Tuesday, April 29

Reviews: Dispatches Undercover, Embarrassing Bodies

Making money out of selling vaginas is pretty tawdry stuff, says Mark Lewis

Mobile phone shops are selling vaginas to unsuspecting punters who only came in to get a pay as you go Nokia. That’s was the shocking finding of Dispatches Undercover (Monday, Channel 4, 8pm) which didn’t really find out anything nearly as interesting.

Rather, the hour-long show got a chap who looked a lot like Jeff Goldblum, to talk interminably about how phone shop salespeople try to up-sell customers more expensive deals. Some 20 minutes into the show, we were still being told at excruciating length that sales staff get a bigger commission for selling a contract deal than they do for selling a pay as you go.

‘Few customers are told that 18 month contracts are lengthy commitments,’ intoned Goldbum gravely. The Independence Day star didn’t spell out that 18 month contracts probably last around, ooh, 18 months, because, well, it does say so quite explicitly.

One interviewee told us that Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4U, ‘want to sell you the highest value contracts, and lock you in as long as possible,’ because – you’re not going to believe this – a higher yielding deal will earn the salesperson a higher commission. What next? Someone selling plutonium to terrorists earns more cash than someone selling classified advertisements in the Thomson Directory?

There is nothing inherently wrong with this kind of consumer champion programme, the real problem is Dispatches uses the same production devices and portentous music for explaining the difference between a pay-as-you-go and a contract tariff as they would the sexual abuse of orphans, or the alien invasion of Guildford.

The faces of whistle blowing sales staff are blacked out, and their voices disguised as if they were Iraqi double agents revealing the location of those missing WMD. Rather than explaining that selling an 18 month contract is worth £15 in commission to the salesperson.

For sure, the phone networks have some questions to answer. Customers, for example, are often sold new contracts over the phone by companies claiming to work for Orange and promising the customers their original contracts will be terminated. They are not. And Orange shamefully refuses to terminate the original contract, leaving customers with two expensive and lengthy contracts rather than the one they can afford.

But this is largely just a polemic about companies trying to make money, when companies all over the world will do almost anything top do that.

Public Relations firms are famous for dreaming up campaigns for companies to sell unsuspecting consumers products under the guise of some spurious national celebration. So we have National Bed Month which encourages people to sleep more, National Greeting Card Week which encourages people to thank friends for unwanted gifts with jokes that someone else wrote. And now, according to Embarrassing Bodies (Channel 4, 9pm), National Vagina Day, for that half of the population which has never really considered getting one.

The three quacks rolled out for Embarrassing Bodies Week (the manky cocks are here on Thursday, girls!) talk about everything with such Jamie Oliver-esque chipper enthusiasm that you almost imagine that it’s rolls of pukka monkfish volauvents you are looking at rather than skanky rolls of extra vaginal skin.

And look, there isn’t a television reviewer in the country who isn’t wondering why someone with an illness too embarrassing to go to the doctor in their local clinic about, would go to see a doctor on television in front of millions. But it’s an unavoidable observation, so here goes.

There is no doubt that there is a freakshow fascination to Embarrassing Bodies. There shouldn’t be anything compelling about watching a doctor sticking her fingers up the anus of a giant women, who was made to feel ‘very embarrassed even now’. But when she says, ‘I’m growing old and I don’t want to be alone anymore,’ there really is. Even a negligent doctor might be able to advise a woman looking for a man to avoid having anal tags removed from her anus on television, but these docs are downright immoral.

One poor man who had lost 12 stone and was left with tits the size of beanbags was made to feel like, “I don’t want to show [the millions of viewers at home my horrendous tits] but I know I have to.”

This alas, is the sad state of confessional television.

And it’s on all week folks, so get your fill.


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Even a negligent doctor might be able to advise a woman looking for a man to avoid having anal tags removed from her anus on television, but these docs are downright immoral.

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