Belfast Telegraph

Embarrassing Bodies a cocktail of titillation and mock concern that's hard to swallow

TV View: The programmes to watch...and the ones you really want to miss

By Joe Nawaz

With my registered finger liberally inked in post-election despond, I was going to comment on how what a dismal week it truly was for Norn Iron, when a supposed "fresh-start" political party imploded in a puff of rather whiffy sectarianism on the eve of election day, with a somewhat confused sounding Basil McCrea on Radio Ulster being the rather red-faced cherry atop the seedy cake.

It was also the week when UTV Live had both a golf "journalist" AND a showbiz "writer" on at the same time, thereby allowing us to compare and contrast as to which was the most pointless profession (I know, I know), whilst excavating improbable nuggets of insight into why somebody we don't know decided not to get married to somebody else we don't care about.

Thank the Almighty, then, that a friend recommended that I check out Embarrassing Bodies: Live From The Clinic (C4). If ever a television programme was devised with one eye on a dystopian future where proles exposed themselves for entertainment, it was this sinister cocktail of titillation, mock concern and Wikipedia diagnosis.

It's a programme, in fact, that might have sprung forth from the pen of dystopian visionary Aldous Huxley, had he lived in the era of Big Brother.

"Full nudity! Examinations! Graphic images!" the voiceover promised us plebs, before cutting to an opening sequence where the handsome, airbrushed, notably unembarrassed bodies of the presenters where shown in silhouette.

One was gasping at a spurting syringe, another lubing up a middle finger for an at-best semi-medical procedure and another still, seemingly undressing perfectly healthy-looking men. Think opening credits of Holby City done in the style of James Bond.

Then for the presenters proper, Dr Pixie, Christian Jessen and the lady in red, all perfect specimens of medically trained alpha-ness, safely ensconced in their futuristic lab/studio, with a smug factor set to the alarming level of three Mike Nesbitts.

"However embarrassed you feel get in touch!" commanded Dr Christian. Forgetting to add: "It's what this bloody show's all about after all."

If Jeremy Kyle selflessly tends to the social and psychological needs of the great unwashed, then Embarrassing Bodies looks after its more, um, physical concerns, from your "tonsils to testicles, bottoms to boobs".

So we had a guy called Ross showing us his disgusting warts on the end of his nose. "Warts" nodded Dr Christian sagely. "Margaret, 42" was up next. From the relatively safe distance of her home in Stirling, she showed us her infected breasts.

"Infected" commented the woman in red. "Seven years is too long to have that Margaret," added Dr Christian. Which made one wonder, who waits seven years with such a horrible ailment, only to break the agonised silence by "getting them out" on national telly? The answer it would appear was "Margaret, 42".

But not every unsightly body part was fit for public consumption, "Robert, 42" had shooting pains up his bum. Unlike Ross and Margaret 42, there was no request to "pop your bum up there for the camera". It was a family show after all.

"Could be a prostate problem," mused Jessen, trigger finger twitching. But his heart, and Robert's bottom, weren't really in it.

In between we got to look up Dr Pixie's shapely nose, look at various body parts and learned our medical word of the week (pathology, if anybody's interested).

But, really, the unpleasant sensation of a sanitised, medically approved Lord Of The Flies prevails throughout this astonishingly sinister programme.

Nadirs all round then, it seems.


I cannot tell a lie, this courtroom drama was just priceless

I couldn't not mention this particular TV-related zinger that took place in a courtroom this week, where the good name of Stephen Nolan was invoked, then impugned by one of those apparently out-of-touch judges.

He obviously hadn't heard the warts and all Gerry Kelly (the one who definitely wasn't in the IRA) interview with Nolan on Radio Ulster last Saturday.

Or heard Nolan replay a chunk of it on his show on Wednesday, for those tragic few that might have missed it the first time.

Mr Justice Weir probably didn't get a proper flavour of the humility that Stephen spontaneously conveyed when lightly grilled (or was it basted?) by Kelly, when he was contemplating the case of one Frederick Boyd, facing charges of disorderly behaviour for flag-related shenanigans.

If he'd listened to Nolan laying himself bare on Gerry's slab of investigative slap and tickle, he would perhaps have been more sympathetic to the defendant’s plea to go on Jeremy Kyle to clear his name on separate charges through that show's famously effective lie detector test. Having never heard of Kyle though, Mr Justice Weir asked if it was anything like the Stephen Nolan Show.

When told it was “more extreme”, Weir replied: “I can't for a minute imagine that.”



That’s what i call divine intervention

I'm not religious, but perhaps a touch of that ole Whitewell fever infected the airwaves at UTV the other night.

I was settling down to Emmerdale (in need of a televisual sedative) on Tuesday when the voice of continuity announcer Gilian Porter was seemingly taken over by the voice of God as it magnified, contorted and boomed out imperiously from the heavens “There's a chance to see an episode of Endevour”.

Now it may have been a sudden studio feedback error, but I prefer to think the Almighty, far from being a twitching red-neck, actually enjoys a ruddy good, well-paced crime drama. The divine, they say, can manifest itself in many ways, and expressing appreciation of early Morse is as convincing as anything else I've heard this week.


Switch on...

Wallander (BBC4)

Yes, yes I know it has subtitles. But the Swedish Wallander on BBC4 is still better than our Kenny Branagh's "English" version. Anyway — dark, swirly Scandinavian thrills abound.


Switch off...

Election (various)

The votes are in and election coverage has to be the worst kind of programming there is, and this recent batch of debate, discourse and dissection was one of the longest howls into the void we've allowed into our living rooms for quite some time.

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