Review

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Imagine that, thanks to a shower of feudal fairy-dust, you have just become a lord, or a baroness. One of the first and most enjoyable things you need to do is to choose a motto for your new coat of arms. Hmm. Perhaps some blustering claim to divine right, like "Honi soit qui mal y pense". Perhaps some dog-Latin, to impress the unwashed commoners with your erudition, such as "Pro bono fac recte". Or perhaps some ultra-modern, uber-individualistic slogan, like "Think that you can and you will". Unfortunately, guv, they're all taken, the last two belonging to the stars of Modern Times: To the Manor Bought (BBC2), a gently satirical film about ordinary people who spend thousands of pounds on worthless titles.

Tim Shorland, a mere pounds 7,000 lighter after becoming Lord of Hempton and Northwick, is the Latinate man - "It is for the good of all to do it right," as he translates it, a cute reference to his industrial career as head of an asbestos-removal company. He explains that his philanthropic activities are vastly facilitated by his assumed nobility. Before, when Tim was just "Mr So-and-so", the poor would be suspicious of his attempts to lavish gifts on their heads. Now, when he strides into his manor and tries to give money to people, "They take it orf of you properly" (His vowels are already mutating into strangulated pseudo-aristocracy). Whoever said charity was its own reward?

Meanwhile, "Think that you can and you will" was guarded by the self- styled Baroness Urquhart, a shoulder-padded and tiara'd northern lass whose mission to be posh was bedevilled by confusion. She dutifully delivered homilies about wishing to help people with her new title, about breaking down barriers. But, pressed to explain by the mischievous off-screen interviewer, she blurted: "If everybody's sure of who they are and what they are, there are no barriers, really." One possible translation of this hermeneutically complex oration could run thus: "Now I've got my foot in the door of the nobility, everybody else should just know their place, thank you very much." Kicking the ladder away before the other peasants can swarm up after you. The baroness was also a bit confused as to plasma biology. "It only takes three generations to become blue blood," she chirruped.

Naturally, the real aristos featured in the programme were laughing all the way to the bank. Feudal titles have been bought and sold for hundreds of years, and when you've got 30 of them mouldering in your attic as non- functional adjuncts to your hereditary peerage, you really don't mind selling off a few at several grand a go. Modern Times was a nicely edited, well- written film marred by self-consciously "modern" tics: strange moments when the screen was bleached out as if by God's own flash camera, accompanied by a metallic zithering on the soundtrack. But if the film proved anything, it was that you can buy your way into the nominal aristocracy, and still have no class at all.

Meanwhile, the latest "last-ever" Inspector Morse (ITV), "The Daughters of Cain", class incarnate, was coming over all Biblical and Shakespearean. The lengthy preamble, intercut with the opening titles, knew exactly how far to stretch itself without stretching our patience. Finally, with the manifestation of the first corpse, a well- stabbed don, the music sighed rapturously into Barrington Pheloung's splendid, metrically teasing theme music, splashed with fat horns and lugubrious cellos, and you sighed with a pleasure predicted and delivered. Julian Mitchell's script, from the Colin Dexter story, was studded with gems: Morse drawling, "Is this a dagger I see before me? I'd rather see a pint"; or a baroque deathbed scene in which a woman confessed murder by quoting exclusively from Macbeth. Meanwhile, the double act of Endeavour Morse and Robbie Lewis gets ever richer in its dynamics. Uniquely among modern fictional duos, it is an amalgam of Holmes and Watson, Hamlet and Horatio, Socrates and Alcibiades, Don Giovanni and Leporello, even Scooby and Scrappy Doo. Sink some ale in their honour.

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