Preview: Inside the tube

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The Independent Culture
Documentaries these days are all about "casting". Film-makers are all looking for their Jeremy Spakes (Airport), Maureen Rees (Driving School) or Jane McDonalds (The Cruise). The Phil (above), a new three-part documentary about the Philharmonia Orchestra, seems to be well cast. To be broadcast on C4 later this month, Lol Lovett's series offers a fly-on-the-baton view of how tough life can be as a jobbing musician in an orchestra that takes on an unparalleled 600 sessions a year just to keep the books balanced.

Over the three hours, we are introduced to Mike Lloyd, a violist and an alcoholic in recovery after 18 years of abuse. He discovers that a combination of his addiction and the awkward resting-place of his instrument have caused a potentially life-threatening thrombosis in his left shoulder. In addition, we meet violist Carol Hultmark, who thinks nothing of driving home hundreds of miles after a late-night performance for the privilege of making her children their breakfast porridge the following morning. The pressures of trying to see enough of a young family are also getting to Mike Whight, principal clarinet. He is desperate for a co-prinicipal to ease the punishing workload that is making him a nervous wreck. Meanwhile, Christopher Warren Green, the flamboyant Concert Master, has seen the toll the schedule can take and will not commit himself to more than 50 per cent of it.

This all good, identifiable stuff for the viewer - after all, most people can relate to work-related stress. However, a slight worry must remain for the orchestra in giving a camera-crew such full access to its workings. Will this series do for the Philharmonia what The House did for the Royal Opera House?

Whatever Happened To ...

The stars of Our Friends in the North, Peter Flannery's landmark socio- political drama for BBC2? Christopher Eccleston and Daniel Craig have recently scored big arthouse hits in the cinema with Elizabeth and Love Is the Devil respectively. Gina McKee can be seen later this year in The Passion, a new drama by Mick Ford on BBC1.

But Mark Strong has perhaps been the busiest of the lot, starring in two major forthcoming TV dramas. He appears alongside Caroline Goodall (Schindler's List) and Nat Parker (Vanity Fair) in Trust, a two-part psychological thriller for ITV. Strong plays one corner of an upmarket love triangle that becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. He also crops up opposite Ray Winstone (left) and Phil Davis in Births, Marriages and Deaths, Tony Grounds' BBC2 serial about a group of people who have been mates since primary school. Strong may soon be known as Our Friend on the Box. JR

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