4. Yackety

Jim Shelley tapes a week of yackety-schmackety TV and predicts that one day we will all be like him

Tapehead no 4


Adhering to a strictly disciplined routine practised by Taoist monks, Tapehead’s first task of very week is to tape Taz (“the Taz-man! The Taz-ster! Taz-eroonie! Taz-ola”), the brother Tapehead never had.

Even James Joyce couldn’t do justice to the linguistic madness that is Taz (Taz-manian Devil, What’s Up Doc).
Saturday’s episode, Ticket Taker Taz, not only features Taz’s sister (“Okay, Mr Drooling-As-An-Form”) but Taz’s dad, who invariably takes Taz into mad, mad, post-post-modernism: “just thought I’d mosey on by in a
fatherly-like cameo.”

As he puts it: “makes a father proud just to blah-blah-blah, yes indeed. Together it’s simply yackety-schmackety.”

The human equivalent of Taz could only be Spike Milligan or Spine Norrington as he likes Tapehead to call him. The compilations of Spike’s seventies series, Q Milligan, have been rigorously edited and any shreds of sanity clinically removed, showing up Reeves and Mortimer for the dullards they are.

Last week’s Q included plenty of Hitler, Prince Philip and Batman all with their trousers down, and cameos from Katie Boyle, a live elephant, Tony Gubba and the music from The Onedin Line. What’s a geriatric?
“When a German footballer scores three goals.”

Q has to be taped – not to understand it (not even Tapehead can understand it) but to see it, to believe that it ever existed. “Hello, good evening, and OBE.”

Whether Milligan was on television because he was mad, or whether it was television that drove him mad is a close one. Perhaps we can view Channel 4’s coverage of the World Chess Championships as a test case. Will being on television playing slow motion chess for weeks on end affect the players’ sanity ? Nigel Short has already gone doo-lally. Why else does he speak as if he is Bulgarian ? And why else does he wear glasses that have chess boards imposed over the lenses ? No wonder he’s losing.

Kasparov is too good-looking to be mad. Kasparov looks like Brando in Last Tango in Paris. Tapehead can confidently predict that in Tuesday’s taped section, Kasparov, wearing one of those fabulous Alan Hansen suits, will ponder and frown and clench his jaw for an exhilarating, Brando-esque 22 minutes. Of course, he’s method-acting. He knows how to win all along. Kasparov’s victory speech ? “Makes you fell all blah-blah-blah, yes indeed. And then again, yackety-schmackey.”

Tapehead finds that trying to comprehend the madness that is Channel 4’s chess coverage – especially Carol Voderperson’s hair – often requires large quantities of illegal pharmaceuticals or at least a tape of Small Objects of Desire: The Syringe, which includes mad footage of William Burroughs jacking up, Hitler on amphetamines, and “a few drops of strycchnine on the point of a wooden barb thrust into the rump of a dog.” Lovely.

Understanding Saturday’s Me-TV, which examines the advent of interactive television, may drive you mad but will at least give you a clue to the television madness that awaits us; a kind of intravenous television, lucid madness. Total TV.

The chairman of the QVC home shopping channel, Barry Diller, is not on television because he is mad but because he is television, the king of interactive television, future TV that will allow viewers to instruct their TVs to show them anything they want, including computer games, video telephones, electronic mail and home shopping for everything.

Freeze-frame on the QVC home shopping phone number to order a Ruby cascade ring (“Oh that’s breath-taking…a true adventure into the law of gemstones. Oh its
lux-ur-ious”) is recommended by Marie Osmond, who could sell Tapehead shares in De Loren.

Mad Name of the Week, Michael Schrage (“Technology Critic”) explains how, once interactive television has taken over our lives, your television will become its own filter, scanning the millions of channels and, taking your previous selections, make your viewing choices for you. Hence, Me-TV. Mad-TV more like. A TVOD is just a few decades away. One day everyone will be like Tapehead. Barry Diller says so. Clearly, we need to live forever.

Tape on.

Collector’s Tape Four
• What’s Up Doc (2×2 mins), Sat 25, ITV, 9.25am – 11.30am
• MeTV, Sat 25, BBC2, 8.30-9.10pm
• Q Milligan Sun 26, BBC29.05-9.35
• The world Chess Championship, Tu 28, C4, 3.30pm-4.30pm
• Small Objects of Desire – The Syringe, Thu 30, BBC2, 10.10-10.30pm