BROADCAST NEWS by Deborah Thomas
FILIPINA Dreamgirls (BBC I , Sunday), a "Screen One" drama by Andrew Davies, was about what happens when an unpromising crew of Welshmen hits Manila in search of beautiful brides to take home to Cardiff.
They haven't got there under their own steam of course (in fact, for most it is their first trip abroad and first time on a 'plane) but through the ministrations of one George Trout, played by Bill Maynard, an agent as unsavourylooking as his clients. He is the proprietor of the "Filipina Cymric Contact Club", and it is his job to match desperate Filipina women with equally desperate Welsh men, by means of videos, photos, letters, and ultimately, an eightday trip to Manila during which all courtship must be accomplished.
Andrew Davies did well with the humour in this sordid tale. He played to the full the comedy inherent in the sight of his unprepossessing clients moving into seduction mode. His four main characters included a wonderful caricature called Preston, a Toshiba-toting berk who claimed that his career at the DVLC had left him little time for a social life, and who had been engaged three times but never found that his fiancees quite measured up...
Then there was Gareth, a big, bearded, bellied rat catcher who rejected Welsh girls because they "want the flippin' world", and Tim, a skinny, spotty youth who "always had a thing about oriental women".
More seriously, there was Carwyn, a reasonably attractive proposition, a man in his early fifties whose wife ran off with his best friend, whose intentions were old-fashionedly honourable and who had to be dragged unwillingly to the bedroom by his prospective bride, Marietta.
Where Filipina Dreamgirls fell down was in its treatment of the darker side of the mail-order bride transaction. George Trout asked "would any fair-minded man say that these men deserved those women?" and it was a question worthy of an answer. Carwyn did try to find out what had driven the beautiful, university-educated Marietta to the desperate measure of running away to Wales with a virtual stranger. A general picture emerged of poverty and lack of opportunity, but there was no real insight indeed there was nothing offered here that anyone giving the business five minutes' thought couldn't have come up with for themselves.
The same went for the ambiguous position of Mr Trout. He despised his clients and professed to despise what he did for them but he went on doing it and living off the profits, and the programme failed to take the problem any further than that.
Meanwhile on Sunday, on ITV, The South Bank Show was back for a new series, and its first outing was a 30th birthday profile of Private Eye. It was delightful to hear Richard Ingrams, Peter Cook, Auberon Waugh, current editor young Hislop et al, determinedly being rude about each other there has been precious little mellowing over three decades, I am pleased to report. Only Hislop let the side down rather with a display of pomposity worthy of the magazine's very own "Pseuds' Comer" as he strove to place the Eye in the British satirical tradition of Pope and Swift and other such greats.
The Week Ahead
Sunday September 22
12.00 The Human Factor, ITV John Cheeseman was a convicted murderer, a dangerous man serving a life sentence in Parkhurst Prison's C Wing, home to some of the most violent and disturbed men in the British prison system. Now he has a new name David Lent and a new commitment to Christianity, and he spends his days transcribing braille for the blind. The Human Factor meets him and discusses his transformation.