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216. Richard E. Grant: Revenge of the R.E.G

Cooking, gambling, porn – Jim Shelley gets his fill of dirty jobs

Tapehead no 216

The flood of complaints following Tapehead’s comments on Richard E Grant’s performance in The Scarlet Pimpernel continues unabated How, the cry goes up, could you be so lenient ?

Amidst the clamour, one voice alone, sounding remarkably like R.E.G. himself, stand out. In a passable impersonation of Mr Angry of Hampstead, “Reg” appears to have tracked down Tapehead’s (which only his two friends have) and left one of those messages you leave at midnight.

“Hello cunt features,” he begins, possibly reading from a script.”I read your review last week and it was like being sprayed with hot shit. Absolutely astonishing.”

How he knows what the astonishing qualities of being spray are like, he doesn’t say.
He is though disappointed – “staggered” in fact.

He ends his friendly call up by expressing the hope that Tapehead gets “some life-threatening illness – soon.”

Luckily, despite the fact that the hapless ham left his message on the wrong ansaphone, copies of this tantrum are now available to anyone who wants to hear what is indubitably Reg’s best performance for ages.

Suitably chastised, Tapehead begins his research into a new career. Tattooist (The Needle), Coroner (The Coroner), kinky boot maker (Trouble At The Top)…

The problem is, programme makers are all so desperate for the access, they will pander to their subject regardless of how self-pitying, or loathsome they are.

Ramsay’s Boiling Point opens with the hoary old gambit that “with genius sometimes comes madness”, as if any cook could ever merit the term ‘genius’.

Former Aubergine chef Gordon Ramsay immediately established himself as ridiculous: “From seven o’clock till 11 and lunchtimes,
12 o’clock till three, they know I’m Mr Bastard,” he says about his staff. “I’ll always be Mr Bastard.”

The impression is that you are in fact watching Brass Eye, especially when he explodes with rage moments later “(a fucking blue plaster !!! SHIT!!!”), as if one of his waiters had just walked in with bubonic plague.

“I’m not a celebrity chef !” he carps in this – the first part of a five-part, self-titled series watching the opening of his new restaurant, called, er, Gordon Ramsay.

Ramsay is happy screaming insults at his staff, but refuses to take responsibility for the dud appointments he’s made.

Perhaps eventually, he’ll get so angry he’ll just sack himself, screaming, “Are you happy now ?!!! Are you ?! You fat bastard.”

Modern Times’ hugely entertaining profile of bookmaker Barry Dennis (Bookies Never Lose) is also intended to make your heart bleed, but soon ahs you sobbing into your beer – with joy.

An old-school, on-course bookie, in the style of a manic, larger-than-life Frank Butcher, Barry spends much of the documentary bemoaning the new breed of corporate, Tote-betting punters.

At even the poxier, most rain-sodden race meetings, the Dickinson system of pitches means that, although he got on the official list back in 1970, he still turns up at Windsor needing 32 other bookies not to turn up before h can get a decent position – in the front row, “where the mug money is”.

Then, at Ascot, when the whole place is overtaken by mugs, drunks, toffs and tarts, he gets the hump because they’re not proper punters.

Anyone who’s waited years to see a grown bookie cry should tune in when poor Barry stretches his odds on one race to attract some interest, only to get tuned over by a professional to the tune of £6,500. Terrible.

Plenty of handy hints on the Readers’ Wives/DIY end of the British porn market in Boogie Nights in Suburbia, which Channel 4 consider “an energetic and often very funny journey through the planning an shooting of tow different porn films”.

So Peter and Henry are “porn’s Laurel and Hardy”, rather than tow tawdry toe-rags who recruit girls in the street to do shaky soft-core porn videos for them. Kim says she “likes the attention of men” – even men like Peter and Henry – which presumably is meant to make it alright.

Michael – a hardened 60-year-old East Ender – shoots young girls topless, then invariably charms them into doing an impromptu hardcore video – with him.

All completely natural, he says persuasively – it’s voluntary and helpful financially.

But the more friendly Michael acts, the more sinister he seems, and the more his “candour” seems like a mask for hostility.

By the time we follow Penny (a young mother -of-two from a South London council estate with a face like a French starlet) preparing to be videoed by Michael and having sex with a stranger for the first time, watching, is like viewing fly-on-the-wall documentary about someone about to be raped.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for myself,” she considers, “but I don’t think I’ve got any pride left.”

Her motive, she says, apart form the money for her kids, is “to be famous.”

But, given that she’s getting much more famous thanks to C4’s cameras filming it all, rather than Michael’s dodgy camcorder, this surely means the program-makers have actually been reduced to the level of pimps.

Ramsay’s Boiling Point, 9pm, Thu, C4
Modern Times, 9pm, wed, BBC2
Boogie Nights In Suburbia: 10pm, Sat, C4