CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Why make a fuss about a blink-and-you-miss-it scandal?
George Michael: Outed (C4)
Channel 4 has had sex on the brain for 40 years. And now that its execs are in the grip of a self-righteous puritanism, it gets to talk about sex even more.
The broadcaster that brought us Naked Attraction, Sex Box and art-porn movies branded with a red triangle also loves to preach that other people’s sexual inclinations are nobody’s business but their own.
So Ch4 was hardly likely to miss the chance to go muck-raking as it marked the 25th anniversary of what one contributor called the biggest news story of the 1990s — George Michael’s arrest in a Los Angeles public toilet.
What do you mean, you’d forgotten all about that? According to George Michael: Outed (Ch4), this blink-and-you-missed-it scandal was more sensational than the death of Princess Diana or, if you really can’t stop thinking about sex, President Clinton’s messy encounter with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
My memory of George’s arrest is that the furore was over in a day. It was too sordid to last. Even the singer didn’t seem too mortified: he went out to dinner with boyfriend Kenny Goss the same evening.
According to George Michael: Outed (Ch4), this blink-and-you-missed-it scandal was more sensational than the death of Princess Diana or Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky
MARTIAL ARTS OF THE NIGHT
Jamie’s £1 Wonders (C4)
Pulling a dish of cheesy pancakes from his eye-level oven, on Jamie’s £1 Wonders (C4), Jamie Oliver impatiently shut the glass door with two high kicks, kung-fu style. ‘My legs used to get up there but my trousers are holding me back,’ he groaned. Don’t try this at home.
Later that year, in 1998, he recorded a suggestive song about his al fresco proclivities, called Outside. Not one of his best, it was Britain’s 54th best-selling single that year. This minor hit wasn’t mentioned in the show, though perhaps we’ll hear a clip in part two tonight.
Flipping back and forth between George’s early fame in Wham, when he was a teenybopper pin-up, and his humiliating arrest 15 years later, the documentary claimed that his status as a sex symbol made it almost impossible for him to be honest about his homosexuality.
That’s not true, though. You could hardly pretend David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Elton John or even Mick Jagger posed as rigidly heterosexual. And as one 1980s celeb, DJ Fat Tony, pointed out, anyone who met George could guess he was gay ‘from day one’.
‘I mean, I’m not being funny,’ Fat Tony added, ‘he was wearing espadrilles and three-quarter length jeans. All the signs were there.’
If George Michael had wanted to let the world know quietly that he was gay, he could have done it with barely a ripple. Instead, he got drunk, got naughty and got arrested.
It’s fair to assume he was looking for danger and he found it. Admitting that wouldn’t suit Ch4’s po-faced agenda, though. Their version paints the media as monsters and George as a victim.
The victim in Unforgotten (ITV) is barely more than the basis of a subplot, as the focus shifts to DI Sunny Khan (the superb Sanjeev Bhaskar)
The victim in Unforgotten (ITV) is barely more than the basis of a subplot, as the focus shifts to DI Sunny Khan (the superb Sanjeev Bhaskar).
Precious Falade, whose body was discovered in a chimney last week, turns out to have been a petty thief and drug addict, killed by a bullet to the chest. How her life was linked to some of the other characters, including a Tory politician, isn’t clear — though we now know that the violent, over-emotional restaurant manager (Martina Laird) is her mother.
As the clues fall slowly into place, our attention is on Bhaskar, giving a masterly performance as a man fighting a losing battle against change.
When his partner announced she was pregnant, Sunny smiled and tried to say the right things — but his eyes radiated a different reaction. And, though he imagines he’s keeping a poker face in the office, his stare seethes with contempt for new boss DCI James (Sinead Keenan).
Bhaskar, who began his TV career as a sketch show comedian, has evolved as an actor throughout Unforgotten. Now he’s simply outstanding.