TELEVISION / Snacks for thought: Thomas Sutcliffe gets under the skin of Small Objects of Desire and on the case of Taggart

The skill of the programme-maker lies as much in the resistance of temptation as in wild flights of creativity. Given the task of making a programme about syringes, for example, it is your duty to fight down the urge to include film clips in which well-spoken nurses say, 'I'm just going to give you a little prick'; when it comes to the soundtrack you should struggle against the impulse to use Frank Sinatra singing 'I've got you under my skin'. The fact that both these things turned up inside 10 seconds on last night's Small Objects of Desire (BBC 2) suggested we should not expect too much in the way of self-denial from its makers.

So it proved; the information that daily enemas had been popular in certain circles in 18th-century France was accompanied by a feminine 'Ooh la la' and details of the sudden popularity of the hypodermic in the early part of this century were illustrated by a Blue Peterish animation of a rocket ship made out of syringes blasting off.

I remember thinking that the first programmes in this series were rather tasty, like one of those compulsive nibbles (Vindaloo Tortillas or Chilli Beef Popadums, say) which you can consume almost without noticing that you're eating. This was undeniably snack television, bite-sized and undemanding but, occasionally, unexpectedly nutritious too. It is still capable of surprise - the lightning sketch of the connections between social fashion and hypodermic abuse was intriguing - but the distinctive flavour imparted by the joky visuals is beginning to get a little cloying, ruining your appetite without ever quite satisfying you.

I'm not sure what food you would compare Taggart (ITV) to: a gravel sandwich, perhaps - a filling of Glaswegian grit between good thick doorsteps of detective-genre bread. It's an odd one this - a durable, very popular fixture in the schedules which has never quite managed to achieve household-name status, either with the chattering classes (like Morse) or the family audience (like Lovejoy). It may be that Southern viewers simply can't understand the best lines. I replayed one of Mark McManus's dour remarks three times but the best I could come up with was 'Take a stick to yodel laddy' which didn't seem quite right somehow as he wasn't addressing a Swiss cowherd at the time.

Taggart himself is an acute creation; one of those men contemptuous enough of career politics to get stuck, but not contemptuous enough not to care. The result is an automatic suspicion of authority that makes his superior approach him with an apology at the ready.

In last night's episode - the first of a three-parter - Taggart had to deploy his gloomy professionalism in a case of some complexity (three episodes' worth, basically). After a blundered attempt to deliver a supergrass to court and some suave villainy from a pony-tailed gangster, we ended up with a dead Procurator Fiscal, a good handful of suspects and a cat's-cradle of surreptitious romantic entanglements.

Taggart had also been mugged and is being prodded to go for victim's counselling by his fearless wife. Now that should be really interesting - something like watching a granite kerbstone in therapy.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
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
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
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
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.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high