TELEVISION / Blowing cash and credibility on the nags

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The Independent Culture
'MONEY. This is a story about money,' we were told as trading opened in All or Nothing At All (ITV), a new three-part drama about, er, money. Well, that makes a change. You probably can't remember the last time you saw a drama about lucre, filthy or otherwise. Anyway, it was nice to be given the key right at the start. Otherwise episode one, in which a smooth financier took large sums from all comers, pretended to invest them but blew the full whack on the nags, would surely have been completely baffling. So thanks for that, Guy Andrews, who unburdened himself of the script.

Thanks, too, for some dialogue that money simply cannot buy: 'I've been waiting six weeks for you lot to come up with market analysis, and that is slow slow slow.' Not just slow, you understand, but slow slow slow.

Our hero, Leo, meanwhile, was flushing money down the toilet fast fast fast. By the end of the first part he was in such dire straits he had decided to defraud his lovely wife, Jane, the real owner of their superb Tudor mansion, the payer of her son's fees at a scenic public school, the raison d'etre of all these plush production values. She's a pot of gold on legs, which makes you wonder why her brother, who must have inherited his fair share, is a pauper down to his last 20 grand, and so in need of Leo's stockbroking know-how.

This story about money starred Hugh Laurie, which does make a change. You can't see him ever tackling the Dane, but the lead in a 'serious drama' must be a nice break from doing upper-class twits for laughs. You can see the pigeonhole that casting directors have allotted to Stephen Fry's other half: pulls funny faces, tinkles the ivories, is very nice.

One look at All or Nothing At All and they went tick tick tick. To make him feel at home the script gave him some repartee to do with his secretary, Marion (Pippa Guard), but, though quietly tickled by this handsome piece of fluff, you might have struggled to let out a ha ha ha. Phyllida Law, incidentally, played a charity personage: she was introduced as ET, the initials of Law's daughter and Laurie's Cambridge pal, Emma Thompson. Is this annoying or what?

We knew Leo was going to lose all his (or rather other people's) money at the races because we learnt early on that, although he stocks his stables with ponies for his children, he takes no interest. Not so Madser and Gitser, a couple of working-class Dublin teenagers whose pigeons were the subject of 'Sheriff Street Kids', another riveting report for Short Stories (C4) from the front line of ordinary life. Their vocabulary was slim, their chances of getting on in life slimmer, but they handled their birds like precious thoroughbreds and looked a good bet for the race sponsored by the local church, which put up a prize of pounds 50.

Just when you started thinking dreamily about the noble savage, you heard that Madser had missed the pigeon race because he went joyriding the night before. Booby prize: a broken leg. For pre-match preparation, even the most cavalier English cricketer would have to doff his cap. What's 50 spondooloos, as he called them, compared to a nice drive? Ask Ayrton Senna. The Team (BBC 1), which you'd assume is about racing, really is about money.

'The Boy from Brazil', or 'the lazy reworking of a late-period Gregory Peck movie title', offered quite a revealing profile of him. When he isn't clutching a steering wheel, Senna has rarely been seen in this series without a briefcase in hand and a frown on his forehead - the very image of the joyless modern sportsman. In the race itself at Monza, Italy, our hero drove up the backside of Martin Brundle's Ligier. Afterwards he debriefed his engineer: 'I didn't have enough ability to stop the car.' What?]?] Don't you mean you didn't brake in time, Ayrton? There are all sorts of definitions of Heaven, but for a lot of us it would be a cheque for dollars 1m every time you prang a car that doesn't even belong to you.