83. Genius

Tapehead no 83

It’s not often you feel any sort of sympathy for anyone whose jobs is “something in the music business”. But when “multi-millionaire” Nick Stolberg and Paul Hawkins re-enter The Biz to assemble “the new Take That” (not the most original or noble of missions), Inside Story manages it.

Auditions are so painful you can’t help but feel (momentarily) sorry for the two masterminds, even if they do declare with a pout that what they are looking for are boys who are “fresh, eager to be moulded.”

The Audition number (Love Me For A Reason) is an inspired choice, full of wince-inducing high notes and great singing-in-the shower opportunities. Watch out for the Lee Sharpe-lookalike who announces his arrival with an energetically flash dance routine, then massacres every note known to man.

The real stars are the parents who have the temerity to scupper the Svengali’s plans by consulting a music business solicitor and wonder aloud what Jean-Paul Gaultier’s got that Marks & Spencer hasn’t.

Having perfected the group’s image, Nick and Paul realize that they have overlooked just one thing: the songs.

(Rather irritatingly, Take That have ruined the conventional Boy Bands stereotype by writing their own material.)

So they visit a music publisher and listen to potential “hits” with fingers pressed to their temples, eyes tightly closed while the publisher energetically rocks outs and grooves down, as if she’s trying to convince them this is the natural reaction anyone would have if they heard it.

“I think it sounds like a smash,” they chirp when they find the right one. And, indeed, it is a hit. (It’s Careless Whisper.)

After a year’s work and quarter of a million dollars of Nick’s money, the song, the video and the band are all pretty good. Only for the two big shots to screw the whole thing up by calling the band Upside Down. Tragic.

More behind-the-scenes musical inside in The House, which looks at the snobbery and vendettas, the chaos and ineptitude that is The Royal Opera House.

In the first of an obviously addictive series of six, the stars are divine diva Denyce Graves (“I swear apples make you sing better, I really believe that”) and director of public affairs Keith Cooper who is set upon purging The House of his inferiors.

“Andrew is still a problem,” he informs one meeting, “that will need to be resolved in some way…Andrew has neither the seniority, nor I think does he have the intelligence, to cope…”

Keith has been receiving hate mail, though he claims to be unable to quote any of it.

Ms Graves, meanwhile, having lost her voice and collapsed at the end of the opening Carmen, visits a Harley Street specialist who begins his examination of her vocal cords by announcing, “First, I’m going to look in your nose.”

The week’s star expert, though, is Andrew Wiles, a shy Cambridge bod, who from the age of 10 has been obsessed with solving the world’s greatest puzzle: Format’s Last Theorem, which has baffled mathematicians for over 300 years and will now do the name of viewers of Horizon for half an hour on Monday.

The solution to the theorem (something to do with Pythagoras, the Horizontal Iurasawa Theory and doughnuts) was so elusive that 

no-one else was even trying to solve it when Wiles “gave up everything” (including sex and water?) to spend seven years in his study scribbling down. Equations.

This bizarre, utterly compelling suspense story is told superbly despite a variety of Andrews’s egghead colleagues who say things like, “All I had to do was add on some extra gamma-zero venstructure. As simple as it sounds, it had never occurred to me !”

and guffaw merrily about how stupid they were.

Wile’s secrecy and subterfuge became so great that, in order to consult another expert without arousing too much suspicion or interest, he gave a course of lectures – one which only his colleague would be able to understand (and thus attend !)

Rather than “Eureka!” he describes discovering the first solution as “the most important moment of my life…so simple and elegant.”

Amazingly, to present the world with his findings, he quietly, casually, gave another lecture without revealing the point or the punch-line. What a showman !”

Final proof ! Mathematics… It’s the new rock ‘n’ roll.


Inside Story: Thu, 10.00pm-10.50pm, BBC1

The House,: Tue, 9.30pm-10.30pm, BBC2

Horizon: Mon, 8.00-8.50pm, BBC2