|The schlong view
Tuesday October 8, 2002
A Man's Best Friend (Channel 4) promised embarrassing, entertaining and hilarious stories about men and their genitals as well as a more serious examination of what it means to be a man. The Schlong Soliloquies, if you will.
It was dreadful. Not because it was shocking or gratuitous, but because it bounced between the plain inane and the completely banal. People saying "cock" and "wank" doesn't, in itself, make for interesting television, as Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps has made clear.
It was hard to discern what the aim of the programme actually was. From the mother who admitted she checked out the genitals of baby boys who visited her house so she could compare them with her own son's, to the elderly gent who apparently compared his member to a bottle of wine, it all seemed a little pointless. If the plan was to get a lot of penises on television, A Man's Best Friend succeeded - in terms of knobs-per-hour, it even beat Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned - but penises aren't as frightening as they used to be. Richard and Judy had one on This Morning when Dr Chris Steele was explaining about testicular cancer, and Gary Lucy flashed his in the showers on Footballers' Wives. On neither occasion did fire and brimstone rain down (though God got his revenge on Madeley and Finnegan by getting them to sign with Channel 4). Indeed, the sight of a flaccid penis is unlikely even to provoke a flurry of ferocious letters from Outraged of Harrogate. Controversial, A Man's Best Friend was not.
Quite the contrary, in fact. There may have been talk from the female contributors about how they'd be really keen to have a penis for a day and a demonstration of how to accurately measure one's member, but it was about as riveting as a Discovery theme night on Madagascar's indigenous mollusc population. With all the credibility and vigour of a school sex-education video - complete with some duff cartoons - A Man's Best Friend was, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit of a limp biscuit. It's not prudishness that inspires uninterest in this film's subject matter, it's boredom.
Boredom would have been a blessed relief in the hospital set up by the European non-governmental organisation, Emergency, in Kabul. Instead, we had an endless parade of the damned, the damaged and the distressed of Afghanistan. And all in bloody technicolour. Storyville: Kabul ER (BBC4) was sobering television, and more than a little depressing.
Intercut with footage of doctors operating upon the injured in the most appalling of circumstances, and representatives of the charity explaining to journalists the extent of Afghanistan's problems, were excerpts from down-home barnstorming speeches made by President Bush in the aftermath of September 11 and before the Allied bombing of the country began.
Hearing stories of how children had had limbs blown off by Soviet landmines and seeing patients with bloody stumps and seeping bandages meant this film hammered home the point that rhetoric is all very well but it becomes all very real for somebody somewhere. As somewheres go, Afghanistan has suffered more than most.
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