Television Review

THE WHOLE SERIES of Mersey Blues (BBC2) has felt like a preparation for this week's episode, in which Detective Chief Inspector Elmore Davies, who has been a most voluble and likeable character, was jailed for corruption. It wasn't surprising that such a well-advertised denouement turned out to be disappointing. The details of how Davies became enmeshed with the gangster Curtis Warren were not clear and the sharp-edged observation of the earlier episodes was replaced by talking heads and still photos.

Still, in one way, it was the most effective end the series could have hoped for. For the last six weeks, Jenny Crowther's films have harped on about the way police operations have been cut to fit a shrinking budget, and Davies offered the camera some of the most eloquent comments on this state of affairs, in the form of shrugs, sneers and blank stares. His final defection gave the whole programme the shape of a syllogism: QED.

That's to oversimplify things, however. Davies was convicted alongside Mike Ahearne, aka Warrior from Gladiators. The pair were described as being like brothers, and Ahearne had started life as a nightclub bouncer alongside Warren. Davies had been rejected for promotion, and the impression was that this was a drama of friendship and perceived betrayal as much as money.

Mersey Blues has been a remarkable series, partly for the way it has shown the bureaucratic side of policework. But it has also been remarkable for the sense of authenticity - something confirmed, in an odd way, by Davies's arrest. He may have been lying in front of the cameras, but we know he wasn't lying for the cameras; they were duped in exactly the same way as everybody else.

Battle of the Sexes (BBC2) came to an end with more anthropic moralising about the male microbes being "sex cheats" and males and females having a score to settle. Still, there was the compensation of watching the Caribbean blue ocean slugs, hermaphrodites which manoeuvre to inject sperm into one another's hose-like penises while trying to cut off their partner's sexual apparatus; their analysts' bills must be phenomenal. James Kent's Inside Story: Heartbreak (BBC1), a catalogue of two- timing, desertion and plain gut-hatred suggested that we haven't evolved too far from the slug.

Some of the testimony to camera was quite moving, especially the list of symptoms caused by heartbreak: nausea, nightmares, indigestion and a feeling like being hit in the chest with an iron bar. But, in two cases, Kent saw fit to film separated couples who were trying to sort out their differences; and each time, it seemed clear that the presence of cameras - unlike in Mersey Blues - provoked instead of merely observed the action. When we went into a gay nightclub to see Neil getting engaged to his boyfriend, the heartbreak belonged to his ex-wife Dawn and their children, whom he had left long before this boyfriend came on the scene. It was hard to see any reason for the engagement to figure in the film, except the filmmaker's urge to get it on screen. Which is no reason at all.

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