Want to be a pop star or fashion model? After looking at this series, Laurence Alster suggests you give it some thought
Students who hope to earn their living as rock musicians or athletes will find this four-part series from the learning Zone offering careers advice in music, fashion, film and sport, rather an unsound mix. In the approved fashion, the programmes, compilations of past BBC features, are lively, loud and occasionally funny. Students will like this. On the other hand, those more tuned to the truth of what is often a very unforgiving world will question their honesty.
The basic format of the series is to interview celebrities from their respective industries (Linford Christie for sport, Richard E Grant and Tarantino for film). Between features there is lots of advice from those who either apsire to, or have gained, some success in their chosen field.
Few businesses have more of a reputation for ruthlessness than pop and rock. But you wouldn't guess this from Music 1 and Music 2, which are markedly up-beat about prospects. Such insights as there are come from two documentaries, one on the attempted manufacture of Upside Down, a boy group in the manner of Take That, the other an examination of disc jockey manager and pop entrepreneur Tony Fordham. Chosen from a list of 7,000 applicants, the four boys destined to become Upside Down are trained to sing, smile, dress and dance. The outcome? Four lower Top 30 entries, and a group that, re-cast as Orange Orange, flopped yet more badly than at first.
Tony Fordham would not have backed such a dud bunch. The crude, corpulent whizzkid is seen clinching megabuck deals in Japan, while his equally expletive-prone wife tries to contrive an ill-egal entry into Canada for their star turn. In an attempt to instil some discipline into the proceedings, Fordham joins the party and berates, cajoles and ridicules with only limited success. Exasperated, he hires a boxing trainer as tour manager. This man's idea of a wake-up call is to kick down the door of the hotel room.
The cautionary element in the documentary revolves almost entirely around the substantial figure of Fordham, a cockney grotesque whose best performers almost merit top earnings of pound;1,000 per two-hour session just for putting up with him.
Supermodels would see this as starvation pay. The best parts of Fashion 1 and Fashion 2 focus on these envied wraiths. As with the music programmes, both programmes consist of features of mixed length plus information inserts (helpful web sites, books, contact addresses) and advice snippets from those in the know .
Discovered at 14, Kate Moss can now earn pound;100,000 for a day's work. Thrilled to be on the same catwalk is Charlotte Connoley, a duffer at school but the owner of a face with "edge" - the certain something (not prettiness, which disqualifies girls immediately) - that can put its owner on the cover of Vogue.
As ever, though, fame has its price. Some of these clotheshorses ("Lift up your hoof," one girl is told when being dressed) fail to stay the course. Their "look" no longer fashionable, they are unceremoniously dropped. No wonder one girl describes the job as "boring and humiliating". Emma Balfour, at 22 a catwalk veteran, points to punishing diets as dangers not only for the models but for women who copy them.
An excellent follow-up study of graduate fashion students demonstrates that college prizes can count for nothing in the real world, while a lengthy profile of Alexander McQueen, the enfant terrible of British fashion, quietly questions what does. McQueen makes it all look as easy as it does barmy, but the comedians Hale and Pace, commissioned to create a "cocktail-tuxedo story" for top designer Tomasz Starzewski, show exactly how appearances can deceive. Which, come to think of it, is probably what fashion is most about anyway.
Sport 1 august 29, rpt September 26; Sport 2 August 30, rpt September 27; Film 1 September 5, Film 2 September 6; Music 1 September 12; Music 2 September 13; Fashion 1 September 19; Fashion 2 September 20