67. Sniff

Tapehead no 67

Two men are crouched over a public toilet bowl, sniffing. 

Ah yes, you think to yourself, Channel 4 are up to their old tricks again, the dirty blighters. Never mind Sebastiane, this time they’ve gone too far. A toilet sniffers’ film season is beyond the pale. Or is it the pail ?

“What I’m trying to do,” explains one of the men with the expert air of a pretentiously precious architect or performance artist, “is move away from traditional pine and citrus and go towards a more spicy pot pourri.”

“Mm, yes, the spice note was a little over done,” concedes the second man, demonstrating he critical sniff of the true connoisseur. “But if it gets too sweet, it might lose that concept of cleanliness. I would prefer not to go in that direction.”

Such are the turmoils of concocting the perfect toilet cleaner, a modern art-form often ignored, but not to be sniffed at. And you though Mr Duck was the pinnacle of sophisticated toilet freshness.

Mystery Of The Senses begins with experts of smell (smelly experts).

“It is the cockroach that stands supreme in the world of smell,” the narrator announces. The cockroach, and the lady who designed Champagne by Yves St Laurent.

“Sophia is a nose,” explains the narrator, sounding like a surrealist poet from the 1960s.

As for the popularity of musk, make perfume manufacturer seemed to have figured, “Well, it works for the male deer. What the hell, let’s give it a shot.”

Sensibly, the programme don’t delve too deeply into the thinking behind this or ponder the consequences of getting lost in the woods wearing Denim For Men.

Next we meet “Miami’s drug drug-sniffing dogs” – ex-sniffer dogs who 

got too much of a taste for the old white stuff an never looked at another bowl of Winalot as long as they lived/sniffed. 

Miami “smell hound” Bouncer once detected a package containing 6,8001b of marijuana – not difficult, admittedly, but its a start.

To be honest the programme loses its way form the moment it suggests that women select their perfumes for their capacity to try and please men. When a survey of men concluded that they “preferred light floral smells,” Mystery‚Ķmisses a glaring example of men saying what they think they should say.

What men would like women to smell of is i) ambience du pub 

ii) fragrance du Embassy numero sette and iii) extract of Chelsea death burger.

“In the odour of young men, there is something elemental – a fire and storm that pulsates with buoyancy and desire and suggests all the things strong and beautiful and joyous” – not Shirley Conran but randy old Helen Keller.

In other words, says osmologist and perfume researcher, George Dood, “basically men are just smellier.”

In Secret Service, an expert from the Institute Of Plumbing comes in to block up a toilet all part of a bizarre undercover operation by the Trading Standards Operation in which fake house is set up to entrap “un-trusty tradesmen.”

A series of boffins come in and expertly pull wires out of the back of the TV set. Des, a Trading Standards Officer, pretends to live there. 

Amazingly, out of 14 repairmen, only seven rip him off.

The programme is presented by Dylan Winter, a man so dull and 

nauseating he makes Mike Smith look like Nick Cave.

In Shopping’s analysis of lifestyle shopping, several experts from the groovy glory that was the 1960s, drone on about how revolutionary it was when kids would go into the shops in Carnaby Street and, hey, just start dancing (crazy, crazy).

A part from endless footage of chicks in Biba, Shopping is really only worth watching for the ranting ego-mania of super-cool fashion guru John Stephen, whose tailoring revolutionised Carnaby Street.

“Ah, wood ju’s du things wit’ ma bus’ness that no one lese wood du,” he says in an almost impenetrable Glaswegian accent.

“Luke, I wood say to ma cutter, this is how it’s gunna be cut. Luke, I wood say, I know I’m not a tailor but, Juke, this is how I want it done,”

I wonder what happened to him, Luke.


Mystery Of The Senses: Sun 8pm-9pm, C4

Secret Service: Mon 7.30pm-8pm, BBC1

Shopping: Mon, 9.45pm-10.30pm, BBC2