Dull of Kintyre
Television - Zoe Williams on a played-out documentary about a nice chap who didn't have a lot to say
As his ascension unto Saint of all England becomes complete, Sir Paul McCartney has reached that time in his life where it is meet to look back upon his considerable achievement. There's Only One Paul McCartney (2 June, 10pm, BBC1) was undertaken in the modern way - take a number of clips from ye olden days, splice them together with some talking heads and, hey presto! - you've made a full hour of telly and not even broken into a researcher fee for the 19 work-experience children who constitute your staff.
McCartney is perfect for this kind of treatment. Unlike almost anyone else of equivalent age and fame, he was once a very attractive individual and, as luck would have it, considerable footage exists demonstrating as much. You can never see too much of the Beatles loping about, being groovy; if anything, they get more charming with repetition. In this respect, they are like the baby elephant that shat on Blue Peter.
Furthermore, when it's Macca you're dealing with, you get a vastly superior quality of head-on-a-stick - obviously, some stalwarts of the genre refuse to be left out (Phil Jupitus, I'm talking about), but you don't see Meryl bleeding Streep on I Love 1986, now, do you?
Yet, frankly, though the pundits may have clambered pretty high up with Macca, they still talked in the same halting, oleaginous, lovespeak that this format requires. "I fancied him like crazy," said the one off the Royal Family who isn't Caroline Aherne. "I mean, who wouldn't?" Well, there isn't really an answer to that, apart from: "So?"
There was an astonishing snippet in which Bob Geldof said: "Paul Mc-fucking-Cartney. It was like, Hello?? and it still is like, Hello??" I imagine Geldof was attempting to convey what a very admirable man Macca is. But for God's sake, did someone tell him he had to convey it in the manner of Jennifer Anniston? Ben Elton shared with us some man-in-the-boozer philosophy: "How happy did you make other people? What footsteps did you leave? And if the footprints that you left were Paul McCartney's, no wonder people like him," which was all very matey (in a syntactically confused kind of a way) but, again, unenlightening to the point of absurdity. And something very strange has happened to Cilla Black - one minute she's chuntering on about how Paul's a Gemini and the next she's saying, with extreme care and exaggerated enunciation: "John will always be that legend. Where-as Paul is a live-ing legend." As if we were all id-iots who couldn't understand basic Eng-lish.
But I digress - the purpose of the show, presumably, was to package up the man's life into some manageable narrative while trying not to be too repetitive and maintaining a balance, albeit with a broadly positive bent. There were a couple of innovations - the voiceover, usually undertaken by a neutral, middle-class man, was done by a squeaky Liverpudlian whose cadence was rendered grotesque by overexcited sycophancy. I wasn't particularly sold on this.
And, here's a turn up, they tracked down the man who inadvertently invented the Beatles haircut. His name was Jurgen Vollmer, and he said of the band: "It is the first time that I've saw a rock and roll band perform. It was like when you have for the first time sex," and, I have to admit, his experimentation with word order (not to mention the comedy accent) really tickled me. Upon which it occurred to me that there might be life in the old format yet, provided we impose a strict, Johnny Foreigners-only rule on the guests.
Ultimately, though, not one single new fact emerged and there wasn't even a new spin on an old fact. Paul wrote songs. Some of them were really excellent. He took acid and grew dope; he didn't cheek the judge and got away with it. He had a lovely wife, who tragically died (their appearance on The Simpsons, where they reveal that if you play "Maybe I'm Amazed" backwards, you get a recipe for lentil soup, is the one other leavening agent in this hagiographic mulch).
When 11 September occurred, he was very moved, and organised a charity bonanza for which New Yorkers were very grateful. Soon he will get married to the pretty Heather Mills. He was pretty tight with cash, but nobody minded. He was a vegetarian, but (according to Emeritus Cilla) still liked the smell of bacon. And that's it, folks. Paul McCartney's a very nice man, but he didn't have a lot to say.
Truly, an already inoffensive chap was neutered by this milky "documentary". Since he legendarily has a hang-up about not being all that cool in the first place, I'm wondering if he can't sue.
Andrew Billen is away