TELEVISION / New Broomfield doesn't sweep clean

NICK BROOMFIELD's film Tracking Down Maggie (C4) achieved something I never thought possible. It made Margaret Thatcher a sympathetic figure. Broomfield took his usual approach - harrying his subject with merciless diffidence - but the more he shuffled about in the ever-diminishing press pack that followed the relegated premier on her book tour across Britain and America, the more it became clear that this was a film that should have been made when she was still in power. Then it would have been brave. Now, with the rusting Iron Lady reduced to boring the well-drilled backsides off captive audiences of American servicemen, it was like using a sledgehammer to crush a grape.

No one need doubt Broomfield's intentions: they are entirely mischievous, and there is nothing wrong with that. But the charm of his wilfully cack-

handed approach is wearing thin - 'We were reduced to filming dogs which we thought might belong to Lady Thatcher,' he smirks. 'We then discovered Lady Thatcher doesn't have a dog.' The most telling moments were not of Broomfield's making. Archive footage showed Margaret Thatcher finding emotion in Rolf Harris's 'Two Little Boys', and then introducing us to her Favourite Thing - a truly horrible sculpture of ceramic Marines raising the Union Jack on the Falkland Islands - '(The statuette) is the spirit of Britain,' she said, 'it is everything that makes us great.'

This is a judgement that might be better applied to Coronation Street (ITV). Weatherfield is not in fact the calm, cosy backwater of popular imagination, but a bloody battleground where traditional values of strong characterisation and gentle humour clash with ambitious directors and writers determined to make their mark with bizarre camera angles and gratuitous references to contemporary popular culture. Did Jack Duckworth's errant pigeon, for example, really have to be called 'Fergie'?

Friday night's rooftop antics were a bit over the top, but generally the forces of decency had the upper hand this week. Two classic storylines were in full flow: the mayoralty of God's grocer Alf Roberts (motto: 'He won't leave when there's food that's paid for'), and the tortuous love quadrangle centred on Medusa-eyed barmaid Tanya Pooley. Tanya, played with terrifying, porcelain intensity by Eva Pope, has ensnared chirpy betting-shop manager Des Barnes and his slimy boss Alex with her ability to apply lipstick under pressure. When heartbreak comes - as it must - for Des's live-in companion, the saintly, clueless Racquel, I hope she will be allowed to keep her dignity.

Screen Two's Sin Bin (BBC2) continued the apotheosis of Pete Postlethwaite. Now that this fine and long undervalued actor is finally getting the respect he deserves, he will have to be careful not to go down the Warren Clarke road and do too much work. As Mitch, a psychiatric nurse / warder in a Broadmoor-based receptacle for the criminally insane, he did some of the best anguished running down corridors I have ever seen. There were superb supporting performances, too - especially from Kathy Burke - but Catherine Johnson's screenplay took a lot of easy options, finally succumbing to Sammy and Rosie's Iron Law of hard-hitting drama: if in doubt, end with a riot.

For the authentic feel of the madhouse, you can't beat This Morning (ITV). On Monday there was live on-air navel piercing under hypnosis. A visibly shaken Richard Madeley crossed the studio to the apparent safety of a cookery item, only to find frontier chef Susan Brooks dispensing advice on how to cook boil-in-the-bag food in the washing machine ('set the programme to whites'); salmon in the dishwasher ('it'll be lovely and moist'); and casseroles in the compost heap ('make sure the lid is securely fastened'). Her piece de resistance was a revolutionary method for de-salting cured pork by leaving it in the toilet. 'Remember to use the cistern,' Richard counselled weakly, 'not the actual bowl.'

Frasier (C4) took a couple of episodes to settle, but is now as sublime and elegant as a Cheers spin-off should be.

Kelsey Grammer's pedantic psychiatrist has moved to Seattle and is now hosting a radio talk- show, while struggling to preserve his lifestyle from attack by his crusty ex-cop father (brilliantly played by John Mahoney), his dad's mutely malevolent terrier, Eddie, and their kooky but not excessively irritating English housekeeper, Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves). The exemplary wit of this show's script makes it the quickest 25 minutes to be found anywhere on TV at the moment, and Frasier's effetely evil brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) is the funniest new sitcom character to emerge in a month of Wednesdays.

Last night's Audience with Bob Monkhouse (ITV) gave a well-deserved showcase to one of the nation's most under-

valued comic talents. A couple of weeks ago, Bob wiped the floor with his rival panellists on Have I Got News for You. The 'Audience with . . .' format did not work quite so well for him. The subordination of a studio full of celebrity egos to the greater glory of a single individual is always a tricky business. Oddly for such a consummate professional, he seemed slightly ill at ease. But there were still some great moments. 'You'll be remembered after Robin Williams has been forgotten,' Bob assured Bobby Davro. 'But not until then.'

With the local elections out of the way, the screen was finally safe for Panorama's (BBC1) expose of corruption in Westminster Council. The effect of this programme's shocking revelations was somewhat muted by their familiarity, but simple- minded presentation didn't help either. The special-effects department had a field day, splattering key phrases - 'Planning', 'Yuppie Flats', 'Be Mean and Nasty' - all over the borough's advertising hoardings in the grand manner of a Day Today spoof.

Norma Percy's Watergate (BBC2) is a better advert for the documentarist's art. It moves slowly, but covers a lot of ground. The second episode got deep into the cover-up, giving the legendary Gordon Liddy - a man still on the run from the trading-standards authorities for styling himself Campaign Intelligence Chief - his chance to shine. 'John, I'm a soldier,' Liddy remembers telling a bewildered Nixon aide. 'You just tell me when and where . . . I'll be there and you can shoot me.'

The conspirators' melodramatic idea of themselves comes out very clearly: in John Mitchell forcibly sedating his wife Martha to stop her talking to her friends in the press corps; in the obvious delight Nixon's basset-jowled private eye Tony Ulasewicz took in distributing hush money ('dollars 25,000 - that's a lot of lettuce'). But none can match their boss for psychotic self-validation. 'I didn't feel at that time,' Nixon tells David Frost in 1977, 'that any erosion of the strength of the President, or his defeat in the election, would be in the best interests of the country.' Oh well, that's all right then. It is interesting to note the respective fates of the two participants in this encounter. Richard Nixon's recent demise was deemed a suitable occasion for a national day of mourning, while David Frost

is condemned to repeat the same jokes for all eternity on Through the Keyhole (ITV). I ask you, is that justice?

Allison Pearson returns next week.

Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?