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1998 November 

 Disability Now – Paul Darke

December Issue TV Review

During Armistice week disability was very prevalent on TV. Channel 4’s Sounds Like Sunlight (7 Nov.), about blind veterans and Shell Shock (8 Nov.), about war trauma / mental illness, being typical. More routinely there were three other documentaries that had disability at their core: Heart of Darkness and Heart of the Matter: One Brief Life (both 25 Oct. BBC 1); and Horizon: Thalidomide – a Necessary Evil (29 October BBC2).  Heart of Darkness explored the rise of white supremacy organisation’s in Texas.  The main problem was that it used a victim of one such organisation – a black disabled man named James Byrd  - in order to indicate that such groups were now out of control and a serious threat to democracy.  It was as if they were implying that had they been killing able-bodied people it wouldn’t be so bad.

 

Heart of the Matter, in contrast, told the moving story of short life of Baby L whom was born severely disabled and how her parents did everything they could to keep her alive.  Eventually they were only defeated by Baby L’s doctors’ successful appeal to the courts, against the parents’ wishes, to terminate her life. More a case of ‘hearts of darkness’ I would say.  I personally hate such programmes because they cannot fail, given their subject matter, to move you irrespective of how good – as with Heart of the Matter - or how bad they are made.

 

The Horizon: Thalidomide documentary, somewhat disturbingly, was unfocused and failed to deal with any of the questions it raised, leaving one feeling that it was little more than a promo-film for the imminent reintroduction into the UK prescription system of the dreaded drug thalidomide.

 

Late night ITV offered up a ridiculous tale of Siamese twins, Tales from the Crypt: My Brother’s Keeper (29 October).  A plot line in which one twin wants to separate and the other does not, which was an entertaining piece of ‘tales of the unexpected’ style drama that was suitably short and brief, and which sent me to bed with a smile.  Early evening BBC 2 gave us the equally ridiculous Sliders: State of the A.R.T. (Nov. 4), a much more sanitised form entertainment, about a mad wheelchair using scientist (played by ‘Freddy Kruger’ himself) who wiped out humanity only to replace it with human like robots who called him ‘Father’.  Sliders, I would argue, is the best of its kind of US import TV on television at present, and this episode was no exception.

1999 January

Disability Now – Paul Darke

January 1999 TV Review

 

All those who say disability is invisible in culture should take up television reviewing.  We have had disability bits on Children in Need (BBC 1), Home Front (BBC 2), another Holiday episode (BBC 1) and Channel 4’s Garden Doctors.  All of which were very sensible, suitably politically correct, and awfully normalising in their attitude towards disabled people. No doubt all the programme makers feel they have done their duty and provided a social service.  Sad really, but one mustn’t grumble!  I’m being too hard on them, I know, at least it gives society a little bit of variety and spice to watch of an evening.  Interestingly though, they were all somewhat incoherent in what they were saying or articulating, as is the continuing new series of From the Edge (BBC 2, Tuesday evenings); a programme that amazes more and more each time I watch it.

 

By far the most interesting disability programmes on television in the last year were ITV’s Changing Faces (24 Nov) and BBC 1’s QED The Bionic Woman (1 Dec); both of which revealed the truly frightening nature of modern medicine and its determination to rid society of disabled people.  This was not the intention of either documentary, quite the opposite in fact, they wanted to show how medical advances were ‘helping the disabled’; from plastic surgery for people with Downs Syndrome in Changing Faces to electronic spinal implants for paraplegics in QED.   

 

Changing Faces used the examples of two families with a young child, and an older man, all with Downs Syndrome whom all received varying degrees of plastic surgery to make them more ‘normal’.   QED, similarly, followed the medical profession’s attempts to make the paraplegic Julie Hill stand and walk and cycle so that she could be more ‘normal’- and they will, rather worryingly, succeed.  Each film offered a glimpse of things to come for disabled people as we enter the 21st Century: society doing all it can for those prepared to be normalised whit the rest of us being left to ‘rest in peace’.  These programmes frightened me, literally and Changes Faces brought me to tears  – its becoming a habit - at the sight of an adorable four year old boy called Michael bleeding from his eyes, nose, ears, chin and cheeks, and wrapped in bandages, moments after radical plastic surgery.  All carried out in the name of normality.  All I could feel was that this is not love and it is definitely not care but it is the future.  Help!

 

417 Words

1999 February


Disability Now Television Review By Paul Darke

The Christmas period was a little weak on factual programmes about disability but the new year saw the end of LINK (3 January) for all time.  I always quite liked LINK, it never pretended to be anything other than it was.  The final edition was a colourful retrospective that made you wish you could see the programmes from which the clips came.

 

ITV, so I believe, have now commissioned a peak viewing time thirteen part Esther Rantzen does disability slot to replace LINK – that I want to see.  ITV, on the evening of the 3rd January, had Lost for Words, a Deric Longden follow-up to his MS drama Wide-Eyed and Legless.  This film drama revolved around the main character’s mother having a couple of strokes.  In addition to that his wife is blind.  Lost for Words could not have been more cliched, banal and somewhat insulting in its sentimentalisation of age and the realities of having a stroke.  Equally, it was neither funny nor moving and even had a sighted actress badly play the nominal role of the blind wife.  I am not an obsessive ‘all disabled roles should be played by disabled people’ kind of critic but this was inexcusable given that it was a superficial role and then played badly.

 

There was a bizarre little interview with Ian Dury in a Sunday late night show called The Big End (January 10) hosted by Simon Mayo.  In it a celebrity – Dury – is asked about their death and how they view their life.  The trivialisation of life, death and the afterlife (whoever your God is) was second to none.  OZ on the other hand, Thursday’s on Channel 4, is great gritty US TV drama from the school of Homocide and NYPD Blue.  Narrated by a wheelchair using black inmate of the sterile OZ prison it is challenging, original and full of colorful language.  Eight episodes in length, it has nearly ended but catch it if you can.

 

Perfect Babies, Tuesday’s on Channel 5, is an excellently hysterical three part documentary series on the future of genetics.  A few words from the ever cuddly and darling Tom Shakespeare were suitably succinct and apt; the future for the disabled is looking bleaker by the day.  Perfect Babies had a perspective that was strong, opinionated and in no doubt that in the future difference and disability will be treated in a way that Hitler only dreamt of.  No one, after watching Perfect Babies, can say ‘I didn’t realise’ – unlike if they watch From The Edge (also Tuesdays), a programme that continues to go from the surreal to the sublime.

1999 MAY

Disability Now Television Review

By Paul Darke

Sixth Happiness (BBC 2, March 21), a rather bizarre BBC film, was about a guy with brittle bones in India with an indiscriminate sexual bent.  Disability sexuality is rarely shown so a film with both gay and straight sex was potentially rather fun.  Sadly the film was badly directed, badly acted and did not have the courage of its convictions about sexuality.  It tried to be funny but it was not half as hysterically funny as Hoddle and the Healer (Channel 4, 23 March) - a one-hour documentary that had the balance of the Titanic as it sank.  In examining Glen Hoddle’s relationship with his healer not only was football’s name taken in vain but also the disabled’s.

 

Designer Babies (BBC1, 7 April), a vacuous glossy magazine of a documentary, continued the marketing campaign for the introduction of genetic engineering and the destruction of disabled people.  It effectively did this by creating a selection of nice little scare stories (mutant babies) so that genetics is supported but under the guise of control and consensus – a bit like abortion!

 

There has been some great comedy on this month featuring disability, a repeat of the Christmas special of Knowing Me Knowing Yule … with Alan Partridge (BBC2, 7 April), Smack the Pony (Channel 4, 9 April, Friday evenings) and Frasier (Channel 4, 9 April – Friday evenings).  ‘Alan Partridge’ and Smack the Pony (an all women team) are full of good comic sketches that are astute, well written and have a finely tuned eye for the absurd.  And Frasier, with his disabled dad, is always a joy to watch.

 

Unlike Simon’s Journey (BBC1, 8 April), a pointless piece of hagiography that told us nothing about the real Simon Weston, the severely scare Falklands War hero.  It was full of inconsistencies and was so sycophantic that it was embarrassing. Weston said at one point that he did not want to be a stereotype, well, I hope he didn’t watch this documentary about him.  Ironside (BBC 1, weekdays) – which is absolutely glorious - has more insight in to the experience of disability in a single episode than Simon’s Journey did.

 

Finally, there was Rhinoceros (ITV, 11 April), a two hour drama about a lad with learning difficulties who was trying to become independent as his parents fall in love again.  I kept thinking it could not have been worse but then it might have been written by the DPU at the BBC.  Rhinoceros (thick skin with a small brain!) tried so hard yet was so unaware, misinformed and unrealistic that it became embarrassing.

1999 August 

Disability Now Television Review

By Paul Darke

The Disabled Century Debate (BBC 2, June 10), following on from The Disabled Century (reviewed last month) was difficult to judge because if one agrees with most of a programme’s content it is difficult to considered it good or bad irrespective of actual presentation.  But, the debate seemed unconnected, except in title, to The Disabled Century series.  Equally, it seemed to wander aimlessly around the issues and was far too ‘softly-softly’ in approach by both the presenter and producers.  It’s only saving grace was Rachel Hurst concluding the debate forcefully with an absolute affirmation of the social model in opposition to Margaret Hodge’s desire to ‘see the person’.

 

Appointment with Death (C4, June 14), a look at the life and work of the active euthanasist Jack Kevorkian, was a wonderful documentary that showed Kevorkian as the rabid slaughter of the innocent that he is (he claims to have euthanased over a hundred disabled people).  Rather ironically, Kevorkian condemned himself through his articulation about the dogma of choice about euthanasia whilst so actively coercing the debate to his own homicidal point of view.  

 

That’s Esther (ITV, June 20) was on again: pass.  Everyman: Days of Healing (BBC 1, 20 June) followed some disabled and ill people seeking cures from healers.  It was interesting enough and had a nice cosy fly-on-the-wall style feel to it but, after the Glen Hoddle affair, I think we have had enough of this kind of stuff.

 

Malcolm and Barbara – a Love Story (ITV, June 24) was a moving account of Barbara’s emotional and physical struggles with Malcolm as his Alzheimer’s disease developed over the last four years.  It was a tragic tale of love, life and liberty.  It was a beautiful film only slightly marred by being somewhat medicalised and voyeuristic.  Again ITV must be praised for such considered peak-time programming.

 

So You Think You’re a Good Driver (BBC 1, June 26) was a typical example of the integrationist approach broadcasters’ are now taking in-relation to disabled people: have a mainstream show cover a single disability issue in a series.  This ‘car show’, in one episode of a series, followed an older male invalid trike user giving up his trike and taking to the wheel of ‘ordinary’ car.  It was informative, entertaining, interesting and well made  – which was, in this instance, OK by me. 

 

Rear Window (C5, June 26) was a recent television film remake of Hitchcock’s suspense classic starring the newly disabled Christopher Reeve.  It was merely embarrassing in contrast to the original which had been on only a few weeks prior and was further marred by Reeve’s plugging his faith in the idea that the cure is just around the corner for spinal injuries. 

 

Still, it was less embarrassing than The People v Jerry Sadowitz (C5, June 30) which featured the disabled comic Tony Gerrard.  Sadowitz’s show has to be watched to be believed but it is suffice to say that one must presumes that Jerry chose his surname very carefully.

1999 November 

Disability Now Television Review

By Paul Darke

Disability Now Television Review for November 99 Issue

 

Channel 4’s Deaf Century (Oct. 2, 9 and 16), trailed last month in this column, was as bad as it was controversial.  Made by a non-deaf production company/crew who were subsequently given the cold shoulder by most deaf activists (who took C4’s decision to commission the non-deaf saying that deaf film-makers did not have the ability to deliver), it showed the deaf activists to be more astute that at first glance.  The series was badly written, lacking in insight, wit or intelligence.  The series was, put simply, embarrassing – it made the  Disability Century look brilliant in comparison.  It did not even have open-subtitles (but then would Channel 4 have any idea why that should have been the case!).

 

Living Proof: Rachel’s Brain (BBC1, Sept. 21) was not a lot better.  Supposedly a serious documentary it was in fact a sycophantic advert for the medical profession as considerate lobotomists.  Rachel, a young girl who has half her brain removed, was being cured of her epilepsy.   Significantly, I am not against the actual realities of the programme.  What was criminal was the lack of information about the results of the operation.   It was crass, insidious and evil programme.

 

Clive Anderson All Talk (BBC1, Sept. 23) continues to epitomise all that is banal in popular culture.  A potentially interesting interview with Kirk Douglas, the first I have him give since his stroke, was reduced to vacuous platitudes that would not have seemed out of place in a book of common clichés.  A similarly wasted opportunity was Ian Dury “On My Life” (BBC2, Sept. 25); it had its moments but considering it might be one of the final major documentaries about Ian Dury – a legendary figure in disability circles – it lacked a desire to get beyond the media interview to get the real Ian Dury.

 

From the Edge (BBC2, Tuesday evenings) has a set of new, better, opening titles but I can’t tell you if the closing titles were new; the programme is so badly made and incoherent in what it is trying to say that I had to switch it off before the end.

 

Although Channel 5 does not often do disability, apart from the occassional ‘blind woman wants sex’ porno story, Without Pity (c5, Oct. 11) was very much about disability.  A one hour documentary narrated by Christopher Reeve it looked at the lives of ‘the largest minority group in the USA: people with disabilities’.  It focused upon the lives of a few individuals who were very physically dependent in order to have lots of urine bag shots and men and women being cleaned and dried.  It was very voyeuristic but at least it ended with a bit about ADAPT, the American activist group, demonstrating for equal rights.

 

Look out in November on Channel 4 for a ‘disease of the week’ drama called Kid in the Corner about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; and a Cutting Edge documentary called Love Is Blind about the loss of a sense.

1999 December

Disability Now Television Review for December 99 Issue

 

People with Spina Bifida, my own personal choice of disability living, rarely features on our television screens, so I was looking forward to Living Proof: Born Twice (BBC1, October 20).  A documentary about Dr Joe Bruner; a surgeon who operates on foetuses with Spina Bifida prior to their birth by ‘getting them out, operating, and putting them back in’ the womb.  It was quite extraordinary and as I am Squeamish I actually had my eyes shut most of the time. 

 

The documentary should be praised for trying to validate the lives of people with Spina Bifida but it far to often slipped into delusions of medical empathy.  Such as when Dr Bruner questioned his views to abortion and people with Spina Bifida (he would now consider not doing it).  Missing that point that most abortions are carried out on non-disabled children.  Equally, when the commentary stated that the common medical option for Spina Bifida was post-natal operations – it is actually, by about 95% to 5%, abortion (no thanks to ASBAH there).

 

Standing Tall (C4, October 26), if taken as a light-hearted attempt at a post-modern freak show was amusing and completely devoid of pretensions to serious documentary film-making.  What was little other than the voyeuristic gazing at the tallest of the tall – giants – managed to make me laugh at the crazy things we do those that are different.  Interviews with the tallest man in Europe (from England – we are so small in most other things) and tallest person in the world (they had to be an American didn’t they!) were touching, heartfelt and, obviously, shot from a low angle.

 

The most bizarre programme of the month was Correspondent (BBC2, 6 November) in which ‘blind reporter’ Gary O’Donoghue visited a Ghanain village where river blindness affects one in five people.  ‘Blind’ reporter O’Donoghue was introduced as never before having covered disability issues until this programme.  Obviously this was an astute comment on the lads years of work on From the Edge or an insightful comment about the content of From the Edge itself. 

 

Sadly, and one must presume, intentionally so, that the programme completely de-politicised the issues affecting health and wealth in Africa, reducing it to a state of individual heroics and only solvable through charity, for reasons other than ignorance.  Shame on you, especially in an era in which Third World debt is being challenged politically in the mainstream of Western Politics in a way that it never has been before.  

 

Disability added immeasurably to the superficial nature of our television last month.  Disability was seen in, amongst other things, 30 Minutes: Let My Wife Die (ITV, October 31), 30 Minutes: Dying for Justice  (ITV, 7 November), Smudge (C4, 1 November), The Shooting Gallery: Patterns (C4, 2 November), and, finally, in an episode of House Invaders (BBC2, November 5).  As I said, superficial!

 

With Christmas around the corner, I wish you all a supercalorific experience and lots of disability TV spotting over the Christmas period – there will be plenty of it on screen, so keep your eyes as well peeled as your Satsumas.

2000 February

Disability Now Television Review

By Paul Darke

Disability Now Television Review for February 2000 Issue

 

The last millennium did not end well.  The Real Bionic Man  (C4, 13 December), was a pointless homily to the bioengineering industry and the delusions of the superiority of the 'normal'; micro-camera eyes, artificial limbs, thinking brains, et cetera, made it all quite sad how far scientists will go to validate themselves.  Whilst Liverpool Mums (C5, 23 December) had a collection of expectant Mothers worrying about the risks of having a down's syndrome baby.  It was a programme which was insulting at best.

 

2000 Today (BBC1, Dec.31/Jan.1) the BBC's countdown to the Millennium show was just a collection of sad old presenters grateful for having survived into the 21st Century.  The celebrations completely ignored the role of disabled people in either the past or present.

 

A Touch of Frost (ITV, 1 January) had a typically grump David Jason as Frost telling a bitter old wheelchair character what a cliché he was (like we did not know) for letting his son die.  Wheelchair users fault as always!  What Katy Did (ITV, 2 January), an up-lifting drama starring Kevin Whately made from Susan Coolidge's classic children's novel of the same title was interesting enough until the disabled Katy became 'normal'; then it was, as it is for so many who are 'normal': boring.

 

Horizone: Life and Death in the 21st Century - Designer Babies (BBC2, January 6) was a virtual replica of a series done on Channel 5 last year - only Channel 5 included the voice of those it would most affect: disabled people.  The BBC's version, with the same medical contributors was merely a hymn to the world of genetics. The death of the title (of disabled people) was mystifyingly absent.

 

Second Sight (BBC1, 9/16 January), with Clive Owens as a police officer investigating a murder would have been enjoyable hokum except for the rather ridiculous (clichéd and stereotyped) scenario of having the Owen's going blind.  'Touchy feelly' is not the word for it!  Still it was nice to see the beautiful Claire Skinner having a meaty role as his deputy, but even she deserved better.

 

That Peter Kay Thing (C4, January 12 - continuing, Wednesday nights until the end of February), a spoof fly-on-the-wall style documentary series, has its moments, including a multiplicity of disabled characters.  I would recommend it if you do not take offence to easily.

 

Look out for the return of From the Edge (BBC2, in February) and take a look at The Slot - after Channel 4's evening news - as in February it consists of some short films made by Channel 4's TV FOUR ALL Production courses.  Courses designed for and taken by disabled people in the latter part of 1999.  You can also check out Channel 4's disability resource database at www.fourall.org - get yourself on it and almost certainly be used by Channel 4 at some point in the future.

2000 April

Disability Now Television Review for April 2000 Issue

 

Horizon: Out on a Limb (BBC2, 17 February) was a tragic exploration of the issue of body dysmorphia - tragic in the sense that the programme epitomised every evil society has towards disability.  For a documentary about people wishing to have their legs cut of, to not have the intelligent voice of disabled people themselves in the programme was crass and indicative of ignorance, intolerance and limited understanding of the issues explored.  No wonder the medical profession pander to the sad illusions of body dysmorphia.  Just as Germane Greer cannot tolerate transsexuals - as they distort the object of their illusions - so the body dysmorphics on display led empathy to leave my body ASAP.

 

The medical professions - especially psychiatry - inability to engage with disabled people on an equal basis leads to such drivel as this programme.  When one woman who wanted both her legs cut of spoke of being in a wheelchair as like being 'home at last', and the various doctors spoke of the dangers these people pose to themselves, I immediately wanted to become a train driver to assist them in their delusion.  Casey Jones here I come.  They made me laugh.

 

Unlike Goodness Gracious Me (BBC2, 3 March, series) and its increasing use of impairment jokes that are as old as moving images themselves.  Its move from Radio 4 was bold and initially worked but I dread the airing of the television pilot edition of Radio 4 disability comedy Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.  I listened to every edition on the radio and I am still waiting to laugh.  There is a lot of comedy to be had from disability, it just does not happen to be in Yes Sir, I Can Boogie

 

Top of the Pops (BBC1, 10 March) was my first viewing of Madonna's new pop video to go with her No. 1 single cover version of American Pie.  It was a simple video, lots of shots of interesting Americans, and I was pleasantly surprised to see interesting disabled people being a full part of it.

 

Isaac Hayes: Soul Man (BBC2, March 4) was a wasted opportunity to look at a legend in his own lifetime.  What would be more interesting is if they paid me to make a better film about the music, and the man, of Black soul music legend Teddy Pendergast (now a wheelchair user).  Exploring his significance to this white, English, working class blob in Surrey in the eighties.  Oh, just woken up - TV is not that interesting.

 

Two contrasting documentaries about disabled people were on in March: The South Bank Show: Chuck Close (ITV, 5 March); and King Gimp (National Geographic Channel, 7 March).  King Gimp may have been Oscar nominated for its exploration of the inspirational life of American Dan Keplinger, who has CP, but it was yet another triumph over tragedy story in the medical mode of representation.  Surprisingly, Chuck Close - a legendary modern American artist who uses a wheelchair - told us much more about life and society.  The aim is not to study society but to change what it is and how we see it.  At least Chuck, rather than Dan, tried to do this.

2000 May

Disability Now Television Review for May 2000 Issue
By Paul Darke

 

Channel 4's The Slot, the 3 minute bit after their evening news, has been an almost entirely disability slot for the last month.  Firstly they had a series of slots about the Client/Patient Relationships (6-10 March) followed by a week of Living With Brain Injury (13-16 March).  Then they had two weeks of First Time (27 March - 6 April), a series of new shorts by directors with impairments new to television.

 

The first two weeks (Client/Patient Relationships and Living With Brain Injury) were both directed by Justin Edgar, a hearing impaired director at this very moment embarking on his first £1 Million budget feature called Large for Film Four.  Justin is someone to look out for in the future and Large is very funny indeed.

 

First Time was an altogether different kettle of fish, not that they were bad or good.   They just, well existed.   One was, as with most of Channel 4's disability orientated stuff, left wondering: 'what was the point?'.  Of course there is no point except to get a few remit brownie points. 

 

It seems that Channel 4 follow the logic of the wonderful moment in Perfect World (BBC2, 17 March), a comedy series, that epitomised televisions apparent attempts at Cultural Diversity. Paul Kay, in talking to a marketing manager, suggest that the Asian secretary (the beautiful Nina Wadia, from Goodness Gracious Me) attend a meeting with a visiting dignitary who is keen on equal opportunities.   The manager says: 'Yes, absolutely wonderful; dark skin, a woman and possibly a lesbian.  What a shame she does not have a slight but visible handicap'.   Astute stuff indeed.  Obviously, the writer has worked in the media for Channel 4.

 

BBC 1's abysmal comedy drama series Dirty Work (16 march, 6 part series) is not much better.   I do not mind the clichéd wheelchair user, a supposedly cancer suffering Robert Glenister, but to make a whole series using every cliché available is pushing it.   At least it was not exploitation like Cutting Edge: The Five of Us (C4, 11 April), following the lives of five people with learning disabilities who share a house.   Why did Channel 4 have to give an enormous amount of money to a production company to make a patronising docu-drama.  It would have been better to let them make it themselves.  Perhaps that would have been a little too cultural diversity for Channel 4.

 

Still, the best television I have ever seen made by a disabled person was David Hevey's wonderful Modern Times: 10,000 Private Eyes.  The man has so much originality and talent it is staggering.  Original and radical are insufficient terms to describe his talent.  His apprenticeship on From The Edge has made him what he is today: the UK's leading extreme and radical disability television documentary maker.  That he even does narration on other Modern Times documentaries of equal brilliance is just a minor indication of his worth to the series.

 

Out of so much other disability related television this month my only word of warning is to steer clear of ITV's That's Esther on Sunday's from 16 April.  Words cannot describe how far this series has put disabled people back.  You have been warned - watch it at your own risk.

2000 July

Disability Now Television Review for July 2000 Issue

by Paul Darke

 

The powerhouse of disability thought, the legendary Dr Tom Shakepseare, was badly let down twice this month by the Beeb and ITV.   The Open University programme The Unusual Suspects (BBC2, 11 May) looked at the 'Model of Disability', whilst Ultimate Questions (ITV, 14 May) was a Kilroy type discussion programme late at night exploring 'big moral issues' of the day.  Both were muddled, incoherent and somewhat surreal in that both programmes were so facile that they epitomised post-modernistic culture in their pointlessness.   Look at for The Usual Suspects in your regular late-night schedules on BBC 2.

 

Whilst irony was absent from Tom's appearances the same could not be said of the wonderful, the kitch, the excellent Eurovision Song Contest, as always compared by the wasted wit of Terry Wogan (a rotund organism of irony).  Disability was fully covered - a visual impaired 'blind singer' from Spain; jokes about Joseph Merrick during Croatia's song - and suitably ridiculed in the spirit of the event.   Still, at least it was good to see some people with learning difficulties on the Stars in their Eyes Live Final (ITV, 20 May).

 

Autism had a bit of a showcase this month with Tito's Story (BBC1, 21 May), the story of an Indian boy with autism who writes poetry who comes to Britain with his Mother, and True Stories: Raising Alexander (C4, 22 May).  A documentary in which John and Christine Lubbock attempt to claim back their son Alexander from the dark world of autism.  Both individualised and made the condition of autism totally aberrant, as well as the individuals and families involved.  This kind of programme is why disabled people have progressed so little in the past twenty years (more than ever disabled people are aborted/euthanased or hidden away in homes).   Whatever we as disabled people say is given limited, to no, coverage whilst drivel like this gets wall-to-wall publicity, praise from fools and taken as the truth of disability.

 

Still, it is not all bad.  Channel 5, in between porn slots, showed The Return of Ironside (C5, 17 May).  A TV film made in the early 1990s with a very frail and ill looking Raymond Burr; who was largely filmed on his own vineyard (you can actually buy Raymond Burr vino) in California.   When I am depressed I always watch an episode from my collection of Ironside.  Other's have their Gods, I have Raymond Burr and Ironside (daily).

 

Unfortunately, my worst nightmare has come true: That's Esther (ITV, 5 June) has been moved to peak viewing on a Monday night at 8pm.  The future is not Orange, it is very, very bleak (she is on most afternoons as well on BBC2).  Thank heavens I am off on sabbatical for a few months.

 

Keep an eye out for Metro Sexuality, starring the omnipresent Mat Fraser and a documentary about the film The Idiots, on Channel 4's Idiots Night in August, about disabled people's responses to the film. For the record: the film is a masterpiece. Also, there should be an excellent documentary on 'The Real Helen Keller' and how normal-bourgeois hegemony appropriated her with lies and deceits, perpetuated to this very day.