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46. Slobs

Jim Shelley wants a little brown baby
Tapehead no 46

This week Tapehead closes his search for prospective alternative employment with the Cutting Edge film about a bunch of disillusioned no-hopers (much like Tapehead himself), among them a booker, a bunnygirl, and a woman who teaches people with learning difficulties, all embarking on a military-style endurance course designed to find out whether they’ve got what it takes to be bodyguards. (£650, if you’re interested.)

The course in Bournemouth is run by a troupe of ex-commandos who, if nothing else, look the part: pushing their chests out as they walk, swearing loudly, repeatedly, looking like Grant Mitchell.

Through the course, the commandos pass on their vital experience: working with handguns shielding VIPs emerging from limousines and, er, talking like Grant Mitchell.

Pompous authority and general bouncer mentality are reinforced by lots of military machismo – “We try not to call it a gun. Engage the weapon” – and abuse of the earhole: “Get your fucking arses in gear. Now ! You have eight seconds. One, think. Two, think. Free. Think !”

It’s January, 4am, and the potential bodyguards spend an unnatural (not to say, unhealthy) amount of time slogging up steep slopes, running by torchlight, flogged until they throw up.

The logic of abusing their clients mentally and physically, the commandos explain, with Mitchell-worthy charm, is: “because once we’ve got someone worn down, we can have a look at their true character.”

A gentle voice-over usually follows, saying something like, “Cold, exhausted, under pressure… most fail the gun test.”

The final practical exam is a two-day stay at a country hotel protecting a VIP. 20 years’ worth of accidents are crammed into two days (from assassinations to visits to the toilet) with a series of traps to test their initiative and awareness under pressure.

Sadly, the students’ restaurant operation is about as low-key as an Iraqi invasion. Back at the hotel, the VIP ends up assassinated on the library floor covered in sheep’s intestines (an unusual method of assassination but still…) as the bodyguards look on.

“You’re DEAD !” a course commando screams to one of them. “Lie down.”

Deciding bodyguarding is not all it could be. Tapehead turns to criminal profiling and Cracker.

Fitz’s case centres round a fantastically creepy crowd of religious nutters in a tale of sleazy cults, hidden lust and fantastical/broken faith, not to mention more slow-motion shots of roses than you can shake a stick at.

Coltrane is in subdued form, until he gets a line like, “Marriage isn’t five furlongs on the flat on a spring afternoon at York. It’s four miles over heavy ground at Newton Abbot with November mist descending,” to work on. (So good he says it twice).
Dead romantic.

All in all, it looks like TH’s only spiritual cousins remain in Harry Enfield And Chums, namely Wayne and Waynetta Slob.

After 10 years of marriage, Waynetta wants to split up – on the perfectly reasonable grounds that being happily married to the same person for 10 years is “unnatural” and causing the social services concern.

“I’m 26 years old, Wayne,” nags Waynetta. “I’m not getting any younger. I should be a single mother by now.”

Then there are the kids to think about.
“The other day, Frogmella asked me ‘why haven’t I got a little brown sister like all the other kids on the estate ?’ She’s getting teased by the others: ‘You’ve got a daddy ! You’ve got a daddy !”

Wayne laments that he too has reached That Difficult Age, “too old to be a rent boy, too young to be a wino.”

A dilemma Tapehead knows only too well.

Cracker, 9-10pm, Mon, Carlton
Cutting Edge, 9pm, Mon, C4
Harry Enfield And Chums, 9.30pm, Fri, BBC1