Jaci Stephen's Reviews

Money for old grope
; The Mail on Sunday; April 15, 2001; Jaci Stephen

One of the greatest wonders of modern life is why there are not more prostitutes on the streets. True, many of them live in seedy bedsits where they have to perform sexual acts on ugly men who couldn't hang on to a woman unless she was in an advanced state of rigor mortis, but there's a lot of real money to be made. Given that plenty of women I know (not me, of course) leap into bed for the price of a half of lager, why not boost their bank balance while doing something they're going to do anyway?

Vice: Inside Britain's Sex BadGirls ness introduced us to Anoushka, who charges [pound]300 an hour for sex.

She's what's known as a high-class callgirl, and her rates vary A&E ing to how much time you want to spend with her. For instance, there's a discount rate of [pound]450 for two hours, and an overnight stay would set you back [pound]1,200.

That seems pretty good to me.

Men who go to prostitutes are the kind for whom it is all over in 45 seconds, so when he has rolled over and gone to sleep, there are still many hours left in which to enjoy those 1,200 smackeroos ('for appointments outside the M25 a three-hour minimum booking is required', though, so make sure you build your travel expenses into the equation). But it's not all glamour, alas, so I suppose I will have to keep on being a TV critic.

The programme revealed how the influx of girls from Eastern Europe has turned the world of prostitution into one of slavery. The girls come to Britain in search of a better life, but find themselves at the mercy of evil men who gang-rape them and make them sell their bodies for sex to pay back the 'expenses' the men claim they incurred in bringing them here. The girls service up to 25 men a day which, you have to admit, is a lot even if you enjoyed your job.

An undercover reporter (as undercover jobs go, this has to be one of the best) visited massage parlours where he spoke to Russians and Poles as they administered rather weak movements with their unenthusiastic palms. It all looked very seedy and depressing, but the programme enjoyed showing us naked women a little too much. It purported to be a social documentary, but in fact offered no real insights. Knowing that the slave trade exists is not enough to warrant an hour-long documentary which was, in the end, little more than voyeurism.

Many Victorian women would have enjoyed prostitution a great deal more than they enjoyed sex with their husbands. The last programme in Victorians Uncovered dealt with The Perfect Marriage, and how very few women's marriages lived up to the ideal depicted by Queen Victoria and Albert.

This was a genuinely revelatory programme that showed us the young queen as a sexually voracious nymphet who couldn't get enough of her husband. The doctor was not allowed to tell her about condoms, and explained that abstinence was the only surefire way of not getting pregnant. In those days, condoms had to be tied on with ribbon, by the way, which sounds a great deal more aesthetically pleasing than the wrestling match required with today's products.

The information was interesting enough without the dramatic reconstructions in which actors mooched about in Victorian gear trying to look deeply unhappy. Most fascinating was the way in which society looked to the royal marriage as a touchstone by which to judge their own relationships and, although initially impressed by the domestic bliss they witnessed, they became disillusioned when their own marriages failed to mirror it.

These days, we look to royal marriages and say: 'There but for the grace of God go I.' There was plenty of sex for Yvonne (Linda Henry) in Bad Girls, where she had rather a good scam on the go. A man claiming to be a solicitor turned up to see her and go over some briefs (I swear that kind of line was in the script). He was not a solicitor at all, but was there to, well, go through some briefs. Then a real solicitor turned up and was . . . oh, you get the picture.

I'm not a fan of prison dramas, but there is a campness to Bad Girls that means you can never take it too seriously. I don't believe a word of it, and it's directed with an embarrassing, inyour-face style at times, but it's fun.

Unbelievable, but fun.

Hospital drama is much more my thing, and the combination of Michael Kitchen and hospital drama keeps me awake at night (Kitchen kink drama). Kitchen joined the cast of the newly named A&E (it used to be Always and Everyone) as surgeon Jack Turner, and his charisma, charm and enormous skills as an actor (that's not a euphemism for top totty, but top totty he is), introduced another dimension to this already superior hospital drama.

Christine Fletcher (Niamh Cusack) has now been promoted to consultant, and with Turner and Robert Kingsford (Martin Shaw), there is a core around which everyone else can circulate, and the effect is stunning. The impressive Jane Danson, who played Leanne Battersby in Coronation Street, also joins the cast as nurse practitioner Sam Docherty.

In this week's two opening episodes, shown on successive nights which was a real treat, there were also all those things that make hospital drama great - the removal of a juicy spleen, two deaths and an unexpected snog. You can't ask for much more.

Kitchen's character bears a close resemblance to Holby City's Anton Meyer (George Irving), who sadly did not make an appearance this week. Holby without Anton is like Baywatch without breasts, and not even the laparoscopy made up for it. But as Jasmine (Angela Griffin) said: 'You can't please everyone.'

Another guaranteed success is Amanda Burton, and there's always a feeling of safety when her name appears first in the opening credits: you just know she wouldn't pick a dog. In the intriguing The Whistle-Blower, she plays bank worker Laura Tracey, blowing the whistle on her employers who have been involved in a multimillion pound money-laundering operation. But is she everything she seems? Her past involvement in share dealing hints at something sinister.

And in Happiness, Bob Geldof set up a date for Danny (Paul White-house). Her name was Emma (Tamsin Greig) and she wanted to sleep with Danny in his Dexter, kung-fu bear outfit. Somewhere, deep in viceland, there are doubtless people who would pay a lot of money for that.