1. TV Heaven

Jim Shelley finds a route to TV heaven by taping one week’s TV crime on a 180 video cassette

Tapehead no 1

In the last episode of thirtysomething, a sensitive young child asked her extra-sensitive young mother, “what’s heaven like?” A real existentialist, she then added, “is there TV ?” We should obviously plan ahead, just in case.

The clock shows 000 minutes, 02 seconds and counting…
When we get to TV heaven, Frank Burnside will surely be waiting, if not as one of its patron saints, then as one of the bouncers. The best television hardman since John Thaw’s Jack Regan, in this week’s The Bill, Burnside departs, crosses over to the other side, the first essential TV exit since Elsie Tanner or Mick Belker’s and well worth preserving on video.

With no friends and no private life, Burnside, looking like a cross between a Millwall hooligan and a silverback gorilla in a CID suit, has been roaming South London for years now. He, and he alone, has made The Bill what it is today: a modern-day, half-hour version of A Clockwork Orange. Its quota of “ponces” and “toms”, “snouts” and “grasses”, “Juvis” and, best of all, “giving it loads of verbals” is, thanks to him, unrivalled. No-one, besides maybe Harvey Keitel, could give lines like “Five per cent of the population is slag” such stylish menace. Whether The Bill can survive his departure, coming, as it does, right after that of WPC Viv “awright guv” Martella is doubtful. We shall miss him.

The clock shows 29 minutes, 58 seconds and counting…
Possibly only a woman like Oprah Winfrey, one of television’s angels, could handle a man like Burnside.

This week’s Oprah Gold, Men In Love With Female Criminals is, like every other Oprah Gold, unmissable. It’s like research. This is America, heaven or hell. Even Oprah can’t handle studio guest Dr Larry Weinberg, a man In Love With Female Criminal Sonia (15 years for selling Marijuana, theft).

“Help me,” cries Oprah, genuinely a-mazed and de-feated.

Like some product of the disturbed minds of Hunter S Thompson and Woody Allen, Dr Larry walks away with Tape head’s Wacko of the Week Award.

Curiously, Oprah’s main talent (like Tapehead’s) is that she really loves the stuff and somehow has a happy knack of looking worried in all the right places (also like Tapehead).
“Coming next,” Oprah says, “a man who says Falling In Love With A Convicted Murderess Was The Biggest Mistake Of His Life.”

Tape Head knows how he feels.

The way Grange Hill was driven out of its traditional Tuesday and Friday afternoon slot around Newsround was a crime as heinous, and make no mistake, as political as the dismantling of the NHS and an appalling waste of what is the best long-running, soap-style series on TV. Sharp writing, effortless acting, The Yoof Of Today explained. Essential research.

Madman or genius ? Someone at Channel 4 is responsible for the sporting event of the year (and another genuine television event), the return of Pro-Celebrity Golf. Five hours a week (FIVE HOURS !!) could, perhaps, be overkill and will almost certainly drive any man insane (even Tapehead). Five minutes every day, however, should be a low enough dosage and perfect fix to prepare us for next week’s solid high, the full 60. The excellently-named Hale Irwin and Sam Torrance are the pros. Guest celebs are: Friday, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Gavin Hastings;
Thursday, Christopher Lee and John Parrott;
Wednesday, Bobby Charlton and Bruce Forsyth (divine); Tuesday, Val Doonican and Colonel Gadhaffi;
Monday Terry Wogan and the excellently named Rachel Heyhoe-Flint.

OK, it’s not true about Rachel Heyhoe-Flint. Wednesday’s Hawaii 5-0 features an appearance by the exceptional, exceptionally-named, veteran character actor, Clu Gulager. When we get to TV Heaven we can be sure that whoever wrote this episode, title Fools Die Twice, will be waiting.

The clock shows 179 minutes, 47 seconds and counting…
Heavenly collector’s film of the week: Mask of Satan, BBC2, 12.45am-220am.

Tape One:
• The Bill, ITV, Tue 7, 8pm – 8.30pm
• Oprah Gold, C4, Tue 7, 5pm-5.50pm
• Grange Hill, BBC 1, Sun 5, 10.35am-11.10am
• Pro-Celebrity Golf, daily, C4, 11.30am-12.30pm
• Hawaii 5-0, Wed BBC1, 2.15pm-3.05pm