A shining Guardian
What World in Action really showed this week (ITV Monday 8.30pm) is that investigative journalism is not best served by television. Everything is secondary to the image, and the image cloggs the story. It is important when making accusations that the charges are made plain. Watching Jonathan of Arabia, I couldn't see exactly what Aitken was being accused of. No distinction was made between the sin of being rich and the charge of shady dealings.
I could work out that World in Action was trying to tell me something, but it was only by reading the piece in Monday's Guardian, that I could tell what that something was. It was a strong piece, so why was it such weak television? The programme exemplified the pitfalls of television journalism, the crass- ness that must surely emerge when form is sexier than content. At least in print journalism you don't have to add colour to the story with shots of camels walking across Camber sands. Tack-ee.
But if we're talking tack, nothing could compare, not in your most garish night- mares, with the shoulder-padded, sequin- clad naffness of the world of Liz Brewer, publicist and fixer, as gloriously revealed in The Fame Game, part of the superb Modern Times series (BBC2 Wednesday 9pm). Bril- liantly edited by Paul Dosaj, here television really showed its strengths.
This is how it goes. You want to be some- one? You get hold of Liz and she'll arrange a party for you. She'll get everyone who's anyone to be there. Oh, I don't know, she'll get Britt Ekland, Mona Bauwens, Adnan Kashoggi, and maybe, if you're lucky, Ivana. And that seems to be about it. Liz calls this glamour; most of us have another word for it.
Liz - who once successfully sued Dai Llewellyn for calling her a hustler and then arranged a party for him to raise the money - also manages publicity. She tips off TV crews and acts as informant to the press. She's not shy of taking credit for it. A story in a gossip column, an in-depth exposé: "There's always somebody pulling the strings or pushing the buttons, nothing hap- pens by accident." Whatever gives the lady her thrills as far as I'm concerned but the danger of people like this is that this is what the tabloid editors point to in justification of their scrimmaging. Yob see they want it, they say, begging for it they are: they deserve all they get. Well yes, this lot do.
Thus we are invited to watch the mistress at work, to listen in to Liz on the phone to Mona Bauwens after Liz has planted a story about David Mellor proposing to Mona five times a day - "He's lucky we didn't say five times an hour!" - and then we hear an irate Mellor ringing in on Mona's other line. I never thought anything, or anyone, could make me feel sorry for David Mellor.
"The Mellor affair did catapult her into a completely different sphere," confides Liz. "Obviously it gave her a platform so that she could then decide if she wanted to go in a different direction she could do it." The dif- ferent direction Mona wanted to go in was journalism. "Mona wants to be a contribut- ing editor to a newspaper or magazine." A few frames later we are informed that Mona/Liz has clinched a deal with the Evening Standard. Makes one blush for one's trade.
Ivana's engagement party, stresses Liz, is a private party. Of course press releases are sent out and the paparrazi invited. It's not just that these people have no sense of shame, they have no sense of irony. (I par- ticularly enjoyed Liz in an off-the-shoulder leopard skin telling us that she help Ivana understand the understated elegance of the English.) When one of the photographers - given an exclusive snap of the engagement ring - picks up on a ladder in Ivana's tights, Liz whispers in horror, "this is just so unethical".