Edge: Gazza's Coming Home (C4, Monday); n.Two Fat Ladies (BBC2, Wednesday);

n.EastEnders (BBC1, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday); n.The Ghost of Ivy Tilsley

(C4, Saturday); Crossing The Floor (BBC2, Saturday)

STRANGE what passes for

small talk on the football circuit. ``Sheryl's expecting,''

remarked the public relations executive to Rangers' newly-arrived star

player. ``Where did she conceive that?'' Paul Gascoigne was lost for words,

a condition that seemed to afflict him so often in Cutting Edge: Gazza's

Coming Home (C4, Monday) but, for once, he had our sympathies.

To be

honest, I'm not a great fan of villians-turned-Boys Own heroes, but even

discounting that little peccadillo, Gazza proved a pretty unimpressive

specimen of humanity. With his mates in Gateshead he was a spear-carrier,

laughing hysterically at the sallies of the bigger, funnier boys. The

closest he came to personal wit was after that meeting with Sean Connery.

``I shook his hand,'' he murmured, awestruck. ``Imagine: that hand's been

on so many pairs of boobs......''

The problem with ``man behind the mask''

documentaries, is that they presuppose there is more to the man than the

mask. After an hour in Gazza's company it was hard to avoid the impression

that he was a gap site, a collection of inadequacies held together by

Versace threads, peroxide hairstyles and tabloid headlines. Those brief

moments of introspection he shared with us revealed the terrors of a

toddler denied the nightlight, desperate not to be left alone. ``I think

when you're on your own a lot you think a lot, and I don't like to think a

lot,'' he confided to no-one's great surprise. It may or may not be true

that he played that invisible flute before a crowd of Bluenoses without any

idea of the significance of his actions. The point is, he seemed dumb

enough for it to be a possibility.

Two Fat Ladies (BBC2, Wednesday) roared

on to our screens in motorcycle and sidecar to the accompaniment of their

rasping jazz vocals. That shuffling you heard was the sound of Barbara

Woodhouse and Jilly Goolden making room for the new girls in the Telly

Eccentrics' Hall of Fame. Two fat ladies are actually one fat lady and one

fairly average example of middle-aged spread, but the name of the game is

self-parody and one fat lady and one speccy four-eyes doesn't have quite

the same ring, much less one fat lady and one who talks like a Tunes


As is traditional with the Anglo upper classes, they speak in

telegraphese, shunning the indefinite article, and booming at each other as

if standing on opposite sides of the M25. For their debut show they

travelled to Cornwall where they took over a restaurant for a night,

patronised a variety of yellow-clad fisherman (``splendid fellow'') and

gathered mussels on a beach. Jennifer (four eyes and funny voice) put the

crustaceans in her motorcycle helmet, cheerfully predicting that ``it'll

stink''. Later, when Clarissa cooked them al fresco, she offered the same

headgear as a saucepan lid. In television code such strenuous

convention-flouting suggests close friends of the Well of Loneliness

persuasion, but it's equally possible that their only unnatural practice is

appearing on TV.

For all the oddball backchat and gimmicky charisma, the

real star of the show is the cooking. Jennifer and Clarissa favour the

hands-on approach and never use a wooden spoon when their fingers will do.

Cue close-up after close-up of plump digits plunging into unspeakably

disgusting messes which the camera crew have wired for sound. Recipe

instructions are delivered over a disconcerting soundtrack of squishings

and squelchings and the scrape of nail enamel on china. Anyone seeking the

motivation to diet should make this a fixture of their viewing week. I

haven't felt so little appetite for years.

Meawhile the most hyped-up

story since Brookside's Bad Business with the Patio was unfolding on

EastEnders (BBC1, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday). Cin-dy, Walford's resident

praying mantis, took out a contract on poor put-upon hubby Ian (the mousy

one with the pink eyes). Then she had second thoughts. Tormented by guilt,

she suggested they take a reconciliatory walk, which proved very convenient

for the man in the moving car poking his 12-bore out of the window. But the

hitman botched the job and Pinky is still looking perky, which leaves

Cindy's fate hanging in the balance; our suspense being somewhat

qualified by the recent announcement that act-ress Michelle Collins will be

quitting the series.

She'll come to a sticky end, you mark my words. But

not, one hopes as downright tacky as Lynne Perrie, profiled in all her

faded glory in The Ghost of Ivy Tilsley (C4, Saturday). Ivy was, of course,

a denizen of Coronation Street. Some days she seemed more real than Lynne.

``I lost myself,'' she said for about the 14th time, in the slurred,

faltering voice of the hasbeen boozer. ``I was always looking for something

- do you know what I mean?''

Unfortunately, we did. It was all horribly

familiar. We'd been cornered by the bar-room bore. She gave us the works:

her loneliness, how she might have made it bigtime in America, the

HIV-positive son she neglected in childhood but now ``loves to death''. At

65 she's still shoehorning herself into those low-cut spangly frocks,

she'll do anything for an audience, even celebrity-calling at the bingo

hall, slipping in a bit of chat between the numbers. ``Get on with it,''

the punters heckled.

Crossing The Floor (BBC2, Saturday) had a Tory Prime

Minister referred to as ``Mr Personality-Bypass'', a squeaky-clean leader

of the opposition ``walking round with a rictus-like grin on his face as if

he's got a pineapple stuck up his arse'', a disgruntled proletarian Old

Labour deputy, and a Machiavellian spin doctor who said things like ``Good

news on that air crash: all the dead are Belgian so we'll be the lead item

on the One o'clock''.

As with the best satires, it was not entirely clear

where documentary realism ended and surrealist spoof began. There was the

pre-election powwow by Tory and Labour fixers (``We won't expose your poofs

if you don't expose our paedophile''); the personality cult party political

broadcast with Labour's telegenic leader grinning like a pixie in every

shot; the ``Line to Take'' book giving the party's position on such crucial

questions as a single European currency and ``is Kate Moss too thin?''


gags were plentiful and well-researched. Clive Russell, one of that rare

breed of actors who manage to be different in every part, played the

Prescott-figure; Neil Pearson switched off the sex appeal and supplied

Labour leader Tom Peel with just the right cocktail of Martian sincerity

and nauseating charm; and Tom Wilkinson took the part of the floor-crossing

Tory Home Secretary who reassured his outraged wife that ``their policies

are exactly the same as ours''. Yes, it was an obvious line and, yes, we

laughed. What else is there to do?