TELEVISION / Innocent until proven famous

ALFRED HITCHCOCK once said he was delighted that television had started showing murder stories: 'It's bringing back murder into its rightful setting - the home.' Hitch would have been sorry to have missedThe O J Simpson Hearing (BBC2). In June, Simpson, a hugely popular ex-football star turned actor (think Daley Thompson, subtract Luton and add Greek god) was being pursued around the freeways of Los Angeles by the combined ululating forces of the LAPD. He was wanted for the murder of his estranged wife (think Tippi Hedren, add large chest) and her gentleman caller. The action was beamed live across the nation. Armchair thrillers don't come more gripping than this: 95 million Americans were Araldited to their sets. On Monday, it was our turn to be glued.

It is a sticky subject in more ways than one: simply by watching the chase people were snared in a moral web, every bit as driven and confused as the protaganist himself. Thousands lined the route chanting O J's nickname - Juice] Juice] - cheering on a hero who might just have slit a woman's throat till the blade hit her spinal column. As Ronald Reagan taught us, to live your life as a movie is the highest proof of celebrity and quite possibly a guarantee of madness. O J had entered the charmed realm where normal rules are suspended for the bold and the beautiful. The prosecution might have incriminating bloodstains, but to get their man put away they were going to need to demythologise him.

The Hearing began with a deft cut from O J making a run of silky sinuousness down a football field to him on the run. It moved on to highlights of the commital proceedings which played on Court TV for six days. The set-up was familiar from LA Law, but the plot was better (a mystery envelope, a bloody glove) as were the characters. There was O J's unctuous GoodFellas attorney and his pomaded constitutional expert brought in for extra gravitas; the furtive store owner who may have sold O J the murder weapon and certainly sold his story to the National Enquirer; the earnest female prosecutor and the owlish judge (Dustin Hoffman in drag). Why, you wondered, could they not have picked someone with a more convincing accent to play the Eastern European who found Nicole Simpson's body ('It vos vooman')? Then you remembered this was real. At least there would be no problems casting O J in the mini-series: he would play himself. If he can remember the part.

The difficulty posed by O J's case was summed up when we heard a recording of the 911 call Nicole made just months before her death. She is shrieking about her husband's violence: finally, she gives his name. 'Oh]' The operator perks up immediately. 'Is he, you know, the sportscaster?' Mrs Jack the Ripper? Oh] Is that the, er, famous Jack the Ripper?

The O J Simpson Hearing was great TV and lousy life. Shame it wasn't more up-to-date: viewers will have missed the fact that the continuing drama is now available only in black and white, the American public having lined up according to race behind Othello or Desdemona.

Those who claim that Court TV is a harmless sideshow, a Coliseum for the chronically litigious, might consider the fact that all America has been turning off the Whitewater hearings because, as one TV critic put it, they were 'scandalously dull'. This was great news for the Clinton administration, but not for democracy. As justice is turned into entertainment, the worst thing you can be accused of is being boring. O J Simpson is perpetually interesting; he is already taking advice on the sober suits he will wear for his performance at next month's trial. Whatever the verdict, he will undoubtedly win this year's award for Best Leading Role in the story of America. By being found not guilty of dullness, he has already won the case for fame.

Would we still be interested in Lord Lucan 20 years on if he weren't a nob with a great handle? Dead Lucky? (C4, True Stories) brought Roy Ranson, the original detective on the case, out of retirement to follow up the many 'sightings' of the peer who disappeared after he bludgeoned the family nanny to death, having regrettably mistaken her for the wife. Roy's search took him to southern Africa where he was accompanied by a lot of pounding Daktari music. The air of urgency and the gorgeous photography seemed increasingly absurd as it became apparent that our hero was none other than Inspector Knacker. Roy informed us that 'Lucky' Lucan's Claremont Club cronies, who held a lunch to discuss how to help him should he contact them were, 'a different type of person to the normal plumber, roadsweeper. These people live a very different life to the average person.' Elementary, my dear Ranson. Particularly as we had just seen said roccoco club in which the old Etonians were wont to take luncheon before chucking away the odd 10 grand at the tables.

It was the accidental observation of social difference - or indifference - that gave Dead Lucky? class. Lucan's friends did not lose much sleep over Sandra Rivett's death, although one had clucked sympathetically to Roy that 'Nannas are so hard to come by these days'. We saw Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie give his moving account of the story ('Obviously got into a bit of trouble trying to whack his wife over the head and yet all his close friends are supporting him and not her who's the victim of this rather unsavoury clash') and Charles Benson whose main memory of those dark days was having to endure a poor lunch with 'some very ordinary hock'. These men with their bulging pink faces and dead eyes seemed familiar, and then I remembered the pigs in Animal Farm.

Murder was also the subject of Jack Emery's Suffer the Little Children (BBC2, Stages). Deborah (Jane Horrocks) is making a statement to police after administering a fatal dose to her baby, Michael - and then trying to commit suicide herself - when she sees him suffering the same hideous disease that killed his brother Daniel at eight months. 'They joost told me that 'e was a bit squashed.' An ordinary woman, Deborah is made remarkable by the quality of her love: while doctors are treating her sons as faulty beings who are to be 'let go' as quickly as possible, she is picking up their moods, noticing their characters. ' 'E were a nice baby, you know, in between 'is dos.' The way Deborah clung to technical detail as one might cling to wreckage rang absolutely true, as did the fact that she had absorbed the doctors' vocabulary ('But 'e don't seem to be in any exaggerated pain now') so she could make herself heard.

Virtuoso roles run the risk of drawing attention to their virtuosity. Horrocks was so still and settled in the character that she diverted you from marvelling at her hour-long monologue to wonder at Deborah instead: a literally self-less performance. Hope passed like sunlight across her face, but Emery brooked no sentimentality. Most viewers will have broken down long before Deborah. In a poem on the death of his son, Ben Jonson exclaims, 'Oh, that I could lose all father now.' You heard that same cry here when Deborah caught Michael looking at her 'as if to say do something'. Emery may have been trying to make a particular statement about the inhumanity of treating such mothers as common criminals, but he ended up producing an uncommon picture of humanity. Of the umbilical knot tightening before it's severed.

While some humans sup with angels, it's as well to remember that others watch Freddie Starr (ITV). Freddie used to have the frantic fascination of a clockwork drummer, but the mechanism is worn now and what remains is a sort of sad flailing. He devoted most of Friday's show to a Godfather sketch in which he took the Marlon Brando part. The joke was that the Godfather shoots everybody ana talka like dat. But it was really an excuse for Freddie to disgorge the wadding from his cheeks at the end like a lunching marsupial: Freddie Starr is my hamster.

And finally . . . Tuesday's News at Ten (ITV) ended with an uplifting story about the marriage of one Lisa Marie Presley to a man who until recently was better known for being Peter Pan than Mr Darling. Still, the reporter wasn't going to let anything like last year's unfortunate child-abuse allegations and the fact that the groom's most intimate relationship to date has been with a llama get in the way of a designated Happy Item. Let other bulletins dwell on guilt and complexity. The reporter wound up with the revelation that Mr and Mrs Jackson were looking forward to converting their bliss into a whole bunch of kids. 'And so say all of us]' improvised a beaming Trevor McDonald back in the studio. Wrong, Trev, wrong. All of us were saying, 'They're going to let that weirdo reproduce?' David Letterman found a better word for it: ugh.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most