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Monday 11 December 2017

Bland Brit Awards fail to thrill

THE Brit Awards was a gargantuan bore. A two-hour corporate-sponsored spot interrupted by shorter corporate-sponsored spots, and hosted by James Corden, the second most irritatingly unfunny funnyman on television -- the holder, in perpetuity, of that particular accolade being Michael McIntyre.

You watch these things in the hope that something unexpected and unrehearsed will occur to break the streamlined, machine-tooled tedium of it all. Well, last night you watched in vain. This was the British music industry at its most nauseatingly self-congratulatory, even as the sales of actual, physical CDs are caught in a landslide of decline.

Everything went according to a plan drawn up using a beige felt tip pen on a lighter shade of beige paper. An award for Coldplay, who are to rock 'n' roll what Gary Glitter is to childcare. Two for Adele, plus two more for badly-peeled orange Ed Sheeran, the most narcolepsy-inducing British singer-songwriter since James Blunt.

There were small highpoints. Kylie Minogue didn't sing (or mime) and there was audible booing when One Direction picked up Best Single. But in the true, bland spirit of the evening, Corden let that pass without comment.

The only moment of mild controversy came when Corden had to interrupt Adele in mid-gush because outstanding contribution award-winners Blur, performing ahead of their corporate gig at the London Olympics, were due on stage and time was short.

It all made you yearn for the good old days of missed cues, dodgy audio and Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox stumbling over their autocued lines.

When style gurus step outside their comfort zones, it usually ends badly. Remember Trinny and Susannah's TV implosion when they tried to graduate from working with the public's bodies to working with their emotional problems?

Gok Wan has fared rather better with Gok's Teens: The Naked Truth, where he's been a beacon of warmth, understanding and encouragement to teenagers troubled by everything from body image to bullying to sexuality.

In last night's final episode he met young carers. He was moved to tears by Michael, who has to help look after his father, incapacitated by a virulent form of MS, and speaks and acts more like a miniature adult than the 13-year-old, X Box-loving boy he is.

Teaching Michael and other young carers -- including 12-year-old Victoria, who looks after her mother, rendered blind by a brain tumour six years ago -- how to manage their lives so they leave a little time each week for themselves seems like a simple solution, but it's made a massive difference to them.

The programme ended with a big, joyous day out at a theme park for all the youngsters featured in the series. You could argue Wan's approach is a little scattergun (he also advised a couple of teens who were having a hard time of it, as he once did, for being gay) but if you're going to use a scattergun in the first place, aim high. An excellent series.

You don't have to be a political junkie to enjoy Clinton, PBS's riveting four-parter about America's unlikeliest two-term president. Forensically detailed and packed with interviews from key personnel and observers at the heart of the Clinton administration, including Joe Klein, author of the scalding novel Primary Colors, this is a monument to the power of pure public service broadcasting. The second instalment focused on Clinton's tumultuous first two years in the White House, where his vision of "a heroic presidency" to rival JFK's came unstuck amid the Whitewater scandal and the former Arkansas governor's failure to understand the complexities of the Washington snake pit.

It's superb television. If you miss any or all of it, it's showing again over the weekend.



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