36. Body Language

Jim Shelley goes ape

Tapehead no 36

The original Naked Ape-man, Desmond Morris, returns this week with The Human Animal which begins (promisingly) with the inspiring sight of a naked man and woman gliding in slow motion through a crowded shopping centre, a pleasurable part of the weekly shop Tapehead knows only too well.

Morris starts with The Language of the Body, looking at gestures of approval, disagreement, greeting, and abuse and goes human-watching around the world to find examples – from the traffic police in Rome, the stock exchange in Bombay, and the ranters of Speakers’ Corner to dog-track tick-tack men, American Football coaches, and synchronized swimmers.

Watch out too for a distinct lack of smiling from the winner of the World Poker Championships as he receives has £1 million cash – poker faced all the way to the bank.

Well worth practicing is the body language in Bulgaria, where a subliminal affirmative (yes, to you or me) is indicated both by a nod up and down and a sideways wobble of the head.

“This,” says Morris, “creates total confusion. Why on earth they should do all this remains a mystery – even to them.”

Thoroughly instructional television, learn how to lie without body language (special note to Mrs Desmond Morris to tape this episode).

Insult-wise, footage of Harvey Smith’s two-fingered salute is all very well but Tapehead is particularly taken with the Greek hand gesture that, according to Morris, means “excrement being pushed into the victim’s face.”

He would relish the chance to use this gesture himself – mostly on several members of Brookside.

Elsewhere this week, Tapehead’s main body language remains the involuntary click of the thumb that indicates the remote is being pressed.

The principal hand gesture during Short Stories: The Pitcher – “the greatest market trader that ever lived” who knocks out rubbish down at Birmingham’s Bull Ring – is probably the gimme-gimme-gimme open palm of the hordes of punters clamouring for The Pitch’s give-away goods.

“Don’t charge him eight. Don’t charge him seven. Don’t charge him six…”

The Pitcher buys things that cost £8 and sells them for a £1. “How do I make a profit? Buy ’em for less than they sell. Which I think is the theory of business.”

Let’s hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer is taping.

The body language in Paramedics, where this week the Ambulancemen (sorry, ambulance technicians) are on duty for New Year’s Eve, mainly consists of people holding their head as the Great British public celebrates New Year by puking up, trying to commit
suicide, and stabbing each other. (And all because of Andy Stewart).

Mercifully Medics, where even the surgeons are sick, is getting gorier, meatier, and juicier in every sense, and in terms of people spewing blood, rapidly heading into Casualty territory.

“Let’s take out the spleen and then get her straight down for a brain scan.”

So far in the new series, the gloriously camp Tom Baker’s hairdo has battled it out with Sue Johnston’s, who has been getting it on with the evil administrator who gets his kicks by rigging drugs trials.

Apart from a kid who pours bleach all over his birthmark, the current storyline is a rather tasty hepatitis patient.

“She’s been incubated and ventilated, her abdomen’s distended,” says the doc, rapping like a sonofabitch from South Central.

Watch out for Baker, leering into the camera like Igor, asking the parents if he can transplant a diseased patient’s organs. Virtually licking his lips, his impression of Jeffrey Dahmer speaks for itself.
Requires no body language at all.

Moving and sensational, Medics gets Tapehead’s thumbs up all the way.


The Human Animal: Wed, 9.30pm-10.20pm, BBC1
Short Stories – The Pitcher: Wed, 8.30pm-9pm, C4
Paramedics: Fri, 8.30pm-9pm, BBC1
Medics: Tues, 9pm-10pm, Carlton