It doesn't help, either, when the same actor pitches up in two wildly different roles in two concurrent serials. Last Monday and tonight, for example, the face of David Bradley offers the very image of gritty probity, playing Eddie Wells in Our Friends in the North. On Sunday, though, Eddie went to the bad, turning up in the first of a new series of Band of Gold (ITV) as Alf, an icy northern drug baron. (Bradley's features, in a demonstration of the audience's essential biddability, seem perfectly suited to both modes - a crag of decency or a feral wedge of greed; it may have been a trick of the lighting, but he seems to have a hidden adjustment by which he can change the angles of his face from upright to off-true). Similarly, viewers captivated on Wednesday by the demoniacal menace of Sebastiane Bird, occultist and chief suspect in Silent Witness's current investigation, will have been surprised to see him on Sunday as a charming solicitor reading out Olive Martin's statement after the quashing of her conviction in The Sculptress (BBC1).
Even locations can find themselves having a busy streak; the factory yard beneath the girders of a rather chic bridge, in which Hal Hawksley meets his tormentor, had appeared only a few weeks before in Thief Takers (with the camera in a virtually identical position - perhaps the bridge has an agent, to ensure that only its best side appears). Add in the genre echoes which sound continually in TV drama (the weekend offered two scenes in which violent criminals were confronted by their victims and replied with threats of murder), and you can see why the suspenders of disbelief often come under more strain than Linford Christie's lycra.
Of course, The Sculptress has the problem in spades - a point was emphasised this week when only the News separated the chirpy jollity of Sharon from the cold, slabby stare of Olive Martin. Leaving all details of padding aside, this is a performance of heroic, weight-lifter's effort, throwing off audience prejudices with one clean lift. As Olive, Quirke gives impassivity an extraordinary range of feeling, making currents run beneath that stolid mask. Assaulted by the hatred and suspicion of the prison chaplain, you saw her protective contempt failing inwardly, though barely a muscle moved in the face.
The drama itself, which had threatened to detour into implausibility (having a character say "Mmm - it's a small world isn't it?" is not quite enough to fend off charges of contrivance), ended perfectly, with a chilly suspicion of miscarriage - Olive's face, smiling and coloured for the first time, clouded by a sudden scud of hardness as she saw the policeman who had discovered the crime. There was something intriguing, too, about the possibility that Rosalind, so moralistic about the police's methods, might have forced a false confession from a disturbed and confused woman. As a detective, she was barely competent, accusing virtually every suspect with equal fervour until she found one who would give way before her certainty - a genuine departure from the deep rut of investigative fiction.
"You're the only one who's ever done anything for me," said Mr Durkin in Band of Gold, informing Cathy that he intended to write her into his will. Faithful viewers will recall that what Cathy did for him was to pour a kettle of boiling water over his genitals, a gesture that unaccountably seems to have cemented his affections. If you wondered how they could get a second series out of hookers going straight (cleaners with a heart of gold being a concept that lacks obvious appeal) the answer is that going straight is taking time - and there are still plenty of men to be punished.Reuse content