beth threatened to move out of the nurses’ cosy flat. This follows on from an episode a few weeks ago, which established that Beth (neé Bev) comes from a family of ‘knuckle-draggers’, and is determined to improve herself. To this end, she has got herself involved with the new hospital manager, and for reasons I can’t be bothered to go into, she has also come increasingly into conflict with nice nurse Kate.

This is a plot straight out of a nineteenth-century novel, and potentially it could shed light on the contemporary meaning of class, gender and friendship, but the tone of the series militates against any sustained examination of such cultural themes, whatever the semi-conscious intentions of the writers. Even the fact that, for all her legendary sexual technique, Beth had never experienced an orgasm until Tuesday, is surely supposed to say something about something, but in the event it simply became the excuse for that episode’s obligatory comical cunnilingus scene.

Come to think of it, that’s something that was conspicuously missing from The Opera Babes in Jerusalem.

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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