TV UK, 25 June

Clinton's garden shed.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Culture

Euro 2004 aside, the TV event of the week was David Dimbleby’s much-hyped interview with Bill Clinton. Press previews of the special edition of Panorama (BBC1 on Tuesday night) focused on a flare-up over the Lewinsky affair, with Clinton apparently losing his cool with Dimbleby. (Incidentally, why is it that people only ever use the term ‘great TV’ to describe rubbish?)

Given that Clinton managed to mention his book in every other sentence, though, it seems unlikely that he was entirely oblivious to the sales-boosting potential of a public outburst of indignation. In fact, we are used to seeing the former president’s puffy features rouge up, and his rehearsed efforts to claim the moral high ground were too cloyingly moralistic to be convincing. Clinton got into politics to help the little people, he insisted. Journalists who insisted on probing him about Lewinsky were buying into a right-wing agenda. Something else about little people. Blah, blah, blah….

The philandering philanthropist was perhaps unwise to let on that he never discusses the details of his affairs, because he is kidding himself if he thinks anyone is going to buy his book to read his insights on the situation in the Middle East. Clinton did offer an interesting new spin on the ‘wag the dog’ thesis (according to which presidents go to war to distract the media’s attention from domestic scandals). Apparently, Clinton’s intervention in Kosovo was distracting in a more personal, even therapeutic sense, helping the president take his mind off the fact that he was sleeping on the sofa. Some men have garden sheds; Clinton had the West Wing’s Situation Room.

Perhaps he would have benefited from a few sessions with Frasier, another puffy-faced American icon shuffling off into the twilight of history. The final episodes of the venerable series were shown on Channel 4 on Wednesday night. (Perhaps in some sort of ill-conceived recognition of the programme’s popularity in the UK, the penultimate episode featured cameos from Richard E Grant as Daphne’s inexplicably posh brother, and Glaswegian Robbie Coltrane, whose incomprehensible Mancunian sounded more like an incomprehensible Yorkshireman with Liverpudlian tics.)

Like Sex and the City and Friends, both of which recently concluded (also on Channel 4), Frasier was about the peculiar contemporary synchrony of adolescent crisis and midlife crisis. Less pseudominously, Frasier was a big kid, but then so is everyone else on these shows (including Tuesday’s Panorama). The fact that they have finally ended is encouraging, indicating as it does that even with America’s best comedy writers on hand to keep the gags coming, the public has a limited appetite for this sort of thing.

The big question is what’s next. For now, Portugal is Europe’s garden shed.

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