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Old 29th Jun 2004, 11:19   #1
amner
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Did anyone see Keith Allen's amazing documentary about ex-'child prodigy' James Harries, who used to appear on chat shows in the 80s and early 90s? You might have forgotten the name, but you can't possibly forget the face:



He 'stunned the nation', apparently, with a supposed encyclopaedic knowledge of antiques, love of good manners, and desire to become Prime Minister.

Well, now James is Lauren, and she does karaoke numbers (Midnight, Send in the Clowns, etc.) on the Cardiff club scene.

It was easy to see why she was so darn odd. Her family. Each of them has a PhD in Metaphysics (all purchased from a fake university in the US), they have dozens of qualifications (awarded to them by themselves). They run counselling services - no, really - drama classes, astral projection courses, and a Private Investigation office. They receive masses of abuse from their neighbours (contrary to the accent of the young James they live on a rough as you like council estate) but seemed steeped in their own sense of superiority. Lauren's dad had tried to sue the government for mismanaging the economy and then - when this inevitably failed - was sent down for torching his ailing business. It was a sorry catalogue of self-deception from beginning to end.

Keith Allen's growing horror was a joy to behold and, understandably, he snapped big-time at the end, walking off his own documentary in despair.

Brilliant.
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Old 29th Jun 2004, 11:46   #2
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Wish I'd seen it. That little lad gave me the creeps.
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Old 29th Jun 2004, 11:55   #3
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I can't stop talking about it today. I really hope they put it on again because it was simply marvellous. Keith Allen's face ... crikey.
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Old 29th Jun 2004, 14:16   #4
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I'm dying to see it from the above description. I had a vague idea that James had crossed the gender boundary - I think there was something about it in one of those 'I love the 70s/80s/90s' programmes, but had no idea that he didn't have the posh background he seemed to be pretending to.

Is the Keith Allen who presented it the same one who was in Shallow Grave?
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Old 29th Jun 2004, 14:47   #5
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I have to say I read about this in the TV Guide last night and skipped it because I hate Keith Allen. But I wish I had watched it now, although I am pretty certain I would have come out all sticky and unclean.

Here is the Guardian's TV review of it. Like ono, I knew James had become a woman but had no idea the antiques/posh thing was an invention of their fevered imaginations.

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House of the surprising son

You may remember James Harries from the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was that weird man-boy with curly blond hair and a face like Harpo Marx, who wore suits and bow ties, had a voice like Margaret Thatcher's and knew a lot about antiques. He used to be on TV quite a lot, mainly on Wogan, saying he wanted to be prime minister one day.

It turns out he didn't really know anything about antiques, but that's probably the least startling revelation in Little Lady Fauntleroy (Channel 4), Keith Allen's film about James and his family.

They are an unusual lot, the sort of family that makes you want to ring your parents and say thank you, thank you for not being like them (The Friedmans, of Capturing the Friedmans, are another good example). James's father Mark is a private detective who has, among other things, tried (unsuccessfully) to sue the government for £1m for mismanaging the economy, made the world's largest Yorkshire pudding, and spent time in jail for burning down his own fancy dress shop. James's mother was once a stripper in Africa, ran a Soho escort agency and is a qualified hypnotherapist. One brother is an expert in astral projection, the other a local DJ. All have doctorates in metaphysics.

As does James, though he's no longer a genius, or posh. Or male. James became Lauren, having suddenly realised he was a she. "I must say," she tells Allen, "I'm a bit of a dizzy blonde, so you'll get used to that."

That voice has been replaced by a Cardiff accent but Lauren now looks disturbingly like Mrs Thatcher. And all she wants to do is get on television. She tried to get on Big Brother and is thinking about a career in singing, though judging by a performance in a karaoke bar, she should probably think again.

It gets better, or worse. Worse I think. During the few days Allen spends with the Harries, more comes out. The counsellor who looked after Lauren during her sex change operation was called Lesley Stewart. And Lesley Stewart turns out to be the "business name" of Kaye Harries, Lauren's own mother. Plus it turns out that all their qualifications, doctorates in metaphysics and counselling degrees, were issued by the Cardiff College of Humanistic Studies which, happily, is located at Tudor Cottage, their own house. They've certified themselves.

The whole family seems to live in a disturbing fantasy world. Even their house is a lie - the tudor beams that give the cottage its name are in fact just creosoted planks that have been stuck on. It sits on the edge of a Cardiff estate, pretending to be posh, while their neighbours throw bricks and abuse at it and its inhabitants.

There's something desperately tragic about the whole thing. It ends with a row in a restaurant. "Oh shut up, all of you," shouts Allen. "I'm fed up with it. They're full of crap. Get rid of them, they're fucking mad." Then he storms out.

But he does have the decency to realise that what he has done is part of the awfulness - as are we. "The sad truth is they're fascinated by television and only feel alive when they're being filmed," he says. "The even sadder truth is that television is fascinated by them, and people like them, and that's why it keeps returning to them, year after year."

God, how depressing. And utterly mesmerising, of course.
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Old 29th Jun 2004, 15:38   #6
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Quote:
God, how depressing. And utterly mesmerising, of course.
Yes, there are a lot of things like that. Sometimes, when it gets too depressing, I think maybe one should stay away from it for his own good -even if it's mesmerising. But OTH that would be like trying to see only the nice side of life, and being oversensitive isn't a good thing either.
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Old 29th Jun 2004, 17:03   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self
It gets better, or worse. Worse I think. During the few days Allen spends with the Harries, more comes out. The counsellor who looked after Lauren during her sex change operation was called Lesley Stewart. And Lesley Stewart turns out to be the "business name" of Kaye Harries, Lauren's own mother.
Easily the single worst moment of the entire programme. The 'at bed' hospital section where James (woefully still clearly 'James' mentally) talks "post op" was terrifying. His confessions re: his counsellor were startling.
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Old 17th Sep 2004, 14:38   #8
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More television gold, albeit in a much nicer and more heartwarming way. Last night saw the start of the new series of I'll Show Them Who's Boss (Thursday, BBC2), which frankly I'm surprised made it to a second series since nobody apart from me seemed to watch the first one. Perhaps that's because the concept doesn't exactly grip: it's basically Management Consultancy Live - except for the Live part. But it's great because of the presence of the I of the title, Gerry Robinson, who cuts through the horseshit and foggy thinking befouling all the small- to medium-sized firms he visits, and tells them what the hell they're doing wrong, whether or not they want to hear it. And he's a tonic because in a world of downsizing and overhead-slashing and other euphemisms, he knows that the first thing to get right in any business is to make sure the workers are happy and well looked after. Last night's was a classic, and the best tribute I can pay it is to quote Nancy Banks-Smith's review in the Guardian. The word she uses at the end to describe Robinson's face is the most pricelessly perfect piece of description I've read in weeks. Brilliant.

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In I'll Show Them Who's Boss (BBC2), Gerry Robinson bullied the Moore family laundry into profitability. There is something rather romantic about a laundry. Steam escapes in orgasmic gasps. Sheets swirl overhead, flapping like airborne ghosts. But Robinson was looking at the floor. "Why don't you clean the bloody place up? For Christ's sake, clean the place up! It's absolutely bloody filthy."

Old Moore and his two sons, Tim and Anthony, ran the company. Who, Robinson wanted to know, was really in charge of the clattering train?

Wherever he went among the disaffected staff (and I must say they seized the opportunity to slag off the management with some vim) he heard the same name, Gordon. As in "Morale has gone down and down and down since Gordon left."

Who Gordon was and why he still haunted the place turned into quite a little thriller. Had he, perhaps, failed to notice the poorly displayed warning Do Not Put Head in Washer? Gordon Dick, a popular operations director, had been unceremoniously sacked after 10 years' successful service. As Anthony put it: "He turned into an overhead that wasn't giving us value for money." The desire to shove Anthony's head in the washer took some resisting.

Robinson went to find Gordon. He was a big, pleasant man, quietly wounded like someone fired on by their own side. Robinson saw red. "He was central to the building up of this business from something quite parochial to something significant, and he's been shot in the head. It think it's deeply, deeply unfair. I am so bloody annoyed on his behalf."

He summoned the family to a summit and read them the riot act. "You have made the single biggest mistake of your commercial existence. An enormous mistake. I strongly recommend that you're big enough to talk to Gordon." Saying which, he produced Gordon from his hat.

So Gordon became chairman, the staff greeted him quite literally with open arms and Robinson, who usually sits in his London eyrie watching things go wrong with a grapefruit face, beamed benevolently.

Let's make it into a musical.
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Old 17th Sep 2004, 14:45   #9
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I saw the first half of this and was gripped by it. Not gripped enough to demand to watch the second half though, obviously.

I got to see what was wrong with the firm, and weren't those two brothers awful! and it appeared clear that they didn't have a clue what they were doing, and that Gordon chap was very well thought of by all the staff.

I'll tape the next one...
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Old 17th Sep 2004, 14:53   #10
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Given that it was a 40-minute programme with no advert breaks, are you saying that you were so gripped by it, Wavid, that you turned over or got up and left the room halfway through?
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