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17. Cheaters

Jim Shelley thinks he might be a secret agent working for someone else

Tapehead no 17

This week, Tapehead has been indulging in a favourite vice: industrial espionage.

By hacking into rival TV critics’ files and bugging their work desks, secret access has been gained to their use of key adjectives such as ‘esoteric’, ‘elegiac’ and ‘evocative’. These have now been deleted.

Like lunatics, the hackers have taken over the airwaves this week.
Fascinating as the young hackers on Walk On the Wild Side’s Hackers and Phreakers might be, once you’ve deciphered their incoherent mumbling from the barrage of rave effects and edits, you discover they actually think that “hacking, in a way, is like the ultimate terrorism” (meaning in no way whatsoever).

Spying on the industrial spies and bugging the buggers, High Interest is the version for grown-ups. It reveals how major corporations are now planting moles in rival companies so that when their rivals’ moles offer information to their rivals they are in fact offering it to their own people. Clear ?

Besides parading high-profile buggers like Dixons (spying on Woolies), BA (hacking into Virgin), High Interest shows how insider-dealing on a ball-bearing company ended up with car chases, decoys and armed assignations in motorway hotel rooms. Tapehead’s idea of fun.

Tapehead used his credit card-sized tape recorder to be able to describe this show as revealing and, er, esoteric.

From cheaters to cheetahs, and an evocative repeat of Wildlife on One’s The Haunted Huntress, wherein the difficulties of being a single mother suddenly become horribly clear.

Defenseless, female cheetahs are vulnerable not only to large hyenas but also male cheetahs. The scene where the Huntress wanders into the enemy territory of a rare gang of males – known as the Three Cheetah Brothers – is played out like the skinheads scene from the Warriors, only furrier.

As usual, we never get an idea of how fast cheetahs really run, mainly because they’re always shown in close-up slow motion, their elegant menace smoothly sealing the fate of another mouldy old wildebeest. Captivating.

Tragically, parts of Horizon also resemble a strange wildlife form. Genie tells the story of the discovery in Los Angeles in 1970 of the eponymous 13-year-old who had spent most of her life in the solitary confinement of an empty room. Dressed in diapers, fed only on baby food, she was never taught any kind of language. The film shows how scientists sought to rehabilitate her, educate her, and discover whether she was handicapped from birth or by the conditions she was kept in.

The home videos of this enchanting child show her strangeness, her stooped, bird-like co-ordination and movement and her heart-breaking progress. Her story as she grows up turns out to be a story of America.

A story of Belgium is related by Jonathan Meades as he samples (with relish) its 750 beers, its horsemeat and its fondness for vertical archery clubs (named after Saint Sebastian) in Further Abroad.

Meades celebrates the morbidity and surrealism of Belgium with gusto (“Belgium does bleakness with an inspired brio we’ve lost the knack of in England”) and illustrates how the Belgians obsessively collect things. Apparently, it all stems from the Belgian desire to be eternal. The last of Meades’s series, this indicates Belgium is his spiritual retirement home and Tapehead hopes he’ll be very happy there. He will be missed.

“The baby’s head was emerging,” recalls one football wife in On the Line’s Wives United, “and this voice comes over the tannoy saying ‘your husband’s manager is on the phone wondering whether he’ll be able to get back for the game’. Quite right.

More sporty late night light relief from the esoteric Sport AM which includes the second part of the World Trickshot Championship, where the likes of John Virgo (blindfolded) pot reds from a young lady’s mouth. (Tapehead won’t comment on where they pot them).

Horizon: Mon, 8-8.50pm, BBC2
Sport AM: Mon, 2.30-3.30am, ITV
Walk On The Wild Side: Wed, 11.05-11.40pm, C4
On The Line: Wed, 7.30-8pm, BBC2
Wildlife On One: Thu, 8-8.30pm, BBC1
Further Abroad: Fri, 9.30-10pm, BBC2