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Home > Media

TVJism: Little Lady Fauntleroy

2 July 2004

Two words prove that documentaries by celebrities are a bad idea: 'Ruby' and 'Wax'. Wax has been the star of her own documentaries for years, either smothering her subjects with her tedious 'brash Yank' screen persona or just arselicking celebs who are higher up the feeding chain.

But Ruby is not the only offender. If you needed any further evidence that celebrity documentaries are shite, you could check out the new depths of inanity plumbed in What Sadie Did Next (E4). In case you actually care what Ms Frost did next, it was 'hang out with other wankers'. (Maybe we're being a little harsh.

There was a certain sadistic pleasure to be had watching Sadie hanging around awkwardly backstage with forgettable Brit-pop bands, looking like their mum who's come to give them a lift home.)

But TV is still currently with celebrity interviewers, and so celebrity interviewers are what we get. The latest: Little Lady Fauntleroy (C4), made by Keith Allen and focusing on 1980s micro-celeb James Harries.

Harries was a curly-haired, precocious, effete and, above all, weird boy who kept popping up on TV shows like Wogan, being billed as a child genius. His particular skills were supposedly a remarkable knowledge of antiques and business acumen beyond his tender years. At a young age he had left school and was supposedly running his own business.

It was all bollocks, of course. Harries had rather odd parents who encouraged him to 'deceive' TV people, who were pretty complicit in the fib anyway. His knowledge of antiques was based on very crude guesswork, and he wasn't a child prodigy in any real sense of the word. Nor was he 'posh', as he liked to suggest. The whole thing was just another piece of TV nonsense, like Uri Geller or the dog that could say 'sausages' - or, more correctly, 'shshsigshshiggisheswoof'.

Anyway, some years later Harries is still extremely weird. After a sex-change operation he is now Lauren Harries. He seems to live - or at least spend most of his time with - the rest of his family, who live in a house on a council estate in Cardiff, where the local yobs occasionally put a brick through the window.

Harries and most of his family have bogus counselling and 'metaphysics' qualifications, either bought over the Internet or awarded by a 'college' they set up themselves (actually their own home). Meanwhile Lauren/James has a sideline in giving useless acting lessons. That said, none of the family's business enterprises looked in any way successful, and they just appear to live in a weird fantasy world. Lauren/James seems to crave any sort of attention, nursing deluded ambitions to be a singer and applying for programmes like Big Brother.

Rich pickings for a documentary-maker, then. Yes. If Keith Allen was actually a documentary maker and not an 'actor'. All Allen did was sneeringly blast away at the most fish-in-a-barrel-TV-target since Vanessa Feltz. The Harries are so comprehensively fucked up it would actually be harder to find a single piece of normality in their lives. An example: when James decided to have his sex change, he was counselled through it by his own (bogusly qualified) mother. That's weird by ANY standards.

Keith Allen seemed to forget to ask the questions that were screaming out to be put ('Do you think your unusual childhood affected your sexuality?') and instead relied on cliches like '[They] only feel alive when they're being filmed'. Nor was there any attempt to explain how Lauren/James had ended up living such a weird life, or to get any of the family to speak candidly and drop the pretence that things were fine.

The show concluded with Allen deliberately losing his rag over the Harries' endless bogus qualifications and shouting 'I'm fed up with it, they're full of crap, get rid of them, they're fucking mad'. Fair enough, the Harries are effectively defrauding the handful of people who use their inept counselling services and useless acting lessons. But really the Harries are just sad cases trapped inside their unnatural, isolated lives, like characters in The Cement Garden.

Most ironically of all, Allen seemed particularly peeved by Lauren's constant craving for attention, then made himself the star of the documentary. It was like the pot shouting 'Fuck off, you pathetic kitchen utensils!' in a documentary about kettles.

And as for knocking people for their pathetic attempts to worm their way into showbiz, let's not forget that Keith Allen is one of showbiz's great liggers: a terribly self-important actor who's best known for his mouthwash commercials, a bit part in Shallow Grave and getting pissed with Blur.

Oh, sorry. We forgot. He was also in Beyond Bedlam.

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