128. Stress

Tapehead no 128 

Stress. Tapehead has heard of it, and now finally he’s experienced it – watching Modern Times’ programme about it.

(Previous knowledge was confined to occasions when the VCR taped Morning Worship instead of The Waltons.)

The film looks at four men who, like Tavis Bickle, could not take it any more, going from thriving on stress to cracking up because of it, cases of men working 17-hour days, “sitting in a room shaking his head and talking to himself” and “roaming around at night, unable to sleep, making milky drinks.”

Ray, who worked, for the DSS for 23 years, once picked up a kitchen knife and asked his wife, “How may fingers would I need to cut off to never have to go back to work again ?” (Tapehead’s guess, Ray, is eight.)

As his business was destroyed by Tesco. Martyn, the corner-shop owner, would start the day “crying a bit, getting the shakes, throwing up.”

When he finally went bankrupt, the man from the receivers asked for his cheque cards, took out a pair of scissors, and cut them up in front of him.

Happily, he made it through. “If I owe anybody my future, I owe it to Cassie,” he says, “not Jean.”

Jean is his long-suffering, unservingly loyal wife, who appears on the show throughout. Cassie is the dog. 

“When I was really poorly,” he explains, “I spoke to the dog. I could unload without being criticised or judged” – although this last detail is more than Tapehead or the RSPCA really need to know.

All in all, Modern Times is the most stressful experience Tapehead has had since the last series of Homicide ended with Pembleton’s “Jacob’s Ladder” of a heart attack.

Four months of suspense as to whether he made it end pretty swiftly thanks to cowardly Channel 4, who have decided that the first two episodes of the new series should be withdrawn on the grounds that the storyline (a school hostage scenario) ahs something to do with Dunblane – a reading of 8.7 on Tapehead’s new stress metre.

Prison riot storylines, apparently, are okay, so we get a Kind of Greatest Hits of previous Homicide bad guys including he copycat sniper, the video park bench killers and Claude Vetter, a lowlife who killed the woman he loved. (“I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic.”)

All the minor irritations that accompany a new series of Homicide remain – Kellerman going on about quitting smoking, Bayliss’s new haircut, the number of awful rock songs (three). The wisely video guy, Brodie, seems to have had a makeover on Ricki Lake.

On the plus inside, there is a new post-Seven credits sequence and a conversation about which animal produces the largest sperm. Tapehead is happy to see Mick from Brookside still moonlighting from the Pizza Parlour, mumbling incomprehensibly as jazz hipster Meldrick Lewis. 

A new series of Murder One would be cause for great celebration if Tapehead hadn’t ruined it for himself by watching it already on Sky, where he also saw actor Anthony LaPaglia tell David Letterman the show had been axed (4.2 on the stress metre).

The new storyline has James Wyler (LaPaglia) replacing Teddy “Shinehead” Hoffman for a case in which both the governor of California and his mistress have been shot by foxy blonde Sharon Rooney.

As soon as Sharon tells Wyler she did it, we know she didn’t – the sort of soft-option choice that made ABC kill it off, alone with Teddy’s staff of saps and smoothies, Justine, Arnold and Chris Docknovich, Too much LA Law, not enough Homicide.

From his great opening scene onwards, LaPaglia is terrific, a fascinating blend of Jamie Redknapp and Shakin’ Stevens, with some Billy Corkhill and Oliver Hardy thrown in. 

And he can say, “We’re done here, people” with the best of them.

Finally in Brookside on Friday, Tapehead’s own cull continues.

Snuffing out two children in any soap is always good news and even if Georgia has to go (for now), anything’s worth it to rid of Nat. 

Tapehead wishes him good luck in Hollyoaks.


Murder One: Tues, 9pm, BBC2

Homicide Life On The Street: Sat, 10.45pm, C4

Modern Times: Weds, 9pm, BBC2

Brookside: Fri, 8.30pm, C4