Agony Uncle

Dear Uncle Burt,

I am a bit worried that my girlfriend is too young for me. She has just graduated from college and recently got a commission to do an ‘Undercover’ for Channel 4 and she seems to be taking it quite literally. She takes her secret camera under the covers of our bed and shoots for ten minutes every night. So far all that has been recorded is black. She is very excited by it and thinks it is pretty avant-garde. I hate to tell her that all that stuff was done about 20 or 30 years ago as I don’t want to dampen her enthusiasm, but I’m not sure I can stand many more hours in front of a black TV screen with her chanting ‘Reality is black!’ I think I should give her up and go for a mature woman into classical narrative. What do you think?

Yours sincerely,

Desperately Seeking a Plot

Dear Desperately,

Perhaps you can shed some light on the subject for her by lifting up the covers. Maybe she will get the picture. Otherwise invest in a Robert McKee script weekend – maybe you will meet someone with a stronger story structure.

Dear Uncle Burt,

Please help me. My flatmate is suffering from a 90s version of the Midas touch. Everything she touches turns into a TV programme proposal. At first I could put up with every newspaper, book and magazine I brought home being pounced upon for possible ‘stories’. But now everyone who visits, every event, every part of my life is seized upon for its story potential.

The other day I brought home an African violet that I bought in a sale – it was wilting – and no sooner had I set it down, but she grabbed it shouting: ‘That’s it! They’ve done rose gardens, water gardens, formal garden, big gardens, little gardens, kitchen gardens – they’ve even done vegetable gardens! They haven’t done house plants!’ She whisked it away for inspiration, and that was the last I’ve seen of it. Last weekend my sister, a hairdresser from Derby, came down with a bunch of her friends. They are all young and giggly, with dyed hair, lots of make-up, short tight skirts. They were hardly in the door before she had them down for a fly-on-the-wall documentary called Derby Dolls. ‘Get it?’ she asked digging me in the y ribs.

For her most recent idea, a series entitled Those Obscure Objects of Loathing, she has brought some pretty disgusting things into the flat. I got sick the other night when I encountered one in the bathroom. I’m not sure I can stand it any longer, but I have nowhere to go and in a weird sort of way I quite like her.

Yours sincerely,

Cindy Vérité

Dear Cindy,

There are now therapists to treat your flatmate’s form of neurosis, but unfortunately it is difficult to find one at the moment as many of them are involved in a series about psychotherapy.

Dear Uncle Burt,

I am a writer and to pay for my treatment for RSI I have been forced to write a TV detective series about a transvestite detective who is able to infiltrate all sorts of places which his colleagues might find difficult, although he mostly seems to bust Tory MPs, judges, Lords…ho hum, I say. The producers think it is wonderful and spend most of their time with wardrobe choosing frocks for the detective character. The problem is that we cannot agree on a name for the detective, which the producers insist must also be the title. It must be catchy they say, something along the lines of Spender, Cracker, Taggart, Minder, etc. and have come up with ‘Bender’. I think this is crap. I think ‘Caroline’ would be much better. Meanwhile, they refuse to pay my last instalment. Meanwhile my RSI is getting worse. Should I let them have their way?

Yours sincerely,

A. S. Byatt

Dear A. S.,

How about calling it ‘GB’? It’s short and catchy and could stand for any number of things: Gender Bender, Great Britain…leave it to the audience. It has worked on another well-known drama series. If they still insist on ‘Bender’ – if you want the dough, agree.

Dear Uncle Burt,

I have a great idea for a series. In the light of the recent translation of successful radio programmes into TV, I think Book At Bedtime would be a TV winner. You would have to take the visual nature of TV into account, so how people look and their ability to perform would be important. I imagine Rufus Sewell reading Middlemarch (although you might have to wait a little to let the audience get over the dramatisation on now). Or you could do slightly wild combinations, like Cilla Black reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Penelope Keith reading a Will Self novel, or Oliver Reed reading Jane Austen. Or go the other way and have Anthony Sher read a Barbara Cartland romance. It would help introduce Cilla Black fans to serious literature, and give the highbrows a taste of popular culture. Should I pursue this idea?



Dear Zzzzzzzz,

Great idea! And just think what you could do with sets, costumes, special effects, and computer wizardry. You could probably just forget the words!