kenny hodgart


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Channel hop, 25/11

This column appeared in the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine

Are you one of the 20 per cent? No, not the 20 per cent of Americans who think Barack Obama is a Muslim; or the 20 per cent of us who can do the Moonwalk. Rather – are you in that percentile for whom there is no point at all to exercise?

The discovery that a fifth of us simply cannot increase our anaerobic capacity – the main point of exercise in health terms, apparently – no matter how vigorously we exert ourselves, is among a series of exciting scientific nuggets served up in The Truth About Exercise (TVB Pearl, Monday, 9.30pm), a BBC Horizon programme. Even more encouraging for the incurably lazy is that for all but 15 per cent of people, at the other end of the scale, anything more than six minutes a month of real exertion is a waste of time: just three 20-second bursts of “high-intensity” physical a week will see you right, by fooling muscle into burning up more fat; or something like that.

Michael Mosley, who trained as a doctor, visits lots of clever fellows who use acronyms and make charts and fit people out in hi-tech underpants that monitor their activeness, or lack thereof. So the science is all kosher, and it’s bad news for the over-bearing, over-distended fitness industry. The only problem with the show is that it shouldn’t take Mosley – a likeable enough chap – a whole hour to lay it bare to us. Better to have edited out the “obesity expert” who keeps imploring people to do things like move about instead of staying seated all day eating sausages. Sitting down is “literally killing millions!” he whinnies in that kind of appalled way usually reserved for when conversation turns to genocidal maniacs.

That such maniacs rarely retire to nursing homes is a truth seldom recognised. Similarly, you would never have expected JR Ewing to end up in one. He was badly shot up twice in the 1980s, I seem to think. The new Dallas (above) premieres on Thursday (WarnerTV, 9pm), 21 years on but actually only 14 in TV time, and is still about Texans, oil and money.

The nefarious JR, one of the Texans, is in a nursing home, having fallen into a melancholic state of muteness worthy of Shakespeare’s Pericles after being divorced by Sue Ellen, a former sun-pickled soak now running for state governor. Their son, John Ross (Josh Henderson, Desperate Housewives), wants to drill for oil on the Ewing ranch; JR’s brother Bobby’s adopted scion Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe, also Desperate Housewives) wants the family to go all fluffy and develop renewables instead. And so, with handsome, tanned people cropping up all over the place, a good old soap opera feud brews, setting the stage for JR to rouse himself and rekindle his old rivalry with Bobby.

Texas – being brash and vulgar – always fitted the format: ridiculous storylines, ham acting, grand-guignol melodrama. The new Dallas has all those ingredients, so is likely to satisfy those who liked the show first time round. These days, of course, we’re forever being hectored into believing television drama has never been better. It may well be true, but the success or otherwise of this “redux” may shed light on the issue of whether it’s characters and themes or just slick plotlines and cliffhangers that have stacked up the audiences for HBO’s smash hits.

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Spam, Spam and Spam

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine

Every so often one hears scare stories about rising grain prices, food going short and the likelihood that soon we will all be stabbing one another in the throat in the clamour to nail down a rat for supper. All nonsense, of course: food was never cheaper or more abundant than in our own gilded age of biotech and agronomy. Which makes the continued presence of Spam, and its room-mate in the fraternity of indeterminate victuals, luncheon meat, on shop shelves and in Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng restaurants (out in the open for all to see), a confounding facet of modern life.

As with many other things, Hongkongers acquired their taste for this most dubious of substances from the British. The irony is that while doubtless it still goes on, very few people in Britain will confess to eating it nowadays: its street cred just never recovered from being the butt of a Monty Python skit in the 1970s.

Previous to that, British children were commonly force-fed “Spam fritters”, a deep-fried preparation regarded for decades as being essential to their well-being. It was later established, however, that there is more salt in a tin of Spam than nutritionists recommend you should eat in a month.

What else it contains is more of a mystery. Many of us no doubt blithely consume lung and testicle when it is in pate or sausage meat – but then such foods are often delicious. Spam, by comparison, tastes of not very much; boiled tile grouting, perhaps. It is also said it will remain edible inside the can for up to a century. A nice rat might not be such a bad idea after all.