6. Basking

Jim Shelley prepares for another week of basking in cathode rays.

Tapehead no 6

“Look at that dreadful man,” laments Alan Clark, languidly, as he watches a video of himself aged 30 getting married to his lovely 16-year-old bride in the BBC’s legendary profile, Love Tory.

“Jane’s hardly changed at all while my face is corroded by mis-deeds and self-indulgence of every kind.” Tapehead’s kind of man. Vintage material all. Tapehead’s favourite clip is the slow-motion footage of Clark, sitting next to a resplendent Mrs T on the front bench as she assaults the opposition. Clark is not listening. He is leaning back, lasciviously eyeing up Thatcher from behind. A genuine cove and a vegetarian to boot. Later, as Clark watches an old clip of himself on Question Time (circa 1984), and a rather flushed Sue Lawley misquotes him, Clark shouts damningly at the screen: “Silly bitch.”

Jim Taggart is also assuredly Tapehead’s kind of man, or would be if Tapehead could understand a word the
Scots ‘tec is saying. Short of following the show on teletext, taping and replaying Taggart is essential, not least to appreciate the way he pronounces ‘murder’ as if it were an expletive: “Morrdagh !” he goes.

Although milder than usual, after a healthy bunch of morrdagh, you can bet that in this, the conclusion of a three-parter, the whole cast of suspects will meet with a gory, exciting, end. God knows what sort of misdeeds and self-indulgence Taggart has gone through to get such a face. Great closing music lyrics: “This is no mean town/No mean ciddeh.”

Stylish and commanding, Paul Ross each month begins one of the country’s greatest, juiciest shows, Crime Monthly, with a wildly sensational, exhilarating opening introduction as if his life depended on it.

This week, the Special Operations Unit follows police trapping juvenile snatch squads in Covent Garden and the Casebook looks at the “baffling” case of an old lady found drowned after the car she and her piano teacher niece had been driving in broke down.

“Was it possible for her to walk to the river unaided ? And could the frail old woman have fallen into the water accidentally ?” wonders Ross, licking his lips in expectation. Not likely.

Some light relief and extraordinarily bad acting in the form of this week’s re-run of the first episode of Sir Peter Hall’s The Camomile Lawn, a sort-of silly, adult Five Go Mad in Cornwall and one of the worst shows you could ever hope to tape, even worse than Euro-Trash or The Danny Baker Show. Five minutes is enough for anyone to take. Tape them carefully.

Numerous high/low points through the week: barking mad over-acting by Paul Eddington, Felicity Kendall trying to play an old lady, Oliver’s swimming trunks, and everything Calypso does or says, Viz: “What’s that?” she asks the ludicrously pompous Olly-vah. “My cock,” he says, “I’ve got an erection. And I want to poke it into you.” Amazing.

Cool yourself off with five minutes of the first-ever European 9-Ball Pool Masters, which manages to be both fantastically complex (even the commentator can’t follow all the rules) while being almost pathetically straightforward (the pockets are the size of buckets). Each frame lasts about 25 seconds. The commentators though, are Beckett-like in their brilliance.

“A difficult pot,” says one. “Not easy,” replies the other. Last week one commentator achieved legendary status by describing an unsuccessful break-off thus: “That, as the Americans would say, was a woman’s break: a big bust but no balls.”

If pool is a sport, then so are most things.

Collector’s Tape 6
• The Camomile Lawn, “the Terror Run”, Sat 9, C4 9.28pm-10.03pm
• European 9-Ball Pool Masters, Sun 10, LWT, 3.50aam-3.55am
• Love Tory, Sun 10, BBC2 11.15pm-12.05am
•Taggart, Thu 14, Carlton, 9pm-10pm
• Crime Monthly, Fri 15, LWT, 10.40pm – 11.40pm