Television review

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The Independent Culture
With Tony Blair's heroic archaicisms fresh in the mind, it was a slightly odd experience watching Poldark (ITV). Naturally, the scriptwriters wanted some little frissons of historical anachronism. "Our Prince in the wings declares himself ever louder to be a Whig and despiser of Tories," George Canning whispers conspiratorially into Ross's ear, and you are supposed to think, "Gosh, nothing really changes, does it?". But they surely can't have known that a backwash of rhetorical figures would still be swirling around the airwaves, striking up unexpected echoes with their own frilly costume-talk. "I suppose, a little sentimentally, I've always thought that because I loved this land it would always love me," said Ross, standing on a Cornish cliff after his longed-for return from London. "Poldark's coming home!", you thought. "New Cornwall, new peasantry! No to grasping squires, yes to jolly bonfires! Not whining but mining!" Ross's son is already grappling with the new technology, talking excitedly about Mr Trevethick's steam engines and the coming age of locomotion. It's true that Ross strikes a cautious note - "It is in the nature of this country that revolutions are more spoken of than happen" - but you know that he has a vision of destiny, a stakeholder society in which profit will have a conscience.

This last-minute inspirational surge came as something of a relief after the preceding hour and a half, in which all the swelling had been more bodily. It was inspired at first by Mr Cravenson, a comely piece of flotsam washed up on a nearby beach. He is not all he seems, but Clowance Poldark (flame-haired, pouting daughter) finds herself strangely stirred by his charm, to the point of allowing him to unlace her bodice in the orchard. Her posy drops to the ground in slow-motion, a premonitory "deflowering". But then, just as the entire wind section is about to have an orgasm, she has second thoughts. Later, she takes her magnificent but untouched bosom up to a smart London ball, where her seductive powers are slightly hampered by the absence of a horse to stroke in a suggestive manner (the script, incidentally, is so excited by the erotic overtones of the word "riding" that it employs the innuendo on two quite different occasions). Instead, she has to make do with references to her passion for swimming - summoning a mental picture which makes Lord Edward's pupils contract with delicious shock. But it isn't just Clowance who behaves like a whore with an overdue gas-bill. Escaping from the excise-men into a private garden, Jeremy Poldark (tousle-haired, quick- tempered son) finds himself being titillated by a young lady called Cuby, who plants a smouldering kiss on his dirt-streaked face, then sashays away through the shrubbery. The period dress doesn't exactly help this look less forward, but the implausibility is not really historical - if a stranger behaved like this in Sainsbury's, you would assume that they were deranged or trying to tickle up a bit of business.

In Beck (BBC1), Amanda Redman plays a private eye with a bad habit. After a hard day tracing missing persons, she takes to her bath with a bottle of champagne and the telephone. "I'd like a vegetarian," she whispers huskily into the receiver. "Sorry madam, we're not an escort service. We just sell pizzas," says the man at the other end. Well, not really. It might have been interesting if her compulsion had been sexual, but she merely has a passion for junk-food. Not an addiction, you understand, nothing that might imply complexity or depth or oral sublimation. Her taste for crappy food is simply an identifying quirk, that low-calorie substitute for psychology. It's intended to make her seem a bit laddy and bold - no girly fretting about diets. More importantly, perhaps, it provides her with frequent opportunities to talk with her mouth full, currently the screen actor's most popular shortcut to a sense of gritty, everyday realism.

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