TELEVISION / Parents and law: James Rampton reviews Downtown Lagos and The Best of the Worst

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The Independent Culture
BBC executives fretting over last week's news that they must cut pounds 20m from their television budgets by next April must have been relieved to see that Downtown Lagos (BBC 2) was not shot on location. In fact, the nearest this new three-part drama got to Nigeria was when an old colonialist (the admirable Frederick Treves) prayed for the rains to fall on the hills of what looked like Wales.

Leigh Jackson's perplexing screenplay was full of such oddities. Not only did the central character, Mungo, a fussy solicitor played by RSC stalwart Anton Lesser, have the weirdest dream sequence this side of Twin Peaks, but he was also prone to visions of his overbearing father (Treves, dressed up like Stewart Granger in one of his less distinguished safari films) standing on a courtroom table with a smoking gun in his hands and a pile of dead barristers at his feet. It may be more commendable for a white hunter to shoot lawyers rather than, say, white rhinos, but did the scene have to be used as a leitmotif for the animosity between father and son? From the moment Mungo threw up at the very mention of his father, we had gathered that they didn't get on.

The acting offered more subtlety than the script. When the winsome barrister Kitty Aldridge accepted his sudden offer of a weekend at his parents', Mungo was so surprised he could only whisper the word 'marvellous', before gulping down his wine. Lesser lives up to his name, conveying emotions with the most understated gestures. He is an actor who tells us much with his eyes as with his words.

There was no such refinement in The Best of the Worst (C4), an American show which blended the tackier elements of such programmes as You've Been Framed, It'll Be Alright on the Night and Clive James on Television. The host, Greg Kinnear, sniggered as he introduced the world's worst job: the 'odour judge' who has to sniff people's armpits in a deodorant factory.

But he took most delight in an item on women who try to achieve a larger bust through hypnosis. He quizzed the owner about 'before and after' photos. Then, in the name of scientific authentication, he roamed the clinic gleefully leering down the cleavages of the entranced women. Come back Beadle, all is forgiven.

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