TUBE TALK With John T. Forde: What the Butler Saw
WHAT THE BUTLER
Just when TV is becoming so bad, so boring and so banal that chewing your own arm off starts looking like a riveting evening’s entertainment, along comes some fun, trashy Brit TV to take the edge off.
Last week’s British butler scandal sure put the Fun and Fucked Up back into the Royal Family. Secret letters, taped confessions, butlers being buggered, and the Queen’s last-minute intervention – this scandal truly had it all. True to form, TV1 shoved off its regular primetime queen, Graham Norton, and screened Diana’s Rock, a reverential two-part doco on Paul Burrell, Diana’s sweet, chinless, Labrador-like butler. Burrell nursed the late princess through the last stages of severe media-induced passive-aggression and bulimia, only to be accused of theft and trialled for the best part of two years.
“Didn’t he do well?” we all cooed, as he sat, stoic but compassionate, revealing the various evils of the Spencers, the Royals (and apparently everyone else but him and his family) towards our Di. Still, it was hard to suppress a sob as he described having to sell cookery books to support his family as his trial costs mounting. (Mercifully, we were spared the ubiquitous shot of Elton John crying in bad Versace as he sung “Candle In the Wind”.)
We never quite found out what Paul’s dumpy wife thought of her husband rifling through Di’s wardrobe and telling her to wear little black dresses to upstage Charles, but all seemed to be well. Sweet chinless Englishmen are mostly harmless – until they become Tory MPs and fall out of closets with oranges stuffed in their mouths.
On the All (English) Men Are Freaks front, TV4 seems to be doing pretty well with Love In The 21st Century (Tuesdays, 8.30pm) – a kind of Sex And The City with a chain-smoking, chip-eating Northern English twist.
Relationship comedies are a mind-numbingly common sight on TV these days, especially since most feature the same cookie-cutter cast of feisty, self-absorbed funksters living in the same improbably palatial apartments, who pass continual judgement on everyone they meet but just want to be loved for their inner adorable selves.
Love bypasses the bollocks by avoiding the sentimentality and keeping the action light, silly and true to the obsessions and jealousies of modern sex lives.
The series got off to an endearingly nutty start last week with two episodes – “Reproduction”, about Fay, a 30 year-old fish ‘n chip shop worker who goes hunting for the perfect sperm donor, and “Threesome”, about two slapper flatmates and the cute doctor they play bed-tennis with.
“Reproduction’s” Fay is truly a woman of the new millennium. After ripping condom packets open enthusiastically with her teeth, and building up an impressive sperm bank in her fridge, she decides – yahoo! – that easy sex with a sterile doctor and no kids is a better option. All the series needs now for blockbuster success is an episode featuring two horny butlers.