92. Bacon

Tapehead no 92

Okay, okay, so Tapehead was wrong about Karaoke. 

Compared to this week’s episode, last week’s opener was fast, funny, post-modern indictment of the sick state of the human soul and the fine line between fantasy and reality. Certainly nothing in last week’s was remotely as slow and pointless as the scene in which Liz Smith (over-acting almost as badly as Richard E Grant) slips an armpit hair in Roy “Kazy Lunt” Hudd’s egg sandwich. Laugh ?! Tapehead had to reach for the dictionary.

This week’s episode sees Potter’s self-parody dragged to a new nadir with a simpleton’s allusions to the Garden of Eden and nauseating doses of sentimentally.

“I can remember when I could make a whole ward sing” says the misty-eyed, bed-ridden writer (Finney/Potter), harping back to the good old days of his early, funny series – like The Singing Detective. Thanks for reminding us, Dennis, so can we. 

“What’s it called then, your story ?” asks his (evidently rather thick) heroine, to groans from viewers at home.

All together now: “It’s called Karaoke. I called it Karaoke because the song, or the story, of our lives is sort of already made up for us.”

And so on, and so on, presumably for the next two weeks.

Frankly in terms of writing for TV, The Bill’s in a different league.

Speaking of bright ideas, the BBC has got Carla Lane to revive The Liver Birds along with Nerys Hughes, Polly James and Michael Angelis – a veritable group of clapped-out Scouse talent, the creative equivalent of a Nolan Sisters Christmas Special or The Who reforming. 

You know a new series is already in trouble when the exciting, new, ingredient is provided by (oh God) Mollie Sugden (as Nerys Hughes’s mum). Like putting a big sin up on the screen saying: “RUN OUT OF IDEAS”, except more expensive.

Somewhere between the fake intellectualism of Dennis Pervert and the sheer Scouse stupidity of Carla, we have The Works, which purportedly seeks to elucidate the link between Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X and Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes series.

Psychoanalyst Darian Leader hops from half-baked theory to thoroughly foolish theory, hoping that all piled together, we’ll think they’ll mean something.

Bacon’s Pope paintings flick past us so quickly that we’re not allowed to form our own opinions and we are left wrestling with the sort of scrambled, pedestrian script that makes Potter look concise and relevant.

For instance, lines like “Bacon’s father ran the household like a platoon,” are immediately followed by footage of a Sergeant Major shouting – just in case you didn’t know what a platoon was. 

Bacon’s own father is said to have looked like Innocent (although so did Terry Thomas on this evidence), but Leader dismisses this theory as being far too obvious (and presumably brief), despite Bacon’s much-documented antipathy towards him.

Instead, he tries to twist Bacon’s asthma and his aversion to his father’s beloved horses from being a symbol of the distance between them into some sort of “sign of love”.

Although it’s supposed to be about Velazquez, Einstein’s Battleship Potemkin and Poussin’s Massacre Of The Innocents are thrown in for good measure. Bacon regarded the mother’s scream in the latter as the most powerful in art, but Leader focuses on the doomed child instead, “very graphically gasping for breath” (his mouth’s open) – an obvious link with Bacon’s asthma and the, er, Battleship.

From here, the final link is Bacon’s Arab Walking With Child, which is not even part of the Popes series, though Leader gushed that, “the form can hardly fail to evoke that of The Popes.”

Well it can actually.


Karaoke: Sun, 9.30pm, BBC1

The Liver Birds: Mon, 8.30pm, BBC1

The Works: Tues, 8pm, BBC2