64. Problems

Tapehead no 64

Three much-maligned, attention-seeking, male figures dominate this week’s viewing: Imran Khan, Meat Loaf, and an 11-year-old boy called Evan.

The Witness Special: Imran Khan – Life After Cricket, starts with a look at Imran’s recent wedding but quickly moves on to his political aspirations.

“Where others have failed,” the narrator wonders, “could Imran turn the dessert into water?” Er, probably not.

We see Imran strolling, statesman-like, amidst the people, laying hands on sick children, smiling handsomely, listening attentively: all the give-away signs, in fact, of the truly insincere, voraciously ambitious bastard.

He criticises Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, for “relying on rhetoric” – which is, in itself disingenuous rhetoric of the highest order. 

What Imran represents and offers the people of Pakistan is an interesting set of contradictions: 

i) A public-school-educated populist whose very nature is to be aristocratic.

ii) A conceited man, politically calculating but personally naïve, trying to conduct himself as a theologian.

iii) A compassionate man who only started caring about the poor when his own mother was sick.

iv) A man of the (Pakistani) people who has just married the daughter of a multi-millionaire English businessman.

In other words, Tapehead would not trust Imran Khan further than he could throw him. Or bowl him.

The same could doubtless be said of Al Teller, chairman of MCA, and the man responsible for giving us Meat Loaf’s comeback and featured in The Music Biz.

Put simply, Al is the owner of the funniest, most dubious hairpiece on TV this week. It sits, more like a tee-pee than a toupe, on his head, with Al talking all the while as if he was totally unaware it was even there.

“The strategy behind the campaign,” he says, “was quite simple: make a great record.”

Obviously no one has dared tell him, “Al, that is not a strategy” that’s common fucking sense and the least anyone could have expected.

Unfortunately, 50 minutes of The Loaf is tedious whichever way you look at it/him. The programme’s message – “marketing and making promo videos are just ways of selling records” – is not exactly inspired.

At first it seems that 11-year-old Ontario boy Evan (True Stories: The Trouble With Evan) could give Imran and Meat Loaf lessons in being unappealing.

Shy, mumbling, his emotions so internalised he is virtually insipid, Evan already ploughs through stolen beers and cigarettes, and “displays pyromaniac tendencies”.

His mum and step-father are becoming desperate, distraught. 

Heat-sensitive video cameras are installed to capture the action and on the very first day of taping, Evan is in trouble again – “for sabotaging his teacher’s coffee cup” (with paint).

Throughout, Evan’s main defence tactic, sensibly, is: deny everything.

Under increasing pressure, the violent rows mount. Unhappy and unhinged, emotionally inadequate, both parents rally together and spend more and more time bullying and berating Evan.

They take Positive Parenting classes and talk to kids in a Young Offenders Institution. “For legal reasons” the kids are wearing hockey masks, though we can still see clearly what they look like. (They look like The Phantom Of The Opera or Jason from Friday The 13th – i.e. bloody terrifying.)

On March 6, the narrator reports, “Karen is hopeful things have finally tuned round.” (Oh no.) Twelve days later, we see Mike screaming at Evan for stealing cigarettes and deploying that reverse tactic that parents think is so clever – trying to force him to smoke the whole packet.

In what is presumably a tactic they did not pick up in Positive parenting class, his parents finally tell Evan that his is not their kid any more. He can come and go as he please, make his own dinner (“Jam sandwiches or shit sandwiches, we don’t care”). The rest of the family are going on holiday, so he better find somewhere to live for three weeks. They don’t sit on the fence. 

As Mike spells it out (“Sayonara Kiddo”), it becomes tragically clear. 

The trouble with Evan is… his parents.


The Music Biz: Mon, 9.40pm-10.30pm, BBC2

Witness Special: Tues, 9pm-10pm, C4

True Stories: Thurs, 9.30pm-11.10pm, C4