Last night's television: Far too many nits and misses

Big Dippers ITV1 New Face, New Life? BBC1
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The Independent Culture
WHEN FRANK Sinatra was once accused of being a money mule for the Mob, his defence was simple. "If you can show me how to get $2m into a briefcase, I'll give you the $2m," he said. In real life, you see, the bulk of hard cash can be a logistical problem. Not on telly, though, where you can use money which magically expands and contracts according to circumstances. They had some of this useful stuff in Big Dippers, ITV1's comedy drama about two petty thieves who find that the briefcase they've nicked off a businessman contained pounds 2m. Quite what they expected to find in it wasn't obvious. Most businessmen keep their credit cards and cash in a wallet in their jacket and reserve the briefcase for spreadsheets about North-West Pot Noodle sales for the third financial quarter and an Andy McNab paperback - not exactly a big pay day by any standards.

Anyway, I'm getting off the point here, which is that when Ray and Perry finally snapped the locks open they discovered bundles of crisp new pounds 50 notes. Delighted with this unexpected jackpot, they did what all self-respecting criminals do in television dramas: they upended it over their heads and wallowed in the money. Would anyone really celebrate like this? Would your first thought be "I know, let's play a game of 40,000 card pick-up"? I think not myself. But I'm getting off the point again. That's the trouble with nit-picking. Just as you're closing in on one, another ambles across your field of vision and distracts you. And the nit I'm really after is the way the cash neatly filled a briefcase at one moment and yet when it was laid out on the coffee table it would clearly have required a large Samsonite to contain it.

Would I be picking nits in the first place if Big Dippers had been a bit better? Probably not, but once you get started, it's not easy to stop. How come at one moment Ray and Perry were terrified of the Mr Big who wanted a cut of their windfall and at the next were casually sauntering past the cafe where he had told them he'd be waiting for them? And how high did you have to hang your disbelief to accomodate the fact that one of Ray and Perry's fellow passengers was carrying an identical briefcase stuffed with estate agents' flyers that just happened to be the same shape and colour as pounds 50 notes? Most crucially of all, how come the script editor mislaid the nit comb? To its credit, Big Dippers had one neat and funny twist: the revelation that the whole elaborate plot rested on a fundamental misconception. When Ray discovered that the money was a kidnap ransom, he assumed he'd nicked it from the distraught father. In fact, he'd actually stolen it from the kidnapper and could have legged it to Barbados with a relatively clear conscience. But it wasn't easy to see the merits of that touch in a drama that was elsewhere so lousy with contrivance and implausibilities.

New Face, New Life? was an affecting film about families coping with the facial disfigurement of their children, in all three cases caused by genetic disease. It was about the simultaneous feelings of love and grief such parents face, and about the way that love always seems to win out in the end.

This victory can occasionally produce paradoxical results, as in the case of Julian, who suffered from Crouzon's disease, which makes the facial bones grow irregularly. Julian's parents had decided to operate early, to give him the best shot at a childhood free of personal abuse and open gawping. But, although the surgery appeared to have been very successful, his mother was struggling with the transformation. "The face that I loved has gone," she said. Ironically, his alteration to "normality" had left her with the same duty the rest of us face with abnormality: to ignore the superficial details and see the person within.