TV REVIEW: Exposure: The Other Side To Jimmy Savile - There's No Fixing This

TV REVIEW: Jimmy Savile - There's No Fixing This

When Jimmy Savile died, 4000 mourners packed the streets of Leeds to pay tribute to the showman. After 40 years in show business, he was a TV family favourite who did hospital porter shifts in his spare time, a friend of royalty, a DJ who'd raised millions for good causes with his marathons and other tireless efforts.

ITV's documentary on him will do much to sweep those memories of him to the side, as it explored claims by several women that, far from being the genial eccentric everyone knew about, he was a consistent sexual predator. And worse, that his status as a famous family favourite was the means by which he got close to his alleged young victims and controlled their silence.

The actual incidents were less shocking for the fact that they have been much touted across the media in the last few days, with more and more stories being unravelled.

Nevertheless, it was still disturbing to hear, in their own words, the accounts of Val, 15, assaulted at the Television Centre of her young pop dreams "dozens of times", Angie, 15 "on a number of occasions, swept away by the glamour of knowing such a famous man", to hear about his visits to a girls' boarding school where his unwanted attentions were the talk of the common room, his treat trips for favourites in his Rolls Royce, and to see the footage of the fixed grin of a shaking 14-year-old Coleen Nolan as smiling Jimmy cuddled her for the Top of the Pops cameras.

Most chilling of all, arguably, was the footage of him welcoming his guest Gary Glitter to his show Clunk Click, where they both shared the stage with lots of young girls.

The alleged victims were consistent in their accounts, detailing their confusion and fear as teenagers, and their sadness and repulsion in later life. Their stories, however, after the last few days, were not surprising.

More freshly unsettling were the accounts by witnesses from those days who, despite supporting the girls' claims, appeared to drop themselves right in it.

Radio producer Wilfred De'Ath confirmed Savile's "shocking" reputation at the time, but pointed out in someone's defence - Savile's, his own? - that "he never attempted to hide this predilection, so it was generally known". So that's all right then.

De'Ath even spotted him with one young girl, whom he estimated to be around twelve, based on the fact that he himself was the father of two girls...

Despite this, De'Ath found the most "demeaning" aspect - to him - of the whole dreadful business was when Savile forced him to speak on the phone to one young girl, whom the producer believed to be in Savile's bed at the time. Despite the obvious horror of this episode, De'Ath decided to imitate the young girl's high, silly voice as he recounted it. Now that's demeaning.

The long-running wall of silence remains baffling to everyone hearing these stories for the first time, despite De'Ath's explanation that he was young, scared, that Savile was famous, well-contacted and a wrestler to boot. Well, Jimmy Savile was 84 when he died last year, and he hadn't been wrestling for a long while before that.

But even if we accept the young producer's explanation of being overwhelmed by celebrity and power, Esther Rantzen doesn't have that excuse, and the presenter's contribution to the programme was the most chilling of all.

Rantzen was obviously very upset when shown the footage of the women's accounts, and her analysis profound and disturbing as she recalled,

"We all colluded with this. We made him into the Jimmy Savile who was untouchable. Everybody knew of the good he did, and what he did for children, and these children were powerless."

But... the founder of Childline, whose constant message to abused children is "It's not your fault, it's always the adult who is to blame" was also able to "block our ears to the gossip, to the rumours". All these people waiting 30 years for these stories to come out... why did they wait one day?

The presentation of the documentary was also a bit unsettling. I'm glad a barrister was on hand to explain the whys and wherefores of credibility, but it was clear this is a case going nowhere now, with the alleged perpetrator lying in his gold coffin. Why did Mark Williams-Thomas wait so long, and how many times did we need to hear "I'm Mark Williams-Thomas" or "at the BBC"? Ok, ITV people, we heard you.

So now Savile's dead, there is no one to charge, no one to punish, and no one to tell his side of the story. Hopefully these women will feel immeasurably better for speaking up for their younger, vulnerable selves, but the situation asks huge questions of more individuals than just the not so genial eccentric, and, despite the efforts of a few brave people, won't ever properly be fixed.


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