independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

It's a tough job, but I side with Rihanna's boobs here

Superstar singer Rihanna shooting the video for a new song in a field near Bangor, Co Down. Hundreds of starstruck teenagers turned up to watch the Barbados-born beauty in action

Rihanna's Farmer Monday, BBC One, 10.35pm

America in Primetime Saturday, BBC One, 10.30pm

South Park Friday, Comedy Central, 10pm

I must admit, Rihanna brings out my inner Mary Whitehouse like few other performers. I can look at Madonna's increasingly desperate antics with just a vague pang of pity and scorn. Likewise Madonna's Mini Me, Lady Gaga.

But there is something completely different about Rihanna. She peddles a particularly nasty form of sexiness that isn't sexy; outrageous behaviour that isn't really that outrageous at all and, for all the hype and controversy she likes to surround herself with, she is, in the greater scheme of pop excess, a mere vanilla slice.

So I found myself in the rather unexpected position of being in agreement with a Presbyterian farmer from Ulster, who became a minor global news bite two years ago when he stopped her shooting a video on his farm in Bangor.

She had taken her top off during the shoot and land owner Alan Graham was having none of it. So was Graham striking a blow for modesty or was he a busybody and a fuddy-duddy?

Well, as BBC Norn Iron's rather odd little programme proved, he was a bit of both.

But is Graham the man to clean up pop?

That was the supposed point of the doc, which saw Graham wheeled around from one interview to another, trying to make sense of this whole new pop thing.

Louis Walsh was polite as always, and given that he comes from a rural background similar to Graham, probably has a similar conversation with his elderly neighbours any time he goes back home to Mayo.

In fact, everyone Graham met was super polite – from Walsh and Sinitta to entertainment reporter Gordon Smart to the teenage street dance crew from West Belfast.

But amidst the soft-focus loveliness, Graham met one man who runs an online guide for parents. Now, parents wanting to educate themselves about what media their kids consume is great, but the problem with pressure groups is that they decide who to put pressure on.

And when Graham spoke about cleaning the industry up, a chill crossed my spine – how, exactly, do you clean it up?

Do you introduce a code of conduct about what is right and what is wrong? How do you punish people who break these arbitrary rules?

Graham seemed like a nice old duffer, and I applaud him for taking a brave stand in front of Rihanna's boobs. But I sure as hell don't want him deciding what sort of music I listen to . . .

Q Alan Yentob has created some magical documentaries for the BBC down the years and some instalments of his Imagine series have been brilliant.

He's back with a new exploration of American prime time telly and, as you would expect from a man with such a pedigree, it's tightly produced, looks gorgeous and Yentob manages to combine some professorial gravitas with the demeanour of an ageing hipster.

Saturday's first wander through the socio-cultural fads and trends of how TV examined the role of father figure on television, from the Stepford Husband of Leave It To Beaver to the psychotic anxiety of Tony Soprano.

It charted a nicely meandering route along the descent of modern television man from hunter, keeper, provider and rock of the family unity to a neurotic basket case.

Legends of American television, from Carl Reiner right up to modern greats such as David Chase and Tom Fontana (creator of OZ) all appeared here as educated and educational talking heads.

Tomorrow night's episode zones in on misfits in American comedy and promises to be a cracker. Not be missed.

Q I've claimed for years that South Park is the finest social and political satire on our screens.

But, a bit like The Simpsons, it has been losing some of its lustre for quite some time.

Having spent most of their career being condemned as nothing but unfunny potty mouths, the guys behind South Park now just seem to have abandoned the jaw-dropping anger of earlier episodes (check out the one with OJ Simpson if you don't believe me) and become exactly what their critics accuse them of.

Friday's new episode had one joke. One. Guy brings girl to Wicked The Musical and she goes down on him. That's the joke. Nothing more.

It's a long way from being described as an "enemy of democracy" as South Park was in its gleefully subversive pomp, to just knob gags.

iodoherty@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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