14. Loaded

Jim Shelley locks and loads his machine for a week of war

Tapehead no 14

This week it’s war, and programme of the week is Horizon: Small Arms, Soft Targets, a look at the laws and ethics of warfare, the concept of weapons causing “unnecessary suffering”. In other words, an extravaganza of serious hardware that looks like an Ice-T wet dream.

Military surgeons, arms designers, Vietnam vets, International Red Cross negotiators, and a Pentagon Lawyer, all have something to contribute. A rugged ballistics expert/mathematician talks with the pride of a carpenter about his invention of smaller, sharper bullets that bend, turn and break inside the body.

“Giving off 50 per cent more energy” they create wounds previously only achieved by dum-dum bullets, which as any schoolboy knows, are illegal in war under the St Petersburg Convention.

Other ethically-unsound weapons include: landmines that spring out of the ground and shatter into several pieces causing “traumatic amputation”; gas that causes “excessive indiscriminate effects”; and bullets designed to injure as many of those people around the target as possible (ie, not just the victim).

Conversation points to discuss with your loved one proliferate. Is blinding (with laser guns) an acceptable method of warfare ? How can war surgeons stop their research from helping the weapon designers ? Why don’t armies use the hole-pointed bullets deployed for anti-terrorist measures in wars ?

Sinister, scintillating and explosive, Horizon features one of televisions most absorbing “wound ballistics seminars”.

One day, the police will form their own production company and start making programmes compiled entirely of real footage of car chases, car crashes an acts of automobile violence.

Watchdog this week examines the country’s driving standards and finds that 95 per cent of all accidents are caused by human error. Highlights include a pile-up on the M6, a motorbike smashing into a car pulling onto a main road, and a suburban side road classic starring a woman who ploughs her vehicle into a parked care. Ten experienced drivers retake their driving tests and, predictably, seven fail.

Oddly, someone form the Policy Studies Institute says the number of road accidents, especially those involving children, ahs gone down as the roads have become more dangerous, not safer.

There’s a moment of frenzied violence in Attenborough’s Alligator Hole as a drought leads four or five giant ‘gators to start tearing into each other with awesome savagery. The most beautiful sight of the week (other than Beth in Brookside) is a hug ‘gator arched in the water, bellowing its mating roar so resonantly and fiercely that the water dances in sprinkles across his back. It looks like Fellini.

Understandably, a female ‘gator comes and smothers him almost immediately.

But the ‘gators’ battle pales in comparison with the battle of the hairdos on The Oprah Winfrey Show, as Oprah meets Diana Ross. “You’ve honoured me by being here,” says Oprah who spends the whole show buffing Diana’s toenails with her tongue in a show that positively drips with Essence of Showbiz.

The Really Wild Show has still more ‘gators (in the Florida Keys), a bug with 3,000 pairs of ears, and leeches over a foot long. But the highlight is the fabulously erotic spectacle of Michaela Strachan frolicking in the water with a manatee – Michaela’s not bad either.
Fantastically-wrinkled, and faintly reminiscent of an alligator, Bill Deedes, the former Telegraph editor and inspiration for the Denis Thatcher letters in Private Eye, is the subject of Dear Bill, Michael Cockerel’s follow up to Love Tory. Worth taping for the strangely touching sight of Deedes and Denis enjoying a round together. Of golf.

Horizon: Mon, 8pm-8.50pm, BBC2
Watchdog Special: Mon, 7.30pm – 9pm, BBC1
Alligator Hole: Thur, 8.30pm-9pm, BBC1
The Oprah Winfrey Show: Wed, 10.35pm-11.30pm, C4
The Really Wild Show: Wed, 4.35pm-5pm, BBC1
Dear Bill: Sun, 8.10pm-9pm, BBC2