126. Humdrum

Tapehead no 126

God knows what’s going on at the BBC. With some revisionist spin-doctoring worthy of Stalin himself, they’ve declared the seventh wonder of the world is not the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but a scientist called Monica Grady. 

Check out Seven Wonders Of The World: Monica Grady (which sounds like her latest porn video) to see whether she can live up to the billing.

“I’m into rocks and rock. I’m into meteorites and Meatloaf,” (or should that be meatloaf ?) that exclaims Monica Grady. (Crazy name, crazy girl.) Seven Nutters Of The World would have been more appropriate.

And what are we to make of Performance: Richard II played by Fiona Shaw, an actress so good she even looks like a man. Pretty impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree.

“My sex should not cloud an understanding of the role,” she says. “It is irrelevant.”

But still worth mentioning obviously.

And surely not even Chris Morris could have come up with The Language Master, which this week features Michel Thomas, “the Nazi concentration-camp survivor who claims to have taught Woody Allen to speak a foreign language in three days”. (Tapehead kids you not.)

Thomas forbids his pupils from note-taking and sets no homework. No wonder Woody described his sudden predilection for French as “a psychological breakthrough, some sort of miracle”. Soon-Yi presumably says the same (in French). Why the BBC aren’t doing Michel Thomas language tapes, though, remains a mystery.

The hand of Morris has surely also been at work on Mad About Machines. Episode one, Dear Olive, presents an in-depth look at 74-year-old Louise Brindley from Scarborough, who, for 50 years, has had a portable Olivetti typewriter, Olive, with which she is in love. (Who says Channel 4 doesn’t cater for minorities ?)

“I didn’t think I could cope with a male type typewriter,” she says fingering her machine, “I think she’s marvelous.”

For his part, Tapehead also prefers working on females.

Ms Brindley has written 14 novels of romantic fiction on Olive and, on the basis of the extract from her latest, Autumn Comes To Mrs Hazell, very badly written they are too. (The extracts are read by an eight-year-old.)

Still, we learn all about her, er, typewriter. We even meet the man who sold it to her, John Mitchell of John Mitchell Office Equipment, who exclusively reveals that “she bought the first one we showed her.” 

Once, he says, she even tried a word processor, on approval, but it didn’t make the grade. Scarborough – rock ‘n’ roll capital of the north.

Future episode of Mad About machines include Malcolm Hemley’s collection of Dennis lawnmowers, Julie Parr’s 70 sewing machines, and a woman called Madge and her leopard-skin trimmed vibrator. All very odd.

Love Life has reached number four of the five points that sexy psychologist, therapist, and sex maniac Dr Janet Reibstein believes make up “the recipe for staying in live through the highs and lows of life”.

Dr Janet does set homework – “Take 10 minutes alone in the evening.” This does the trick, and, bizarrely, makes problem couple Lynn and David “fell closer together and understand each other a bit more.”

According to Dr Janet, footage from he cameras fixed in the living room show how it’s working.

“How did your day go ?” David mumbles back.

“This is what happens when gratitude has been allowed to die,” Janet intones gravely.

Later on, though, Lynn admits she has “noticed an increase in David acknowledging me.”

To celebrate, she goes mad and buys some new net curtain material.

“Well, I saw it and thought ‘that might be ideal’. I thought: ‘if it doesn’t fit or is not suitable, I’ll take it back.'”

Real people on TV – who needs them? Programmes like these make you realise why people pay scriptwriters.

The concept that Lynn and David have stopped beating the shit out of each other because the cameras are there doesn’t enter Dr Janet’s head.

Irene and John Burlinson have no such problem, though. After 23 years, they demonstrate “an incredible amount of affection and support for each other”, as the fixed cameras reveal, always touching each other up in the kitchen and cuddling on the sofa.

“Watching the tapes,” says Irene, “you get the impression that John and I really do have a very happy sex life,”

Sadly, these are not the tapes they show.


Performance: Richard II: Sat,10.15pm, BBC2

Love Life: Sun, 7.30pm, C4

The Language Master: Sun, 9.20pm, BBC2

Mad About Machines: Thurs, 8pm, C4

Seven Wonders Of The World: Weds, 7pm, BBC2