TELEVISION / A bit of the other

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The Independent Culture
Adultery with Ray Gosling. Any takers? Oh sorry, hang on a minute, don't get too excited; that should be Adultery - With Ray Gosling (BBC2). Fortunate really, as on the evidence of the first of Tamasin Day-Lewis' new series on infidelity Gosling would be something of an acquired taste sexually. A moody figure in a distressed duffel coat and a woolly bobble hat, Gosling seems to have taken Compo (the ill-shaven scruff from Last of the Summer Wine) as his sartorial role model. Whenever a bit of voice-over was required he filled in screen-time with disconsolate little pantomimes, a solitary figure drinking a pint, a lone commuter boarding a train. For a while I thought he was another case history, a man shattered by a moment of sexual folly, but then it dawned that he was actually the presenter.

Gosling's delivery, a strange mixture of wayward stresses and sotto voce concern (part David Frost, part Play School - all his own) presents everything he says as though it is barely credible. His voice rises now and then in surprise, as though his findings are so startling that he dare only dip a toe into the bottomless depths of the audience's scepticism. In truth what he says has a studious banality; it would be difficult to think of any way in which one of his conclusions ('Some of us approach relationships differently at different times of life') could be made more non-committal.

He is saved by the fact that a tone which can sound merely witless on the commentary comes into its own when he faces his interviewees. Then his simplicity is less dumb than inviting and his strange histrionics seem to coax something out of the least articulate witness. 'Andrew] - all you did was go off with somebody]' he exclaimed to a pigeon-fancier wracked by guilt, in a way that suggested he had known Andrew since they were both at primary school and thought his wife was an undeserving shrew. As a result Andrew's dogged insistence on his own error was rather moving.

Such was Gosling's readiness to meet his contributors on their own terms that he stripped naked to interview a Brummy swinger about the importance of a 'varied and spoicy sex loife'. The man's partner was present, a shy girl with a crucifix round her neck and a towel hugged to her breasts; when Gosling sat next to her and began his intimate probing you even wondered whether the programme was going to live up to that ambiguous title.

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