Television Review

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The Independent Culture
WE KNEW early on in the BBC1 drama Split Second, that the perfect middle-class world of lawyer Michael Anderson was set to detonate. Not because he had killed a cyclist in a hit-and-run accident, but because he had forgotten to pick up the anchovies for a dinner party. He arrived home late, bloody, and dishevelled. But at least he had remembered the olives. "The anchovies, where are they?" asked his wife, Angie, a designer. Of course, she had put her career on hold to have the children, Harry and Ailsa - what else? (Later, she will return to her chosen trade. Her clay-white knuckles will peep through the sleeves of an oversized cardigan as she scribbles away in the middle of the night.) And the anchovies? "Oh, I forgot them," came Anderson's reply, as images of the dead boy racer flashed across the screen.

"I don't believe you," his wife snapped back. Elsewhere, their two dinner guests, friends since university, were on the brink of breaking up. She sniped at him. He smoked a joint. Naturally, reggae was the music of choice. (Further on, in a post-coital moment, he in ponytail and underpants, and she in an enormous shirt, they will choose something classical, as they peer through French windows at the sleeping city below). As Angie sleeps, Michael declares that he has killed someone. She stirs, but he doesn't wake her. Well, what with trying to find decent childcare, and that anchovy business, she's got enough on her plate.

Throughout this film, hints the size of hoardings signposted the status and the mood of the characters. Like most of the recent thirtysomething TV dramas, this appeared to take its inspiration from other series in the genre, rather than the world outside, though the writer did do a stint of research in the offices of lawyers - just to add a bit of authenticity.

It was only two-thirds into the drama, when the police closed in on Anderson, that the plot become more predominant than the formula. Like Sherman McCoy in The Bonfire of the Vanities, the decision to drive away from the scene of the accident results in repercussions in all areas of Michael Anderson's life, until he cracks and lands up in court. But from the opening shot of him driving to work to the soundtrack of babbling radio stations, it was possible to guess not only every line, but every frame. Needless to say, he was stressed at work because the obligatory big contract was needed on Mac's - we're in Edinburgh - desk, ASAP.

The one sign of humane life in this corporate jungle was the loyal, motherly, silver-haired secretary, Maggie. She was the Och-take-a-break-you've-been-here-all- night type. An empty Nicorette packet was the clue that he would start smoking as soon as the going got rough. And it did. He and Angie argued, and he stormed out. Cue, the obligatory scene of a small child in pyjamas, rubbing her eyes, having witnessed the fracas: "Mommy?"

When Angie catches Michael making a surreptitious call on his mobile phone - to the police station - she accuses him of having an affair. He denies it. "I don't believe you," she snaps. It was the anchovies all over again.

Robert Hanks is away