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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 15th August 2004

The Fucking Fulfords


I don't think I've ever seen a documentary in which the participants were so clearly stitched-up as The Fucking Fulfords. Broadcast on Channel 4 last Tuesday, it was a portrait of an Upper Class family living in a crumbling pile in South Devon. To describe it as "biased" scarcely does justice to the loving care with which this piece of anti-aristocratic propaganda was assembled. The makers of the programme evidently shot yards and yards of footage and then scrupulously edited it down so that the resulting film confirmed society's worst prejudices about the landed gentry. Goebbels himself couldn't have done a better job.

Normally, when an independent production company is commissioned to make a film about a beleaguered minority, they feel obliged to turn in a rounded, even-handed portrait. For instance, if the same documentary crew were to make a programme about a black family living in Brixton they wouldn't just include footage of the head of the household smoking marijuana, drinking malt liquor and frittering away the rent money in the local betting shop. To do so would be to pander to an indefensible racial stereotype.

Yet no comparable sense of fairness applies when it comes to the landed gentry. On the contrary, there's almost a tradition among documentary filmmakers of portraying the Upper Classes in the worst possible light. I'm thinking of programmes like The Shooting Party, The Club and Chelsea Tales. If you fancy a career in documentaries, there's no quicker way to make your name than stitching up some poor, innocent toff.

No doubt some people will object that people like Francis Fulford, the 51-year-old head of the Fulford clan, deserve everything they get. After all, it's hard to feel sorry for a man who inherited 3,000 acres of prime Devon farmland.

However, as The Fucking Fulfords made clear, nearly all British landowners are asset rich and cash poor. Mr Fulford spends his days dreaming up money-making schemes to try and service the huge debts he's run up in an effort to prevent his estate from going to the dogs. It's all very well to say he should simply sell up, but the house and grounds have been in the Fulford family since the 12th Century and, understandably, he feels an obligation to his ancestors to try and hang on to it for as long as he can. Far from being a bed of roses, his life is pretty fucking miserable.

Still, if I was Francis Fulford I'd take comfort from the fact that, by depicting him as a foul-mouthed bigot, the makers of the documentary may have inadvertently done him a favour. As a guileless aristocrat who's willing to let his guard down in front of the television cameras, he'll be a shoo in for the Lord Brocket role in the next series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here. He'll be offered £25,000 straight off the bat, but if he manages to get a good agent he could easily get three or four times that much.

Mr Fulford, if you're reading this, email me on howtolose@hotmail.com and I'll help you turn the tables on these bastards and make enough money to save your pile for future generations.

Mad about the boy

I'm sorry to hear that the Edinburgh Festival production of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest may not transfer to the West End now that a question mark is hanging over the appearance of Christian Slater in the starring role.

As the drama critic of The Spectator, I have to drag myself off to the theatre two or three times a week and nothing enlivens an evening in the West End more than watching a Hollywood star make a complete fool of themselves. One of the highlights of my career was seeing Madonna playing a New York art dealer in Up For Grabs. I've never been able to listen to her records in quite the same way since.

Still, casting an A-list celebrity as the inmate of an insane asylum may not be such a bad idea. They've all got a screw loose, after all.

Princess in the making

I was a little confused by the Warwick University study purporting to show that David Beckham is the new Princess of Wales. Does that make Victoria Beckham the new Prince Charles? No wonder she used to be known as Posh Spice.

I look forward to a long, tearful interview on Panorama in which the captain of the England football team tells Martin Bashir about his ongoing battle with bulimia, followed by a series of books by Andrew Morton: David: His True Story, David: My New Life, David: His True Story--In His Own Words and David: In Pursuit of Love.

It's good news for Rebecca Loos, too. As the James Hewitt of the story, she can look forward to a second career as the lovable rogue on various Channel Five reality shows.

Let the games begin...

Forget the Olympics. In my household, we're gearing up for a contest that makes the tournament currently unfolding in Athens look like...I was going to say "children's tea party", but that cliché was obviously coined by someone unfamiliar with the joys of parenthood. The competition I'm talking about, in which a handful of champions will pit their wits against one another in a series of brutal tests, is my daughter's first birthday party.

The games will commence with a series of throwing events in which various toys will be substituted for javelins, shot puts and discuses. Other events include Synchronised Singing, in which the athletes will attempt to belt out a chorus of 'Happy Birthday', and a Triathlon that requires the contestants to get from one side of the room to the other by a combination of walking, crawling and slithering.

The business of finding an overall winner will be complicated by the fact that none of the judges will admit that any sort of competition is taking place. Nevertheless, they will monitor the performance of each Olympian extremely closely and occasionally turn to their fellow judges and say, "I don't know what's got into him. He's usually so well-behaved."

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