Last Night's TV

Here’s an interesting round-up from The Times new TV supplement, Seer:

Last Night’s TV – Henrietta Quain – 21/01/2008

Big Brother may be off our screens for good, but the turmoil of last year’s so-called race row still resonates today. Yesterday, we were treated to three programmes that re-opened some old wounds, and cauterised others.

First up was Silk Route (BBC1, 8pm) Shilpa Shetty’s first British TV acting role. This over-trailed six-part drama places Shetty as a determined Indian lawyer, battling against the apparent institutional prejudices of a Barristers’ chambers in London. Sadly, both the characters and storylines lack any depth. The white characters are stereotyped to the point of absurdity, behaving in a generally patronising manner that would simply never happen in real life. Shetty’s acting is melodramatic and her character erratic. Are we really supposed to believe that she will stand up to the bolshy lawyers at her chambers, but not to her over-bearing brother (played by newcomer Abhishek Bachchan)? It is as if the producers of this programme are deliberately playing on Shetty’s victim status, to force their politically correct views upon the rest of us. Shetty rightly surfed the wave of sympathy after the bullying she experienced on Celebrity Big Brother (although few now accept that the abuse was actually ‘racist’). That sympathy may wane if Silk Route does not improve in weeks to come.

In one of those ironic co-incidences that British TV schedules periodically throw up, last night also marked the return of the now-infamous Jade Goody to our screens. Jade Goes to India (C4, 9pm) chronicled the eponymous anti-heroine’s journey through the sub-continent, experiencing the various local ‘delights’ and meeting ordinary Indians. We are treated to the extraordinary site of Jade trying to meditate in Dharamsala, temporary home of the Dalai Lama. “He’s like the Pope, but for India,” says Goody. We also see her riding, then falling off an elephant, visiting the Taj Mahal (“It is smaller than on TV”) and some excruciating scenes in the third class carriage of a train, where the hapless protagonist tries to ask some passengers who probably do not speak English, whether they would be offended if she called them a ‘Popadom’.

More poignant, however, was a final sequence in Bombay itself. We see Jade take a tour-bus around the city, visiting homes of the Bollywood Stars. Inevitably, the route includes the apartment block where Shilpa Shetty is a resident. As Jade dismounts the bus and walks up to the security gate, observed by a passive security guard, we heard the guide announce that Shilpa is away, making a film in New York. Goody is uncharacteristically quiet as she looks upon the building.

The programme is not so much a journey of discovery for Goody, as a nose-rubbing exercise. It seems that Shetty has become an ever-present spectre that cannot be shrugged off. And so the expected catharsis or renewal never comes for Goody, just a constant reminder of an elusive fame. In the final shot of the programme, at the check-in desk at Bombay International Airport, the cameraman catches a close-up shot of Jade, with a bill-board in the background. The face on the advert is Shetty’s, twenty feet tall. Her doe-brown eyes watch, unblinking, as Jade hands over her passport.

If the travelogue was intended to resurrect Goody’s career in some form, no such miracle was intended by the offering that followed immediately after. Big Brother’s 101 Greatest Moments (C4, 10pm) was clearly intended as a defiant last stand. Russell Brand presented the count-down, as determined by the public in a telephone vote. I half expected the demise of Nasty Nick to pip the ‘Popadom’ clip to the top spot, but it was not to be. Jade’s exploits had won her one last triumph, at least.

8 thoughts on “Last Night's TV

  1. I admire your foresight Rob – except you forgot to mention the forthcoming appearance of Jade Goody in an episode of the Simpsons as a rude customer in Apu’s store – Apu calls her a fat dumbo, over heard by Ken Brockman who releases a story in the Springfield Gazette on Apu as a “Fattist”. Apu is taunted by gangs of “pro-fatties” throughout the episode which results in Apu getting his house wrecked, his business ruined, and his name slandered across Springfield. Apu’s only comments to Jade was “me fattist?? I think it is YOU who is fattist”!

  2. I am impressed with the intellectual depth of the chattering class of the UK. Nothing in American public life comes close to the profund depths of the Jade Goody, Shilpa Shetty affair. I suppose my most insightful comment would be that Shilpa Shetty is a first class babe, and to wonder how Bollywood finds or creats such vacuous but beautiful women.

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