Tinsel Town

Monday, August 7, 2000 by

It’s hard to make a hedonistic drama; characters doggedly pursuing self-gratification hardly welcome the audience in. In fact they shun us.

But there’s some kudos in this sort of thing, with representations of club-culture and drug-taking equating to a desirable audience demographic. Tinsel Town tonight was another chasing that dragon, and illustrated perfectly the pitfalls of hedonism on the telly. Unless one aspires to that life-style, the programme leaves you cold.

A lot of the first episode was rightly about setting out the stall. Tinsel Town hit us with the obligatory life-style references that are supposed to indicate we’re watching TV on the edge. Hence, the shagging in the toilets scene (surely now a televisual cliché?) popped up half way through, flanked by copious drug-taking and “fucks”. Of course, this is well-trodden ground, and so a little of the Magic Realism was brought into bat too. From time to time we took off into a blur of strobing pictures accompanied by the requisite club music, and then came down into a picture white-out which was meant to represent the – yeah – vibe. And that can be a problem, because you either get into a vibe, or you don’t. This one I didn’t. With Tinsel Town I felt that being in the kitchen at parties was probably the best option.

Our characters stalked around their tiny world, all of them hard-faced and unlikable, yapping their lines to each other, ill-humoured and mean-spirited. I don’t want to spend the next 10 weeks with them. One feels that the programme’s writers are wrongly assured in their creations’ allure – so confident that they neglect to lay in the very necessary ground work of the getting-to-know you variety. As it is, you can only buy into Tinsel Town in the most vicarious fashion. The tiniest chink of light, which gave us the slightest hint of a “in” into the programme were the short scenes with Jack, and his alcoholic mother. However even these were clumsily staged, with Jack storming into his mother’s room and finding an empty gin bottle beneath her pillow. This was laying in the plot in a dot-to-dot fashion, and would have benefited from a little more subtlety. Perhaps if I hadn’t known just what the nature of his domestic problems were, I might have come back next week. As it is, he’ll have to sort his mum out on his own.

Despite all this, Tinsel Town‘s biggest failing was in its representation of homosexuality. For an apparently wised-up series, the depiction was totally backward. In Tinsel Town homosexuality is alien, The Other. Our two gay characters are a policeman who views his sexuality as a dark secret and a below the age of consent schoolboy. Aside from patently knocking off Queer as Folk (and throwing that programme’s awful final episode into a relatively positive light – at least it had wit) we’re drearily tagging “issues” onto homosexuality, ensuring that the programme’s gay characters are posited as talking-points rather than being left to be. A real disappointment.

After one episode I know already that I won’t bother trying to get my kicks in Tinsel Town. I won’t come back. It’s an ugly place, insular and witless. Yeah, it’s sorted for Es and whizz, but what it desperately needs (aside from some heart) is a dose of gay abandon.


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