6 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 58

Best of Five

Simon Hoggart

people keep telling me that Channel 5 1 (or 'Five' as we are supposed to call it) is much improved, being no longer devoted to sport and nude women, and with plenty of serious programmes alongside Shark Attack and Hollywood Sex. So I tried four Five documentaries this week.

The first was devoted to nude women. It was called Celebrity Naked Ambition, and it was rather good, in the sense that I enjoyed it because it was full of beautiful film stars with no clothes on. The commentary was funny and lewd — Channel 4 might have tried to make it a serious attempt to debate the role of the nude in a post-imperial culture — and if all the schoolboy jokes did not work that didn't matter because the gags just kept coming.

So did Kate Winslet and Halle Berry (the nude scene in Swordfish for which she was paid half a million dollars, or $50,000 per boob per second, as the commentator breathlessly pointed out) and Angelina Jolie and Liz Hurley, and of course Helen Mirren. And even more of course Demi Moore, so we enjoyed twice the wonderful moment when Dennis Pennis asked her whether, if the plot demanded it, and it was tastefully done, she would consider keeping her clothes on in a movie. The best part of that clip is the way she turns away in disgust, as any woman would when being asked to keep 'er tits in for the lads.

Oliver James was the celebrity TV psychologist on this show, wearing a funky, just-back-from-the-pub T-shirt. My own guess is that it's a power thing. By seeing someone's most private parts we gain a sort of surrogate control over them, which is all the more satisfying when they are Hollywood control-freaks who earn S23 million a picture. When you see the obsessional shot they'd found depicting a single one of Julia Roberts's nipples you don't find it remotely erotic, you merely think 'Gotchar Or at least the programme-makers did. Not me. Of course.

Oliver James turned up again in The Curse of Blue Peter, this time wearing a nifty maroon V-neck, the just-down-from-myoffice-on-the-top-floor look. All the show proved was that the presenters of children's television shows are no less likely than any other overpaid media folk to do drugs or have inappropriate sexual relationships. But it didn't matter because the whole thing was played for laughs and presented in a completely over-the-top fashion: 'In the bowels of hell, the dormant curse was about to erupt. . It covered with its infernal lava Richard Bacon (marching powder led to marching orders'), John Leslie (accusations of rape, since thrown out) and Anthea Turner (most horrifying of all, pictured eating the sponsor's chocolate bar at her own wedding).

The person I felt sorry for was Christopher Trace, the first male presenter, who on a Blue Peter trip to Norway had a fling with a local girl. He was fired for this — even though not a word had appeared in the papers. He went on to become a mini-cab driver. The real curse for people who work for the BBC is the BBC, as we were reminded with a repeat of the great moment when Lorraine Heggessey (then in charge of children's programmes, now head of BBC1) appeared to tell the kiddies about the canning of Richard Bacon for coke-snorting. 'He's not only let himself down, and the team at Blue Peter down, but he's also let you down,' she intoned to a million bemused kiddies like a very, very young headmistress.

At Home with the Eubanks is a knock-off of The Osbournes, but it doesn't quite work because Chris Eubank hasn't got enough going on in his life, apart from the ability to spout Grade A, industrial-strength nonsense day and night. Some of his philosophy — like many autodidacts, he reveres his teacher — is about love and forgiveness and the nature of humanity. Some is about ironing trousers. 'The incorrect way is to do things, well, incorrectly. I could have two seams and people would look at that and say, "He ironed them incorrectly."' Words to live by.

As always with these things, the star turns out to be the mum. Karron Eubank is a very poised and beautiful woman who only loses her cool when the kids are playing up, which is most of the time. Christopher spends much of his apparently empty life driving round Brighton in a huge Peterbilt truck. 'There's a quotation that goes like this: "A man is known by the size of his vehicle."' Sorry, don't know that quote, Chris. No sign of Oliver James. I hope he isn't Myra: Portrait of a Monster included the first interview I'd seen with Hindley's brother-in-law David Smith, who witnessed the last Moors murder and told the police. When you come from that area — as a trainee in Manchester I found many colleagues had heard in court the screams of the tortured little girl — these events have a terrible mythic quality. For many people there, Smith's calm account of the last killing would have been like the Greeks hearing from someone who saw the death of Priam.