Television preview

Theodora Sat 6.35pm C4 Dancing in the Street Sat 9pm BBC2 Screen Two: Century Sat 10pm BBC2 The Ring within the Rings Sun 8pm BBC2 A Royal Scandal Sun 9.20pm BBC1
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
OK, then. What does this remind you of? An ageing bachelor Prince of Wales is pressurised into marrying a young bride he hardly knows - even though he is passionately devoted to his mistress. The marriage quickly fails, and the Princess finds herself isolated. Emboldened by the fact that she is mother of the heir to the throne, she starts to fight back, and a vicious wrangle - over houses and titles - ensues, fought mainly through the newspapers.

This particular failed royal marriage happened 200 years ago, when George, later George IV, agreed to take Caroline of Brunswick as his lawful wedded wife (he already had an unlawfully wedded wife in Catholic-born Maria Fitzherbert). It's all dramatised in A Royal Scandal (Sun BBC1), with Richard E Grant as George, the unfamilar but lively-faced Susan Lynch as Caroline, and the rather more familiar Michael Kitchen, Frances Barber and Denis Lawson in support. Surprisingly, this all goes beyond just a few spooky parallels with Charles and Di, thanks to a breezy script and a suitably manic performance from Grant - George as a sort of Hanoverian Withnail.

These broadly etched buffoons are more vivid than the characters in Stephen Poliakoff's lush but chilly Screen Two: Century (Sat BBC2) - despite the presence of such formidable actors as Charles Dance, Clive Owen, Robert Stephens and Miranda Richardson. Principally, one feels, this is because Poliakoff is not overly-interested in character. Characters are what carry the plot along, and the plot is what carries Poliakoff's ideas along. Fortunately, Poliakoff the director enjoys himself recreating the sights and sounds of High Victorian England.

Owen plays the son of Jewish immigrants in turn-of-the-century London, who becomes the prize pupil of pioneering doctor Dance. It's only later that we realise what Dance has been up to among poor squatter women. Eugenics plus anti-semitism plus a brave new century - it'll all end in a concentration camp, is the unspoken message.

Dancing in the Street (Sat BBC2) is a very fine new history of rock music. We seem to be living through a golden age of rockumentaries, what with this and the recent The Biz, Rock Family Trees and the Beatles Anthology. The story begins, as the song says, way down in Mississippi, in New Orleans, where late-night radio stations were bringing the "nigger music" to the white kids - and making way for the first crossover stars - Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Pat Boone was the first white guy to try his hand at rock'n'roll (the black expression meaning "sex", hijacked for the emerging musical style by white DJ Alan Freed), but he was only holding the door open for Elvis Presley.

It seems that the more the BBC loses its major sporting events, the more it plugs those that it still has. The Ring within the Rings (Sun BBC2) is a history of Olympic boxing, and not a particularly inspired production by BBC Sport. Fortunately, a lot of great names have boxed for their country - including Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Theodora (Sat C4) is a live performance of Peter Sellars's stunning new production of Handel's oratorio - a tragedy set among the Romans and Christians of fourth-century Antioch, played with 18th-century instruments, and given a stark, modernist setting. This historical stew creates a surprising clarity.

Comments