Saturday, 19 January 2008

Last Night’s Television

Amid the much publicized drop in the show’s ratings, Coronation Street (ITV 8:00) had its first guest director last night, and early indications show that millions tuned in to see what David Lynch would do with the program. I think it’s safe to say that nobody was expecting to see Ken Barlow (William Roache) give birth to a giant, wheezing ball of living glue on Sally Webster’s living room floor, or Tyrone (Alan Halsall) get strangled by Fiz’s own guts in the Rover’s Return. The long-term ramifications don’t just extend to the characters, either. The Underworld Knickers Factory morphed into a grotesquely hellish dungeon-style location, which show insiders suggest may turn out to be the inside of a giant undulating cockroach.
While Lynch’s changes to Coronation Street have managed to grab new viewers, it remains to be seen whether this experiment will keep them. And what the future guest directors (Takeshi Miike, Alan Smithee and Bono being three of those announced) will do with Lynch’s new characters, especially Graham, the telepathic hermaphrodite, I don’t know.

Over on BBC2, The Secret Life of Clowns (9:30) was terrifyingly gripping. While much is known about the public persona of such famous clowns as Bozo, Binko and Pennywise, not a lot is known about the private lives of the less well-known ones. The program makers should be commended for their unflinching look into this seedy and frightening world of orgies, self-mutilation and sin. Watching Quentin, a part-time clown in Epping, travel straight from a child’s birthday party to an underground clown-fetish club was astonishing. Even more impressive was his flawless transition from creating cute balloon animals for the children to doing horrid, horrid things with his balloons, all for the pleasure of the perverts watching in the club. Next week’s show proves to be a real mind-bleach necessity.

Channel Five’s live coverage of the World Ker-Plunk Championships (2:00) would have been terrible, if not for the wonderful commentary by Erwin Frume. The four-time UK Ker-Plunk champion has such enthusiasm for the sport that the way he calls each play makes every dropped marble seem like a grenade down a pipe of kittens. The competitors themselves are far too serious for their own good, and more characters like Norway’s Brian “Strep Throat” Gunderssen would really help to put the sport on the World stage.

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