More Smut on TV, Please

More Smut on TV, Please

More Smut on TV, Please

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Sept. 22 1998 11:51 AM

More Smut on TV, Please

Chatterbox spent last night reviewing portions of a sexually explicit video documenting the downfall of a prominent politician. No, not that video. Chatterbox was unspooling a bootleg copy of A Dance to the Music of Time, the British TV miniseries based on Anthony Powell's wonderful series of novels about how, when you're of a certain class in Britain, you meet a dozen or so people when you're 10 and they keep reappearing throughout your life in all sorts of ever-changing guises. Chatterbox's host was John Monagan, an ex-congressman and biographer of Oliver Wendell Holmes who started up a correspondence with Powell three decades ago. Chatterbox once took a shot at novelist Ward Just for writing a short story called "The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert," saying that congressmen never read Flaubert. They read Aviation Week, Chatterbox sniffed. But Monagan is an extremely literate and charming fellow who reads Powell and probably Flaubert too, and has written for the American Scholar. Chatterbox met Monagan at a writer's lunch in Washington, where we discovered a Powell-like connection of our own: He was mayor of Waterbury when Chatterbox's parents met and married there, and his younger brother was Chatterbox's older brother's pediatrician. (In cold weather, Dr. Monagan advised Chatterbox's mother, "put one less sweater on him than you think he needs. Then take one off.")

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Monagan told Chatterbox that he's been trying to get public television in the U.S. to broadcast Dance (which contains, in the two-hour chunk Chatterbox viewed, pitch-perfect performances by Alan Bennett as Sillery, the socially-ambitious Oxford don; John Gielgud as St. John Clarke, the much-honored but little-respected aging novelist; and Edward Fox as the sponging Uncle Giles). They won't go for it, he says, because it's too expensive; he also suspects they're wary of the sex. (The series opens with a fully-frontal nude woman opening the door of her flat for her lover. Chatterbox couldn't remember this scene from the books, but Monagan assured him it's there.) Chatterbox thinks a country that can watch Bill Clinton talk about stimulating Monica Lewinsky sexually with a cigar is ready for A Dance to the Music of Time.

--Timothy Noah