8. Criminal

Jim Shelley encounters the long arm of the law

Tapehead no 8

It’s a wonderful week for criminal taping – Mary Whitehouse will be whirring away on all cylinders.

One of he many impressive things about Homicide – Life On The Street, the showy, grainy, gritty, Hill Street Blues for today, is the makers’ almost total disregard for viewers’ needs.

You’ll need to watch it on tape in order to play da thing back, you know? Like, to understand it. Right?

Homicide somehow manages to be noisy and mumbled. It’s messy and slick. Homicide makes Wild Palms look positively comprehensible.

Episode four is a blinder.
“Munch, did you ever do it with a hooker?” asks the estimable Ned Beatty.
“Did you ever meet my first wife?”

The highlight is a long conversation between country boy officer Beau Felton and super-cool dude Detective Pembleton during which Felton (Daniel Baldwin) complains about the demise of the now politically incorrect word, blacks.

“Afro Americans is too big. Using the name of the entire continent…it’s too general.”

Star of the show is Lieutenant Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto) who looks as if he’s being pushed around on wheels.

More juicy crime with Great Crimes and Trials of the 20th Century – this week, homicidal gangster Dillinder – not to mention the 40 Minutes film of police surgeon
Dr. Peter Green, an experienced aficionado of delights such as the difference between Brixton (stabbings and bitings) and Streatham (punchings and stabbings).

Snappily-subtitled, Crime Is A Fashion Like Any Other, 40 Minutes is like Dr Green’s personal audition for Homicide.

Great Commanders features Napoleon, a man who “learned a great deal about the art of warfare from books.” TapeHead’s search for these books has taken in several of the nation’s libraries.

“I have fought 60 battles,” said Nappy, “and yet I know nothing now which I did not know at the beginning.”
Bit of a waste of time then, wasn’t it?

Napoleon was somewhere between master criminal and arch-protector – “a great, bad, man,” as Detective Munch would put it. This episode details Napoleon’s “new kind of war” and his greatest triumph, an ingenious trap based around selling the Austrian army a dummy worthy of the great Eric Cantona.

“He could master detail without wallowing around in it.” Blimey.

Arch-tattooist Lal Hardy, who appears in Open Space: Knuckles of Love and Hate, is, of course, completely cuddly, rather than criminal, as TapeHead himself found out when Lal decorated a certain part of TapeHead’s anatomy with a tattoo of a TV remote control. One woman here says “wasps survive well, and they’re good breeders.” Maybe, but does that mean you have to have them tattooed all over your body ?

Whether the very nice ventriloquist, Scarlet Watt in Short Stories (hopelessly subtitled Distant Voices, Still Lips) will ever turn into spooky old Anthony Hopkins in Magic remains to be seen, but there are glimpses that he might. He obviously loves his dummy.

And speaking of dummies…Black Tie, White Noise, in which David Bowie talks about things like living on the edge of life.

“That’s the problem with life,” Bowie says in his best Tommy Steele Chirpy Cockney, “It’s got more than two sides.”

You’re killing us Dave when you should be killing yourself before it’s too late.

Although the pop promos (Bowie’s best artform) are fabulous (they’re all surface – good-looking surface), Bowie’s problem is that, in interviews, he displays all the profundity of Hilda Ogden.

How anyone who was once David Bowie (the great master of the art of Looking Good Smoking) could come to this is …well criminal.

David Bowie would turn in his grave.

Collector’s Tape 14
• Great Commanders: Sun, C4, 8pm-8.45pm
• Homicide: Mon, C4, 9pm-10pm
• 40 Minutes: Tue, BBC2, 9.50pm-10.20pm
• Great Crimes and Trials of the 20th Century: Tue, BBC2, 4.30pm
• Open Space: Wed, BBC2, 7.30pm-7.35pm
• Short Stories: Fri C4, 8pm-8.30pm
• Black Tie, White Noise: Fri, BBC1, 11.20pm-11,21pm, one minute should be enough