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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas