Television Review

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The Independent Culture
There are pick up lines and there are pick up lines. Cruising with his friend Mary Anne Singleton, Mouse's approach is simple. He is gay and she isn't - so potential conflicts of interest are to be resolved with a straightforward offer: "Which of us do you want?" The use of the word cruising, incidentally, is not metaphorical, because Mary Ann has been left $5000 in Mr Halcyon's will and has blown the lot on a week's cruise to Mexico, a trip which occupied a fair amount of the first episode of Armistead Maupin's More Tales of the City (C4). Drama series have their tasks of seduction too, of course, persuading indifferent audiences that this is the kind of narrative they might want to spend some time with, and the second installment of Maupin's alternative soap appeared to be pursuing the hard-to-get strategy. It wasn't that it was stand-offish or haughty exactly, but it wasn't going to bend over backwards for new arrivals.

It began with a long, relaxed scene between Mouse and Mary Ann, as he handed over a platonic Valentine's card, then cut away to Mona, alone and unhappy and ferreting for roaches in Mouse's ashtray. "My life is down to the seeds and the stems and I just can't cope anymore," writes Mona in a valedictory note to Mrs. Madrigal, the sex-change landlady whose San Francisco boarding house provides the binding location for Maupin's ensemble drama. She then takes a greyhound for Reno, happily meeting Mother Mucca on the way, an old lady with vermilion hair and a face that has not just been around the block but probably laid the pavement too. Mother Mucca invites her to come and work the phones in the desert whorehouse, an invitation which would count as a fall from grace in most soaps but which here will almost certainly figure as a benign intervention. The samaritans may be foul-mouthed (Mother Mucca's favourite word rhymes with her name) but they are well-intentioned all the same - a standing rebuke to respectable society, such as Mary Ann's mother and Beauchamp Day, who finally learns the extent of his cuckolding when he receives an anonymous note reading: "Why don't you call them Yin and Yang?" - a reference to the fact that his wife's unborn twins have been sired by a Chinese grocery boy. If this isn't polymorphous enough for you there's an unfolding sub- plot which involves one of the characters engaging in long-distance binocular exhibitionism with a woman in the facing apartment block. "Hooked" would be the wrong word, I think, given the absence of anything sharply honed to trap the casual viewer, but the laid-back self-confidence of this first episode was justified in my case.

"I have made so many sacrifices to get this far that I don't want to give it up," said Christopher Folkard, in the second episode of Your Money And Your Life (C4) which continued its account of his desperate struggle to keep a small engineering firm afloat. The place to which Folkard's efforts had brought him was the brink of personal bankruptcy and the truth was that he didn't have anything to give up, even if he had wanted to. In one way or another everything was in hock to Macey Precision Gears. He was supposed to be running the company but it was running him. The element of fantasy in the remark was telling - Folkard talked later of his "skill in fobbing people off", an unquestioned talent for economy with the truth which had staved off more final demands than seemed possible. But it was clear that this genius for extracting one more chance depended on a certain amount of self-deception too - Folkard had to convince himself that he would all be alright one day, before he could do it for the firm's numerous creditors. Chris Goddard's film has been both boring and gripping - a grinding repetition of the same crises and the same lash-up remedies but one which keeps you watching in sheer amazement at the distance one can crawl on broken limbs if one has enough determination. "The logic of events seems inescapable," announced Folkard at one low point - but if logic had anything to do with it he would have given up months ago. Incredibly, the firm was still trading as the credits rolled, evidence that brass neck can be as valuable as cash in the bank.