TELEVISION Dangerfield (BBC1) Who needs new storylines, when you can have the same old face and a trusty four-wheel drive ?

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The Independent Culture
Is there a bad smell around Nigel Le Vaillant? He plays perhaps the least putrid character on television, a man whose decency is measured in cableknits. But after two series almost the entire cast of Dangerfield has backed off in unison, as if in retreat from the mother and father of all farts. Amanda Redman, who played the twinkle-pupilled love interest, has sidled away with Dangerfield's first producer to front the forthcoming Beck. Sean Maguire, who played his good-for-nothing son, is marketing the same sort of persona in the pop charts. Lisa Faulkner, the goody-two- shoes daughter, and George Irving, the leathery detective, found other fish to fry too.

To lose one co-star, Dr Dangerfield, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose four looks like something more drastic than carelessness. At least he hasn't been ditched by his trusty four-wheel drive. One thing you could never pin on Dangerfield is carlessness. In every sense, the show provides a vehicle for Le Vaillant, which is why it probably doesn't matter what happens to the rest of the cast.

The roles of his two offspring have been handed down to another couple of bubbly, squeaky types, one of them the latest tall thin thing from Blue Peter. And although after one episode there's no new love interest, the widower Dangerfield has started visiting a bereavement counsellor who just so happens to be the sensitive dishy type cruising elegantly into middle age that he gets all puppyish about. Ladbroke's have stopped taking bets on the likelihood of a mid-series encounter on the tonsil hockey pitch. It's as sure as his ex is ex.

So some things never change. We can, however, report the first sighting in a series set in Warwickshire of a character with a Birmingham accent. A whole roomful, in fact, the first episode taking place in and around a local council full of froightful Mansellalikes. Funny, isn't it, how there are long-running serials set everywhere in the British Isles, apart from the second city. Black Country is the black sheep of regional accents, the one that never gets past the market researchers.

The leader of the council was of course far too plum a role to go to a Brum, so they gave it to Keith Allen. One day someone will make a huge leap of the imagination and cast Allen as a goodie. For the moment, anyone portrayed by him, including his council leader with a frankly implausible vendetta against the police, might as well have 666 name-tagged across his forehead.

A fourth series of Dangerfield has already been commissioned, giving the show a chance to mislay even more characters. But losing actors is of less pressing concern than finding plots. It's standard practice for vehicles to divert all incident through one character, even if in real life the job he does wouldn't call for it (see also Cracker). Dangerfield has so many plotlines re-routed through him that the scripts are beginning to look like Spaghetti Junction. Which is as close to Birmingham as drama dares stray.