LAST NIGHT

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The Independent Culture
You have to feel a little for directors who end up assigned to a programme like Hungerford - Ten Years On (BBC2). Because instead of being able to sculpt their own shape out of the raw material, they have to operate more like a monumental mason.

Proprieties must be observed and feelings protected. What's more, there are certain conventions that are expected of such anniversary observances - final titles unrolling in a respectful silence, images of flowers on graves, dedicatory title cards as the film begins.

In the case of Lucy Jago's programme about the aftermath of the shootings the analogy was even stronger - her film was made under the auspices of the Community Programme Unit and on the suggestion of Tony Hill, whose daughter Sandra was shot dead by Michael Ryan. This was, then, a kind of television headstone - one designed to meet the requirements of the relatives who had taken part. Within these understandable constraints Jago did well - she began her film, for instance, with a quiet study of the banality of the town, a sequence which served as a kind of reconstruction of its ordinariness before the shooting, as well as a demonstration that, for most people, it has again become the kind of quiet spot in which "things like that just don't happen". What's more she boldly interrupted these establishing shots - which included plaques commemorating the day of the shootings - with an image of happiness; two old people singing a song together as they did the washing-up. But as you watched what followed you were struck more by the familiarity of the feelings described than their strangeness.

It's true that the intense publicity the killings attracted gave these bereavements a distinctive form. The local policeman, whose father had been killed, had to endure a headline reading "Policeman signed his own father's death warrant", because he had renewed Michael Ryan's firearms certificate. Tony Hill found his daughter's death by the roadside on the cover of virtually every newspaper next day (the often callous behaviour of journalists flickered here and there as the untold story of that day). But once the newspapers and TV cameras had gone, the grief felt can't have been very different from that of those who lose parents in car crashes or children through illness. Those left behind feel guilt; relationships are strained; lost opportunities regretted. What I find myself wanting to say about the film, I suppose, was that it was respectably dull, which feels inappropriate, naturally. After all, a memorial service is not supposed to entertain passers-by but to allow relatives time for contemplation - and, because of its virtues rather than despite them, this felt in the end like a private ceremony into which you had wandered by mistake.

Bob Cringely, the presenter of Plane Crazy (C4), strikes you initially as the nerd of nerds. Last seen presenting a series about Silicon Valley (where he works himself) he has now returned with a three-part series which charts his progress in designing, building and flying a plane in just 30 days. The obvious question is "why?" and Bob has an answer - "It's almost pathological" he said, "me defining myself in opposition to my father". Bob is happy to share his therapeutic history with you - indeed this quixotic enterprise is explicitly presented as an exercise in self-discovery. For the first third of the programme this psycho-biography was tedious but once the project got under way I found Bob began to grow on me. It was partly his enthusiasm ("To fly a plane you've built yourself...", he exclaimed rapturously, a sentence most people would complete with "...is an act of suicidal folly"), partly the amiable hokeyness of his manner, which results in laboured puns and open confessions of hurt (as when a professional aircraft designer told him his ideas were "bad", taking the view, I assume, that blunt speaking was preferable to a bodybag). The film itself also looks as if it has been made in someone's garage, but somehow or other it gets off the ground.

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