Brian Donaldson finds that slipping on acorns in your driveway can be just as perilous as chasing drug kingpins down the street
There are a few gossipy titbits in showbusiness that are generally read as fact. Madonna and Guy were not quite made for each other. Jordan isn’t the sharpest nailfile in the drawer. And the Jackson family is, well, a bit weird. Wacko you might say. Though that ‘statement’ is largely based on the antics of one brother whose childlike worldview may or may not be masking more sinister lifestyle choices. We don’t think wardrobe malfunctions really come into play; that kind of thing could happen to any skimpily-attired multi-millionaire entertaining the sporting masses at half-time. So, when news filters through that the entire Jackson clan is thinking of departing their LA enclave in Hayvenhurst and relocating to a tiny village in Devon, it’s of little surprise that certain ends of the British print media start dusting down their ‘freak circus’ banner headlines.
Jane Preston’s film The Jacksons are Coming (Channel 4, Thu 27 Nov, 9pm •••) follows the family’s adventure to Appledore, where they are initially put up by ponytailed martial arts instructor Matt who is viewed as a trusted member of their British fanbase. But when Matt starts leaking details of their whereabouts to the media and is quoted in various scoops, tensions begin to rise. What comes out of this is not so much a congress of oddities but the putrid actions of hangers-on and a desperate media sprinting out of the blocks at the merest whiff of famous folk. The oddest Jackson incident caught on camera is Tito refusing to take his bowler hat off during martial arts class. OK, a little quirky perhaps, but it’s hardly one step away from being sectioned, is it?
In another year, Louis Theroux would have got the gig of tracking world famous celebs around Devon and making them seem simultaneously normal and out-there. But the intrepid speccy investigator (which makes him sound a bit like Velma) has more serious business at hand in a new two-part series, chasing down the lawbreakers of Johannesburg and Philadelphia. Louis Theroux: Law and Disorder in Philadelphia (BBC2, Sun 30 Nov, 9pm •••) has him dressed in a bullet-proof tank top and with a gaggle of police heavies around him and his camera crew: the weediest of them still has about three times Louis’ musclepower. Seated mainly in the back seat of a squad car with a permanent look of terror slapped on his face, Louis ambles into view once a fleeing suspect has been restrained and cuffed. ‘Why are you carrying a gun?’ asks Louis as though it’s the most astonishing sight he’s witnessed in his whole life. ‘Why do you do that?’ he pleads to a mashed-up drug dealer/heroin addict. To his credit, Louis does confront some of the meanest-looking Philly corner boys and kingpins who treat him with a mixture of fascination and sarcasm.
There is plenty fascination and sarcasm to be had in watching The Fun Police (Channel 4, Thu 4 Dec, 9pm •••) as the people whose job it is to keep our streets, factories and nail parlours as risk-free as possible come under close scrutiny. Mainly these health and safety inspectors are hard-working professionals who have seen the carnage left behind by those who have taken too many liberties at home or in work. But when it comes to Ed Friend, he is a totally different kettle of worry-wart. Analysing the acorns that are rolling down his driveway, he pinpoints exactly how they could be fatal before wandering gingerly into his kitchen with such a look of anxiety on his face that you half expect to see the word ‘DIE’ emblazoned in ketchup across his tiled walls. When he takes his concerns to workspaces with unprotected buzzsaws and massive panes of glass in perfect tripping-over spots, the factory wideboys can just about conceal their glee. Now, did I unplug the TV properly after watching that show?