If you hold any truck with the idea of a professional troll, then Katie Hopkins has cornered the market. When she walked out of the Apprentice boardroom to a squall of public hatred, she thought: “You’ve got to work with what you’ve got.” Since that moment, Hopkins has thrown herself into it, chucking more and more putrid shit on to her toxic brand, grasping at hate speech like a Titanic survivor scrambling for a bit of wardrobe, inviting attention from cultural commentators (“Hmm, what drives this evil?”) and the UN commissioner for human rights (“Wind your neck in, Katie”) alike.
Pumping out seven, hour-long instalments of controversial bile for new show If Katie Hopkins Ruled The World (Thursday, 10pm, TLC) is a feat even by her standards. Each episode will see Katie laying out a new section of her ideological code of law and then debating it with comedians, experts and celebrities, whether she’s had high-profile beef with them or not. At the time of writing, no previews were available – the rough tapes probably had to be sent in lead-lined containers to Satan’s own editing suite – so we’ll have to imagine how it will unfold. Luckily that’s not a very taxing way to spend 0.3 seconds and the conclusion is: Loose Women x Rubens’s Massacre Of The Innocents.
I don’t like to brag, but I met Katie Hopkins just last year. Despite ticking many of the boxes that usually send Katie to her Excel Nasty Slur template, she was pleasant and self-effacing. I can’t shake the suspicion that if Katie Hopkins did rule the world, she’d keep her gob entirely shut about fat, tracksuited immigrants, for it’s apparent that the mundanity of evil is mainly expressed in the need to make mortgage repayments.
Clearly, there are good and bad ways of earning money. Some women who do it the honest way feature in A Very British Brothel (Monday, 10pm, Channel 4). For once, the jingoistic adjective fits like a glove, and there’s not a bit of frigging bunting in sight. Instead, the goings on at Sheffield’s City Sauna, run by mother-daughter team Kath and Jenni, are shown in all the grey, damp, drizzling grimness that anyone who’s spent a few months on this island will be so tenderly familiar with.
AVBB’s US equivalent is probably HBO’s 2002 doc Cathouse, which took to the Bunny Ranch in Nevada to reveal the back-combed, sleazy commerce of sex in America. It also suggested that you can best understand a person – maybe even a national character – by observing them with their trousers round their ankles. At City Sauna, Jenni greets flat-capped customers with a cuppa and a cheery “Yareet love?”, while her mam neatens the marabou-embellished coasters and hoovers around their feet. For Kath to operate legally she has to turn a blind eye to whatever happens upstairs between the women such as Anna and Foxy and their clients. My bet is that what’s happening upstairs involves nothing more depraved than a kazoo, a Sid James mask and a bottle of Vim.
As with most documentaries in the ultra-neutral, pursed-lip style, the narrator is often primly mute allowing the camera to linger on telling details – the sauna’s “OPEN – PLEASE USE REAR ENTRANCE” sign for example – or to cut to a spluttering drain after one happy customer informs us that “Anna’s quite a squirter, actually”. The idea here is presumably to leave a space for the viewer to project their own preconceptions, conclusions and jokes, all the while avoiding any accusations of ridiculing its subjects.
Despite this, I take an affectionate view of City Sauna. I love all the kind women who work there, like Anna who conveys an enviable bedside manner when asking through a closed door if her client would like the £30 or £50 massage. Or Foxy, who brings home the importance of treating everyone nicely. “A person could walk in and his wife could have just died,” she says. “We don’t know.” Foxy truly makes me want to be a better person. Forget nurses, pay prostitutes more; they’re doing a valuable public service.