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29. Madwoman

Jim Shelley goes to see the doc

Tapehead no 29

This week, three of the great endeavours, the great mysteries of our time: the search for the real Mrs Thatcher (the human version); an examination of what (or who) Sandra Bernhard likes between the sheets, and why Birmingham FC have never won anything. Agent Mulder eat your heart out.
Sadly the week’s documentary makers have failed miserably to crack the enigmas or solve the mysteries despite three marvellous, mad subjects.
Like his much-feted/fated pursuit of serial killer Eileen Wuornos and South African right-wing fanatic Eugene Terreblanche, Nick Broomfield’s Tracking Down Maggie (True Stories) is more about the tracking than the targeting.
Having doggedly pursued Thatch across America and the UK, to no avail, at numerous book-signings and dinner speeches, Broomfield is left with no choice but to (rather pointlessly) hassle peripheral characters like Maggie’s cleaner, Maggie’s PA and the bloke who now owns the shop where she grew up.
Broomfield hacks into her personal itinerary, but only succeeds in spoiling her wash and set by turning up with the cameras. Worth taping for Mrs T’s deconstruction of Two Little Boys and Mark Thatcher’s Japanese Cutty Sark commercial but the possibility grows that Broomfield selects such difficult subjects purely to allow plenty of shots of himself in his hotel room making thousands of futile phone calls.
In the end, Maggie reduces Broomfield to the same status as the other enigmas of her life – such as why she never appointed women, why she never mentioned her mother, and exactly how her son made so much money: she simply ignores him.
There’s not much mystery about this week’s subject of Inside Story, fellow Blue and bearer of bossy, padded-shouldered blazers, Karen Brady.
“She’s a sacker,” says Daily Sport/soft-porn magnate David Sullivan (her boss), glowing with pride and admiration.
The Brady/Sullivan regime at Birmingham FC, and Brady’s rapport with manager, Terry Cooper, starts well until non-league Kidderminster knock them out of the Cup and Cooper is replaced by Mad Barry Fry, a man whose periscope does not quite reach the surface.
Unmissable, if only for dressing room footage of a deranged Cooper screaming at his defence: “stop panicking, stop panicking”, like a footballer’s version of Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army.
Fry arrives like a vaudeville Redcoat but his team talk is soon emulating Cooper’s.
“Get the cunts playin’,” he moans from the bench, during a crucial game. “Go on Smiffy… Fuckin’ ‘ell.”
One can only admire the voice of the supporters.
A Blues-mad cab-driver declares: “People love to be associated with winners, “he says sagely.
“Unfortunately I was born to be a Blues supporter… You ask yourself, are they ever going to win anything in your lifetime ? Or your dad’s ? Or your dad’s dad’s ? Or your dad’s dad’s dad’s dad’s dad’s ?”
Arena pads its prognosis of Sandra Bernhard by professing to examine the “myth of her sexual ambiguity” and androgynous looks”, and lots of nonsense about her being “a sexual terrorist of comedy” and “one of the most recognisable faces of the counter-culture scene.”
The greater mystery is how Bernhard can claim that, by entertaining the mainstream, people will learn to be comfortable with gay women when her whole personality is designed to make people as uncomfortable as possible.
No good jokes, shit singing and, mysteriously no one good anecdote, the highlight being an analysis of Bernhard’s lips from one Abel Zeballos of California State University, Fullerton. Abel says here, is a Professor of Make-Up.
Someone should do a documentary on him.

Arena – Confession of A Pretty Lady: Fri, 11.15pm-12am
Inside Story – The Manageress: Wed, 9.40pm-10.30pm, BBC1
True Stories – Tracking Down Maggie: Thu, 9.30pm-11.05pm, C4